Last Tuesday (1st August) was Swiss National Day. In Saas Grund, the traditional procession wasn’t due to start until 4pm, so I hoped to be back from my walk in time to watch it go by. I’d planned to go over the Ofental Pass into Italy, then along a (quite precipitous) ridge and return down the Furggtall valley. However, when I got off the Postbus at Mattmark, the wind was blowing a gale (which isn’t good if you plan to be exposed on a ridge) and I could see the distant mountains were engulfed in clouds. (See pics 1 and 2 for the contrast in weather). So, a re-think was required, and a quick scan of the map revealed a nice walk, with a 671m / 2,200 ft climb, to the Schwartzbergchopf.
On the way, the signposts also said it was the way to the Britannia Hut. But, to get there, I knew that you had to cross a glacier (or two in fact) but I didn’t think I was equipped to take on that challenge. At least that was until I saw several other groups coming the other way (including a family with 2 young children) without ropes or crampons or a guide… After catching up with a group just above the glacier, a very nice lady explained that it was perfectly safe to cross as long as you followed the blue posts which had been placed at around 30m/yard intervals. She even pointed out a group of walkers who were already crossing, (see pic 10).
Now, regular readers will know that I have already been across a glacier (twice) with my mate Pete. (Indeed I’ve walked up the Aletsch glacier – but that was with crampons and a guide!) But this seemed different somehow… Anyway, my concerns were unfounded, as there were no gaping chasms (aka crevasses) for me to fall into and there was quite a re-assuring crunch underfoot as I stepped across. To my surprise, (and relief after our experiences last year), despite there being some meltwater running down the glacier, it was not slippery at all.
From the Britannia Hut there was a third glacier to cross (also waymarked) before I took the path to Plattjen, where I caught the gondola lift back down to Saas Fee and, from there, walked to Saas Grund, just in time to catch the procession. 😊