The “Matterhorn Boys” sent me an email with a few requests;

Quiet huts, interesting routes, away from the crowds and fairly adventurous.

So after a bit of thinking we settled on some autumn climbing in the Arolla region of Switzerland. With the huts shut we would use the “winter rooms” which are always open, have a wood burning stove, bunk beds and blankets etc.

You do of course have to carry and cook your own food, as well as melt snow. Heavier rucksacks are outweighed by the chance to enjoy the mountains when they are quiet.

The whole trip really was a contrast to their Matterhorn experience from last year, in three days we saw just four people, all of whom were on their way out of the mountains. We had the hut to ourselves and didn’t even see another track anywhere near us.

This turned a busy area in summer into a pretty wild landscape where we were pushing a fresh trail to the mountains and enjoying the solitude all day.

After a four hour walk up to the vignettes refuge, the next day we traversed the Eveque (Bishop in French). After a glacial approach the route scrambles up short steps before some more traditional pitched climbing up spectacular rock aretes. More technical than the matterhorn, but shorter and with an easier descent it fitted the bill perfectly. The boys were tested but not too much.

The following and final day we had planned to traverse the Peigne du Arolla, a peak that dominates the head of the valley and offers an easy but interesting glacial route. We woke up at 5am and looked out the window… to find fresh snow, a blowing wind and thick cloud. All of which weren’t forecast at all.

Back to bed for an hour, and it was exactly the same. Another hour’s snooze and we got up, resigned to heading back to the valley in the cloud and perhaps doing some rock climbing in the afternoon. We had a leisurely breakfast, and faffed about hoping the weather would clear. Just as we were opening the door to head down the clouds magically parted revealing a perfect day. A hasty repack and we were heading up hill, back on plan.

It was great to snatch the final day, and we had a good trip over the Peigne, including Cameron searching for the crevasses out in front on the descent.

The crux pitch on the traverse of the Eveque

The crux pitch on the traverse of the Eveque

Descending the Peigne

Descending the Peigne

The Eveque on the left and the Peigne on the right.

The Eveque on the left and the Peigne on the right.

Stunning weather on the way up the Peigne

Stunning weather on the way up the Peigne

Autumn Guiding in Arolla

Windy on the summit of the Peigne

Windy on the summit of the Peigne

Descending the Peigne towards the Lac des Dix

Descending the Peigne towards the Lac des Dix

Graham breaking trail

Graham breaking trail

The new ladders on the Pas de Cheve

The new ladders on the Pas de Cheve