We were five: Haute Route by EUROwoman's heart

Editorial Recollections. – 12:39 pm Email received: „Do you want to go on the Haute Route?“ 12:40 pm: „Yeah“. 12:41 pm, wait; let me think about this, I have NO: money, time, equipment and physical condition. However, it has always been a dream for everyone even if they kept it to themselves. In January I learned that it's pronounced Ótrůt in case I still wanted to say that to someone. The whole business plan is only spoiled by Internet voting for potential participants and whether they would take / invite women, especially someone like myself.

Unfortunately those who voted against me lost and now here I am trekking through rainy Chamonix with four brave men and lots of questions. Are they going to wait for me? Is my knee going to be ok? When can I stop to glue my snow skins? Do I have enough patches? The only choice I have is not to wash myself for a week, I think I already have this down, it is familiar territory.

Petr Š. – The face to face to Col du Chardonnet. Who says that HR is a trip for pensioners?
Petr Š. – The face to face to Col du Chardonnet. Who says that HR is a trip for pensioners? (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

„Made in Chamonix“ has been written on my ski, keep reading that for already five years. I got feeling that Chamonix is some potential hole in the mountains full of Alfa men with dress code labels UIAMG. At the upper part of the station of Grands Montets I can´t believe – Chamonix has been placed somewhere very deep behind us. There has been a huge massif of Mont Blanc. Where you point your eye, there have been something like Aiguille du everywhere – I´ve known them only from my magazines. Our attention has been occurred by the glacier crack called Argentiere (straight below us). “I can´t believe it! Everything has been so huge 6× times larger than I´ve ever seen!” There´ve been local hills more steeper and the glacier cracks more deeper, the ice glaciers have been lying in coming future distance and snow has been white like crystal clear, ice has been gently blue and the Granit has been red that you absolutely amazed.

We were six

„Martóó, could you please change our reservation at mountains huts to six instead of five?“ I'm afraid – Ropák hasn’t got a holiday!” I´ve never seen Marta however I was told she was a woman equipped with extremely good organization talent.

Petr Š. - The glacier Argentiére, the attemp not to mainly fall on my mask
Petr Š. – The glacier Argentiére, the attemp not to mainly fall on my mask (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

On the glacier Argentiére I´ve gently triggered a real snow plow. Above our heads have been seracs – huge as tenements, here and there are cracks. Although I took only half of a toothbrush and considered for this opportunity to buy a thong, my bagpack weighted aprox. 14 kgs. The first climb into the saddle Chardonnet has appeared to be more or less vertical and endless. Fortunately the approach has been considered. There´s been suddenly something that has never happened before! All human asses moving in front of me – gradually kept disappearing behind my back. „I'm a STAR!“ – being the first in the saddle! „Yeaah“. While this moment has encouraged my ego, it turned out fastly not to be convenien at all. Besides getting cold during my „ho hum“ waiting for the others, it was quickly decided that I should also be the most perspective person loaded by the rope.

Petr Š. - Col du Chardonnet was put down - only a little bit
Petr Š. – Col du Chardonnet was put down – only a little bit (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We have been roping down from the saddle as well as climbing through a small edge of the crack. Saddle Salein's curves have been again about six times sharper than any other curves, which can be simply identified by the fact that my face has relied so closed on the slope. With happy ending we have reached the hut Trient when gang of men (Trutnov + Brno) brushed their teeth above their good smelling dinner. „Yes“, it´s been the first time in my life I don't have to look at dinner – eating people while I'm out in leather jacket melting the snow for the soup. Half board meal has been already paid. And „now“ there has been a plate („yes, in front of me“) with mushrooms and two pieces of tiny meat. „No way“, guess what, „I don't eat mushrooms“, that has been the second time today – for something like simply said – crying.

Markéta - Colours of Granit
Markéta – Colours of Granit (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We are five

We have been walking to the main point located at the bottom of the valley that needs to be crossed over by the means of transport and afterwards to be climbed up. „So the breakfast at 5 am“ was resolutely order said by landlord-woman hence she had heard how far we would love to go the next day. Our mountain crew tried to object however without a positive result.

Based on the advice received from surrounded (members/not members) of Mountain Rescue Service Team (Jablonec n.vJ.) we immobilized our legs by crampons and quickly “rock” the saddle of Col des Escandies. There was a mega-long ski downhill straight to valley that I “extra” added into the chapter „Turned away sides of ski mountaineering“ – ploughed soul, crust and a wet slush at the end. Within the program of keeping our upper/lower limbs in the original state I´ve been focusing on giant ski downhill exercise, that I was deeply persuaded – „I can't make that at all“. At Champex I have been surprisingly cough by amicable Spanish friends, saying something like – “a bus is here within two minutes”. The main brain of the trip immediately has countet the difference between the bus/cab price to numbers of “possible” beers bought at the hut while the driver kept taking off our ski, pushing us into already moving bus on its full gear.

