Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Friday, 22 January 2021

The Walker's Haute Route (14)

Cabane de Prafleuri, with the old hut on its right (Click on any image for a slideshow)

Monday 4 September - Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla 

By 6:45 we were all ready for breakfast on another lovely clear cloudless day. I packed outside as the dortoir was cramped, and by 7:40 we were ready to leave - only about 30 minutes after the OTH, who despite their alcoholic tendencies do seem to be able to get away early.

Setting off towards Col des Roux

We zoomed up to the first col - Col des Roux (2804 metres) from our high cabane (2624 metres) by 8:00 for a ten minute break and lots of photos, before descending to Lac des Dix in warm weather, the sun having risen above the Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla as we reached the col.

Looking back down to Prafleuri

Lac des Dix

Col des Roux

River crossing

Biting Stonecrop

On the descent the field gentians were joined by monkshood, harebells, houseleeks and leopardsbane, with monkshood abundant in the marshy ground around the unmanned Refuge La Barma.

Common Monkshood by Refuge La Barma

Lots of deer here, and redstarts (not a lot of birds overall, choughs seen yesterday).

By Lac des Dix

Brewing up below Le Pleurer

We strolled down an easy path to the end of the reservoir for a welcome brew (10:00 to 10:35). And then on along a very scenic route, crossing steep gullies where the others would easily have lost the path. Our group was very slow and I could see ahead the choice between the steep scree up to Col de Riedmatten (2919 m) and the easy ladders up Pas de Chevres (2855 m).

Climbing above Lac des Dix

Suspension bridge at southern end of Lac des Dix


Colin, Gaynor, and the age of chivalry

Posing above Lac des Dix

Towards the Pas de Chevres ladders, seen in the centre of the picture below

So, as I wanted photos of the ladders, I chased after the OTH group (8 out of 10 had gone to the ladders) and reached the ladders just as they were "kitting up" with via ferrata gear that someone had brought. A long wait loomed large, but they let me go through, and I scooted up the ladders in front of them - so much for the photos, I'll have to go back, or track down those from 1984 (easier!). 

On the top ladder

I descended back briefly to allow a Frenchman to capture my image on the top ladder. These ladders were really easy compared with most via ferrata ladders, and much easier than the Mont au Sources chain ladders in South Africa.

First view of the Matterhorn

I looked back to see the rest of my group at the decision point junction. They all chose the Col de Riedmatten scree slope. So I waited at the top of the ladders, but no one else appeared so I ambled down towards Col de Riedmatten and said goodbye to Dave Lonsdale, who had sped over that col in a bid to reach Arolla in time for a 15:35 bus home (he made it). 

We were joined by lots of edelweiss in this area - most of the others had no idea what it looked like (despite seeing lots around Zermatt last year!). Scabious and Carline thistles were also prevalent today.

Pigne d'Arolla

I'd reached the top of the ladders at 13:15, from which a ten minute walk with our only view of the Matterhorn this trip, brought me down and part way up to the other col - which I could see, where I ensconced myself, brewed up, and waited for the others. They duly arrived; the Matterhorn was pointed out (they hadn't noticed it). Lunch finished at 14:30, then Sue and Caroline rushed down towards Arolla, followed by me and Colin.

We were down by 16:10, and were soon enjoying a beer in the sun at the first available hostelry, having overtaken the OTH Club, who had lost their hotel. The descent had been hot, and full of grasshoppers, which engaged with us for the rest of the trip. The hotel looked ok, but Sue and Caroline's search for rooms took us to a second floor balcony at Hotel du Glacier where Colin and I, Sue and David, Hilde and (reluctant, as she prefers dortoirs) Gaynor had twin rooms with shower and balcony, and Caroline had a single room. All for SF85, half board (£40).

Mt Collon from Arolla

Hotel du Glacier

This gave everyone accept me their best night's sleep. My bed was spongy, and I had sleep surplus. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate - Alexander McCall Smith, provided a good diversion though. 

It was a nice meal - pate salad, duck in orange with peas and spaghetti, followed by summer fruit, cream and ice cream. 

A nutcracker kept flying past en route from collecting food and delivering it to young in a nearby tree. 

The OTH Club discovered that whilst they thought they had booked Hotel du Glacier's dortoir, they'd actually booked Edelweiss Hotel. Something about a 'confusing colon' in the guidebook. 

I washed my North Face trousers and they were dry and crispy by morning. 

What a cracking day. I yearn to go back, and am jealous of Keith, who despite having an 'underlying health condition' managed to do the Haute Route in the summer of 2020, when the rest of us were afraid to leave home, let alone the UK!

