Thursday, 20 July 2017

THE WALKERS HAUTE ROUTE, CHAMONIX - ZERMATT

The Grand Combin from the Sentier de Chamois
On the 8th of July 2017 I set off with a fun bunch of 10 folk for one of the most spectacular and stunning multi day treks in Europe. The Walkers Haute route stretchers for over 180km with varied mountain terrain and views of the highest peaks in the Alps. Ten days of Alpine splendour, this was the 11th time guiding this route and it never fails to inspire.

DAY 1 COL DE  BALME
So far the summer in the Alps has been pretty good, too hot really. Unfortunately there was a wee blip in the beautiful weather for the start of our trek. The Col de Balme is one of the easiest days on the tour.  The team soon made short work of getting to the Swiss border in time for lunch. We took the more scenic route down to Trient, just before the rain. Well timed.

The team at the Fenetre Arppette


DAY 2 FENETRE ARPPETTE
The first big day of the trek, the Spectacilar Fenetre Arppette. This 2000m climb to the narrow col goes up close to the Trient Glacier and some wonderful rock, meadow and glacial scenery. There is also a 2000m decent down the other side to Champex. One of the many days you can expect to see the animal of the Alps, The Ibex.
Ibex taking it easy on the rocks below the col
Trient Glacier
The decent through the boulder field on the other side
DAY 3, CHAMPEX-MONT FORT
The weather gods were kind to us yesterday. We had a mainly dry day and managed to get some lovely sunny spells. Shortly after getting into Champex a massive downpour hit the streets of this wee town coupled with a few claps of thunder and lightening. That was really the only rain we saw, from now on the weather was sun and warmth and fine views!
Evening light at Mont Fort Refuge
The route now descends into the pastoral Val de Bagnes and passess through the towns of Sanbrencher and La Chables. We then took the cablecar up to Ruinettes above the ski resort of Verbier. From here it is a short and easy walk up to the wonderfully perched Cabane du Mont Fort. The first of two nights in mountain refuges and the start of probably the finest two days of the entire Haute Route.
Sunsetting over the Val de Bagnes
DAY 4, MONT FORT - CABANE PRAFLEURI
Sunrise on Mont Blanc range
Magnificent views from the Sentier de Chamois
An early start for a big 9 hour day across some of the wildest and highest stretches of the WHR. Three cols to cross and splendid scenery at every turn. The first part of the trail contours the mountain side to the Col de Termin. This section of path is named the 'Sentier de Chamois', and almost guaranteed to see these wonderful creatures.
Chamois
Lac Louvie and Grand Combin on the traverse
Rosa Blanche from Col de Prafleuri
Descending from Col de Prafleuri
Unlike previous summers in The Alps, there is very little in the way of snow on the higher cols. Indeed there was hardly anything to negotiate this year. Usually there is still a fair amount of  old snow lying on the Col de Louvie and the 'step' down to the lakes on the way up to Col de Prafleuri. It has been a dryish winter and a very hot Spring/early summer. The team were finished at the Prafleuri Refuge around 4.30pm, the earliest I have ever had a group finish on this stage.

DAY 5, PRAFLEURI - AROLLA
Early morning on the Col de Choux, Lac Dix
Second day in the 'wilderness' and two more cols today as we get close up views of the diminishing glacier below Mont Blanc de Cheillon. The second of the cols, the col de Reidmatten is the steepest and gnarliest col of the entire trek. The alternative col de Chevres which is adjacent to the Reidmatten is much steeper and has a set of ladders to get to the col, it's ugly and the Reidmatten is the 'classic' way to go. The Arolla side of the col is like dropping down into a different world, much greener and some wonderful meadows on an easier trail.
Mont Blanc de Cheillon
Meadows above Arolla
Mount Cenus Bellflower
DAY 6, AROLLA - LA SAGE
The easiest day on the tour. Mostly downhill with just a short 600m ascent. A welcome 'rest' day after two big efforts on the previous sections. Today is a nice stroll down to Lac Bleu then into the Val d' Herens before we finish the day up at La Sage.
The peaceful hamlet of La Sage above the Val d'Herens
 DAY 7, LA SAGE - ZINAL

