12 July 2019, Traverse Of The Pigne d’Arolla

In comical contrast with Chamonix, Arolla provides a sleepy alpine valley and high altitude spring board to some fine alpine objectives.  One of the most popular objectives is the Pigne d’Arolla which provides a classic introductory alpine hut expedition via the Dix Hut.   The route starts with a physical climb out of Arolla and through the pretty lower meadows leading up to the strategic col and crossing of the Pas de Chevre…

The new ladders at the Pas de Chèvre. Great, but the calm before the storm of loose rock below!

For those with spare time and energy, there are some scrambling and easy climbing options around here but most teams carry on across the Pas de Chevre and down the series of new ladders providing access to the Dix Hut side of the col.  The new ladders are a big improvement in the seriously exposed old ones….so far so good!  However the ladders now deposit you in an area of seriously loose and increasingly undercut rock as the glacier recedes.

The undercut loose rock below the Pas de Chevre, increasingly unstable as the glacier recedes.

For rock fall and landslide issues, there is a also a new approach route to the Dix Hut across the Glacier de Cheillon.  This now takes a much wider southern arc before approaching the Dix hut via the easier angled slopes from the SW. The hut itself has also changed…after many year, Pierre has gone!  There was a friendly and helpful team in the hut, good food & ambiance.  The views of the North Face of the Pigne and Mont Blanc de Cheillon are somewhat less inspiring at the moment, after the heatwave, they are nearly all loose grey rock with nearly all the snow gone.

Pre-dawn departure on to the glacier de Cheillon with the Dix Hut above

Despite the lack of snow on the faces and in the couloirs, there is plenty left on the glaciers, and we enjoyed a steady ascent of the Cheillon Glacier up to the steep ascent of the Serpentine roll, which had good stiff snow and track but also some significant crevasses at the top as the angle relents.

The steep Serpentine Roll often provides the crux of the ascent of the Pigne d’Arolla

Then a few more heading towards the Col de Brenay and this enjoyable long steady plod to the summit!   There was plenty of cloud swirling around but a few clearings gave uplifting glimpses of the Pigne summit, looking slender and impressive from this angle.

High on the ascent of the Pigne d’Arolla, above the Col de Brenay with the Pointes de Brenay beyond

The descent on the Eastern Vignettes side of the mountain had good snow cover and the morning cloud had preserved decent snow conditions and we enjoyed a rapid descent down past the Vignettes and on to the glacier.  The steepening on the lower glacier above the Vignettes, which has been icy in some recent summers was well buried and easy and we did the short rocky path / easy scramble below this to reach the traverse to the Vignettes Rock Ridge.  The lower glacier had decent snow cover and along with the interesting mountain path descent provided a rapid descent down to the sleepy hollow that is Arolla in mid July!

Beautiful alpine hut walk between Arolla and the Vignettes Hut

We still have a few places available on this summers alpine mountaineering courses…

And, for summer 2020 courses….

The steep Serpentine Roll often provides the crux of the ascent of the Pigne d’Arolla