Alps - August 22nd -September 4th 1998

The Couronne de Breona Ridge 

Day 1: For a gentle start to our trip Diana and I drove up a surprisingly amenable track to park at 2435m below the Couronne de Breona Ridge (3159m). We walked up to the Col de la Couronne (2987m) and traversed the ridge northwards (3 pitches of easy climbing) practicing 'moving together' (roped up) to the Col de Breona (2915m). It was a very hot and sunny day and the gentle breeze on the ridge was a lifesaver!

Looking South from the Evolene campsite to the Petite Dent de Vesivi

Day 2: An early start walking up from Satarma village (1806m) through delightfully steep west facing forested hillside which tested our fitness. We were on the final approach to the start of the route to the Petite Dent de Vesivi when a strong easterly wind hit us and brought in a snowstorm at about 2800m! As we descended it turned to rain and continued for the rest of the day.

Day 3: Uncertain of the weather we visited a crag in the woods behind Arolla and had a good time doing 6 routes there.

Dent de Tsalion ridge & the Aiguille de Tsa

Day 4: Parking at the HEP station at Arolla we made a leisurely ascent to the Tsa hut (2607m) which apart from the guardian we had to ourselves. Looking up to the east we could make out the ridge leading up to the Dent de Tsalion (3589m) and the Aiguille de Tsa (3668m) to its right.

Aiguille de Tsa

Day 5: An early start soon saw us up the superb Dent de Tsalion Ridge and looking with anticipation across a small snowfield to the Aiguille de Tsa. Three long exciting pitches perched high over the valley soon saw us on top. Abseil descent and lunch, then we headed off to the Col de la Tsa (3312m) and descended the very crevassed (dry) Bertol glacier. Any photographs of this would've been spectacular but it was my first experience of open crevasses and cameras were not anywhere in my thoughts!

The Dent d'Herens from the Col de Tsa

Day 6: After yesterdays very long day and the nervous energy we'd expended descending the glacier we had a rest day and looked round the very nice village of Evolene. The campsite has a wonderful bakery next to it and it got a lot of my custom.

Looking down on Evolene from the Petite Dent de Vesivi

Day 7: Diana decided on another rest day but I was raring to go so I drove to Satarma (1806m) and walked up to the Col de Tsarmine (3051m), 2h20min. This is the crest of the ridge and the first thing you see is the Dent Blanche right in front of you across the next valley. A spot of lunch and then some excellent scrambing (one tricky bit) along the superb ridge to reach the Petite Dent de Vesivi (3184m), 1h15min. Lunch, photo's and then off down the WSW ridge to rejoin the ascent path at about 2800m and back to Satarma, 1h45min.

The Dent Blanche from the Col de Tsarmine

Day 8: Parked at Ferpecle Dam (1984m) at 10am and set off for the Dent Blanche hut (3507m). A very long but interesting approach and we arrived there at 3pm after crossing a much friendlier glacier and snowfield.

The Dent d'Herens from the Dent Blanche hut

Day 9: Almost the last to leave at 5am and rock climbing in the dark to reach the snowfield above the hut. Avoiding the busy gendarmes we reached the summit of the Dent Blanche (4356m) at 10am and looked back to see the fabulous views of the Matterhorn and Dent D'Herens we'd had our backs to all morning. I was very tired and needed a good rest but Diana - anxious to get over the snowfields before they softened too much - dragged me away after only a morsel of lunch. We reached the hut at 3pm and had a cup of tea, back to the car at 6.30pm after I insisted on avoiding the glacier below the hut for a much worse path across glacier smooth rock...

The Matterhorn from the Col de Tsa

Day 11: After a much needed rest day and still feeling tired on a very hot sunny day we went exploring in Evolene and found some interesting bolted routes up a huge house-sized boulder in a bend of the road. Further up the hillside we eventually worked out where the Albert Pillar 340m VS started and climbed it in five nice pitches. Abseil descent. Later on I broke camp and headed off for the Cervinia valley in Italy.

The Matterhorn & the Dent d'Herens from the Col de Tsa

Day 12: Arrived in Breuil,Cervinia late in the afternoon to discover a dearth of campsites anywhere near the town. The weather was completely different to Arolla, being a bit unsettled.

The Matterhorn from down the Valtornanche valley

Day 13: Set off from the car (2006m) on a beautiful sunny and clear morning at 7am. to start the Italian Ridge of the Matterhorn. Reached the Abbruzzi hut (2802m) at 8.45am and the weather appeared to have settled with clear blue skies. I continued on and reached the Col de Lion, (3580m) at 12pm. The northerly wind funneling through the col was bitterly cold and I was unimpressed by the band of rotten rock I had to climb to reach solid rock above it.(3700m)

Looking up at the Matterhorn from the Abruzzi hut at 2802m

Waiting to let a descending party pass by I looked around and saw a dark ominous looking bank of cloud approaching from the south. The guide from this party stopped to chat to me and told me that bad weather was approaching and that the Carrel hut was no place to be stuck at in a storm. (I was aware it was undergoing renovation and although it would provide shelter I was only carrying extra water and food to cater for a couple of days).

Looking up the Italian Ridge from the Col de Lion

The next few pitches were up steep rock and although they had fixed ropes I had no desire to have to try to descend them in poor conditions... certainly not if they were verglassed, I made the decision to abandon my attempt.

The cloud came in rapidly!

A good decision as it turned out, I descended quickly but the bank of cloud soon reached the mountain and as I descended I kept thinking that the cloud would soon envelop me and make navigation and downclimbing difficult!

A few minutes after the photo above!

Despite the thunderous rumblings from the ever increasing black clouds the rain held off until I reached Breuil itself at 3.30pm. Consulting the weather forecast in the Guides Office was enough to send me on my way home.

And about ten minutes later!

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