No rest up as we have another big day with 2000m of sacent over two cols. The Col de Torrent and the Col de Sorebois. Most of the cols on the WHR are just a smidgen below 3000m. By now the group were quite used to the big ascents and descents. All the rough sections are now behind us. Today's route is all on excellent trails.
Les Hauderes in the Val d'Herens with the Pigne d'Arolla above
Lunch time spot, Weisshorn to the left, Dent Blanche to the right
Col de Torrent

Wonderful cloud formations
DAY 8, ZINAL - GRUBEN
We cross over into the Germanic speaking valleys today as we nudge ever closer to Zermatt. Gruben in the Turtmantal is a tint community that only live here in the summer months. One of the few valleys in The Swiss Alps that has no public transport and no skiing paraphernalia. Lovely and peaceful with just one place of accommodation at the Scwarzhorn Hotel. The days getting easier and shorter now, only an 8 hour effort required.
Leaving the Val d'Annivers

The Bishorn in view on our descent into the Turtmental
Alpine Rock Jasmin
DAY 9, GRUBEN - ST. NIKLAUS
Another stunning day, just the one col of the Augsbord Pass. Today's highlights are the first views of the Mattertal -The 'Matterhrn Valley'. For me this day is also special as it is one of the few places in The Alps that the very rare King of the Alps grows. This beautiful cushion plant flowers for just a few weeks in the height of summer, just below today's col.
The Mattertal
King of the Alps
DAY 10, TASCHALP - ZERMATT
Grand views from the Europaweg

The Weisshorn from Taschalp

Tasch and the Mattertal


The Matterhorn, of course
Final day and journeys end at Zermatt. The Europaweg from Grachan to Zermatt traverses high above the Mattertal. Over the last few years there have been several huge rockfall and landslides damaging and making this path unwalkable. This year the section from Taschalp to Zermatt is now open with some major footpath work been done. The rest of the Eropaweg is due to open in just a few weeks time. In the meantime we still savoured some amazing views of the Matterhorn as the cloud dispersed in the late morning heat. What a way to finish and what a fun, fit and enthusiastic group this week. With an age range from 47 - 69 they whizzed along with ease. I have two more WHR to guide again this summer, can't wait! I was guiding for KE Adventures this week.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

ZERMATT, MATTERHORN & JOURNEY'S END

The team on the Europaweg 
Weisshorn from Taschalp
No caption required
Europaweg and Mattertal 
Findeln
The team, looking fresh!
Final day of trekking on the Haute Route.  Day 10 and yet another spectacular walk with wonderful views. The Europaweg from Grachan to Taschalp is still not officialy open, that is until 20 August.  Looking forward to seeing the multi million Swiss Franc Bridge which has the major construction job to be completed before its once more 'safe' to walk. So for our final section of the Haute Route we started at Taschalp today. From the word go it is views and photos every inch of the way. We extended the walk into Zermatt as much as possible by walking to Sunnega and Findeln. Tradition states with my groups that we finish at the church in Zermatt. Top weather again. Well done my team of 10 who have an average age of 58-69 and breezed along every day. Fabulous!  This trek I was guiding for KE Adventure. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

GRUBEN TO ST NIKLAUS

The team enjoying the view down the Mattertal 
Alpine paths at their finest 
Descending from the Augstboard Pass 
Junju & Mattertal 

King of the Alps 

Beautiful clear morning 
Alpine Mousear

Clear skies overnight and a beautiful morning for our stage of the Haute Route over to St. Nicklaus in the Mattertal. Snorers one col day, traversing the Augstboard Pass.  HIghlight of the day is the wonderful King of the Alps which only flowers right at the top of the col. We had a glorious walk down to Junju in the afternoon with stunning views down the Mattertal to the Brighthorn.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

ZINAL TO GRUBEN

Heading down into the Turtmantal 
The Forcletta Col 
Val d'anniveres 
Eidelweiss 
 Forcletta 
Sleepy Butterflies 


The next few days of the Haute Route start to get a bit easier as we get closer to Zermatt.  That doesn't mean the views and trekking are any less exciting.  Today's section from Zinal to Gruben is full of superb views of the big 4000m peaks in The region. On view are the Dent Blanche, Bishorn, Ober Gagbellhorn, Weisshorn and the Zinal Rothorn. Just one Col to climb, the Forcletta at over 2900m. It was a cooler day with some sunshine.