Ali and Lay’s Mountaineering Blog

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Dix Hut (Cabane des Dix)

June 24th, 2007 · No Comments

Having negotiated the ladders and crossed the Cheilon glacier we arrive at the Dix Hut perched below a rocky knoll known as the Tête Noire at 2,928m. 


The Dix has room for 150 people.  Given it’s location on the classic Chamonix – Zermatt  haute route it is one of the most popular mountain huts in the Valais.  For the past six years it has been staffed by Pierre-Antoine and Béatrice Sierro who gave us a warm and friendly welcome.  The Dix features in the highly recommended Alpine Essentials DVD released by the BMC. 

We negotiated a small discount with Pierre on production of a valid standard BMC membership card.  Larger discounts of up to 50% are available on production of a Reciprocal Rights card.  For those living in the UK, who plan to stay more than just a few nights in Alpine huts, it may be worthwhile joining the Austrian Alpine Club (UK)

To the UK purist the network of alpine mountain huts may, at first glance, be somewhat of a blot on the landscape.  It is true that some huts (not the Dix) are indeed large and built for function rather than architectural aesthetics.  Frankly they are big and ugly. 

However, they serve an essential service to the Alpinist as they allow:

  • time to be spent in the range close to the proposed routes and without the burden of a heavy rucksack.
  • several routes to be attempted before returning to the valley.
  • the mountain equivalent of long distance paths, such as the Haute Route to be spread over a number of days by travelling from hut to hut.
  • early morning starts – in the Alps one needs to summit early in the morning to avoid the afternoon snow melt.
  • altitude acclimatisation – sleeping at altitude can significantly improve success rates on 4000+m peaks.

At any rate, even the largest and ugliest hut seems to disappear in the sheer scale of the alpine vista. 


All the supplies (and waste) has to be transported by helicopter

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Pas de Chèvres

June 24th, 2007 · 9 Comments

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At the far side of the Pas de Chèvres is a dramatic drop down a steep rock face which is negotiated by descending 30m (100 feet) down two metal ladders bolted to the rock.  No easy task when wearing stiff soled four season boots.

Ali goes first but feels understandably nervous about the unprotected sideways step between the top shorter ladder and its much longer lower neighbour.  A fall here would be fatal – no doubt about it.  She climbs back up to the col and we rope up.  With the rope for protection she sets off confidently as I belay her from above.

Then it is my turn.  Okay so I could pass the rope through the top rung of the ladder as I descend and Ali could belay me from the bottom.  For that we would need about 80m of rope – we have 50m – so there is no option but for me to descend unprotected.  I have a little chat with myself – something like this:

“Okay Lay, deep breath.  Its just a ladder.  Its bombproof.  Hundreds of people have been up and down it.  Its not going to come loose when your on it. All you have to do is move your hands, move your feet and repeat.  Take your time, be careful and ignore the exposure. Easy … just like falling off a ladder…”

Well I made it down to the bottom safe enough, but I was surprised to notice my hands aching – I had really been gripping those rungs.

Enjoy the video.

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Arolla to Pas de Chèvres

June 24th, 2007 · 1 Comment

We start from the central square in Arolla around 9am following the well signposted path to the Hotel Kurhaus which is situated above the rest of the village.  Alas our trip falls too early in the season for this hotel, with its impressive views, to be open.


The imposing north face of Mont Collon (3,637m) dominates the head of the Arolla valley 

From the Kurhaus, the path continues upwards with woodland giving way to steep grassy slopes to some ruined chalets at 2,330m.


Pigne d’Arolla (3,796m)

From here we head west up the valley, past the ski tows, to be greeted by fantastic views across the Cheilon glacier to the Dix hut from the Pas de Chèvres.


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