Zermatt and Chamonix, July 2002

This was Jen's first trip to the Alps, and before we had a digital camera - we used disposable cameras and got the photos on CD.

It was an unofficial Ochils Mountaineering Club trip, with various club members getting up to different things during the fortnight

 

To start with we all headed to the Attermenzen Capmsite, by Randa (near Zermatt). Jen, Stuart, Andy and myself planned to climb a few of the peaks around the valley

 

We headed up to the Schönbielhütte in the hope of climbing the Pointe de Zinal to acclimatise. However, the weather wasn't very good - it was warm and wet, with almost constant rain and thunderstorms

 

The Wandflueh, behind the Schönbielhütte. Frequent, huge rockfalls were tumbling from this cliff - with blocks the size of houses tumbling and smashing and cascading down the face. It was very impressive, and well worth having walked in for

 

Across the valley we watched avalanches pouring down the Dent d'Herens...

 

...and the Matterhorn. It was often hard to tell which rumbles were thunder and which were seracs collapsing and avalanches falling

 

We stayed the night in the hut, but realised it would be pretty stupid to attempt the Pointe de Zinal in these conditions. We headed up the first part of the route into the high corries, but could still hear rockfall all around. We ascended this gully a short way, but retreated when it looked like the snow might avalanche

 

We headed back down towards Zermatt, passing this waterfall on the way

 

The forecast was for the weather to remain the same for the next few days, and we resigned ourselves to relaxing in town. However, we woke up one morning to some unexpected good weather and decided we had just enough time left to get the cable car up to the Klein Matterhorn (pictured), and attempt to get up the Breithorn from there

 

The weather still wasn't great, though...

We got up the Breithorn and back down to the cable car without incident. Jen had her photo taken by a Japanese group, then we headed back down and sat out the next couple of days of bad weather

 

A window of better weather arrived, and the four of us walked to the Täschhütte for a couple of nights. We got up early to attempt the Alphubel

 

Alpenglow catching the Matterhorn as day breaks

 

Jen was really struggling, and we fell far behind Stuart and Andy. We took the decision to retreat. It turned out that the high temperatures in the valley had denatured Jen's insulin, and her blood sugar was dangerously high. This demanded some careful management for the rest of the holiday

 

Stuart and Andy were successful, and reported back with tales of peaks poking out above the clouds. They rested at the hut the next day while we had another try

 

This time Jen had her blood sugar levels under better control and we made good progress up to the col below the Alphubel

 

Trudging on up the ridge

 

Looking back down the upper slopes of the Alphubel, the Allalinhorn and Rimpfischorn at the back

 

At the summit of the Alphubel, looking towards the Dom

 

Alphubel summit, looking towards the Allalinhorn and Rimpfischorn and the Monte Rosa group.

We descended to the hut to find a very pink sunbathing Stuart, then we all returned to the campsite. The forecast was for poor weather again, and next morning we all decided it was time to move round to Chamonix for the second half of the holiday

 

We stopped off at Le Col des Montets to muck about on the boulders; the next day was spent doing some sports climbing

 

Les Dru from the campsite

 

Stuart, Andy and ourselves decided to try the Midi Plan traverse

 

The weather was great and the views were stunning, but it was very very busy. We saw an apparently insane snowboarder launch himself off the steep face below the Midi station, and fall almost immediately. Luckily he was able to stop himself with his ice axe; then he set off again out of sight

 

Part way along the traverse we reached this section, and foolishly picked the wrong side of the ridge. We found ourselves on sugary snow ice, with little traction and above a steep slope then a huge drop. After a short while Jen and myself retreated; not long after that Stuart and Andy made the same decision

 

Too late to continue, we headed back to the Midi station

 

We could see distant ropes of people crossing the glacier under Mont Blanc

 

The view from the gallery

 

Jen, Stuart, Geordie and myself headed up to climb the Aiguille de l'Index (in the Aiguilles Rouges) - a classic route at about Mild Severe. Unfortunately, Geordie's hips wouldn't let him get to the route, and the three of us had to head on without him. The route was good fun, with added excitement from the clouds gradually building and threatening thunder. We were quite glad when we finished the three pitch abseil and got back down to the screes

 

We had just enough time left for one more night in the hills, and headed up to the Albert Premier hut. The weather wasn't too inspiring, but the forecast was fine

 

The rapidly collapsing snout of the Glacier du Tour

 

We set off as two pairs the next morning. Stuart and Andy wanted to do the Normal Route up the Aiguille du Tour; Jen and myself wanted to do the Table du Roc ridge on the same hill

 

Table ridge forms the skyline in this picture. It gets its name from an impressive rock 'table', where a fallen slab is balanced between a pinnacle and the main ridge. Sunlight can just be seen glinting under the table, near the top of the ridge in this picture

 

We missed the start of the route, and ascended the first half of Table Couloir instead. We were then able to cut across onto the ridge. The mountain at the back here is the Aiguille du Chardonnet. The table itself provided an interesting problem, with a short section of quite hard climbing to gain it. The rest of the ridge was fairly easy and we were able to climb it moving together

 

Jen looking pretty tired near the top of the ridge

 

We descended the Normal Route down the other side of the mountain. We had been a bit slow, and it was already early afternoon. As a result, the glaciers were getting quite soft, and we had some fun crossing the bergschrund. Jen twice fell part way through snow bridges over crevasses on the way down...

 

Back on the Glacier du Tour

 

Leaving the Glacier du Tour near the Albert Premier Hut, the Aiguille du Tour in the background

 

Stuart and Andy had waited for us at the hut, and we walked out together and headed down the chairlift

 

We all had to head to the airport that afternoon, and spent the night trying to sleep there before flying home

 

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