Today was a simple day of getting a bus up the valley and then walking into our next hut in preparation for the sternest day of the route in the morning. With a bit of time on our hands we inspected our kit and while in the blazing sunshine decided that we had far too many warm clothes and could package up much unrequired gear to be posted home. Encouraged by the sunshine we even dumped our down jackets, found some boxes and got it all in the post. Feeling a bit more of a spring in our steps we got the bus and from there started on up a very Swiss alpine valley - green, surrounded by imposing peaks and lots of cows. Puffing, panting and perspiring we spotted the hut in the distance and eventually closed in. Immediately from the approach to the hut something didn't quite feel right but we couldn't quite put our finger on it. The hut owner was anxiously looking up the valley when we arrived and persistently asked us whether we knew the right route for the morning and even went as far as to take us outside and show it to us. This might seem perfectly normal but in our experience hut owners are a bit more laissez-faire about the climbers coming through their huts. The route itself climbed steeply up the left side of a ridge and included a delicate traverse at the top which once negotiated put you at the top of the ridge and heading down the other side. Ideally the traverse would be done as early as possible while the snow was still in good condition and the loose rock above still frozen in place. It turned out that the hut owner had been agitated by the progress of two climbers who had wondered up the right side of the slope, rather than sticking to the left and traversing at the top. This, they were finding, was a much harder route and so they were still climbing after ten hours of effort. At this point they were somewhat committed and in full exposure of the falling debris from above - not such a great place to be killing time. While we were looking up at the struggles going on above us a small thought occurred that we knew a couple of climbers who would have left the hut this morning doing just the route we were looking at. A quick check with the warden confirmed that in all likelihood we were watching Andy and Cliona form a special bond in adversity. That's a polite way of saying they had fucked things up. Now with a more vested interest in proceedings we scrambled up the valley a bit for a better view and a close inspection of the map. With the end of the day near and a lot of walking to be done from the top of the ridge back down the other side the only good news we found was the presence of an emergency shelter at the top the ridge.
As we were discounting the possibility of heading up to help them out my phone rang and I was a little surprised to hear Andy on the end of the line sounding typically chipper. It seemed that things had turned out ok in the end, they had made the top of the ridge and were settling down in the shelter with a bite to eat. Their reason for straying off the guide book recommend route was that it looked a bit easier at the start but they were prepared to agree that it certainly stiffened up towards the top. Relieved we headed back to the hut for food, and a hut owner telling us that we needed a very early start and we should definitely stick to the left side - I think her faith in UK climbers had been dented somewhat