Today was the start of our 3 day acclimitisation. The aim was to spend a few days at an altitude of 3,000 + metres and allow our bodies to acclimatise, we were also being assessed (secretly) by our guide to see how our ability and fitness levels measured up.
During the next few days we would take in the spectacular scenery that forms part of the Haute route (a famous route for walkers and ski tourers that takes you from Chamonix to Zermatt in Switzerland).
We had a leisurely start to the day and after a bit of delay whilst we
checked we had everything we bid our chalet in Argentiere farewell at about 9.30am with nervous intrepidation.
We headed up to the La Tour gondola lift and then onto Charamillon chairlift from there we had an easy if a little bit warm (in the 25 degree heat) 2 hour hike along a scenic snaking path up to the Albert premier hut at 2702m.
The hike takes you alongside the Glacier du Tour and its pretty impressive. By now the boots were starting to rub so a bit of precautionary blister treatment was all that was needed.
Once we arrived at the hut and found our dorm we had lunch then hiked and scrambled up 200 metres to a patch of snow to undertake some avalanche rescue training. We would slide down the snow on our bums then roll over and use the ice axe to prevent us sliding further jabbing the axe into the snow then pulling the axe in towards our chests - sounds easy enough.
However it got made gradually more difficult as we had to perform the procedure with and without ice axe and with and without crampons. The procedure differs slightly with crampons on as you must use your knees instead of your feet (if you forget and use your feet then it is likely your crampons will cause you to topple over backwards!)
Back at the Hut we found our sleeping space generally sandwiched between two other people (in a room that sleeps 30). Here are my tips for making your stay in a mountain hut (more precisely the albert Premier) more comfortable
- take some hand sanitizing gel with you as there is no running water
- be prepared for the smells! A feud erupted in our hut between those who wanted the window open and those who wanted the window closed - team 'window open' did win out in the end!
- TAKE EAR PLUGS!
- Take an ipod & a good book (in case you can't sleep)
- Take a silk liner (with pillow insert) - the sheets are filth!
- Take a headtorch
- Take your own footwear to use (they do provide some but they are pretty nasty) although beware when walking to the toilet (hole in the ground or drop box is more appropriate name) you literally stand in peoples pee so you may want to use their shoes for this!
- take some Playing cards!
So we tried to get some sleep between the snores and smells that the hut offered it wasn't easy........