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~ Sunday 21st February 2016

This might be have to be re-titled the Winter Room Mystery Tour next year! Originally inspired by Eagle Ski Club President Rob Collisters yearbook article on finding "sustainable" adventure closer to home by touring out of season in the hut winter rooms, the plan was to tackle the West Oberland Haute Route - a classic tour which can be busy in season. Unfortunately heavy snow and strong winds added to the already unusual snow-pack, and an easily ski-cut triggered windslab on the warm-up day confirmed doubts - time for a plan B.

Ploughing up to the Bouquetins Hut above Arolla wasn't a disappointment - deserted mountains, no tracks in sight, and fine weather.

col de l'eveque ski tour arolla mountain guide

Day 2 saw us trail-breaking to the Col de l'Éveque. This is the first col on the last day of the Cham-Zermatt Haute Route and is busy in season, but today was deserted. As was the Point d'Oren, a superb view-point and a fine ski.

point d'oren ski mountain guide

From there we skied fantastic snow down from the Col du Petit Mont Collon to the Otemma glacier. This, again, is part of the Cham-Zermatt "motorway" but there was no sign of life at all - exactly what we were looking for!

Feeling like the only ski-tourers in the Alps, tired legs ploughed a deep trail to the Singla bivvy. This is a great spot in a fine position on a rocky knoll, but impossible to heat - we cooked dinner and managed to raise the temperature to a balmy 6 degrees...

Next day after a quick ski down to the glacier we started the long climb to the Col des Portons. This was sunny and the snow had stabilised, but the Col itself was looking more challenging the closer we got. I'd skied down this a few years ago, but now it was a steep scramble on rock and snow - at least we got to use ropes and crampons!

From the col a long but gentle climb leads to the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla. The Vignettes side had been thoroughly heli-skied, but there were no tracks Dix side. Descending the Serpentine was quite serious skiing on windblown snow...

but below there we found excellent powder between the crevasses, linking as many turns as the legs could managed down to the Dix hut where we met the first other people we'd seen in 3 days!

Part 2 coming soon!