Onwards…

April 24, 2017 – 1:00PM

Geneva Airport

Today is a bit of a tough day, and it’s hard to believe that it is already here.  I’m sitting at Geneva Airport, waiting for the next onward flight.  This time I’m alone.

This morning Matt and I said our goodbyes to Chamonix, after 7 amazing weeks of skiing in the Alps.  A few hours later we said our goodbyes to each other, after almost 3 months of travelling together and seeing some incredible places.  We both struggled to choke back the tears.  Today Matt heads home to Canada (to face the grim reality of going back to work next week :)), while I continue to head east for the second (and non-skiing) stage of this round the world trip.

Yesterday, Matt and I were saying how leaving Chamonix was kind of like leaving Tadoussac after weeks of summer holidays.  It’s a special place that has obviously grown on both of us, and I am sure we’ll both be back someday. Saying bye to Matt was also tough, but in a different kind of way.

There aren’t many people in the world who I would follow blindly into the mountains, but Matt is one of them. Growing up as kids, the five year age gap between the two of us at times seemed enormous, but at recently 28 and still hanging on to 32, the age gap is non-existent.  For the past three months we’ve challenged each other, and looked out for each other, to complete some of the most intense, craziest, scariest, funnest skiing that we’ve ever done.

On the bus in to Geneva this morning we were discussing that when you’re doing all of this stuff you don’t really realize the full magnitude of what you’re up to, because you’re so focused on the moment.  It’s only once you take a step back after the fact and reflect on the experience (like I am doing right now), that the accomplishments kind of sink in:  almost 50 days of skiing in Morocco, France, Switzerland, Italy, all completed with only each other (and a few friends along the way) to guide us. With the exception of a broken binding and a weak stomach in the Atlas Mountains, we did it all without so much as a scratch.  Which I consider to be fortunate (obviously), but also a reflection of preparation, planning, and decision-making out in the backcountry.  None of which would be possible without taking the time to learn the appropriate skills, practice them, and continuing to gain experience.  We’ve come a long way from Spillway, Power Line, and Windigo.

As the eldest sibling of three (I assume this extends to eldest siblings in general), there is a tendency to assume that the oldest always knows better.  When Matt and I are out in the backcountry, that tendency doesn’t exist.  It has been a lot of fun, not only this year, listening and learning from my “little” brother, particularly as he starts dabbling in professional-level avalanche training courses and, while at home, spends far more time in the mountains than I could hope for with my regular 9 to 5 job.  I still offer my advice and thoughts, but not from “older-brother-knows-better” point of view.  And together we continue to arrive at good decisions and agreements.  The skiing in the Southern Hemisphere, excited as I am about it, won’t be the same without Matt.

Despite the sad emotions today, there is still plenty to be excited about. A little later this afternoon I will hop on a plane to Istanbul, where I’ll have three full days to explore a new and exciting city.  My friend Marie-Marguerite has graciously allowed me to stay at her place, even though she is also off travelling.  And then, on Friday night I will fly to Kathmandu to realize a long time dream of trekking to Everest Base Camp.  Kim will meet me there on Monday and we’ll have the next two months to spend together. Not bad at all…

Eat-Ski-Sleep-Repeat: The Story of our Lives in Chamonix Mont-Blanc

April 16, 2017 – 11:00AM

We didn’t ski today. I know this is a ski trip, and the title of this entry suggests otherwise, but…it’s gotten to that time of the ski season where if it’s not sunny out, and if there isn’t a big dump of fresh snow, then it isn’t really worth getting out there.  It’s full on spring time in the valley here and you can more or less go outside, stare up at the mountains, and literally watch the snowline recede.  Today is cloudy everywhere, and it may? be snowing up high, so instead I find myself brainstorming my first blog entry for the Cham segment of the trip.

There have been few/no blog updates from Chamonix because the reality is our six weeks here (five if you consider we were away for a week skiing the Haute Route Traverse) have gone pretty much like this: eat-ski-après-eat-sleep-repeat.  Beyond that there are just some minor day to day differences and so no sense in putting anyone to sleep.  Some days we eat before après.  Some days instead of eating we just have an extra helping of après. And some days we don’t ski – usually following that extra helping of après, or the above mentioned lousy weather.  Most days we throw in a shower just to keep our tiny one bedroom apartment hospitable.

