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The Haute Route

Among ski mountaineers the world over, there is only one tour that everyone knows the name of, and everyone wants to do.

That's the Haute Route, which follows a series of glaciers almost without interuption from near the highest peak in the Alps – Mont Blanc – to near the second highest peak in the Alps – Monte Rosa.

For mysterious reasons I've yet to ski it, but here we are walking a version of that classic route. Which is fairly appropriate given that the first high level traverse through these parts was pioneered on foot, in 1861 by members of the (British) Alpine Club. It didn't become a ski route until early in the 20th century.

Walking the "High Level Route" became a somewhat popular undertaking for the British in the late 1800s despite the lack of huts and supplies, which must have made it a challenge to legs and shoulders.

Today people doing the entire traverse on foot in summer generally spend a week or two on the crossing, staying in full-service huts each night.

But several variations mean that not everyone needs to take exactly the same route. For example, John and I are now in the Les Bouquetins hut, which is small and unguarded, though nicely equipped with a wood stove and firewood that has been helicoptered up by the Swiss Alpine Club.

Since it's not on the standard summer route, we have it to ourselves. It's magnificently cozy inside, round like a large yurt. According to the maps it must have magnificent views, too.

But all we can see is fog. We don't know if we're just up in a cloud or if the clouds fill the valleys as well. Up here at 3,000 meters all we know is that the world is totally white – up, down, and across.

We could only find the hut by GPS. This is a shame, as it's the scenery that has made this route so popular for the last century and a half. Maybe tomorrow.

The morning report:

I wrote my report on Monday night, and Tuesday morning we awoke to a glorious morning. It's wonderful to be able to see where we're going and the ragged peaks that surround us.

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