The End

No Comments Written by Tam on 03/09/2009 in CZ-HR.



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With a bit of detouring we walked the rest of the Europaweg with Nancy and
Torgrim down to Zermatt. Maybe not quite the finish we wanted, but not
bad. We caught up with Marky and Roz, and after tracking down a hotel,
dinner, and the grave of Michael Croz in the cemetary, we caught up with
Tom and the Scots (Ross and Brian) for some beers in Grampis bar (with the
spitfire sign), as recommended by (Aussie) Simon.

And that’s it. Back to work on Monday. What an awesome summer though.
Highly recommended.


day 10

No Comments Written by Tam on 02/09/2009 in CZ-HR.



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(Day 10) After heavy rains and thunderstorms overnight, Marky and Roz
opted for the original (valley) route of the Haute Route, and Adie and I
headed up to the centre of Grachen to pick up the Europaweg. A few kms on
tarmac, and a steep climb through the woods led us to the narrow trail,
secured in places by ropes, handrails and rickety bridges, with periodic
caution signs urging you to move through certain “danger” areas quickly.
We encountered a bunch of goats, a few chamois and a statue of St. Bernard
who helpfully indicated north. Eventually we reached the Europahutte, with
warnings that the onward trail had experienced further rockfalls and was
hence closed again. The best alternative option was a descent towards
Randa in the valley, a taxi part way up then to reclimb up to Taschalp to
regain the trail. Sounds like a plan.


day 9

No Comments Written by Tam on 01/09/2009 in CZ-HR.



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(Day 7) The mist rolled in while we camped by lac de Moiry and so by
morning visibility was poor. By the time we crossed the barrage it was
full of people fishing (saturday morning) and we climbed up to Col de
Sorebois as mist rolled in and out. It was mostly sunny as we descended to
Sorebois and its cable car station for a beer, then took the steep path
through the woods to Zinal, in good time to find the campsite, pitch up
and head out for dinner.

We took a rest day in Zinal and enjoyed the sun, crepes, beers and got
clothes washed.

(Day 8 ) From Zinal we climbed steeply out of the valley up towards
Forcletta (2874m). Marky and Roz left us at midday for a detour via the
valley rather than the next couple of high passes, planning to meet us in
Grachen tomorrow evening. Adie and I headed over Forcletta and down to
Hotel Schwarzhorn in Gruben for the night, running into the 3 Scottish
students (one of whom is English) who’d raced past us that morning, and
another couple who we’d seen the first few days of our walk, but had taken
a day off in Arolla so just caught us back up. Several beers later…

(Day 9) An early start saw us storm up to the Augstbordpass (2894m) then
down to Jungen for lunchtime beers with our American/Norwegian friends. A
final descent down to St. Niklaus and the post bus up to Grachen caught us
up with Marky and Roz in the campsite to plan for a 2 day walk of the
Europaweg. Apparently an avalanche/land slide on 23rd August rendered the
2nd half (towards Zermatt from the Europahutte) impassible, but recent
news suggests it’s open again. We’ll have to wait and see.


day 6 (of the c-z hr)

No Comments Written by Tam on 28/08/2009 in CZ-HR.



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(Day 3) On leaving cabane du Mont Fort we chose to do the “short cut”
alternative day over col de la Chaux, to be confronted with the “if it was
easy it would be called the way”. The guide told us to follow the way
markers carefully to ensure we went around the glacier, but we suddenly
realised we were on it and climbing over loose boulders, morraine and
slippery ice patches with various crevices between them. Three cols, 885m
of ascent and 740m of descent, and wading through a thigh-deep glacial
meltwater torrent later, we made it to cabane de Prafleuri.

(Day 4) One of the guide books suggested a “safe” glacier traverse with
“virtually no crevasses” but we decided we’d had enough the previous day
so went over col des Roux, around lac des Dix and over col de Riedmatten
(the pass slightly further round, pas de Chevres, involved 3 vertical
ladders so we thought better of it). The long final descent (1289m of
height loss) led us into Arolla early evening in good time to catch the
supermarche to load up on fresh treats, then find the campsite which was a
proper one, full of tents!

