La Luette

Most mountain huts in Switzerland close after summer at the end of September. Like many things in Switzerland, this is based on solid experience and is taken as a concrete rule. You don’t go mountaineering after September, because the snow will be too low. The snow conditions vary, but the closing time of the huts does not. If you’re sad about the summer alpinism season ending, eat a roasted chestnut for consolation and go looking at autumn colours. It was for this reason that Tanya and I were very pleased to get one last summit in just before the end of September. Last Saturday saw us heading from Arolla towards Pas de Chevres, on the way to the Cabane des Dix.

The view east.

Before the Pas de Chevres, our view was of the mountains to the east of Arolla. Most prominent were Aiguille de la Tsa and Mont Collon, and then as we got higher the big peaks of The Matterhorn and Dent Blanche rose behind. At the pass itself, we got our first look to the west and into Val d’Hérémence, and at its head the mighty Mont Blanc de Cheilon. Pas de Chevres is only ever mentioned with the post-script “et ses fameuses échelles” (and its famous ladders), because to cross the pass you have to climb down some ladders over a steep drop. These ladders passed, we had only to cross the Glacier de Cheilon to arrive at the hut.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon and Glacier de Cheilon from Pas de Chevres.

Down on the side of the glacier was a frozen pond of the type that I like to poke with sticks. On this occasion, I discovered with glee that if I smashed my hiking pole into the pool, a gorgeous circle of bubbles formed underneath the ice. In this way we lost a good few minutes before setting off across the glacier, leaving behind us a rather more holy ice-pool than before we arrived.


A video posted by Tim Raupach (@cutflat) on


Crossing the glacier.

The Cabane des Dix is one of the best alpine huts I’ve been to. It is not only in a formidable position, perched on top of a hummock and loomed over by the enormous north wall of Mont Blanc de Cheilon, but the people running it were some of the most friendly and wonderful hut guardians I’ve met. The hut’s at 2928 m and they had an excellent selection of beer, real coffee, amazing food, and a slackline out the back. You can’t ask for more than that!

Cabane des Dix, 2928 m.

In the late afternoon we wandered up the little hill next to the cabin, which is called Tête Noire and falls 20 m short of hitting the big 3000 m mark. Ten minutes after we walked down from there, a bouquetin idly wandered across the rocky face and right past the cabin.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon (3870 m) with the Clocher de Cheilon in front.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon has been on my list of prospective summits for a long time, but the conditions were just not right for it this time. So we opted to do the smaller and safer climb of La Luette (3548 m). At dawn we were out of the cabin and heading up the glacial moraines to the west. The sunrise lit Mont Blanc de Cheilon with beautiful pink light.

Just before dawn.
First light.

The climb up La Luette is really simple, and the only slight complication was finding a good path through the crevassed Glacier de la Luette. From about half-height the glacier was much less crevassed and we relaxed into the plod through powder snow, enjoying the view as it got better and better with height.

About to step on to the glacier. La Luette in morning light.
High on the glacier, with the Matterhorn behind.

The view from the summit, at 3548 m, was one of the best summit panoramas I’ve ever had. We could see the Mont Blanc and its massif, had a close-up look at Grand Combin, could see into Italy shrouded in cloud, across to the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Weisshorn, Bishorn, and down onto the grey-green Lac des Dix.

Grand Combin on the left, Mont Blanc massif on right. Mont Blanc itself in the background.
Looking back down the glacier we climbed.
Lac et Barrage des Dix.
Glacier du Giétro, Italy under cloud behind.

After the summit it was a simple matter to head back down to the cabin, pause for a coffee, and a three hour walk out to the Barrage des Dix, where you can catch a bus back to town. La Luette was unexpectedly awesome — from the cabin, and next to the huge Mont Blanc de Cheilon, it looked little more than a lump on the horizon. We did the climb because it came recommended from various sources, and they were right, because it was definitely worth the trip.

Tanya on the descent, Matterhorn behind her.
The emblematic Gentiane flower.
Looking back up from the lake – La Luette is the peak on the right.
October 3, 2015

Comments

  1. spk on

    Very pretty pictures. I once was on Mont Blanc de Cheilon there was a bit that was a bit (d)icy and if the conditions are not right I think it can be dangerous. Seems like you made a good call on that one. I am missing those mountains.

  2. peter dyce on

    Greetings to you both. Wonderful images, Looks like a a fabulous trip. My heart aches for the mountains but sadly my knees ache as well. I look forward to your next mountain sojourn.
    Best wishes to you both.

    Peter

  3. Sooo cool! My favourite (apart from the one of you guys) is the top one. I love the palette in it, and I love the way the colours progress from earthy through grey and into the indigo of the mountains.

    Slacklining is killer fun, and you guys rock!

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