Mont de l’Etoile

Ian’s week had been preparing him for this.  As soon as he arrived, he said he wanted to go up to the Col de Tsarmine (which we can see from our chalet) but I told him that there was a much more interesting challenge waiting for him just around the corner – up to the top of Mont de l’Etoile at 3,370m, or a little over 11,000 ft.  So, our ‘acclimatisation’ walks this week were simply preparing him for this – the BIG one…!

And, for someone who normally lives their life at sea level (less according to his bike’s GPS!?!) he, literally, took it all in his stride.

Thyon Ridge Walk (or Bike)

Today Ian, Karen and I set off to do one of my favourite walks along the ridge above Thyon.  The clouds got higher and higher as we walked, but they stubbornly clung to the tops of the highest peaks in the distance – like Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.

During our ascent we spotted a young Cuckoo being fed by it’s adopted parent (sorry, no photos I’m afraid) and at the top of Mont Rouge (@2,491m or 8,170 ft) we met some mountain bikers, who had biked and hiked to the top, had lunch and then set off at great speed (and with admirable skill I might add) along the ridge path (see pics 12-15 below*).

*If any of that group would like to see/have some more photos, then please contact me via email on mikehawtree@hotmail.com.

 

Bricola Hut (encore)

My apologies for posting images of this walk so soon, but our guests, Karen and Ian, had never seen a glacier close-up before, so this walk along the Ferpècle valley simply HAD to be done.  To their credit, they didn’t choose the easy option (of walking along the valley floor), but they decided to climb the 620m / 2,000 ft up to the Bricola Hut.

 

Exhibition Walk to Lac d’Arbey

The exhibition of photographs along the path from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey proved to be so successful last year, that they have repeated it this summer, but this time with a series of paintings and sketches done by Belgian artist, Paul Coppens.  Born in Brussels in 1957, Paul discovered the Val d’Hérens at the age of 18 and has spent at least a month in the region for the past 25 years.

So, it was an obvious choice as an introductory walk for our friends, Karen and Ian, who are staying with us this week.

Cabane de la Tsa (Walk 21)

Quite a number of my walks go via mountain huts, or cabanes as they are called, possibly because they serve refreshments 🙂 , but mainly because they are built in some fantastic positions, with wonderful views.  Today was no exception, as I drove for 20 minutes up to Arolla and then walked from there up to the Cabane de la Tsa (@2,607m / 8,550ft).

On the way, I captured a number of ‘different’ flowers, but I was particularly pleased to discover that my Alpine Flora book described the Tansy-leaved Rocket (see Pic 12) as being “rather rare” and occurring only in the SW region of the Valais in Switzerland.   It also said that it only flowers in July, so I think this was quite a fortunate find.  🙂

In case you are wondering, the significance of the 1291 on the beer can, is that it was the year the Swiss Confederation was formed.

Pic d’Artsinol (Walk 22)

Although there are a few more low clouds around than I’d like, the sunny weather in the Val d’Hérens continues.  So yesterday I set off to walk up to the top of the 2,998m (9,836ft) Pic d’Artsinol.  However, I have to admit that I cheated, by driving the 2k (1.5 miles) to Lannaz and then taking the chairlift up to Chemeuille, which saved me around 700m (2,300ft) of climbing.  Though, to be fair, I did go via the Col de la Meina and over the ridge from there before walking all the way down. 🙂

During the ascent, I was contemplating how few butterflies there were, compared to the opposite, and perhaps more sunny, side of the valley.  So I thought this post would be more about the magnificent views from the top.  But during my descent, a butterfly caught my eye, which turned out to be a Brimstone, which I’ve certainly never seen before.  (See pic 28).  I also captured another, very colourful, one (see pic 30), which I could not find in my little book.  So if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

I’ve also added a map or two at the end to give you a feel for the route taken and the terrain.

 

 

Becs de Bosson (Walk 25 plus)

The forecast yesterday was for bright blue skies but, unusually, it was slightly wrong.  Although there was some blue sky and sunshine, low cloud hung over most of the mountains tops in our valley.  However, my chosen destination of the Becs de Bosson, (at over 3,100m or 10,100ft) looked clearer than most.

During my approach to the Pas de Lona, things didn’t look good but, ever the optimist, I pressed on hoping the clouds would lift and, luckily, this time they did. 🙂

On the way various animals had left some ‘nutrients’ for the butterflies to enjoy.  And, let’s face it, there’s nothing better than a pile of dung to distract a butterfly from the close attentions of a man with a camera. 🙂

My apologies for posting so many images, but this is just the tip of the iceberg…  The walk, which was 23k (14 miles) long and climbed over 1,900m (6,200 ft), took me around 8 hours and so there were plenty of opportunties to stop (and catch my breath) and take some photos.

 

 

Bricola Hut and Ferpècle glacier hole update

We have five people staying in our chalet this week, who are part of a group of 16 who are challenging themselves to climb various mountains in order to raise money for the Indee Rose Trust.   After climbing the 3,796m (12,454ft) Pigne d’Arolla, one of their number, Andy, decided he needed a bit of a rest, while the others went off to the Zermatt valley.

Today he was sufficiently recovered to accompany me up the Ferpècle valley to the Bricola hut to check on the latest status of the hole which appeared in the Ferpècle glacier 2 years ago.   As reported last year, it’s still more or less there, but starting to collapse towards the front.

Pic Chaussy and Lac Lioson

Yesterday morning I had to deliver some of Judith’s delicious cakes to the newly opened Venus and Rose tea room within the Garden Centre at St Triphon, near Aigle.  The forecast was for light grey clouds and so I decided to go for a walk a short drive up the road from there, from the Col des Mosses.  My thinking was that the clouds would be high in the sky, but as I drove up, it was clear that the clouds were clinging to the tops of the mountains.

Undeterred, I decided to go for it, hoping the clouds would lift by the time I got to the top.  Unfortunately, they stubbornly hung on – at least until I was 20 minutes back down the mountain, when they started to clear…  (I think this is an example of Sod’s Law).

I did however learn from the information board on the summit, that Pic Chaussy (@2,351m or 7,713 ft) along with several other peaks, such as the Oldenhorn, form a natural watershed, where the waters to the north flow into the Rhine and then on to the North Sea, whereas the water falling to the south and west flows into the Rhone, which runs via Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) down through France and into the Mediterranean.  Not a lot of people know that!  🙂

A happy 4th of July to all my American readers… 🎆