We were in bed early last night. I resisted the effect of the beer and wine until about 3am, when, in a bed a little apart from the others - I had bagged the single bed in a room for seven - I discovered a pile of Crocs. Apparently my 'instant sleep in a mountain hut' had proved a little noisy for my companions....
Elsewhere, in a room for guides only, the Swiss guide had moved out after Dave's arrival, leaving our leader (who perhaps is a little noisy at night) with the window bunk - the prime position in a mountain hut as it gives the owner of that position control over the heating, or more importantly the cooling, of the dormitory.
Michael, Anthony and Grant planned to have a lie in today, so it was a bit of a surprise for them when the dormitory lighting automatically burst into life at 4.45am! If you want breakfast here you have to take it at 5am. It's a climbing hut, not safely accessible without Alpine skills.
With the three tired South Africans left rooted to their beds, Dave's rope was somewhat empty. So we left it behind and he fronted the red rope team, today, confusingly, using the green rope.
We just avoided the need for headlights in preparing for a 6 o'clock start for the 650 metre ascent of Pigne d'Arolla. Starting efficiently just before a large party of potential incompetents, we were soon alone on the stiff ice, witnessing a wonderful red sunrise.
The downside of that redness was the presence of clouds that have tried to shield the sun from us for most of the day.
We made pleasing progress across a snowfield then up a rocky section, climbed surprisingly easily in crampons, to a crevassed snow slope leading to the 3796 metre summit of Pigne d'Arolla. As we climbed, a mountain vista gradually extended before us, with the Matterhorn prominent and the Bernese Oberland enticing us from a distance. There were of course innumerable other local peaks in view.
We reached the summit at 7.55 - in just under two hours. Dave had told us it could take three hours. We are his quickest clients. High cloud infused a greyness to the views, and the sun was doused with mini rainbows.
A group of three had arrived before us and kindly took photos which will follow - the blogging camera (this phone) wasn't handy, and Dave kept telling us to keep away from the edge of the massive cornice. Most had four layers on up here - there was a cool breeze - but my t-shirt and Vapour Rise smock were perfectly adequate, aided of course by those Sealskinz gloves that work brilliantly in dry conditions warmer than minus 20C.
After 15 minutes on the summit - probably my highest in the Alps - we headed back down at a pace just a little too hot for Donovan, but it still only took an hour and twenty minutes to regain the comfort of Cabane des Vignettes for a welcome pot of tea and a jolly welcome from the three lazy South Africans.
On the way down we met two unroped Brits about to negotiate the dangerous crevasses. Dave had words with them and they paused to (we hope) fumble with a rope. To say that Dave was not impressed is an understatement - like most professional guides he is very safety conscious.
The two and a half hour walk down to Arolla was easy and uneventful, with our missing 'rope' now restored and an enjoyable romp down the steep Glace de Piece all the way to its receding snout. Today's picture shows various group members at the foot of the snout, with the glacier appearing as a thin thread of white behind them.
So it was that by 1pm we were scoffing burgers and chips (me) and various other delights in Arolla's village square, washed down of course with 'pression'.
Hotel Mont Collon is our home for the night. Jagged Globe's flag flies outside - they are the hotel's best summer customer. It has a ballroom and a library, and lots of wood panelled rooms. Sound travels. It seems to me like a valley version of the Berliner Hutte near Mahrhofen, minus the b*****g Swedes.
We are now clean, with freshly washed clothes, resupplied with lunches from the poorly stocked shop, saturated with Macedonian dance music from Skopje (there's an ongoing performance in the village), and awaiting '(more) beer o'clock' which today has been designated as 7pm.
It really is a hard life, Gibson! And thank you everyone else for your entertaining comments.
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