A 5.45am 'wake up' saw to it that we were breakfasting by about 6am and on the path by soon after 7am. We weren't complaining, it was another beautiful morning.
A short descent from the cabane on a fine mountain path led us round a bluff and onto the boulder field leading to the Glacier d'Otemma, a long affair that we spent the rest of the morning (5 hours) slowly ascending from around 2300 to 3150 metres.
As the lower reaches of the glacier were 'dry' there was no need for ropework, or even crampons, until we reached the dizzy height of about 2850 metres.
We did however cross a massive crevasse down which the rocks we threw took over two seconds to 'bounce'. We took care not to slip - we have just two 25 metre lengths of rope.
The glacier was bereft of the wildlife seen on the mountain path - no sign of the choughs, wheatears, black redstarts, saxifrages, houseleeks and kidney vetches that had graced that path.
The day had a distinctly Himalayan feel to it as we trudged up the vast glacier with peaks arrayed all around us under a vermillion sky.
We were alone, our South African faff champions having granted the Swiss trio a half hour start. The other visitors to the cabane would all be leaving by trekking paths; perhaps there's a 'Tour de Grand Combin'.
Eventually we reached a crevassed area that required us to rope up for an hour or so. Today's image shows us negotiating small crevasses on the final pull to the col, from where we gained first sight of our home for the night. It's a big refuge, and fills up with Haute Route skiers in March and April. It's quiet tonight, with just 40 visitors enjoying the recently refurbished quarters.
A short snow slope, followed by a rocky knife edge ridge, brought us to Vignettes at 1pm. Time for lunch! Beers all round (enjoy a second beer today, Alan).
Rosti was then enjoyed by everyone. "You'll never manage all that" exclaimed the guardian, after producing a huge pile of rosti. "Oh yes we can" we replied, assiduously demonstrating our assertion.
There is to be no marmot chasing this afternoon - Cabane des Vignettes is perched on a rock face that requires alpine skills to venture any further than the old helipad some 15 metres away. Luckily there's a phone signal on the edge of that helipad.
It's burningly hot out there, and also on the verandah below the toilets, which are chemical, so that option is both hot and smelly.
However, the rosti and beer has seduced most of our party into an afternoon nap in our dormitory.
I think I'll join them!
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange