Hike to Cabane d'Orny in the memory of Hannes Esterhuyse

I met Lindy a few weeks ago, while she was staying at The Map Room in Franschhoek. She has written a story about tracing her brothers tragic last climb on a mountain in Switzerland, and wanted to share the journey.
How I miss my brother Hannes. He died in August 2008 whilst climbing le Petit Clocher du Portalet (‘little clocktower’) on the Swiss side of the Montblanc Massif, when a piece of rock he was attached to broke loose. My brother Schalk’s wedding in Laax in July 2009 brought an opportunity for me to visit Val de Bagnes in summer and hike up to this beautiful spire, for an adventure with deep personal meaning for me.
Patricia & Raymond Angéloz from Cabane d’Orny, the hut where Hannes and his climbing partner Mark slept on his last night, were incredibly helpful, down to tracking down one of the Air-Glacier rescuers involved in his helicopter rescue, in case we needed a guide.
Fortunately our friends Julien Moulin, Jérôme Terrettaz and Boris Michellod from Val de Bagnes also got excited about the ‘expedition’ and offered to hike up with us. Boris, a good friend of Hannes and our first link with Val de Bagnes, had hiked up to Petit Clocher the day after the accident to inspect the site, and would be the perfect guide.
Schalk, my cousin Burger, his wife Norma & I arrived in Martigny on the 4th of July and were entertained with a barbeque in the forest above Vollèges with all my favourite people from the valley. Early on the 5th, feeling rather rough after only 4 hours’ sleep, we set out on our quest. We followed in Hannes & Mark’s footsteps by taking the Breya ski-lift from Champex and hiking for just over 2 hours into a spectacular landscape, past gaping crevasses in the Orny Glacier, dramatic drops and eventually arriving at the imposing monolith of Petit Clocher on the left. The last few hundred metres are steep and although the hut is only 2 831m in altitude, the height was getting to me. But once you get to the hut, there’s a sense of adrenalin in the air, and a feeling that great men & women have gone here before.
Two French-Canadian hikers shared our room with us, as we were the only non hardcore mountaineer types there. They entertained us with stories of their misadventures until we were silenced by the neighbours. On the way down the next morning, we found them looking for a place to do the moonwalk in honour of Michael Jackson. Like us, honouring the life of a legend who died way too young.

I enjoyed reading your blog and admire the way you are putting positive energy and inspiration out there. I have a rather less refined one with which I was hoping to do exactly that, but have been struggling to gain momentum with, and yours has inspired me not only to document some of my own adventures, but to also HAVE more of them! And then also drove me into the territory of questioning my career while there’s dreams to be realised and worlds to be explored! So I hope that hooking up with Explorer Club FH will help me to keep on track and maybe spark off something profound.

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