I am always looking for new outdoor challenges, so when asked by dear friends to join them for an overnight in the Alps, I jumped on it. It gave me the chance to visit an old friend in Chamonix and to climb Roter Totx in the Swiss Alps. At 58, nothing quite revs me up like an adventure – and so along with our guide Isabelle Santoire, and my friends India and Bob Wardrop – we head to the town of Leukenbad, Switzerland. We ride a gondola to the start of our winter journey to the ski hut Klettern Lämmerenhütte, located 2,501 meters in the Swiss Alps.
Under a mantle of deep blue sky over a vast white landscape of silvered snow melting in the heat of a warm spring day, we begin the four-hour ascent to Klettern Lämmerenhütte.
Our equipment is specialized using alpine touring boots skis and bindings. Ski touring boots are lightweight with a walking mode allowing for comfort. Our skis have bindings that release the heel of the boot to allow for climbing up the mountain. Climbing skins, made from mohair and or nylon, attach to the bottom of the skis gripping the snow as you ascend. Ski crampons (also known as couteaus) are essential, giving us an excellent grip on the steeper icy slopes. Avalanche transceivers, snow shovels and an avalanche probe are necessary should we find ourselves in an area where an avalanche hazard exists. We also use a climbing harness when crossing areas of the glacier where there may be crevasses that are hidden under the winter snow.
We arrive at the hut in mid afternoon. We have a delicious lunch of pasta, cheese, soup and the freshest French bread imagineable, and set out for a late afternoon ski, zigzagging up the side of a mountain and skiing back to the hut for an appetizing dinner, fun conversation, and a good night’s sleep. There are approximately 30 people sleeping in the hut this night and everyone, exhausted from a day of climbing and skiing, is settled in for the night by 10 pm.
We awake at six, load our packs, sit down for a simple breakfast of oatmeal, coffee, tea and eggs and begin our climb up Roter Totx peak. It is a clear day and the morning sun is beginning to rise up along the tops of the mountains as we ascend through the shadowed snowfields. Six hours later, we reach the top of the mountain where we enjoy a picnic lunch with more mouth-watering French bread, French cheese, dried fruits, organic ham and turkey, and energy bars (it all came from the Saturday farmer’s market in Chamonix) and ready ourselves for the ski down. The snow has turned to corn and the weather is perfect. Linked turns on untracked terrain through the majestic mountains of Switzerland have given us memories we will carry in our hearts, of good adventures with good friends and perfect weather.
Yes, it sounds daunting. But yes, any BA50 could do it, as long as you’re in relatively good shape, enjoy outdoor travel and have an adventurous spirit. Because this was a high altitude trip, you must be at least an intermediate skier, and be able to carry a 30 pound pack for two to four hours But trust me, it is well worth the effort. And something that keeps me forever young.
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