Winter walk to Lac d’Arbey

Although I’ve walked up to this little lake many times before, I’ve never done it in winter.  I had planned to get out my snowshoes, but the lock on the storage container at the back of the chalet (which gets no sun) was frozen solid.  Anyway, it didn’t matter as plenty of people had been up there before me, although their tracks had been covered by a light dusting of snow overnight.

My apologies again for so many photos, (and for the sun spots but, hey, who’s complaining about sunshine?) but I thought it might make you feel like you’d been on the walk yourself… Enjoy! 😁

 

Eurasian Siskins

For the past week or so we have had a flock of Siskins (Eurasian variety) hoovering up around our bird feeder.  It started with maybe 8 of them, then there were maybe 15 and the other day, I couldn’t count how many there were.  It must have been between 30 and 40.    We have had these cute little visitors in the summer, but never in the winter, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

My RSPB bird book suggested that they were “nut basket feeders”, but all of ours were seen scurrying around the floor, picking up what the other birds (mainly Great Tits, but also Blue, Coal, Marsh/Willow, Crested and Long Tailed Tits) had dropped onto the ground.  That is until yesterday, when we saw several of them hanging off the nut basket.  And today I’ve noticed a distinct absence of Great Tits.  So I think the Siskins have ganged up on the 10 or so Great Tits and scared them off.

Anyway, while I was taking some photos with Jude’s SLR camera (my point and shoot is hopeless in the sunshine as you can’t see what you’re pointing at) who else should make a short appearance but our old friend the (Eurasian) Nuthatch.  Not only that but my photo shoot was interrupted when I noticed what I thought were 4 parascenders in the sky, but it turned out that they were hot air balloons.  I then remembered that the Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival takes place around this time of year.  So they must have taken off from there (which is many miles from here) and they were heading south over the glaciers and mountains to Italy when I last saw them!

Even after deleting many, many photos, I still couldn’t decide which of these pictures were “the best”, so I thought I’d post them all.  Please stick with the gallery as the quality (at least of image) improves towards the end as I edged closer to the feeders.  Also check out the look of the 2 birds on the feeder in pictures 13 and then 14 as the bird above hops off its perch.  (I thought it was quite amusing anyway).  There was quite a bit of squabbling going on as you will also see.

The needle’s stuck…

Like last week and the week before, it’s been another Sunday without a run…  I thought I was doing the right thing by resting my calf until last Wednesday (i.e. a whole 8 days) but clearly that wasn’t enough as, only 2.3 miles into my run, I felt it tighten up again.  Inevitably this has curtailed my marathon training somewhat (see below) and it’s called into question whether I should actually enter the race and even whether I should consider retirement from long distance running events altogether… 😦

Anyway, I now plan to rest it for at least 2 weeks and I will therefore refrain from posting anything on this topic until I have some better news to report!

running log week 5

Winter walk from Arolla to Les Haudères

After several more days of sub-zero temperatures in the Val d’Hérens (both during the day and overnight) the forecast for today was for up to 4 degrees C (39 F).  😅  So, to take advantage of this balmy weather, I decided to take the bus up to Arolla and walk back to Les Haudères.

Again I decided not to take the snow shoes, which was a big mistake, (some people never learn 🤭), as the snow was thigh deep in places and, even where people had gone before, it was much more difficult to wade through than I expected.   However, after one or two detours via the road (and a quick refreshment at La Gouille), the path thereafter became much easier and I soon made it to Les Haudères.

Note that the first 3 photos below were taken from the bus on the way up to Arolla.

 

No Run, but Riverside Walk

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (see post last Sunday), I should have been going for a long run today… This week the problem was that I went out on Tuesday and, after a stonkingly good outward 6.3k/3.9 miles*, my calf tightened up and I had to walk all the way back. ☹  So, I’m resting it for another couple of days.
*The only saving grace was that my pace for the 6.3k averaged around 5m 17s per km or 8m 30s per mile (which is much better than I expected).

I needed to get some exercise though, so I went for a walk, of around 9km/5miles, alongside the river.

