We woke up on the second day to find that the bad weather had come in again leaving us with 10cm fresh and lots of gloom. On the first day, fitness for some of us had been tested, with acclimatisation proving telling. Day 2 would prove one of the hardest, both physically and technically, with a significant rappel from the top of the Col du Chardonnet, and a balls to the wall ice climb up the Fenetre de Saleina. Nearly 2km up, 3km down, and 15km long.
Long before departing, I had read of one older woman who ran sub-3-hour marathons proclaiming that the High Route was the hardest thing she had ever embarked upon. This had spurred me on to near age-perfect fitness, which made concentration on the trickier bits much easier.
It felt disappointing for me to be leaving the motherland, although I soon realised that French Switzerland is more French than Swiss, and that a common alpinism is shared. So the language is the same, the different currency is just annoying (the costs ratchet up), and the quality of food and plonk diminish ever so slightly. The chocolate is better though, and we spent a leisurely hour shopping for energy supplies. I found a friendly ski repair to fix my Dynafit boot which had fractured at the achilles link yet again.
Skiing down from the Cabane du Trient was full on. Slides and dark crevasses everywhere, including one which had swallowed a young girl, skis and all, writhing and screaming at her guide who seemed calm as strudel as he tried to yank her out.
Some kind soul had left a rope for us to yank ourselves up through the mud to the Col des Ecandies, and the couloirs dripping down from behind Trient might have been a better option. The entire descent down to Champex was in mist and rain, which was a real shame. Half way down, we passed the most amazing avalanche debris - massive walls of snow rubble that had travelled hundreds of meters, although Luc said that these are slow wet sliders. Still, I wouldn't like to be in their path no matter their speed.
The hotel in Champex was gold. Hot showers, a fire, cold beer, nice food. Unless you want to be a he-man, breaks like this are a welcome godsend for this tour. We put on our puffys, and soaked it up.
Day 2: Down to Argentiere Glacier (2300m), then a long climb up to the Col du Chardonnet (3323m), a short hairy rappel into Switzerland, down to traverse the Glacier de Saleina, another hairy ice climb up to the Fenetre de Saleina, past the Cabane du Trient to Col des Ecandies, and a final long descent in the rain down to Champex (1477m)