(Day 5) A nice short day stroll down the valley to Les Hauderes (supposed
to go as far as La Sage but stopped short for the campsite). Wandered
along a “chemin difficile” with a couple of exposed sections with chains
bolted to the rocks, up to Lac Bleu (which really is blue!) then a gentle
descent into the village, via the shops and up to spend the afternoon
drinking beer in the sunshine in the camping at Molignon.

(Day 6) An early start to catch up with the hour we needed to make up from
the previous day (including a 200m climb), and to break the back of the
1617m of height gain for the day before the sun got too high. A long, hard
slog up to Col du Tsate (2868m), then steep descent down to Lac de la
Bayenna under the Moiry glacier and famous Moiry icefall (very
impressive). On setting off up to climb another 500m on the path towards
Cabane de Moiry we were confronted with a sign saying the cabane was
closed overnight from 24 Aout for renovation work. We called ahead to have
it confirmed, and since tomorrow’s route came back down the same way, it
was easy to turn around and walk down to Lac de Moiry. We found a
picturesque spot to pitch up with awesome views – one direction of the
Moiry icefall, and the other direction of the brilliant turquoise Lac de
Moiry.


Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route (Swiss Alps) – day 2

No Comments Written by Tam on 24/08/2009 in CZ-HR.



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Several trains and buses later, including an overnight stop at the
campsite in Sambrancher, we finally made it to Champex to start the
Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route.

The first day was supposed to be a leisurely stroll down the valley, but
losing 800m told its toll on everyone’s feet, and a lack of campsite, then
1.5hrs sitting outside the gite waiting for it to open (the sign said
17:30 but still nothing by 19:00) in Le Chable before getting the train
back to Sambrancher for another night (then finding the other “campsite”
didn’t allow tents) made for an unnecessarily long day.

An early start, swing by the supermarket for supplies, and 07:09 train
back up the valley gave us a fighting chance of conquering the day’s 1636m
of height gain before it got too hot. Spectacular views of Grand Combin as
well as the Mont Blanc Massive crept into view as we gained height. We saw
numerous paragliders soaring overhead, and passed apples, hazelnuts,
brazil nuts, blackberries, raspberries, alpine strawberries, plums,
elderberries, wimberries and chestnuts – you’d think it was late summer /
harvest time!

A long day for all, but good weather and good timing, we arrived by 5pm at
the Cabane du Mont Fort, pitched tents outside and enjoyed a good meal and
couple of bottles of wine.


Geneva

No Comments Written by Tam on 24/08/2009 in CZ-HR.



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Spent a couple of days tearing round the streets of geneva too (the hire
bikes there are free for up to 4 hours a pop). We got soaked standing
under the Jet d’Eau and saw the city from the Roue de Geneva big wheel. We
also found an Irish themed pub (which didn’t atually claim to be but sold
decent beers). Several pints and a nasty hangover later, we met up with
Marky and Roz and headed for the Alps…


Lyon

No Comments Written by Tam on 19/08/2009 in CZ-HR.



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Stopped off in Lyon for a couple of days on the way up to Geneva and
managed to break every road rule and terrorise the town on the 1eur/day
hire bikes. Lyon seems to be a very laid back and tolerant city with cars,
bikes and people, on rollerblades, skateboards and scooters, all managing
to share the same space without killing each other!

We’ve got to say a huge thank you to the guys in “Au Vieux Campeur” who
found Adie a free replacement bottom section for his snapped Leki trekking
pole. They salvaged it from an old one they had and even apologised for it
not being carbon fibre (as was the original part).


2009 plans – Walker’s Haute route, Chamonix – Zermatt

2 Comments Written by Tam on 03/05/2009 in CZ-HR.

Towards the end of the summer (22 August – 6 September 2009), we’re heading back to the Alps to walk across Switzerland on this high route over 11 passes, 180km, and +/-12,000m between mountain huts. Since the first 3 days overlap with the final 3 days of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) (Chamonix round to Champex), we were thinking of getting the bus round to Champex, where they part, reducing it from 14 to 11 days (152km, +/-10,000m), which should squeeze nicely into 2 weeks off work. It should be harder than the TMB (more ascent/descent), but easier than the GR20 – just more dramatic scenery. We’re basically walking from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, so get to see the sweetest >4000m peaks of the Alps. Let me know if you’re interested in coming along so we can sort out kit.
[update] We’ll be out of the Pyrenees in good time, so if you fancy starting from Chamonix and walking the whole thing this is also an option.