A Strange Find…

After a pleasant lunch on the balcony, watching and photographing some birds, I had a little time to kill before the football started.  So off I went up the path behind our chalet.  In a way, this was a little foolhardy, as the road has been cordoned off for 3 or 4 weeks, due to some (and by that I mean several tonnes) of loose rock above.  However, my neighbour told me that it had been given the all clear, so it seemed like a change from walking by the river.

Now I often say that you never know what you are going to find, or see, on a walk and today was no exception.  With all the snow around I was amazed to find a small skull, no bigger than 6 inches or 15cm long.  It clearly had some sharp teeth, but I have no idea what it might have been.  So if anyone out there can identify it for me, I’d be eternally grateful.

Snow and birds

Yesterday morning we were woken by the sound of a helicopter and bombs going off.  No, we don’t live in a war torn area (thankfully) and the bombs were not like those I remember from my days living in London in the early 70’s.  The bombs in question were being dropped to deliberately set off avalanches.  After 2 solid days of snow, the mountains can be a very dangerous place to wander and the powers that be send up the helicopter(s) to trigger the avalanches in a controlled way.  See this link for a video of some bombs being dropped in our neighbouring valley above Grimentz:
Huge Avalanche triggered by helicopter bombing

I think I’ve said before that it never ceases to amaze me that some birds hang around throughout the winter in this extremely harsh environment.  Temperatures recently have been as low as -14 C (7F) with a high during the day of no more than -4 C (25F).   The ground is now covered completely, so there can’t be many insects for them to find.  Needless to say, our feeder has proved very popular, with the birds below all photographed in the last couple of days.

Snow stopped play…

Today would normally have been the day when I went for my ‘long run’ in preparation for a marathon in May.  However, the weather has disrupted my training twice this week.  My plan would have been to do 5 or 6k (3 miles) on Wednesday, but a few inches of snow and freezing temperatures scuppered that, as the pavements were far too icy to run on.  And today, the heavens have opened and snow is forecast all day.  Already we have about a foot of snow, so Jude and I are confined to barracks.

This means my weekly total is a big round 0k (0 miles).  But regular runners will know that it’s best just to write off the week (as you would if you had an injury or were ill) and continue with my plan from week 4 onwards. (Note that Week 1 was actually week 52 of 2018, but I couldn’t find a way to set that on Excel).

Winter amble

Our car needed to go to the garage this morning to have a tyre valve changed.  It would only take about an hour, so I took my camera for a walk alongside the river via the new Nordic Arena, which has been set out in Les Haudères.   It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful nature is at producing artistic shapes, which I hope is reflected in some of the photos below.

Back running again…

I lack motivation and I need a push to get me doing almost anything these days… Happily my wife managed to nudge me bit by bit into renovating the kitchen and the cupboards are now all painted and a new floor laid.  I even managed to cut a new worktop to size, which was a first.

When it comes to running, especially at this time of year, the freezing temperatures and the lack of a decent training route is a real mental block that I need to get through.  Indeed, I’ve not been out running since my Hallwilersee Half in October.  So I needed an incentive…

Thankfully, Datasport* came to the rescue again.  (*They are the people who advised me last year, via their regular and very informative emails, of the free travel to the Half marathons).  This time, one of the “Events not to be missed” was the Winterthur Marathon on 26th May.  Now, I hadn’t really got it on my radar, even though I have a goal to run all the Swiss marathons.  I thought it might be too small to put it on my list.  However, by May, I’ll be in a new 65+ category and I read that “The first three podium ranks of the respective categories win attractive prizes in kind.”  Not only that, but I read on their website that only 2 in that category finished in 2018… and 4 h 2 mins was good enough for 2nd and 4h 18m secured 3rd in 2017.   Now call me mercenary if you like, but that was just the kick-start I needed.

So last Sunday I plodded up and down our road for about 30 minutes (or about 5k/3miles) in sub-zero temperatures.  (My lungs complained bitterly for 2 days afterwards).  And today I drove down to Sion to pootle along my favoured flat training route, beside the Rhone, for just over an hour (or around 11k/7 miles).  As weekly totals go they are not far, but it’s a start…

As you may know, I don’t like to post anything without a picture or two, so I stopped off a couple of times on my way down to Sion to capture a few distant snowy mountain tops.