Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Monday, 29 October 2007

Saturday 27 October 2007 - Heliskiing

This evening we enjoyed the company of John and Janet. I worked at the same firm as John for many years until leaving in 2004. Now he has retired and is looking forward to a season of ski mountaineering in the Alps. Years of experience have given him the skills to enjoy remote off-piste trips. A look at some of his images leads me to quickly conclude that I would probably lack the technical skills to get from one of the high mountain huts to its outside loo and back without falling hundreds of feet, so for me this is a spectator activity. John told us about this year’s exploits on the Haute Route. That’s the traditional skiers’ Haute Route, not the straightforward stroll that is the Walker’s Haute Route. Both go from Chamonix to Zermatt, but the ski route is high level and committing, whilst we summer walkers gain only modest heights and often stay overnight in villages.
Our rarely used DVD player was pressed into use for John’s video of his trip. Of the first part there was no record! Apparently the whole epic up to the Bertol Hut and back had been too frightening to record, all parties doing the Haute Route having abandoned it. So we enjoyed a video of the post-retreat activities, when the exhausted group did what some might say was cheating, but what is apparently a not too expensive way of getting a great day out. John’s day, with two companions and a guide, started outside their hotel in Arolla, where a local hut supply helicopter picked them up for the short ride to near the summit of Pigne d’Arolla, a peak of about 3800 metres. After ‘skinning’ to the summit and enjoying fantastic views in most directions, with the previous day’s charcoal grey clouds in the other direction, the group made graceful zigzag tracks down to Cabane des Vignettes. You can see in this picture what I mean about the dangers of a visit to the loo!

And after a break in the freezing cold cabin the jolly little group carried on down steep glaciers to return to the safety of Arolla by mid afternoon.
The walker’s route is so modest by contrast, it makes me feel inadequate. Well done John, and ski safely this winter. I’m sure you will, under the expert tutelage of Mark Seaton.
But looking at Mark’s blog I’m not sure what to think. He appears to have climbed the north face of the Eiger in September…and then this month he was escorting Reuben Berg and his son on a climb – if that’s the same Reuben Berg I used to have dealings with, those two trips must have been somewhat contrasting for Mark!

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