Saas, 25th-29th August 2006

It was my father that introduced me to the hills, so it seemed fitting that I should take him to the Alps for a 60th birthday present.

We booked flights from Newcastle to Geneva for a long weekend and hired a car, leaving it open as to where we would go so we could make the most of whatever the weather did. Easyjet cancelled our flight out, but let us rearrange to the day before, so we ended up flying out on the Friday and back late on the Tuesday, giving us pretty much four full days instead of the planned two and a half!

At the last minute, the forecasts were quite mixed and fresh snow had fallen down to around 3000m, so we decided that our best bet was to head to Saas and go up to the Almageller hut

They didn't have the small car we'd reserved, so gave us an upgrade to this huge thing!

At Saas, we decided to book into a hotel rather than pitch the tent. This decadence payed off, as there was a heavy frost overnight


It soon warmed up to a more comfortable temperature, and we began the walk in before lunch time


Looking across to the Dom group from below the Almagelleralp


The weather was beautiful at this point


A lazy butterfly


The Almagelleralp


We stopped for a late lunch at the hut at the Almagelleralp, and took the obligatory picture of the bunnies and kids


Alpine flora


Back across to the Dom group from higher up. The cloud was starting to build up


Higher up the trail


Approaching the Almageller hut


Several chamoix were hanging around the hut that evening


There was a dusting of fresh snow on Saturday evening and night. We decided to get up for the second breakfast (0700) in the hope that it would burn off and we could climb the Dri Horlini, but when morning came it was still cold and damp and we decided it wouldn't be very enjoyable. We decided to go up the Weissmies instead, but with the late start it made sense to go up and down the South ridge rather than do the traverse and descend the glacier. This had the advantage that we could leave a fair bit of equipment at the hut


Heading off


Ascending a shale band to the col above the hut


Zrvischbergenpass, looking across to the Portjengrat


Colourful rocks on the lower South ridge of the Weissmies


Looking South East to Italy


Italy, and the Portjengrat


We headed up into the clouds, and got our crampons on and axes out for a snow slope that started at about 3500m. When I had been here in July 2001 there had been thick snow down to well below the Zrvischbergenpass (see here).

We were really starting to feel the altitude here - having had little chance to acclimatise, and Jen and myself having developed chest infections just before heading out!


Leaving the snow patch to head onto the rock ridge. The ridge was partly snowed up, and a pleasing warm-up for the forthcoming Scottish winter


We scrambled up the ridge for about 300m


After that came a narrow ridge to the summit. This was possibly glacial in places, and seemed worth roping up for


A fairly narrow bit. Happily the cloud obscured the drops below


The old man made it!

Dad and me at the summit of the Weissmies


Jen and Dad at the summit of the Weissmies


We had a brief rest to derope and eat and drink something before heading back down the rocky upper South ridge


Part way down


Dad descending the snow patch under the rocky ridge


Colourful rocks


Dad seemed quite pleased at our success, and at getting up his first 4000m peak!


The cloud was quite atmospheric streaming off the Portjengrat


Nearing the Zrvischbergenpass again


Descending the shale band back to the Almageller hut. We stopped off to get our stuff and to have drinks and apple cake


Descending back to the Almagelleralp


We felt lazy, so booked back into the hotel in Saas Grund. We ate and drank plenty before heading to bed.

Dad was knackered and quite glad to have disabled facilities


We had almost two days left, but the forecast was for rain - with snow down to about 2500m. It wasn't wrong.

We decided to drive round to Arolla for a look around.

This is a fairly impressive bridge at the gorge where the Saastal meets the Mattertal


Pyramides d'Euseigne - impressive clay spires standing in the Evolène valley, on the way up to Arolla


Looking up to the Arolla glacier. It seems to have receded a bit in the last five years


The Aiguille de la Tsa from Arolla, through the showers


We were hoping to climb the Satarma needle, but the rain put us off and we headed back down the valley instead ...


... stopping off for a few more pictures of the Pyramides d'Euseigne on the way


We fancied some decent croissants, so headed for Chamonix and booked into the hotel Excelsior for the night


Tuesday morning was very cloudy and damp


Les Drus with a little fresh snow on them. It was obviously not going to dry up enough for climbing to be pleasant, so we headed back to Martigny to see a European Art exhibition, on loan from New York


The basement of the building had quite a good automobile museum in it


And the gardens were full of sculptures


Thus bird refused to smile for the camera


But these ones were more cheerful.

We finished by eating an excellent lunch at an old mill in Martigny, then headed back to the airport


All in all, thumbs up for a successful trip!