This whole little routine got started back at the beginning of March, the 4th to be exact, when we arrived in Chamonix fresh off an exhausting and taxing trip to Morocco and settled in to our little one bedroom apartment (there is a pull out in the living room that Matt has been sleeping on). We’ve lucked out in our little spot.  From the couch (i.e. Matt’s bed) you can look out the window and stare in awe at Aiguille du Midi, le glacier des bossons, and the mighty Mont-Blanc (the highest point in Western Europe).  It’s a 4 minute walk (three if you run – we’ve tried) to the bus stop to the hills, and less than a 10 minute walk to the famous Aiguille du Midi tram.  We take turns walking to the bakery in the morning to pick up a fresh baguette for lunch and fresh pain au chocolat for breakfast.  C’est la vie…

March 5th – the day after we got here – just happened to be the start of the biggest snowstorm of the winter.  Matt and I have a bit of knack for timing these things (read: 2 m snowfall two days after we arrived in Gulmarg a few years ago, a massive dump three days into a Japan trip in 2013).  Knock on wood it continues.  Anyway, by March 7th almost 2 metres of fresh snow had fallen on the ground, including almost a foot right in town.  People were going crazy.  Kim’s sister Pam, conveniently located a short flight away in Amsterdam and who had been monitoring the snow forecast like a hawk, joined us for four days of skiing in amazing powder conditions and by far the best powder turns of the trip. Face-shot styles.  I’m sure glad I dragged my fat skis all the way to Europe for that specific storm, because I haven’t used them since.  In fact I sent them home with my buddy Trev a couple weeks ago and haven’t missed them a bit.

Speaking of Trev (as in Wallace, our good friend from Tadoussac), he joined us for a week in mid/late March in what we will call “average” ski conditions.  When he asked me for a gear list, and I responded with ice ax and crampons on the list, I think he was a little nervous.  When we got whited-out on the glacier d’Argentière and Matt pulled out the rope to tie each other to each other, and I pulled out the compass to navigate us back to the crevasse-free side of the glacier, I know he was out of his comfort zone.  But we got back to safety and Trev is better for it now.  We also had some non-whiteout days of skiing while Trev was here, including a descent down the legendary Mer de Glace, with a tour over to Italy for coffee, of course.  It was a great week and cozy but manageable in our little pad.

If three was cozy but manageable, four would definitely be over capacity, but that’s exactly what happened when Matt’s buddy Ben showed up mid-way through the week with Trev, virtually un-announced.  Fortunately Ben had the kindness of heart to sleep on the floor one night to give Trev a little extra breathing room before his long flight home.  With our crew size now doubled to four we certainly kicked up the après factor and familiarized ourselves with what exactly “No Limits” means at the infamous Chambre Neuf hotspot.  Once Trev left, Ben also helped kick up the extreme factor on the slopes: we skied the Couloir des Cosmiques – which required a 30 m rappel before buckling into skis on the side of a 45-50 degree slope, and followed it up the next day with a sh*t-your-pants kind of run down the Couloir Nord/Nord-est of Les Courtes (which averages a cool 48 degree slope over several hundred metres down to the Argentière glacier).

And there have been other friends of friends who have all joined up with us for days of skiing here and there:  Martin, a Czech guy who’s been living here for a few years and works up on the Aiguille du Midi; Ben’s buddy Guillaume, who came over from Verbier for a few days (and showed us around there on our Haute Route trip); Laurent, a hard core skier and Quebecer who recognized our MEC ski bag and introduced himself on the bus one day; and Steve, a British guy who has lived in Cham for years and knows the area like the back of his hand – and still rocks the straight, skinny skis!  They’ve all contributed to the trip in different ways and made it such a memorable success so far.

Despite the fact that everyone here has told us at least twice that this has been one of the worst winters in recent (and distant) memory, we’ll still get close to 40 days of skiing in, out of the 49 days we’ll have spent in the Alps.  Imagine what would have happened if this was one of the best winters in recent and distant memory.  We’ve skied some of the classic Chamonix lines, some in good conditions, some in variable conditions, and some in “don’t-even-think-about-making-a-mistake” conditions: Couloir des Cosmiques and Couloir nord/nord-est des Courtes as mentioned; but also Couloir en Y off the Aiguille d’Argentière, Couloir nord du Capucin, Col des Cristaux, and others.  I feel like we have seen a ton of terrain so far, but in reality we are only scratching the surface.  The terrain is endless over here, with different lines opening up to the eye depending on how much snow has fallen on the ground.

