Welcome drinks and meeting at hotel Le Grand Chalet at 6.45pm. After discussing the week we will check kit so that we are ready for a prompt start the next morning.
We travel to the Arolla valley in less than 2 hours. From here we take a good track up towards the Cabane des Vignettes, stopping before the glacier for lunch. In the afternoon a brief instructional session covering glacier travel prepares us for the final ascent on glacier ice to reach the hut, which is spectacularly situated on a rock spur overlooking three great glaciers and surrounded by fine peaks.
A long traverse of the Glacier du Mont Collon gets us to the Col de l'Eveque, from which we can climb the elegant little snow peak of Point d'Oren. The far side of the col is steeper and icier and sometimes requires belaying with the rope for complete safety. Once down to more level ground we pass through the Col Collon into Italy and soon reach the Rifugio Collon.
In the morning a pleasant descent to the Aosta valley gets us to the little hamlet of Prayarer - a tempting coffee stop! From here the walk up the stunning Aosta valley is long but mostly gentle, and we take a break for lunch and a rest before making the steeper ascent over rocky terrain (assisted by fixed cables in places) to the delightful Aosta hut - a small but very comfortable modern hut in the Italian style. Early to bed.
Today we make a true 'alpine start' to be ready to leave by dawn or even earlier. We follow a steep, zig-zag trail (again with a few fixed cables to make the going easier) to reach the Col de la Division at 3314m. Now we can see our main objective - the great snow wedge of the Tête de Valpelline (3802m). We ascend the glacier for a while before reaching our route of ascent, which takes the northern flank, then a steady 300m climb up the open snow slope gains the summit with its truly awesome views of the Matterhorn and the Dent d’Hérens (which rise as huge spires to the East).
We descend to the Col de Valpelline and then, energy permitting, climb up to our second summit of the day - the celebrated Tête Blanche (3724m), one of the high points of the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route. The weary have the option of sitting this one out and taking a half-hour rest stop! From Tête Blanche a flat or gently descending hike along the edge of a huge glacier plateau gets us in about 2 hours to one of the most striking huts in the Alps - the Cabane de Bertol. At 3311m the hut is literally perched on a rock pinnacle and is reached via a series of ladders. The panoramic view from its balcony is stunning in every direction.
For the final day we take a later breakfast and descend into the Arolla valley, a long but varied descent first on a glacier, then a scree path, then down through pastures to the road head. After lunch we drive back to Leysin for a relaxing evening at the hotel or a night out, whichever suits your mood.
Breakfast at the Grand Chalet is included before departure.
Maps: 1347 Matterhorn