Markéta - Well, simply smart that our Alpha-men have their ABS bags…
Markéta – Well, simply smart that our Alpha-men have their ABS bags… (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Unfortunately we have to go through the first couple of sad moments during the transfer – hands waving to Robert. Leg hurst, a way back at home. „Martóó, could you please call our mountains huts and change the reservation to four now?“ Impatient ski were placed back on our back and our adventure has started by the enjoyment of waking up nature, by meadow jumping fat marmots, lively bumblebee and fluttering butterflies, extremely saffron hour by hour.. It's a dream to see a snow..certainly till the time we had to pass throught an hour long traverse. „What's the matter with the Alpin cow that is having one leg shorter?“

Zdeněk M. - hm..disgusting warm spring  feeling
Zdeněk M. – hm..disgusting warm spring feeling (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The previous hut Vélan was burnt, so somebody smart came up with the idea to build a spacecraft on the rock instead of that. The hut landlord Sylvia has spoken only French however from her face noticable expresion we could see something like –* „dumb puddings have a date here“. We got no word to be understood during her evening seminar, despite it has been pretty clear that the french breakfast will be mandatory at 4.30 am (for all). Our team has kept hands up trying to protest. Unfortunately Silvia has no shame to yell *„Everyone takes off, the pants over the chair and sleep“. Well that would be a great idea if those beds didn´t have the exactly width of 30 cm. I have been slowly falling asleep, voluntary waiting for Sylvia to check our hands on the blanket.

Petr Š. - Cosmic Vélan
Petr Š. – Cosmic Vélan (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We are four

Our team has not been happy about the ski-mountaineering walking with the headlamps. I had to disregard that. At the saddle we´ve been together with Mountain Rescue team from Jablonec n. J. Here you go my secret plan to reach the peak of Mont Vélan definitely vanished. The elder group of enthusiastic sport athletes, has been coming as the last one. It has taken quite long to Mountain Rescue Service to climb up and then probed back down. We have been a team, more precisely, linking the rope with Swiss Classics dressed in woolen sweaters and leather tying boots. Since those guys have been retired, they used to meet each other hence the local weather is great and going together to the mountains. One of them has been a classic woman who has been trying to climb between the ice and damaged rock, slowly however with the elegance, without ice axe and belaying. The places where I´ve been carefully probing down she lightly touched the rope by one hand, going down.

Markéta S. - Zdeněk pulled a cord into the saddle under Mont Vélan
Markéta S. – Zdeněk pulled a cord into the saddle under Mont Vélan (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We have been climging to the higher parts of Mont Vélan, our european team has looked sincerely satisfied until the snow began to be completely wet, we´ve decided to turn back then as there are hundreds of other peaks to be seen here.

Markéta S. - Better to take a picture of that pointy hill, never you know when you can see that again
Markéta S. – Better to take a picture of that pointy hill, never you know when you can see that again (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

As Zdeněk has been very experienced ski friend of us, nobody has taken care of him, peaceful lying in the crust. He used to do following activities on daily base. Nevertheless it seemed weird to us, there was something strange about that. At one moment it looked like he had a chewing leg however we kept moving further to wide gutter. Petr V. has been standing in in the middle, I got a wink, Petr V. has been sitting on his side, also in the middle, now about 50 m lower. Panic! Trying to slide down asap as the rest of the group got nervous.

Petr Š. - Next year I will definitely take a ski lessons
Petr Š. – Next year I will definitely take a ski lessons (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Having together collected on the flat bottom of the gutter Zdeněk asked for the bandage. Provided bandage from my bag has not helped, Zděněk got second request – Helicopter.
Operator: “Oh, ok you are not on the sloup and where actually are you?”
Me: “on the glacier between the huts Valsorey and Vélan”
Operator: “Valsorey and what?” Longwinded explanation came after, our signal was not good, further two phone calls, GPS cordinates… ”wait a mininute Volán, oh you could say that straight away!”
Last operator's in­structions has been quite confusing: “en elicopter comes put your ends up, ev a nice day”
Sharp sun has been frying us at the bottom of the gutter, while waiting for the known sound of the helicopter. That mountains sound that usually brings me cold goose bumps. I´ve been standing in the middle of the glacier as a Upsylon. Honestly said – even if it looks quite easy that coming mountain machine has been cool and how about the contens that is going to jump out! A moment of tactical moves has come, Zdeněk – now sitting on the board and we´ve been just providing him with his ski and last waiving.

