Tête Blanche

To get to Cabane Bertol you have to cross a glacier and then climb up an airy ladder system. The ladders are almost universally referred to as les fameuses échelles (the famous ladders) and they deserve their reputation; there is well and truly enough space underneath them to demand your full attention as you climb towards the hut.

Les fameuses échelles.
Cabane Bertol (3311 m).
Tanya on the ladders.

Tanya and I were at the cabin on a mission to climb the Tête Blanche (3710 m), a popular easy climb that requires only glacier travel and the aforementioned ladders. We walked to the hut from Arolla, a mountaineers’ village high in the Swiss Alps. The walk in takes about four hours and traverses right under the spectacular Mont Collon and Pigne d’Arolla.

Tanya, Petit Mont Collon (L) and Pigne d’Arolla (R).
At the top of the ladders.
Cabin dining room.
Spiky things are to be left outside.
From the hut: Matterhorn and Dent d’Hérens.

The next morning we set off down the ladders on the other side of the cabin ridge, and two hours later we were on the summit of Tête Blanche, surrounded by many of the Swiss 4000 m peaks. It was a stunningly clear morning and the view was incredible – Matterhorn, Dent d’Hérens, and Dent Blanche were front and centre, then behind we could see the trio of Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn, and Weisshorn (notice the language changes from French to German over a single valley), and in the distance Mont Blanc was brooding with a cloud on its head.

On the summit of Tête Blanche.
Matterhorn and Dent d’Hérens in the morning light.
Another party arriving on the summit.
Dent d’Hérens, and Tanya sheltering from the cold wind.

There was a very cold wind on the summit so we didn’t linger, but instead headed down and around to the Col de Valpelline for a look, before turning and returning to the cabin. All that remained was to have a drink and snack and then push back to Arolla and our Postauto bus back home. As we descended from the high altitude land of rock and ice, green returned to the landscape like in spring after winter.

At the Col de Valpelline, Dent Blanche behind.
Pigne d’Arolla.
Descending to the valley.
September 8, 2014


  1. […] of a thin ridge of rock. To reach it you have to climb up a tall set of ladders. Tanya and I had been there in summer, but this was a first time climbing the ladders in ski boots. We left our skis at the base of the […]

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