Although we have greatly developed our steep skiing and ski mountaineering skills this winter, Chamonix remains a very humbling place.  It is easy to stay on the pistes and within the boundaries of the ski areas, but once you get out and start exploring the backcountry, you realize how intimidating some of the terrain is.  Steep, STEEP, chutes and couloirs, narrow ridge lines, transport truck-sized crevasses: plenty of places where things can easily go wrong.  And there are many, many, phenomenal skiers in this valley, some blowing by us on the skin track, skiing lines that most would consider impossible.

With a little over a week left in Chamonix, we are starting to feel physically drained, but seemingly keep getting out there day after day.  When we did our trans-North America ski trip back in 2008, I think we were somewhere around 55 days of skiing.  But that was riding lifts the whole time, whereas here we are touring all over the place (though lift assisted) and then often climbing several hundred or even 1000 m to get to the top of some of these runs. So it’s a totally different ball game.  In addition to being physically tired, it’s been interesting observing a mental fatigue starting to set in.  You really have to stay focused on some of these runs because there really isn’t room for error anywhere.  I think subconsciously we are starting to dial it back a little bit, as neither of us wants anything to go wrong these last few days.

After today’s little hiccup of cloudy weather, it’s looking like blue skies again for the rest of the week, so we’ll be right back out there at it again.  “Maybe” there will be some fresh snow, but neither of us are holding our breath.  No reason to stop us from creating a few more great memories before we pack it in and wind up the winter in this amazing place.

The Haute Route Traverse – From Chamonix to Zermatt on Skis

Day 1: Argentière to Cabane de Trient

April 1, 2017 – 8:00AM

We’re on the bus from Chamonix to Argentière, which is a few kilometres up the valley from our apartment and the starting point of the Haute Route Traverse.  As we sit on the bus, still half asleep, I reflect on the six days ahead and how far Matt and I have come as backcountry skiers.  To anyone familiar with ski touring, the Haute Route Traverse from Chamonix to Zermatt is one of those iconic routes that every skier dreams of ticking off.  Big terrain, incredible views, scary crevasses, and ski lines as far as the eye can see.  Not to mention comfortable “huts” all along the route to make the whole thing just a little more enjoyable. When we arrived in Chamonix at the beginning of March the traverse was something we definitely wanted to do, but we weren’t really sure if we’d be able to pull it off, due to route finding, complexity of the terrain, etc.  A few years ago, the thought of completing the traverse independently seemed like a bit of a pipe dream.  The cost to do it as part of a guided group was a little prohibitive to our traveller’s budget, so from the get go it was either do it on our own (which seemed like a big undertaking) or don’t do it at all.  I picked up a guide book the day we got here and we started studying it. And then we picked up the maps we needed and started studying those.  And then we made reservations at each of the huts.  And now here we are sitting on the bus about to set off on the longest ski traverse either of us have ever done – no turning back.  Well, I guess we could turn back whenever we want, but that would be kind of lame.

When the bus drops us off at Grands Montets parking lot, we are right on time to catch the first tram up to the top  (the first segment of the traverse uses the Grands Montets lifts to save about 1500 m of climbing to start the day).  We’re both a little nervous I think, so an early start today is key – even with the lifts, it will still be over 1000 m of climbing and a long day to get to Cabane de Trient, across the border in Switzerland.  Plus the forecast is calling for clouds to roll in this afternoon, and navigating across glaciers in a whiteout is not something either of us want to do on Day 1. Or any of the days for that matter.

As we approach the boarding area for the tram, we are kindly notified by the lady at the gate that there are high winds (presumably blowing in all the clouds) at the top, and all the lifts are currently closed.  More information at 10AM.  A great start to the day.

For the next hour and a half, I stare impatiently back and forth at the information board and the skyline to monitor the cloud situation.  From what we can see, the winds are definitely strong.  We are able to ride the tram to the halfway point, but it isn’t until shortly after 10 that they finally open the tram to the top.  Because we were early, we’re able to get on the first tram up.  From the top of Grands Montets, at about 3200 m, we ski down to the Glacier d’Argentière and put our skins on for the first climb of the day.  The winds on the glacier are howling, but fortunately the sun is still shining.

After a couple hours of skinning we’ve climbed over 800 m to the Col du Chardonnet, which also happens to be the border between France and Switzerland (basically all of the traverse is actually done in Switzerland).  At the col, there is a fixed rope dropping into a steep couloir that we use to rappel into Switzerland then side-step out onto the Glacier de Saleina.  From the glacier, it’s another couple hours of touring to get to Cabane de Trient.  By the time we are safely inside the hut, the clouds have rolled in and we have difficulty seeing the other side of the glacier that we just toured across.

