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the Degree Confluence Project
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Switzerland

5.6 km (3.5 miles) S of Trient, Valais, Switzerland
Approx. altitude: 3170 m (10400 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 46°S 173°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: A steep climb to the Col de Chardonnet #3: Relaxing our stressed muscles during sunset #4: The "Cabane de Trient" offers a spectacular view and sleepless nights #5: At this altitude we could almost hear the GPS satellites passing by #6: The point was the picture ... #7: Used socks can prevent unattended gear from being stolen

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  46°N 7°E (visit #2)  

#1: The panoramic view at the confluence area

(visited by Eva Buehlmann, Andreas Fuhrer, Oliver Fuhrer, Saskia Bourgeois and Reto Stöckli)

04-May-2003 -- There are five confluence points in our home country of Switzerland.... but this was the last and therefore the best! We prepared hard: It took Oliver three years to optimize his sock performance. He tested watertight versions but found they got wet from the inside. In the end a specially fabricated long-sock version did the job and lasted all over the trip. Reto's planning went more towards the right handling of the GPS system which in the fourth season he became a master of. Eva had to practice for the peak photograph (see photograph #3) it is difficult to move your foot above your head and make it look as if you don't feel the pain. Saskia had to learn to navigate those ice cracks. We made her watch ice age over and over again (The part with the squirrel!). Andreas had to learn not to fall off his bed at night when there is no rail.

Thus, extensively prepared, we started our  trip in France on May 2, 2003 where it was raining like hell. But then we knew: "The goal is not the path since the path is where we go!" From the beautiful skyscraper resort of Argentière we took the cable car to Grand Montets even though it had snowed a lot over night. While the force was not yet with us at this early hour, we had plenty of  fear of  avalanches. On the way up we discussed that it might be good for the two women in our group to turn back due to the difficult conditions. But they just wouldn't listen. Later on, a mountaineer of another group commented our female leaders: "...ce sont toujours les filles qui font la trace...".

When we came out at the top, the snow was cold and the sun was hot, we were still sleepy but we gave it a shot! We mastered the steep climb down a long flight of icy metal stairs and finally put on our skis together with about one hundred other brave touring cracks. On the first downhill run (passing the Glacier of Rognons) we were for the first time grateful to the extensive crack-knowledge of Saskia who led us safely down. The problem was that Andreas, with his insubordination, went after one of the mountain guides who did not prepare as carefully... But nothing bad happened. After crossing the Glacier of Argentière we put on our skins (the ones on the skis) and started the steep climb up Glacier Chardonnet (not to be confused with the infamous wine grape, Photograph #2). When we arrived at the top (Col de Chardonnet 3321 m.ü.M) there was a bottomless drop ahead of us. The same guide which had not prepared for the downhill challenge turned out to have expert knowledge of rope technique and allowed us to use his crappy old rope (after Oliver stepped on it extensively) to make a sliding descent down the drop. The time had come to eat some lunch (The looks of our reindeer meat & gruyère sandwiches were not as fresh as they had been in the morning but hunger is the best cook) We watched our watch and saw the window of Saleina close: it was time to move on. We made it and arrived on the plateau of Trient  from where we could already see the hut for the night (Cabane de Trient, photograph #4). After our excursion to pointe d'Orny and great dinner (including desert) we quickly went to bed. However, we could not close an eye since the whole hut was snorkeling through the night.

The next day at 5am we were served a healthy Birchermüseli breakfast. Unfortunately the early hour was accompanied by the loud monologue of a German mountaineer on Aftereight cookies: "dieser Geschmack von zarter Schokolaaaade zusammen mit Minze, das ist ja so geil erfrischend...". Nevertheless, the morning hour had gold in the mouth since the motto of Oliver, who led our group, was: “who digs the other a ditch must fall self inside”. Saskia, as usual, did not think that the straight route was the best one and decided for the steepest one instead. We had to stop for Retoto rid himself of some blood through the nose and for all the others tohonour the "col du pissoir" which was quickly approaching. Despite the mastery of his GPS Reto missed the confluence point and headed straight for the next peak. When we realized what he had done we decided to still take some photographs and climb along to the next peak just so Andreas could at least test his rental crampons. From the map we expected the confluence point to be directly at the border between Switzerland and France but our GPS (Garmin Summit) told us that it is 100m north of the border. We decided to believe Garmin (and the US Satellites) and finally arrived at the point (Photograph #5). The point was the picture (Photograph #1 and #6). After that we had 1500m of great powder ahead of us. Only the last bit was more like surfing than skiing and we had to walk for a couple parsecs in the end. On the way we stopped at a glacial river where we dropped everything and took a swim even though conditions were somewhat chilly. The hikers that passed our material depot did not seem to bother the smell of our socks too much but the arrangement which Oliver had chosen for his super-socks did seem to irritate some of them (Photograph #7). We rounded off the day with an ice cream and a beer while waiting for the “Postauto” to take us to the next train station.

We have prepared an extended photo album of the trip and a quicktime VR version of the confluence panorama.

Tschou zäme!
Andreas, Eva, Oliver, Reto, Saskia


 All pictures
#1: The panoramic view at the confluence area
#2: A steep climb to the Col de Chardonnet
#3: Relaxing our stressed muscles during sunset
#4: The "Cabane de Trient" offers a spectacular view and sleepless nights
#5: At this altitude we could almost hear the GPS satellites passing by
#6: The point was the picture ...
#7: Used socks can prevent unattended gear from being stolen
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
  Notes
This is the highest Confluence in Europe (extending unto the Ural Mountains, von Strahlenberg definition) (Source: SRTM 90m digital elevation data).