For my 2nd ‘archive’ post, I’ll stay with the airborne theme of the Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival and take you on a tour of the Matterhorn… But first, some background:
For several summers after we arrived in Switzerland, my wife, Jude, worked for a mountaineering company. (Her afternoon teas were, indeed still are, legendary! ☕🍰) Guests would be taken by qualified Mountain Guides to the summit of many of the (often 4,000m+) peaks in the Alps. One of the guides, Anthony, was learning to fly and when he passed his test he offered to take me and another guest for a flight. This was on the assumption that we paid for the ‘hire’ of the plane, which actually wasn’t that expensive at 2 Swiss Francs per minute.
So it was that, one fine Saturday morning, we took off from Sion in the Rhone valley in a 4 seater plane, with me in the co-pilot’s seat and headed up the Val d’Hérens. Anthony was in contact with the Control Tower until we left the Rhone valley and then we were on our own. “If you see anything, let me know” he said!
We gradually gained height as we passed over Vex and then on to the Arolla valley, doubling back to turn right at the ‘twin peaks’ of the Dents de Veisivis. From there we passed by the Aiguille de la Tsa and it was only later, when I zoomed in on the photo, that I noticed 4 climbers on what looks like an impossible spike. (See pics 16 & 17).
A slight left turn took us past the snowy face of the d’Hérens and across a massive glacier to circumnavigate the iconic Matterhorn. Again, it was only later that I noticed the Solvay bivouac hut clinging to the Hörnli Ridge. This is the ridge the mountaineers take to climb the Matterhorn from Zermatt, though there is another route up from the Italian side.
Our steady descent took us down the Zinal valley, alongside the Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn, Weisshorn ridge then over the Moiry mountain hut and reservoir of the same name. As we approached the Rhone valley, about an hour after taking off, we regained contact with the Control Tower and were given permission to land. After a perfect landing Anthony said: “That’s the best landing I’ve ever done!”
As you can imagine, it was an exhilarating experience and one I hope you enjoy too via these pics. The quality isn’t great I’m afraid as the vast majority were taken through the cockpit window.
P.S. Don’t forget to look for the hidden face or “The Scream” in pic 27. 😊