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~ Sunday 26th April 2009

Probably the best week of the year! Good weather and some of the best ski touring in Switzerland. Our planned Haute Route Impériale was sabotaged by Air Canada and missing bags. Instead we started from Arolla, did part of the Haute Route, and finished with the final 2 stages of the Tour du Ciel. There are more pictures here.

Day 1 we headed over the Pas de Chevre to the Dix hut for lunch, and then skied la Luette in the afternoon - some good snow, but had our first suspicions about the "ubiquitous crust" covering the alps...

Powder on la Luette



Next day we left the hut first by mistake - and had to break trail all the way up the Pigne d'Arolla with 40 people following us. We left the crowds at the summit and skied down the Brenay glacier, then over the Col des Portons and down to the Otemma glacier - fresh tracks all the way. There was a welcome refreshing breeze for the climb back to the Vignettes hut.

Using a rope for the steep entry




                          Day 3 started in clouds, but with enough visibility to ski the steep Glacier de Vuibe descent below the Vignettes hut - and another battle with "ubiquitous crust" - before climbing up to the Bertol hut. 

Day 4 we climbed the Tete Blanche, then on to the Tete de Valpelline. We were the only team on top - after more trail breaking - and skied some good snow from the summit, with fresh tracks back to the col. Unfortunately the rest of the Stockji glacier was pretty awful! Well earned big beers at the Schonbiel hut with one of the best views in the alps!

Big beers and big smiles at the Schonbiel hut




             On friday we headed down from Schonbiel, then up to the Col Durand - a big, steep climb through impressive scenery. Skiing the north side of the col is steep, but we found good snow, with more perfect powder (at last!) on the glacier below. Amazingly, in the space of 2 turns, the powder turned to spring snow which made for a very fast descent and a quick climb up to Grand Mountet hut in time for lunch. The hut had sold out of big beers, so after a quick small one we headed up to the foot of the Arete Blanche on the Zinal Rothorn - and another 600m descent of excellent spring snow.


Last day, and maybe the best. A steep climb on hard snow up to the shoulder of le Blanc de Moming. The summit is reached by a steep scramble, roped up and carrying skis. This is an incredible viewpoint, surrounded by 4000m peaks - Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, Zinal Rothorn and Weishorn. Skiing the north side is a 2000m descent in amazing scenery below the Weishorn and Zinal Rothorn. Knee deep powder at first, 2 crusty turns, then perfect spring snow right to the car park in Zinal!

Roped up fpr the final climb



Powder in April, north side of Blanc de Moming