The Gerrard Chronicles 2015 - Traveller's Tales

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Ken's last big plod September 1st - 6th

Ken had a plan for this trip but was tripped up, one might say, by deteriorating balance, despite being as fit as ever. He drove to Dover & got a full security check, including a mirror on a stick to check he was not smuggling out midgets. This trip had been aborted in July by a ferry strike & this one (P&O) was 10 minutes late because of another one (by the French but they had a case). A rather mixed weather trip took him down through France, Belgium & France again by what has become the 'usual way'.

Hotel La TÍte des Faux

Champex from the Great St. Bernard Pass

He stopped for the night at Bonhomme, just over the eponymous pass in the Vosges at the recommendable Hotel La Tête des Faux (link in French). Warning: the Alsacian Menu is huge & includes a whole Eisbein. Next day, he carried on into Switzerland & over the Great St. Bernard Pass into Italy, which is as big a pig to drive up from the North as from the South, heading towards Breuil.

St. Bernard Monastery

Italy from the Great St. Bernard Pass

2nd set of zig-zags from the top, going down

Breuil is about half an hour's drive up from Chatillon in the Aosta Valley. It was a lovely day. The Hotel Europa has its own parking, luxury. Ken had intended to stay in the Hotel Mignon & visited it when he got there, as he had stayed there in 1975, the purpose of this trip being to fill in the gap in the Round Monte Rosa Tour of that year But Christinia, the landlady, said it had to close because of electrical faults they were sorting out for the skiing season. The Europa concierge is Russian, Kzenia & unused to guests who treat her with respect. Ken made some friends among the Krauts here & an Italian girl reading Aero & Space Engineering at Uni. Good for her. Excellent food to be had.
The next day was the fill-in walk up to the Theodule Hut & back, the missing bit of the 1975 walk. Ken had chosen to start going up under the Matterhorn. Kzenia was shocked that he did not wear a jacket on but the first part is up a jeep track to the Hotel Baita Cretaz, off on another jeep track to the right, then steeply up beside a drag lift, quite a warm-up. This joins another jeep track, which goes round North & comes out at the bottom of the Pancheron chair lift. This is Plan Tourette.

Breuil & the Big Hill (Matterhorn from the South)

Plan Tourette route (photo next day)

Plan Maison from above Plan Tourette

There is, in fact, a marked path, No.15, to the Theodule Hut via Plan Maison but it starts at the other end of the village. He was to come down it later. As it was, he made his way up the side of the valley. The hill came out & he got a good photo but generally, clouds were drifting about, although he did get the photos he needed to improve the Advice web site. To the right from the Tourette Hut across a meadow is an old battered jeep track which joins the one used to maintain the Pancheron lift.

Bontadini Chapel

Route back above the Bontadini Chapel

Test Griga cable car station from the hut

Ken followed this to the point where it turns left, then cut across the hillside to official path 15 which an Italian couple were using. This is jeep track all the way to the hut, up a slope, then across to a big ski slope that is climbed to the bottom of Fornet drag lift. Up a steep track, on gets to the top of that lift & no sign of the track but going left of the ski station, one comes across it & it goes up in a big zig-zag to the Bontadini Chapel, where there is also a hut & lift. From there, the jeep track is very visible to the Theodule Hut. Because of his weak lungs, he made pretty heavy weather of the 4 hour 40 minute slog up but although he was always stopping for a puff & blow, that was a decent time.

Theodule Hut

Theodule Hut inside

Official Route 15

There was an English party leaving for St. Jacques. They confirmed it was by the Cime Bianchi & were surprised when Ken said he had done it 40 years ago. To go down, he put on his ancient orange anorak (1978 vintage) & stuck to Path 15, going round the Bontadini Chapel. This went via Plan Maison, the 1st cable car station & was then, a steep rocky path, where it became apparent that his balance was not what it had been & he made very heavy weather of it, there being nothing like it on the way up. The whole trip was something over 32,000 paces, not a lot. However, there was another wonderful dinner to be had in the hotel.

Next morning: To the South (left) of the hotel, a road becomes a path with a proper signpost at the bottom & waymarks. This is a jeep track which zig-zags up to a sort of platform with a old fort on it.

Panorama from the path towards the Matterhorn Hut (Rifugio Albruzzi) from the Old Fort

The Old Fort

Breuil from the Old Fort

Matterhorn from the Old Fort

Then, the path cuts across the next zig-zags in rocky steps. Although going up, this confirmed yesterday’s prognosis that he was no longer up to this sort of path, also common in the Lake District. He decided this was enough, although it was a lovely day but went back only using the jeep track. It was time to do some sight-seeing & have a proper pizza (not a very good one!) The next day, he drove home, stopping the night in Luxembourg.

Up the Via Carrel (Breuil High Street)

Climber & Skier Monument

Original Matterhorn (Cervino) Hut preserved

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Contact: Ken Baldry or Avis Saltsman, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)020 7359 6294 or e-mail him or her
This page's URL: Last revised 1/12/2015 ©Ken Baldry 2015 All rights reserved but print it off if you want to.