It’s like a blacktop up there — all black and shining rock looking every bit like asphalt poured from a truck; the sun beats it and the heat reflects up like a furnace. A dramatic change from moments before as we clambered up-slope against brutal winds.

We celebrate with photos and a prolonged appreciation of the excellent views, because now more than any time on our trek the weather accommodates our desire for unobscured spectacle. To our left, just a little northwest from where we’re standing, rises the snowcovered eminence of the Dent de la Chaux, and to the north the unclimbed (by us) Haute Cime. Below we descend into a flower- and cow-littered valley that sweeps down to the Lac de Salanfe, the largest lake in these parts.