Itinerary
Sat 22 Aug 2009 Fly to Geneva
Sun 23 Aug Shopping (fuel, food), travel to Champex
Mon 24 Aug day 1 Champex – Le Chable 3.5-4hrs 13km +104m -749m
Tue 25 Aug day 2 Le Chable – Clambin – Cabane du Mont Fort 6-6.5hrs 9km +1636m -0m
Wed 26 Aug day 3 Cabane du Mont Fort – Col Termin – Col de Louvie – Col de Prafleuri – Cabane de Prafleuri 6-6.5hrs 14km +885m -740m
Thur 27 Aug day 4 Cabane de Prafleuri – Col des Roux – Col de Riedmatten – Arolla 6.5hrs 16km +735m -1353m
Fri 28 Aug day 5 Arolla – Lac Bleu – Les Hauderes – La Sage 4hrs 10km +215m -554m
Sat 29 Aug day 6 La Sage – Col du Tsate – Cabane de Moiry 5-5.5hrs 10km +1617m -459m
Sun 30 Aug day 7 Cabane de Moiry – Col de Sorebois – Zinal 5-5.5hrs 14km +462m -1612m
Mon 31 Aug day 8 Zinal – Forcletta – Gruben 5.5-6hrs 14km +1199m -1052m
Tue 1 Sept day 9 Gruben – Augstbordpass – St Niklaus 6.5-7hrs 16km +1072m -1767m
Wed 2 Sept day 10 St Niklaus – Gasenried – Europa Hut 7.5-8hrs 18km +1563m -470m
Thurs 3 Sept day 11 Europa Hut – Taschalp – Zermatt 6.5-7hrs 18km +348m -962m
Thurs night / Fri 3/4 Sept celebrate
Sat/Sun 5/6 Sept travel home (plus contingency day)

Alternative stage options are on:

  • day 3: looks like a shortcut over a higher col. The height has to be gained anyway for Col de Louvie, so just cuts 4km (and about an hour) off the day (re: shortcut: if it was easy, it would be called “the way”).
  • day 4: involves a slight detour up over Tete Noir, and then across the Glacier de Cheilon. Very cool views of Mont Blanc de Cheilon and later the Matterhorn (not the usual Zermatt profile). Seems to be a good path and “crevasses are virtually non-existent at the point of crossing”. Either route looks spectacular, so we should play this by ear and get advice en route.
  • day 6/7/8: takes a higher col between the valleys, somewhat to the North, finishing at Barrage de Moiry instead. End up staying by the lake and misses walking past the glacier, but this eats into the next day’s walk (we’d be walking up from Cabane to Barrage de Moiry in the morning). If we’re short of time or getting behind, this would be a good option to back-to-back a couple of days. This can also give you the opportunity to stop at Hotel Weisshorn, which is pretty spectacular.
  • day 10/11: there’s an option to ditch straight from St Niklaus (via Tasch) up the valley into Zermatt, avoiding the tops and the final couple of days out past Europa hut, turning 2 days into 1 short day for a quick finish. Looks like a bit of a dull valley walk, and not the best way to finish, but if you’ve had enough by then…

Transport

Flights to Geneva:
– BA flies from Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester(not direct)
– Easyjet flies from Gatwick, Luton, East Mids, and Liverpool
– Swiss International Airlines flies from Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh

Train to Geneva:
– Eurostar London-Paris, then see Rail Europe.

Coach to Geneva:
– London Victoria coach station, overnight to Paris and on to Geneva/Chamonix or so, see eurolines.

Swiss train and bus links can be calculated on the SBB site
Geneva – Champex link via trains & bus via Orsieres: ~2:30 hours (so probably not via Chamonix after all)
Zermatt – Geneva return at the end, via Visp: ~3:50 hours

Insurance
You’ll need trekking insurance to cover the possibility of mountain rescue callout. The British Mountaineering Council do a great one and explicitly cover this route. You’ll need to join if you’re not already a member (30 quid or 15 it you set up an annual direct debit) – the card will get you 10% discounts in most hiking/outdoor shops, so definitely money well spent. You then need insurance to cover the full duration of your trip, and can tailor it to the precise number of days. It will cost about 30 quid for the fortnight.