Click on the links below for details of our trip and a photo gallery

We have a discussion about which way to go on Thursday. Plan A was to cross the Col du Meitin and ski to the Panossiere hut. Disadvantages to this plan are (1) it is a steep col and no one else is going that way so Daniel will have to make a track and look after us. (2) our options from Panossiere will be more limited. Also the forecast for the next two days is not great. We opt for Plan B, crossing the Plateau du Couloir and heading for the Chandrion hut. The main Haute Route crowd will be going this way and from Chandrion we will have more options. This proves to be a great choice and a fantastic day.

The picture above shows the big SW face of the Combin du Valsorey. The zigzags in the lower part of the picture take you up to the Valsorey hut, tucked behind the cliffs just above centre. From here it is another 600m of ascent to the crossing point marked by the red dot - steep and exposed! We start on skins but before too long strap our skis to our packs and rope up with ice axe and crampons. We alternate between going straight up and zigzagging in the tracks of the climbers above us. With the big drop below us we make sure we place our crampons carefully. A final scramble up steep shale and ice and we are on the top at 3658m (below). To our right on a pinnacle is the improbable Musso bivouac - an incredibly exposed red tin box. I don't think I would like to spend a night there!

From here we have a short ski across the Sonadon glacier then skin over the Col de Sonadon. The clouds have broken up and we have a great ski down the Mont Durant glacier. Lower down the snow is pretty crusty but Daniel finds a great route on spring snow. At around 2700m we put the skins back on and follow a gentle ramp then traverse around a ridge on the right. Great views of the Pointe d'Otemma, La Ruinette and Le Pleureur. The photo below shows the traverse with the Chanrion hut in the low left of the picture. Then one more descent into the top of the Val de Bagnes where some of the crowd heads off south to Italy while the rest of us follow a gentle slope up for 1.5km to the Chanrion hut (2462m) watched by a local chamois perched on a rock. Our (last) evening is enlivened by tourers Matt (US) and Alex (CH) chatting up the two young Catalan ladies working in the kitchen along with the local beer and wine.

Friday is our last day and our alarms go off at 5.40. The 6.30 start is slightly delayed as we left the skis out over night and need to be de-iced before we can put our skins on. There has been a sprinkling of snow overnight and it is still quite grey and cloudy as we head on up the valley. We then cross over the top of the Brenay glacier and climb a wall of moraine which we follow for a bit before climbing to the Col du Lire Rose (3114m). As we go up we get above the clouds and the views from the top are spectacular (below). To the right of the picture you can also see Col du Mont Rouge which we need to cross to get to the Gietro Glacier. Another steep ascent with skis on our packs.

At the top the skins stay on as we traverse under La Ruinette and then up towards Mt Blanc de Cheilon. The track gets steeper as we reach some ice cliffs. We dump our sacks and continue towards the summit more lightly. Finally we take off our skis and scramble up a mound of boulders to reach the summit. At 3810m our highest point on the trip and some great views. Also unlike the previous few days when we have been surrounded by other skiers we are up here on our own.

Approaching the cliffs which we pass on the right

We ski carefully down around the cliffs and crevasses then Daniel finds some fine virgin powder and a long ski to the col de Cheilon. It is getting hot as we follow more gentle slopes and then have to pole to reach a dip at the edge of the glacier. Here we have a sense of humour failure. "No more skinning" he had said. He fails to mention that we have to climb a steep snow slope and then ladders - the Pas de Chevres - to get over the the slopes above Arolla. After this it really is downhill all the way and before long we are waiting at the Arolla bus stop for a ride back to civilisation.

Another great tour - our third in three years with Daniel. It was testing but not too exhausting (66km and 5800m of ascent) and despite poor forecasts at the start of the week the weather was mostly fine. Check out the tabs above for a photo gallery and maps of the trip.