Petr Š. - Don't stay there as Ypsilon!
Petr Š. – Don't stay there as Ypsilon! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

“Martóó, could you please call all mountains huts and change our reservation to three now?“ It was acually the first time I asked the question who´s been Marta? Oh, Zdeněk´s daughter – ok. Since Zdeněk left, the current torso of the expedition started moving like the funeral procession to Valsorey. Our ski mountaineering crowd has been followed by a lot of high peaks that made up following mountain location, the sun has been burning hot, slope pretty wet, the steeper the slope is, the more I´ve been scared and faster keep going. We have had no water now, looking like to get a heatstroke and being not in the good mood.

There have been three Graces that dominates to Valsorey, they´ve been very nice and vividly interested in Zdenek's flying experience in. The afternoon´s been so outrageously hot we are hiding in the shaodws even at 6 pm. Today a social company has been received by noisy Italians and several coveralls.

Markéta S. - There..? You are not gonna get me there!
Markéta S. – There..? You are not gonna get me there! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The rest sounds „we are three”

The window was wide opened the whole night . It does not matter, to have a breakfast at 6 am as snow outside certainly has not got frozen. The beautiful weather has been the previous distance history. It´s been gray, heat and drizzling. And this is supposed to be the key stage for ski mountaneering to HR – the ascent throught the gutter and finally traverse of two seats in the huge wall of the Grand Combin – as an extra bonus, even tortuous descent to Chanrion hut. Petr V. Says: „we are getting into a shape“ I have been trying to keep my snow walk with the coveralls group until I realized that further ascent of 50° slope has not been effective in my performance so quickly switching the strategy to take off the ski.

Petr Š. - Plateau du Couloir's ascent
Petr Š. – Plateau du Couloir's ascent (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The coveralls and other groups got roped. As following oportunity has not been offered to me I started to perform a solo. The ice axe and cane often disappeared in the bottomless wet slush, sometimes also my leg to the waist. There has been the prevailing belief that the slope with fresh snow and 30 people going up at once can´t just arbitrarly release to the valley. One more traverse with the crampons by crampons has been missing, carefully as I don´t want to force Marta for further telephone call. Hooray I can have a czech soya sweet stick in the saddle of Plateau du Couloir!
“3500 m, :[ s.it].. how comes it´s been raining here?” whimpered Petr V.
„How comes my skins are horizontally hanging?“ scolded Peter Š, standing in the saddle of Sonadon. The ski downhill has been a mystery for us. There has been only white colour everyewhere. GPS tracks and coveralls have said to turn right 90° and after the moment to turn the left. Absolutely blind and with such a vague feelings in, we have been crossing the place from side to side. I would really like to know see where we are and what has been all around. Then!!! It took only a microsecond to us to figure out that we have just traversed above the giant cliff, hanging over the edge of the glacier. We could see the coveralls traces passed by and smashed by the overwhelmed avalanches of wet snow balls on some places aprox half an hour ago. Now in the distance we have been aiming back to the valley before the track ends at the solid adhesion tearing off.

Petr Š. - Noisy Italians in traverse adviced to be carefull in
Petr Š. – Noisy Italians in traverse adviced to be carefull in (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

With last relief I´ve been trying to convince the soaked skins to adhere to my ski today and slowly climbing to the Chanrion hut. We´ve been welcomed by smiling coveralls group. A few hours later there were coming back to the hut very tired and less noisy Italians. Mountain Rescue Service J.n.J. stretched us to 5 pm when calling to landlord from Chamonix.

„Let´s announce the sushi afternoon“ and start drying the jackets, pants, gloves and major ski skins. Also we counted the avalanches running through the track followed on the way back. Petr several times to learn the name of landlord´s dog. Next hour he kept busy by pictures taken of the sitting coveralls´s ass. During that acitivity he got a new friend – a mountain guide called Gerard who asked Peter to obtain „the coveralls´s ass picture.

Petr V - The afternoon's program at Chanrion
Petr V – The afternoon's program at Chanrion (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Otemma Saigon

We read in the illustrated publication of Haute Route that the fog weather is the best one for walking on the glacier Otemma as you are happy to see nothing regarding that 12 km of cross country skiing. After 6 km both Peters got crazy, just about to hallucinate – talking about sauna, candy store´s sweet deserts and finally about the tropical islands. The wind has blown sharp stabbing hailstones that caused the impenetrable conditions under those we are not able to recognize the snow, sky and the orientation. For some I have stepped the track, unfortunately following effort was soon given up – there was a revealing Fata Morgana 20 m in front of me ( 2 m high cornice which has never got closer), allright, I have been trying to fix the glasses on my face however appeared vomit feeling hasn't left me.

