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My daughter's spring break at Grenoble Polytech was the last week in April, so I went back down just three weeks after returning from the last visit for another week of ski mountaineering, this time with Molly and her boyfriend Audun (other friends had shown interest in coming along but in the end it was just us three). We made ambitious plans to revisit the Monte Rosa massif and spend some time on the Italian side (better food, cheaper huts), but it snowed a lot at higher elevs on the Saturday that I flew down and that raised the avalanche hazard, so we went over to plan B to be sure we could stay out of trouble.
We rendezvoused in Zermatt and ended up staying there two nights and used Sunday for an on-piste acclimatization climb and descent (tip: the Bahnhof right across from the train station has dormitory style accommodation and a full kitchen for a pretty good price, for Zermatt anyway). Here's a handsome tabby cat in Old Zermatt:
Further up near the end of the road we had to go around a massive wet snow avalanche that had come down the day before -- I guess staying the extra day in Zermatt was a good idea.
We stayed that night at Täschhütte at about 2700m, with only five other guests in the hut. Up at 4:30 AM, but we stalled a little for some decent daylightbefore setting out. Here's the Weisshorn in the morning light over some valley cloud.
We ascended a few km up one glacier, then after a short descent climbed more less up the middle of the picture above to the sunlit saddle just right of center, following in the tracks of the two groups ahead of us and roped and ready for the crevasse hazard.
From the saddle we ascended toward the ridge on a steepening slope to the base of a couloir where we traded our skis for ice axes and crampons. The couloir steepened to about 50 degrees near the top and mostly had plenty of snow but there were a few thin spots with ice and rocks under the snow.
(photo of Molly and me by Audun). We reached the top of the couloir at about 2 PM, too late to make the 1 hour+ scramble to the top, descent, and ski onward to the next hut in good time, so we decided to turn around. Heavy wet snow on the sun exposed slope below the couloir (that's Molly in the picture below) then a few hundred meters of powder on a north slope before a long slog and sloppy descent all on glacier.
We arrived at Britannia Hutte at about 5PM, pretty well fried by the combination of altitude, heavy wet snow, and all-day sun. We stayed there for three nights (awesome but pricey rosti!)
The Fluchthorn is the bump on the L side of the Strahlhorn on the left of the photo, Rimpfischhorn in the middle, Allalinhorn on R.
We summited before noon. There were clouds to the South over Italy all day.
THe main up-down route was pretty well skied off but we tried an alternate descent on a NE facing slope and managed to cop some powder and stay out of the crevasses. Lower down we ran into more heavy snow and got swallowed up by some of those Italian clouds but made the best of it before slogging back to the hut.
We still had a couple days but the weather forecast was not good so on Friday we just descended to Saas Fee and headed back to Grenoble for some R and R and good French food. Three bluebird days in a row isn't too bad!
The early mornings, sometimes crowded huts, altitude, intense sun, and wildly varying snow conditions make for some long and intense days. As noted by ppine in the previous TR/thread the huts bring a lot of people into these mountains so there's not a lot of solitude and no real wilderness here (except maybe in places too steep and inaccessible for this mere mortal), but it would be a lot harder (and more unlikely for me anyway) to do a casual trip like this without them, so I guess that's the trade off. It will be nice to do some smaller and less overrun peaks here in Norway in the next month or so, but I'm also definitely up for another Alpine trip sometime in the future!