Thursday, 21 January 2021

The Walker's Haute Route (13)

Click on any image for a slideshow

Sunday 3 September - Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri 

Up at 7 am - a long day ahead. Breakfast of coffee, bread and jam, then a decision as to the route. We are just about last away from the cabin at 8:20 (OTH Club left before 7 am). 

Looking back from the Col Termin path

We (I) finally choose the longer but more scenic route over Col Termin - the alternative over Col de la Chaux looks steep and less interesting, if shorter. We don't see anyone on the latter route, but many people are ahead on the Sentier des Chamois. It's a superb belvedere walk and we make fairly quick progress around the side of the mountain, soon losing views of the Mont Fort Hut and its attendant ski hardware in favour of extensive and less spoilt vistas across to Grand Combin and the huge Glacier de Corbassiere.

The view back to Le Chable

Shortly before Col Termin (10.10) the people ahead stopped. And so did we when we saw ibex grazing above and below the path. These are not shy creatures, and many photos were taken.

Col Termin

I was stunned into silence by Hilde's latest quip - "Is that a glacier?" (Witterings about Hilde's preference for easy, guided, country walks have been deleted.) Why was she here? 

Grand Combin from Col Termin

Rough going...

It was a lovely route on towards Col de Louvie. On the way we stopped for a brew on a grassy knoll overlooking Lac de Louvie, with what looked like an idyllic refuge / cabin at its outflow 11:10 to 11:40. The hut looks new and is not on my old 1970s map. 

I manage to avoid Caroline's interrogatory conversation - [How did you sleep? Are these glasses for water? Can we have serviettes? etc, etc] - which is nice to escape from in these wild surroundings (easy, as I can move faster than any of the others I can choose my company). 

As we laze with mugs of tea (those who have stoves anyway) - Caroline has thrown away her water as it was too heavy - there is increasing sunshine as blue sky sweeps across from the west. 

Several areas of contention were discussed - Caroline feels justified in throwing away her water whilst keeping her high heeled shoes; Hilde complains incessantly about mountain bikers (more deletions - and we see hardly any MTBs.) 

Brew stop

The path to Col de Louvie

It was overcast but warm, with the damp places overrun with yellow mountain saxifrage, and the ubiquitous field gentians adding clumps of purple.

Field Gentian

Lac de Louvie

Spring Gentian

On Col de Louvie

We reach Col de Louvie at 12:35. It's cool, with snow, up here at 2921 metres. Dave arrives first, then Hilde, making (like me) copious notes. I wonder what she is writing? After a twenty minute wait until 12:55 for everyone to assemble, we decide to descend to just above the remains of the Grand Desert glacier for lunch in a sheltered spot with a fine view. 13:10 to 13:55.

Gaynor strides out

Lunch by Grand Desert glacier

On my last visit in 1984 we walked cross the glacier, but now it has receded and we viewed those ahead crossing below the snout and walking on up to a massive marker rock (a big rock painted red and white).

Ascending to Col de Prafleuri

Spot the hut

I led the way across here, over rough ground below the glacier. The fine weather meant no navigational difficulties, but if it had been low cloud I would have been needed here - others found it quite hard to follow the obvious markers which led (via a deep depression) eventually to Col de Prafleuri (2965 metres) 15:35 to 15:50.

Col de Prafleuri

The rag tag band (Caroline is the worst culprit - lop-sided over-filled red rucksack, unruly red hair and stumbling gait) is moving very slowly now and takes some time to reach this col and then descend to the new Cabane de Prafleuri (the old one is left empty and forlorn behind a massive boulder) by 16:50. 

We are greeted by the OTH club, who have only been there for 30 minutes - they took an hour longer than us today. We enjoyed beers in the sun outside.

Approaching Cabane de Prafleuri

This was the only night I decided to skip showering (cold water) and t-shirt washing (not very sweaty), so it was a relaxing time before a good meal of soup (they had big sugar dispensers like those found at service stations, the contents of which Caroline sprinkled liberally over her soup!), carrot salad, pork with olives and rice, and fruit salad. We were all together on a long bench for 9 people. 

I slept well in the dortoir after Scrabble with Gaynor and a loud sing song from the OTHs and their like-minded (very boozy) Swiss French friends. 

9:30 pm bedtime seemed early, but it was dark. Hilde went at 8:30 - knackered - others rustled until 10 pm, then again from 6 am (Caroline, David, Sue - a very rustly group - I think their individual items are kept in empty crisp packets!)