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