Tignes Off Piste Jan 2004
Gogarth Climbing June 04

The Haute Route

Chamonix to Zermatt by the Classic Route
August 2001

Day Five: Chanrion Hut to the Vignettes Hut

At 7am we were on the path leading back down the way we had come up, until a detour on another unlaid road led of left and headed towards the nearby hydro scheme and the Otemma Galcier. There are two possible routes from the Chanrion Hut to the Vignettes Hut. One goes up the Brenay Glacier and leads to the Pigne d'Arolla, which can be ascended en route. This route is Erratic on the Otemma Glacier On the lower Otemma Glacier steeper and has more height gain (and loss). The second goes for the Otemma Glacier which is a long gradual walk on an easy gradient. As yesterday had been a long day, we opted for the easier way and went for the Otemma. The road we followed was evidently built for the hydro scheme construction. Bill was complaining again about having to walk on it. There was quite a cold breeze and the sun hadn't risen high enough to shine over the nearby mountains. At the small dam we moved onto a small morraine path on the left. For the first few metres any slip and you'd be in the water without much chance of getting out, but after a couple of hundred metres we leave the rocky moraine and we are onto the flat dry glacier. Bill wants to video, so we stop for a short time. The are several large rocks perched on ice pillars and as we move off I realise that almost every rock around is perched on an ice pillar, no matter how small. This section is Onto the medial morraine Bill follows the line up the glacier still ice and moraine mixed, but its not too long before we are on the ice proper and we begin to follow a medial moraine which leads off into the distance along the line we want to take. This goes on and on….and on for about 5½
miles. As we get about ¾ of the way we reach the snow line, which by now is soft. Looking back down the route Exit from the glacier However, we can see the exit col ahead and to the left and start to make tracks towards it. Ahead also we could see the Aiguille de la Tsa peak I had first seen in '96 on a PyB ski mountaineering course based in Arolla. It's a peak that just shouts out "climb me" and this wasn't the last time we would come across it. As we were approaching the col to leave the Otemma, we noticed two people Bill before leaving the glacier,L'Eveque in background Traverse to the Vignettes Hut. walking across the glacier du Mont Collon to the same col. Tracks led up the snow, not new ones though and these were followed until a short rocky section. This was crossed and we were then back on the snow as the Vignettes Hut came into view. I was just following the track when Bill shouted something like "don't slip" Helicopter arrives above rocky ridge line Traverse line from the Vignettes Hut.Track to start up P.d'Arolla and I looked right, down the slope, to realise we were traversing above a slope which didn't stop going down for a long, long way (c800metres). A small rocky ridge had to be rounded from left to right in order to gain access to the hut, a solid looking building of grey stone. It was only 2pm and the hut was empty except for a guardienne who was still doing some cleaning. I fancied a large bowl of tea, which soon arrived (do Lyons have a monopoly in France) and we went outside to the small terraceTea on the terrace to soak up the sun and enjoy the tea. The pair we had seen across the glacier soon arrived, a couple of British guys who had been attempting the (N)ridge of L'Eveque. They were disappointed that they had not succeeded in finding the second part of the route and had to retreat. There is a small summit a few metres above the hut and there we found a flat-topped boulder which was perfect for lying on in the sun. From here we could watch other people coming up the glacier from Arolla. A helicopter came up from the same direction and provided a spectacle as it dropped of some more staff and then made a large sweeping and diving turn round our little summit and down toward the Lower Haut Arolla glacier. The pilot was obviously having fun. Only ten minutes later he was back making a supplies drop. The spot was a superb viewpoint for pictures and video. Earlier in April I had been in Arolla for a View over to Arolla peaks View over to Arolla peaks ski-mountaineering trip and it was fascinating to try picking out the places we had visited then. I was surprised at how much had been white then which was now green. Both Bill and I had to stand on the highest rock on our little summit for pictures. This had to be taken very carefully as again there were some longOn top of the world! On top of the world!drops below us. Across the Lower Haut Arolla Glacier we spotted the route we would be following tomorrow as we would climb up to the Bertol Hut, which we could see on the far skyline. Tomorrow was going to be another long day. By the time of our evening To the Bertol Hut across LwrHtArollaGl meal, numbers had swollen to….about 15, all British apart from a party of six Scandinavians. I spotted the hut book and checked out the hut usage since the winter, it didn't seem as if there was any day when it would have been full. It was interesting to see some familiar names in there also. I had stayed in this hut in April '96 on a PyB trip, of which the highlight was the tour from Arolla to Zermatt. Then we were clouded into the hut and had to stay a second night awaiting clear weather The Vignettes Hut does not have a natural water supply and if you want any, bottled mineral water must be bought at 9SFr for 1.5litres. It was curry night tonight and as usual there was plenty, with a good soup to start and tinned pineapple to finish. We chatted on with the two British guys we had met earlier and it was quite late when we turned in, after 10pm!
(Cost of hut, bed and meals, was SFr94 for two)

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©David Mercer2001