For the third summer running the Commune have decided to exhibit some pictures along the footpath from Lac d’Arbey to Farquèses. Two years ago it was a series of photos of the Himalaya and last year, some paintings of the Evolène region by Belgian artist, Paul Coppens. This year it’s images by the comic creator, Derib. Some of his stories cover our local region, including the race of Val d’Hérens cows and the Patrouille de Glacier ski touring race.
An old friend of mine, Matt, is camping with two of his friends in the village and yesterday we walked up to Lac d’Arbey and along the path, before dropping down to Les Haudères (for a well earned beer 🍺😊) and then back along the riverside to Evolène.
As always at this time of year, there were many butterflies, but I was particularly pleased to capture a Violet Carpenter Bee feeding on a Woolly Thistle, which, my Alpine Flora book says, is “rather rare” (see pic 18). I have to say, given its stiff spikes, there was nothing woolly about it!
I mentioned earlier in the year that I hoped to post some ‘new’ walks this year and yesterday I did a variation of the walk into the Val de Réchy. Instead of dropping down from the Pas de Lovégno into the valley, I went along the ridge to the Col de Cou.
I was accompanied almost all the way by one or more butterflies and I’m grateful for them for giving me an excuse to rest during the 1,200m/4,000ft of ascent to the col from the village of Trogne. I’d hoped the ridge would be a straightforward walk, but it undulated much more than I’d expected and I had to do a bit of scrambling and watch my footing in several places. Nevertheless, it provided some magnificent views of the distant mountains.
My apologies for posting so many photos and for not being able to identify all of the butterflies and flowers, but it proved to be a long and very rewarding day and I thought I should share it… 🙂
So, while Malcolm went off to do some ‘real mountaineering’, (i.e. conquering snow-capped peaks with crampons, ice-axe and a qualified guide), I offered to take his wife, Helen, on one of my favourite walks in the Val d’Hérens. The ridge above the ski resort of Thyon 2000 takes you over some smaller peaks to Mont Rouge at 2,491m / 8,173 ft. On a fine day the views extend in all directions to no less than 52 peaks over 2,000m / 6,562 ft. Fabulous!
For those of you unfamiliar with the term Via ferrata, let me briefly explain…
It literally means ‘Iron way’ and it provides a means of climbing up a rockface with ‘protection’. By that I mean there is a fixed cable to which you can attach yourself, so that you don’t completely fall to the ground. You wear a climbing harness attached to two short ropes which you then clip onto the cable. In Switzerland, there are often metal rungs or plates or even sometimes ladders to help you climb. In the Dolomites, (where many via ferrata were built during the First World War to aid the movement of the troops to protect the frontier), the climbing is more often on the rock, but the cable is always there as a safety mechanism. At various points along the cable, it’s firmly fixed to the rock, so you have to unclip from one section to move onto the next. Having climbed to the top, you simply walk back down a path to the start, as there is no need to climb back down again. (Indeed you shouldn’t, otherwise you might block the way up for anyone climbing up behind you).
We are lucky enough to have a Via ferrata route here in Evolène and Malcolm, one of our guests this week, was keen to do it. Both he and I haven’t done it for over 4 years, so I know that I’ve never posted anything about this before… 🙂 I hope you’re not scared of heights!
One of the advantages of living in or near a ski resort, is that the ski lifts often run during the summer too. About 2 km/1 mile along the road from Evolène, the chairlift from the small hamlet of Lanna takes you up from around 1,400m/4,600ft to Chemeuille at just over 2,100m/6,700ft. From there it’s a very pleasant and not too demanding walk up to the top of the Pic d’Artsinol at 2,998m/9,836ft. From there the views extend in all directions and include the Dixence Dam as well as the Matterhorn. (See pics 16 & 17).
A couple of weeks ago I had a free afternoon, so I drove up to Ferpècle to see how the flowers were coming out. (I recall previously spending an hour taking photographs of many, many different plants in the space of just a few hundred yards). However the spring in my step soon came to a juddering halt when I saw what can only be described as a scene of devastation on the track to the west flank of the valley. A huge avalanche over the winter has flattened and completely uprooted, or broken in two, many of the trees – luckily when nobody would be in that area. The lower lying bushes seem to have escaped the damage, perhaps due to their flexibility or maybe because they would already be submerged in deep snow. But the whole scene was quite shocking. Many of my family members, who follow this blog, have walked up that valley and they may also be shocked by some of the pictures below.
Thankfully, the east side of the valley was completely untouched and I’m sure the area will recover once all the debris is cleared. But it’s incredible to think of what Mother Nature can do to itself and the immense forces involved.
I’m afraid I’ve been falling behind with my blogging – partly due to the World Cup and partly due to a long weekend back in the UK. So now is the time to catch up…
Just over 2 weeks ago, on the 20th June to be precise, I decided that the weather had been warm enough to try a slightly higher level walk from Arolla (at around 2,000m / 6,500 ft) up to the Aiguilles Rouges mountain hut, (at around 2,800m / 9,200 ft). My plan was to drive to La Gouille, take the Postbus up to Arolla, walk to the hut and then back down to La Gouille. I expected to encounter some snow, but certainly not as much as there was.
I had no real problems getting to the hut, as you will see below, but when I looked at the amount of snow on the first part of the descent, I simply had to return the way I’d come due to the danger of creating an avalanche. It had been a warm day and the snow can ‘sweat’ underneath, causing it to slide. As I’d left my car at La Gouille, I took the path back from Arolla towards Satarma and encountered a rather unusual creature which I didn’t think existed… (See pic 27).