Monday, July 23, 2012

Haute Route journal (part 2)

Here's an intro to my Haute Route hike.


Day 3

Stage 6: Cabane de Mont Fort - Cabane du Prafleuri

I woke up figuring that I had slept for half an hour and it was still raining/getting dark.  Nope, it's 6 AM and still raining.  I puttered around the picnic shelter until I realized it wasn't going to stop anytime soon and headed out.  Foreshadowing - this turned out to be one of the best days of backpacking in my life.

The Verbier ski area is huge - there are lifts everywhere, as well as some interesting art:


(that's a big metal elephant, with a giant penguin in the background - two nonplussed farmers, and their cows, for scale).

After yet more climbing, I got to the Cabane de Mont Fort.  I was getting into the guidebook's photo techniques, and was just barely able to get a photo of the hut without the crisscrossing gondola wires, power lines, cat tracks, etc.


The trail goes right by the hut, and when I got there, people were looking out at me with worried expressions.  It was a trap - if I went in there, I'd end up by a fire, with a cup of coffee, and probably they'd convince me to start taking trains and gondolas everywhere.  So I headed on up the Sentier des Chamois:


A few nice things happened.  First, the rain stopped and it cleared up:


Second, I saw an Ibex do something amazing.  I came around a rocky corner, and the Ibex was standing on basically a vertical rock wall.  He proceeded to leap about ten feet straight out into space, and fall about forty feet down.  Right over the trail, and right in front of me.  He landed on a 35-40 degree slope, stopped within a few feet, and jogged off to graze somewhere else.  It all took about five seconds.

Then, I got to the Col Termin, and saw this:


Let's see that again:


And thus began my very good day.  Here's the Lac de Louvie from near the Col Termin:


And here's the Grand Desert Glacier from the next pass, the Col de Louvie:



From the Col de Louvie to the Col de Prafleuri is a bare rock cirque with very little actual trail.  It was a unique section of the entire trip, and probably the one section where I could have used an actual topo map.  Look, there's the little signpost at the top of the Prafleuri:


And here's the view from the top - a ridge splitting two glaciers:



Here's a view of Mont Blanc de Cheilon:


There were Ibex all over, and one of them decided to start posing for me.  Hey, that's pretty good:


Okay, but try to look tougher and less inquisitive - remember, you're a noble animal.  Oh, that's perfect - hold that pose:


His friends didn't seem too impressed:



Here's the Cabane de Prafleuri, where little kids are running around chasing marmots, and the restaurant is serving fine meals:


In Europe, you can get as gripped as you want about your mountain sports, but there's always a lodge in the next valley serving cocoa - it helps take things down a notch.

Stage 7: Cabane de Prafleuri - Arolla


But I was heading to a fourth pass, the Col des Roux.  I didn't realize how big Lac des Dix would be:


It was simply a very broad landscape - a good break from all the scrambling.  I was trooping along making some miles kilometers around the lake, while thinking about the rainbow, the crazy jumping Ibex, and all those glaciers.  And also another sign how seriously the Swiss take their cows.  There was a sign announcing the area as a watershed preserve - no camping, no swimming, etc.:


  But of course it's open to grazing:


Yes, I took my water filter, and yes, I'm glad I did.

At the end of the lake, there was a portal with a tremendous amount of water blasting out of it:


Huh?  That's not in the guidebook.  Soon after, I crossed a creaky bridge with an added bonus of being able to look straight down into the torrent:


Then it was another long stretch with a very "out there" feel - some scrambling, a little routefinding, and some pretty rough trail.  And all the while views like this:


(I think that's Mont Blanc de Cheilon again).

At the top of the pass, you have the option of a boring scramble up to the Col de Riedmatten (2919 meters), or climbing these awesome ladders up to the Pas de Chevres (2855 meters):


Wait a minute, I get to climb a bunch of vertical iron ladders and save 64 meters of climbing?  That's almost 200 American feet!  What they don't tell you is that the ladders are old and move around while you climb them.  And you have to switch ladders right at the top:


The day wound down with the descent to Arolla.  I think that's the Matterhorn over that ridge (?):


I don't know what that little rock spire is called: 


And I'm pretty sure that's the Pigne d'Arolla and the Tsijiore Glacier:


A few minutes before getting into Arolla, I came to a spot that practically had a "CAMP HERE" sign on it.  It had a little creek running through it, was just outside of a grazed area, and even had a tent imprint from the night before.  As I was cooking, a farmer came by and gave me a heads up.  What a day.    

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