Markéta S.  - Torso in the fog
Markéta S.  – Torso in the fog (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

At the edge of the glacier we are meeting noisy Italians with their guide. His face expression let us know to be very well-experienced, simply said we´ve roped as well. There have been left a few meters to be back at the hut. Unfortunately traversed slope got freshly popous a half of the meter snow. „So how about to take off the rope?“ said my men, in the meanwhile they took off the equipment and dissappeared. Before I completed a rope session, all of them had gone. Having stood on the steep slope (thanks to the power of my soul) suddenly I can see a huuuge mouth ice cracks beneth. Yesterday I thought that I was afraid, today´s situation could be described as a absolute cardiac failure. Based on the frantic pounding of my heart organ I started slowly sliding forward down. Fortunately there was a good layer of ice placed under the powder that maked off. I´ve tried to twist my ankles on the slope, hypnotized the layer of snow before my ski tips. Feeling better now as the corner of my eye could see that on Peter´s buddy keeps often checking me.

In the storm the Vignettes hut has been more heard then seen as the wind usually keeps rattling the metal elements and the plastic tarpaulins (always happy to hear that). Okej, with no fear I have gone throught the last final ridge and now I´m here at the hallway of the hut. Uff… a full plate of baked swiss cheese has been certainly deserved.

Markéta S. - Vignette's hut, how glad I hear you!
Markéta S. – Vignette's hut, how glad I hear you! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Aloha Arolla

The next mountain morning has been clear – so rather overcast – the checked up wind has not let up, fog brought the invisibility and snow mucked out as well as wind blown everywhere. Perhaps the appropriete excuse can be a decent breakfast: pancake, bacon, egg! After a week of served dry bread with jam this has been a welcome change. It would be even better if my body was not overnight bitten by a specially developed type of durable Fleas Alpine ..

Self-consciousness directly radiates all around the table. Everybody has tried looking into what other groups are going to do. We´ve been asked by the coveralls, by noisy Italians as well as by well-muscled Swiss and sad Canadian. I have looked forward to the last stage of the Matternhorn glacier, that was originally my great idea of Haute Route: morning ski walk through the north wall of the Matterhorn, in the afternoon to feast our eyes from the bottom of the deskchair placed on the terrace, holding a hot chocolate with whipped cream in my hand. I remember Spanish guys, who skipped one day at Vélan and now they might celebrate in Zermatt. No dissappointed feeling surprisingly arrived. It has not been possible in this blizzard weather as well as in the next few days.

Markéta S. -Arolla wants us
Markéta S. – Arolla wants us (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Petr Š. - Do you know the proper interjection for that?
Petr Š. – Do you know the proper interjection for that? (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We briefly marked the future “mini-haute route” in couple of times crumpled map (might be suitable for the next year as well) and firmly jumping into our ski bindings. Current sadness has been updated by the euphoric enthusiasm, snow powder everywhere, taking the slight glacier track down. „Hurray!“ Of course, I should also mention the massacre finish made above the valley, sorry, I meant peeing slush however I have already forgot about that “ :[fak] end”. Cheers Arolla! It has not been the same as Zermatt (and some of our crew members are missing) however the celebration reason is, more than clear.

<img src=„http://m­ountainski.cz/i­mages/4429t.jpg“ alt=Noisy Italian (woman) – Human meaning, condition changing" title=„Noisy Italian (woman) – Human meaning, condition changing“ class=„lb“ />
Noisy Italian (woman) – Human meaning, condition changing (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Everything went smoothly then, within 10 minutes a bus and Sion´s railway station. Now I really do love a „Noisy Italian“ who provided me with the fresh croissan. Being little bit astonished by local horizontal water tap leaving the thin water stream running. I am amazed by easy walking on the earth where you have no worries to irretrievably dissapear into bottomless hole. I am amazed that I do not keep the track of what can fall on me. I am amazed by the clean T-shirt as well as beer (first, second & third one) served from tiny cans. Anyway, we made a fantastic trip except of those little flea things.

Petr Š. - It was AWESOME!

Photo by Petr Šilhán, Petr Verich, Zdeněk Mikan, Markéta Syllová
Translation: Žaneta Rejfková

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