Dwight Peck's personal Web site

The High Route à pied

More hilarity in the Swiss Alps


The coveted High Route, Chamonix France to Zermatt Switzerland, the serious skier's dream and goal for a lifetime. But you can also do it on foot, the 'Haute Route à pied' -- but trying to do it in June 1997 was way too early in the season. Undeterred, Prof. C. Berman and Former Librarian D. Peck decided to have a semi-halfhearted go at it anyway.

High above Verbier (1500m) on day one, enjoying a fine non-working day in rain at altitude, Prof. Charles Berman smiles at the sight of the Mont Fort hut destination looming in the distance.

Mr Peck's smile is more of an anguished rain-soaked grimace.

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The first day's goal, the Alpine Club hut on Mont Fort (2457m) above Verbier in the rain, where we ran into two American couples who'd been sitting in there for the past two weeks reading Stephen King novels and trying to wait out the weather.

Mr Peck makes his dinner choices on the Mont Fort hut's (somewhat limited) meals menu, found at the bottom of the cliff a kilometre away from the hut.

The next morning, eager to get started. Ooof.

On y va

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On foggy day two, Prof. Berman decides to stop wandering all over these 40-degree hillsides and look it up in his Kev Reynolds guidebook. 

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Mr Peck places his faith in Prof. Berman's map-reading (never having learnt that lesson) and tags along with declining confidence.

And Mr Berman was right this time, the first high point opens out before us, but it looks pretty far up there.

-- There is a time and place for complaining, and this is neither.

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-- Could we have missed the turn-off?

-- Don't worry about it. Just follow me -- and bring the lunch bag.

-- I thought you had the lunch bag!

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With the day's first high point in sight, the mighty Col de Louvie (2921m), Prof Berman nurses a lot of resentment about the stupid lunch bag.

-- But if you haven't got the lunch, where is it then? (No comment, hee hee. Burp.)

We continue with hunger gnawing.

Very very near the Col du Louvie, thinking about tomato and mozzarella with a little olive oil on.

Now it's still Day 2, but one has reached the Col du Louvie and prepares to descend now in serious avalanche country towards the Glacier du Grand Desert.

Great! Scenic Col du Louvie, yoopi! Where now?

-- Where now? Down, of course! What was so hard about remembering to bring the lunch.

Lovely, lovely snow. Though arguably too much of it.

Sir Charles Berman amongst a great deal of white stuff that really wants to go downhill fast.

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But now the Glacier du Grand Desert stretches out before one, and former Chairperson Berman cannot control his enthusiasm.

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Former Assistant Archivist Peck takes the lead with a wary eye for crevasses, sinkholes, and carelessly discarded hypodermic needles.

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And lest nasty crevasses surprise us, Sir Charles gives us plenty of room to experiment around in before making a commitment (ca.2850m).

OOOoops! Step a little more carefully next time.

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Off the glacier, and having provoked and then luckily walked out of a small avalanche (in the background), Profs. Berman and Peck gaze admiringly at the photographer.

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The two gracefully aging gentlemen proceed in an orderly fashion off the glacier and pose for another photograph -- still admiring the photographer.

Sondra, from Gstaad, our photographer

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A lithe mountain goat-ess from Gstaad who seems to require a lot less equipment than the rest of us do.

Sondra from Gstaad was accompanied by James, an Australian tour guide who'd come up to the Col de Prafleuri (2965m) to discover whether these passes were ready for his tour groups. Which they were not.

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All right, where next? Ah, Dixence next.


Another bloody uphill!

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Now it's Day 3, and a refugee from Bergen County (New Jersey, USA) is clumping tediously up from the Cabane de Prafleuri (2662m) to the Col des Roux at dawn.

The Lac des Dix (2403m, with the Grand Dixence dam hidden on the left), seen from the Col at 2804m. We're bound for the horizon just right of center and eventually to Arolla. A long day in prospect.

Well, it's got to be done. Let's get started. Who's got the lunch?

-- Lunch? Not again. Besides, my feet hurt.

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Uh-oh.  Blisters. Sir Charles tries to soothe his inflamed piggies.

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Other People's Blisters offer a welcome pause to catch one's breath.

Blistered Prof. Berman runs out of both lunch and trail and threatens to turn vindictive.

Well, we're glad that this bridge thing is here.

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Here comes the Col de Riedmatten, above Arolla. Dr Peck is watching a helicopter come in to the Cabane de Dixence across the valley to pick up someone less fortunate than himself.

To the Col de Riedmatten (2919m) and then down wonderful valleys in light snow on shaky knees to Arolla (1998m)

The next evening's stop in a quaint Swiss village, Les Haudères (1450m): Prof. Berman wonders querulously why we can't find such a simple thing as an ATM.

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Hey. Here, in the village of Les Haudères, More Hiking Partners!!!!

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Our new partners, Suzanne and Katherina, point us in the right direction. Basically, UP!

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Prof Berman had never seen a genuine Edelweiss and was thrilled to the very center of his being when our new guides showed him his first (i.e., Edelweiss).

Edelweiss! Edelweiss!!! Smile, godamit!

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Beautiful women, and Prof Berman -- it could be the Col du Torrent (2918m), between Les Haudères and Grimentz, in the Swiss Alps. Or, in fact, it could be anywhere.

Bound for the Cabane de Moiry on the way to Zermatt, the stolid hikers took account of the continuing bad weather, and succumbed to despair, and headed for Grimentz instead.

So the weary but strangely enriched hikers end their Alpine week in Grimentz (1572m) in a downpour of unseasonal rain, and go home on the train. Grimentz is arguably the most beautiful old village in the world, so if you can fit that into your next DisneyWorld itinerary, DO IT!


That's that for 1997.  You can if you wish accompany the same Energetic Travelers over the Swiss Alpine Route in summer 1999. Click here.


However, also in summer 1997, Dad and Marlowe went to visit Alison in New Mexico and learn about science and culture. Click here.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 25 November 1999, revised 18 November 2013.


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