The definition of “hut” (or cabane as they are called in Swizterland) is somewhat different than what we have grown accustomed to at home in BC.  In BC, the huts require you to pack everything you could possibly need – sleeping bag, mattress, cooking gear, food, etc.  Most huts may have a wood stove to keep the dampness away, and a loft for everyone to pile onto and sleep wherever there is a spare corner. It can be crowded, smelly, and sleepless.  Sometimes people accidentally try to set the place on fire with errant camp stoves.

The Cabane de Trient (and presumably the other huts along the route) is a little different.  When we walk in the front door, there is shelf full of hut slippers (should have left mine at home) for everyone to change into.  There are wicker baskets to place your wet items in and put on a shelf to dry overnight.  The dormitory-style bedrooms have comfortable mattresses with “nordic-duvets” (only a sleeping bag liner is needed). There is of course the cold-beer and wine menu that is kindly pointed out when we check in (at 8 euros for a tall can of beer the costs can add up fast!) And finally there is the whole half-board deal, where dinner and breakfast are provided and prepared for you.  Tonight’s menu features carrot soup, followed by green salad to start.  Beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes for the main course.  And an apple custard for desert.  Not bad – the bar has been set for the rest of the week.

Day 2: Cabane de Trient to Cabane du Mont Fort

Today’s route doesn’t actually require a lot of skiing.  Just down the glacier du Trient, a short boot pack up to a nearby col, and then a long ski down to the village of Champex – simple.  From there we will transfer to the Verbier ski resort via bus and train.  The Cabane de Mont Fort, where we are staying tonight, is actually within the Verbier ski area boundary.

As we enjoy our hot breakfast and start to get our things organized for the day ahead, daylight starts to pour through the windows.  There is no sign of the sun though.  Apparently the clouds that rolled in yesterday decided to stick around and upon further inspection out the windows, we realize that it is a complete whiteout. Perfect.

The start of the day at the hut is a bit of a zoo as groups seem to jockey for position and get out the front door before each other, and it’s difficult to avoid feeling like we should also be in a rush.  When we finally do get out the front door there are about 15 people lining up to get going ahead of us.

It’s a pretty short ski down the glacier (about 400 m) and despite the whiteout we can hug the rocks on the skier’s right side and make our way easily to the bottom of the bootpack up to Col des Écandies.  We manage to get going up the bootpack before most of the groups in front of us and when we get to the col we can’t tell up from down.  From the col down Champex, our elevation drops about 1300 m, which we manage to navigate with the topo map and GPS.  Although there are no glaciers on the descent there are some cliff bands and other terrain traps so some route finding is required, and with no visibility there are a few signs of ski vertigo.  An hour or so later we emerge unscathed in the Champex ski area and wait for our bus transfer over to Verbier.

The transfer from Champex to Verbier is a bit of a novelty.  Here we are, emerging from a high mountain environment, only to be whisked off by bus and trains (that run precisely on time of course) to another one of the most famous ski resorts in Europe. Only in the Alps.

By the time we get to Verbier it’s only just after lunch time so we pick up a half day lift ticket and meet our friend Guillaume who shows us around the resort for the afternoon.  Even though we still can’t see anything we enjoy ripping up the groomers and get a feel for the scale of the resort.  Especially when we pile onto the “Jumbo” lift – a tram that packs in 150 people and swoops them up to the top of the mountain!  At the end of the afternoon we cruise down one last groomer and retire to the Cabane de Mont Fort for the evening.  The hut doesn’t see as much traffic as others on the Haute Route, and so there are only a dozen or so people spending the night.  To top it all off, the clouds have gone away, setting up for a great weather day tomorrow.

Day 3: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane des Dix

Day 3 is our biggest day of the traverse – nearly 1500 m of climbing overall – as we pass over three cols (Col de la Chaux, Col de la Rionde, and Col de Severeu) before eventually climbing to up over 2900 m to Cabane des Dix.

Whatever clouds were lingering at the end of the day yesterday have vanished and the weather is perfect to start the day.  We can clearly see the Mont Blanc massif, with the morning sun hitting the peaks, and can trace our routes from Days 1 and 2.

