Day 1 - August 12, 1995
Fionnay (1490 m) - Cabane de Louvie (2207 m) 

Going up ... into the clouds It is very misty this morning in Fionnay. The clouds are stuck in the end of the valley and it doesn't seem that it will change for the rest of the day. It doesn't bother me, we are going above the clouds today and the next days too. The advantage of this weather is that everything around us has deep colors compared with the grey clouds. Moreover, you don't get too exhausted if it isn't too warm. 
The trail is small and steep. Within 2 hours we reach Cabane de Louvie, about 700 meters higher. The rest of the afternoon is spent inspecting and adjusting our climbing equipment and a brief rehearsal about using carabiners, snow pickets, knots, etc. 

Day 2 - August 13, 1995  
Cabane de Louvie (2207 m) - Cabane de Prafleuri (2624 m)

Lac de Louvie in the early morning The next morning is grey as well. I did expect better weather for this time of the year, though. Lac de Louvie is a small lake that surely keeps a secret, quite and misty as it is. 
We start walking along the lake. Sometimes, a trout jumps out of the water, breaking the silence and the mirror of the surface. For a while, an ibex is following the same trail in front of us. 

Glacier walking It is cold and windy on Col de Louvie, we take a lunch break and put on our crampons. A big ice plain lies in front of us. The first steps on the ice are a bit scary, but after a while everyone is feeling comfortable. Some people even start to dance on their crampons ! 


Col de Prafleurie as it was in the beginning of the worldThe weather won't change anymore today, that's for sure. A detour to the summit of the Rosablanche (3336 m) is not worth the effort, the clouds are hanging too low. Once over Col de Prafleuri, we arrive in another world. Actually, the landscape looks like it's the beginning of the world : rocks, ice and smoke. 

Day 3 - August 14, 1995  
Cabane de Prafleuri (2624 m) - Cabane des Dix (2928 m)

Cabane de Dix, high and dry During the night, a heavy noise makes me shaking in my sleeping bag. It must be an avalanche of rocks, hopefully not too near the cabin ... 
The next morning, finally the sun comes through. We climb over Col des Roux and walk along Lac des Dix for an hour. 
Between Pas du Chat (a steep and narrow trail) and Col du Tete Noire, we follow the moraine of the Glacier du Cheilon before we finally reach Cabane des Dix. The cabin is located on a hill, like a castle, protected against avalanches. The threatening clouds make it even more mysterious. I hope that the weather will be better tomorrow.  

Day 4 - August 15, 1995  
Cabane des Dix (2928 m) - Cabane des Vignettes (3160 m)

4 AM and the sky is clear ... It's about 4 AM when our guide wakes us up. "Get up ! The sky is clear, Pigne d'Arolla is waiting for us!" Indeed, the sky is clear but it's still dark outside. 
After a quick breakfast we prepare ourselves to leave. 
The moon disappears behind the Mont Blanc de Cheilon 

05.20 AM and the sun comes up. The Mont Blanc de Cheilon gets the first sunlight, the moon disappears behind its summit. Now that we got used to the freezing temperatures, it starts to warm up. 

climbing towards Col de la Serpentine 
In the shadow of the Pointes de Tsena Refien we climb towards the Col de la Serpentine. 
A break at that Col (3500 m) lets us adapt to the altitude. The view is splendid and the weather is nice. Big crevasses are waiting in front of us before we can continue to Col du Brenay (3639 m). 

Overviewing the peaks We reach the top of the Pigne d'Arolla (3796 m). A moment of hapiness is overwhelming me. A new altitude record is established for all of us. And we have luck too, the weather is excellent and the view reaches from the Mont Blanc in the West to the Matterhorn in the East. 

Ridge leading to Cabane des Vignettes 
We don't wait too long at the summit. Although there is no wind and the temperature is fine, clouds are coming up from the East. After a while, the Matterhorn is disappeared in the clouds. Other groups are going down too, they just seem like ants in a row. The descent is easy, but nevertheless tiring. In the distance I hear some avalanches of snow, it can happen everywhere ... 

 
About one hour later, we arrive at Col des Vignettes. The cabin is located at the other side of the pass. It is only reachable by helicopter or, of course, by feet like we do now. The ridge that leads to the cabin is not long, but narrow and steep. "Concentrate and watch your step !", the guide says.

Day 5 - August 16, 1995  
Cabane des Vignettes (3160 m) - Rifugio Collon (2818 m)

Break on the Glacier du Mont Collon We start crossing Col de Charmotane (3053 m) and continue uphill via Glacier du Mont Collon towards Col de l'Eveque. A view of the southeast face of the Pigne d'Arolla is worth a picture. 

Glacier du Mont Collon The crevasses on the Glacier du Mont Collon are covered by snow. We have to be careful. The first person in the rope checks the stability of the snow, while the others keep the rope tight. However, it doesn't prevent for someone to disappear onto his hips in the snow...

 While some take a break on Col de l'Eveque (3392 m), other take the challange to climb the Pointes d'Oren (3525 m). The view is incredible, even the Gran Paradiso (Italy) can be seen between the clouds. 
Finally, via Col Collon we arrive at the Italian cabin, Rifugio Colon (2818 m). 

Day 6 - August 17, 1995  
Rifugio Collon (2818 m) day trip

We take it relaxed today. Part of the group climb the Mont Brulé, while we go for a hike to Comba d'Oren, downwards in the valley. 

Day 7 - August 18, 1995  
Rifugio Collon (2818 m) - Cabane de Chanrion (2462 m)

Just below the Petit Mont Collon Today, we return back to Switserland via the Col Collon and Col de l'Eveque. Then, we descent to Col du Petit Mont Collon. It's cold today and there is a lot of wind coming up the glacier. 

From here on, it is difficult to find a way between the crevasses ; large gaps in the ice and sometimes small snow bridges to cross them. We have to take a risk, though always trying to minimize it. A jump over a crevasse of 10 meters deep is a bit scary.


Huge rocks in line on the Otemma GlacierAs difficult as it was in the morning, as easy is is now. The 7 km hike across the Glacier d'Otemma is just a piece of cake. The view over the slightly descending glacier is 'unearthly'. The structure of the surface changes when advancing towards the end. Sometimes it looks like as if they rubbed a heavy iron construction over it. Huge rocks are positioned in line as if some extraterrestrial played with it. 
And a bit further it seems to be a sea with frozen waves.

Day 8 - August 19, 1995  
Cabane de Chanrion (2462 m) - Fionnay (1490 m)

A long walk beside Lac de Mauvoisin Today, we are out of the ice. Green grass and blue water seems to be artificial now. I appreciate it more than before, though snow and ice are beautiful too. 
After crossing Col de Tsofeiret (2642 m), it is a long walk beside Lac de Mauvoisin. We return back to civilization. and start with a good Swiss meal ... and dessert.