April 2009- Grand Lui Haute Route

Posted: January 25, 2010 in Ski, tour

A friend of mine, Martin, had been wanting to do the Haute Route for some time. It was not something that had ever appealed to me but it looked like a fun trip so I was game. We decided to go on the Grand Lui variation which is longer and harder than the normal route as it eliminates the road section.

 Five of us, Martin, Doug, Simon, Brendan and I set off from Grand Montet after some rushed planning. Heading up the col du Chardonet we soon realised lots of people had had the same idea, probably due to the predicted spell of good weather. Fortunatly for us once down the other side most groups headed off towards Champex or the Trient hut on the normal route, leaving just us and one other group heading up towards Grand Lui. As it was the first day the uphill seemed to drag out and I was looking forward to the ski down. Unfortunatly on the other side we found ourselves sking through avalanche debris and then snow which had transformed and then refrozen, and it was horrible until near the bottom.

 Everyone was a bit unmotivated after the first day and soon after setting off from La Fouly, Simon decided to turn round and go back to chamonix. The rest of us slogged on gaining altitude. As we did so the weather started to come in very quickly and we soon found ourselves in a white out. Our tracks had blown in behind us so we decided to carry on navigating by following a bearing on the compass, worked out from where we thought we were on the map. We could not see more than a ski poles lenght in front of us and were starting to fear spending a night in a snow hole. Eventually we made it to the top of a col, not knowing if it was the right one and carefully set off down the other side. As we got lower we dropped out of the cloud and realised we were in exactly the right place, I suspect more by luck than skill. Over excited, we then skied too far down towards the valley and added an extra few hundred metres vertical assent upto the Grand Saint Bernard monestry where we spent the night. The other group had also made it with their guide taking them over a lower col and out of the snow cloud we had passed through.

 The next day the weather was even worse so we decided to hang out for a day and wait. The other group headed down leaving us the only ones on the route. We did some crevasse rescue practice but soon got bored of that, luckily the monestry had some beer so we played risk and got a bit pissed!

 The weather looked better for the next day so we decided to carry on. Due to the loss of a day we decided to push on. Our original plan was to stay at the nearer Velan hut and try to summit Mont Velan the next day. Instead we decided to head to the Valsorey hut where we would rejoin the normal route. The ski down from the first uphill section was amazing as it had about a foot of fresh snow on it. Our luck was starting to change! Sking down we could see the people on the normal route below coming up from the town looking up with envy. Every one looked surprised to see three snowboarders and a skier on huge powder skies but we soon passed most of them on the way up to the hut.

 When talking to a guide that night about our loss of a day he told us that we would be able to do the next two days in one, so thats what we decided to do. To give ourselves plenty of time we got up at 4am the next morning trying our best not to wake anyone.

 We started off well and reached the start of the second day by about 11am. After some much needed rest and food we set off on the long slog up the Otema glacier. Our pace slowed as we became more fatigued but we got to the Valsorey hut eventually, albeit with very sore legs. This hut is massive and they did a great dinner which was much appreciated.

 The final day is meant to be a long one but we thought we would treat ourselves to a bit of a lie-in. We set off after every one else but soon caught up and by the last col had passed most of the groups anyway. The day seemed pretty easy after the previous one. Me and Brendan got to the top first and while waiting for the others I decided to carry on to the top of a nearby peak. We then all set off for the final ski of our trip. You end coming out onto the pistes of  Zermat, where we spent the evening chilling out at a restaurant listening to music and having a well deserved beer.

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Comments
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