Shortly after 8:00am we step in to our skis and start our climb up the freshly groomed pistes of Verbier.  I joke to Matt that we should carve bigger switchbacks than usual, just to mess up the fresh groomers for anyone skiing down.  Today also happens to be the last stop of the Freeride World Tour, which is taking place on the big and intimidating face of Bec des Rosses, which we are skinning right below.  As we approach the first col of the day, the competition starts and we get to watch a couple of the first competitors throw themselves down some crazy lines.  Helicopters buzz around capturing it all on video and camera – maybe we’ll be on TV?!

As we move farther and farther east from the resort the noise starts to dissipate and soon we are on our own.  The route we are taking to Cabane des Dix is a little off the main highway, so for a time we are breaking trail.  The weather continues to be perfect and when  we arrive at Col de Severeu we get our first glimpse of the famous Matterhorn – it still looks like a long way away!

From the col we descend several hundred metres on one of the longest runs of the week to Lac des Dix, and then traverse south along the lake before starting one last climb up to the cabane.

After about 8 hours on the trail, and feeling tired and a little dehydrated from the hot sun, we come around the corner to Cabane des Dix.  The sight is unbelievable:  a multi-storey stone structure (built in 1908), sitting on top of a little rock bluff, in the middle of nowhere.  Inside the hut there are pictures of mules hauling materials in during construction!  The cabane has a nice patio which faces west, so we celebrate the mid-way point of the trip outside with a two-eight-euro beer day, and enjoy a stellar sunset.

Day 4: Cabane des Dix to Cabane des Vignettes

We’re back on the main track today, so the morning starts a little busier than yesterday.  The route to Cabane des Vignettes marks the high point of the traverse (3790 m at the summit of Pigne d’Arolla) and also includes one of the more touchy sections on the trip – crossing over “la passage de la serpentine“, a steep glacier with big exposure of cliffs on the far climber’s left side.

The day starts a little more slowly than others, given the many groups on the skin track in front of us.  Being on our own, we’d sort of been expecting to get called out by a guide at some point, for something, and today ends up being the day.  On the way up glacier de la Tséna Refien a guide dragging his three roped up clients up the glacier wonders aloud if we have rope with us or not.  Matt politely points out the obvious blue coil of rope that is readily available on my pack and that we’re comfortable in the current conditions without it.  Not appreciating his next comment of “we’re on a glacier, you know?“, I sarcastically respond that we had no idea it was a glacier.  The guide’s tone seems to change when we tell him we live on the west coast of Canada and have been skiing on this type of stuff for several years.  We carry on our merry way, not too concerned with the little encounter.

When we get to la passage de la serpentine, the snow pack is so thin that crampons and bootpacking are needed to get up the slope.  At certain points there are only a few inches of snow on top of blue glacier ice, so we are kicking hard to get our toe picks nicely into the ice.  Fortunately the slope ends up being less intimidating than it looked in the pictures and soon we are on top of a plateau on the way to Pigne d’Arolla.

The summit of Pigne d’Arolla most closely resembles what we’d expected on the traverse:  lots of people packed onto the summit, some coming, some going, a highway of sorts up to the top.  Despite the crowds, and the clouds that are starting to move in, the views are awesome and the Matterhorn is finally starting to look like a nearby mountain.

From the top it’s a nice long run down towards the cabane, though some deviations are needed to avoid the transport truck-sized crevasses.  We were both pretty impressed with Cabane des Dix yesterday, but the first view of Cabane des Vignettes blows Dix out of the water.

The cabane is literally built on the side of a cliff, and is approached via a very narrow ridgeline – how do people come up with these ideas?!  Despite the difficult access there were no shortcuts taken inside – a full lunch menu, beer and wine, and great dining area.  No running water though – we are really slumming it now!

Day 5: Cabane des Vignettes to Cabane de Bertol

Many people complete the route from Cabane des Vignettes all the way to Zermatt in a day, and for this reason breakfast at Vignettes is served from the freakishly early hours of 5:30 to 6:00.  When we get downstairs there is a fair amount of buzz going on, and there is talk that the morning is shaping up to be another total whiteout, although the afternoon forecast says “clearing up”.  There is an “escape route” that goes immediately down to the valley below and then back up to get to Cabane de Bertol, and avoids the majority of the serious glacier travel, but it’s also a less scenic route.  It seems like many of the guided groups will be heading that way given the uncertainty in the weather.  Not feeling rushed, and hoping for the forecast to live up to expectation, we finish our breakfast and go back to bed.  Even if we don’t leave Vignettes until noon, we should still be able to get to Bertol in good time for dinner.

Shortly before 8 the hut staff poke their head into the room to let us know we have 10 minutes to get our things cleared out of the room so they can start cleaning in advance of the next round of skiers passing through tonight.  By now at least it’s daylight and the whiteout has been confirmed.  The number of people left in the hut starts to dwindle as many parties have decided to head down to the valley.  By 10:00 or so there are 10 of us left, on a day that started with close to 100 people staying in the hut.  There are three German teams, a French pair, and us.  Although we are all talking in different languages, the consensus is the same:  we still can’t see the rock bluff 50 feet outside the front door of the hut.

At this point Matt and I start playing head games with each other to agree on a time at which we will leave, regardless of what the weather does: at 10:45 we’ll have a snack; at 11:00 we’ll put our ski boots on, and by 11:30 we’ll walk out the door – if we still can’t see we’ll go down to the valley.  Shortly after 11 we start getting a little impatient with the weather, but suddenly the first major parting of the clouds appears.  We’re still not convinced that it’s enough to send us up the high route, but the other teams also seem excited and we all start getting our gear on.

Just before 11:30 we step outside and are ready to go.  The clouds have opened up enough that we are comfortable taking the high route across glacier du Mont Collon to Col de l’Evèque.  We decide to rope up together for the glacier crossing as there are quite a few exposed crevasses, some of which could house a school bus or two, and the visibility still isn’t awesome.

From Col de l’Evèque, it’s a long 800 m run down the haut glacier d’Arolla, before an equally long and tiring climb up to Cabane de Bertol. When we get to the col almost all the clouds have dissipated and we’re confident that it will be a bluebird afternoon. Three turn into the run Matt hears and feels a pop in one of his skis and he yells at me to hold up to take a look.  It’s not great:  the heel piece of one of his bindings has blown off his ski and disappeared into the fresh snow we had just started skiing. We spend a few minutes looking for it, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack and we have no luck.  Fortunately we have a couple ski straps in the bag, and can use the longer one to strap Matt’s boot in place.  It’s nowhere near as strong as a binding, but as long as he’s not launching off any big cliffs, he should be just fine.  Fortunately it’s the second last day of the traverse, and not the other way around.

The rest of the day to Bertol goes smoothly and we are happy about our decision to wait out the weather and enjoy the great views along the way.  When we get to Col de Bertol the Matterhorn appears to be a stone’s throw away and we can start to feel the finish line.  Although we’ve already climbed 1100 m today, the Swiss decided it would be a good idea to build the hut above the col, and so the last 30 m of the day are spent climbing straight up steel ladders that have been bolted to the rock face.  The beer inside tastes colder and more refreshing than usual and we enjoy an amazing sunset for the last night on the trip.

Day 6: Cabane de Bertol to Zermatt

 We’re up early this morning, excited for our long descent in to Zermatt.  Shortly after 7:00 we are out the door and down-climbing the crazy ladders from yesterday.  The sun is just coming up over the ridge and there are a few light clouds blowing off the top of the Matterhorn, making it look just like a chimney.  The visibility is perfect, and it should be a great finish to the trip.

The day starts with a couple hours of skinning up to the top of Tête Blanche (3710 m), a rounded peak just to the west of the Matterhorn and also the border of Switzerland and Italy.  It is windy and cold at the top, but it feels like we can reach out and touch the Matterhorn.  The view is incredible.

The skins come off the skis for the last time at the summit of Tête Blanche and all that is left to do is point the skis downhill for 1800 m into the ski resort village of Zermatt.  Oh, and navigate through the heavily-crevassed Stockji, Tiefmatten, and Zmutt glaciers.  Fortunately the weather is clear and we can see where to ski and where not to ski – not a place I would want to be stuck in zero visibility.  We waste little time under the giant seracs of the Stockji (there were a few recent falls), but do get to enjoy some fresh tracks in cold snow.  The ski out on the Zmutt glacier goes right under the Matterhorn – an amazing way to finish up.  Before long we are back inside the Zermatt ski area and enjoy a long run down the freshly groomed trails right into the town itself.

When we click the skis off for the last time, there is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.  After high fives and big hugs we look back up at the Matterhorn one more time and digest the last few days: over 5000 m of vertical, close to 65 km travelled on skis, between two of the most iconic ski mountaineering centres anywhere, on our own.  Definitely one for the books.