Walk from La Forclaz (VS) to the Col de Bréona and Col du Tsaté, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland (Part 1 of 2)

The forecast for yesterday promised clouds around in the morning, but clear skies by the afternoon. So I decided to do another walk which I’ve not done for a few years*, up to the Col de Bréona then over the ridge and down to the Col du Tsaté, before descending back to La Forclaz.
*I don’t recall posting any pictures of this walk before, so I think this could be a first! 😊

I took so many photos, of flowers, butterflies and the views, that I’ve decided to split this post into two. This first one covers the 1,200m (or nearly 4,000 ft) ascent to the Col de Bréona. The light was a little gloomy, (so my apologies for the darkness of some of these images) but, wherever I wander, there always seems to be something which pops up to surprise me.

The first was a dragonfly (see pic 10) which appeared right in front of me and, as far as I could see, nowhere near any water. (I’ve taken a stab at what it might be, but please feel free to correct my identification). The second was a huge puffball (pic 16) and the third a butterfly which I managed to get to open it’s wings by urging it onto my finger tip (pic 19).

As I approached the col, the clouds were coming and going and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find my way across the rocky (and quite precipitous) ridge. Tune in tomorrow to see how I got on. (But please don’t have sleepless nights!) 😊

Walk to No Name Lake from Arolla, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Let me take you on a beautiful walk to a small lake which has no name (other than maybe No Name Lake). It’s a while since I went up there. The first time was in June 2017, when the lake was still completely frozen and I couldn’t get anywhere near it for the surrounding snow. I went back again in the October and managed to get some ‘reflection’ shots, so I was hoping to capture something similar this time.

As you will see from some of the later images, the terrain gets a little barren and rocky at the higher altitudes, (the lake is at exactly 2,900m or 9,514ft), but I was pleased to find quite a few ‘different’ flowers around to photograph. If my identification is correct, the White-leaved Adenostyle (in pic 14) is quite a rare find.

I saw around a dozen other walkers on the way there, but all of them were heading for the Pas de Chèvres. So, after turning away north from that path, I had the upper valley and lake all to myself. It was so peaceful, (if not calm, due to a light breeze), I thought I’d take a video for you to enjoy… 😊 (See end of this post).

Mont Rouge and Thyon Ridge walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

The forecast promised bright sunshine, so yesterday I set off to do one of my favourite walks along the Thyon ridge to Mont Rouge. However, there were still a few wisps of cloud hanging over some of the mountain tops, so I decided to do the route in reverse, hoping the clouds would lift completely – which eventually they did.

From Thyon, the path climbs gradually along the east side of the ridge to two small ponds (or gouilles) before climbing up to Mont Rouge (at 2,490m or 8,136ft). From there the return follows the top of the ridge all the way back to Thyon.

As well as the picture gallery, I’ve included a 360 degree panorama video from the top of Mont Rouge – starting and finishing with the ridge. If you turn up the volume and listen carefully, you may be able to hear the sound of distant cowbells. 😊

I also noticed 3 red blobs on the back of one of the butterflies. (See pic 13). If anyone knows what these might be, please let me know. I’ve seen one or two on other butterflies recently and I’m guessing they must be eggs, but laid by who knows what and why there?

Even more butterflies…

On Wednesday, the sun was shining brightly so I decided to take an amble up our road to see if I could find a ‘new’ or different butterfly to photograph. After a few shots in an around the parking area, I wandered further up the road and was feeling a little despondent as it felt like ‘all’ I’d seen were the usual suspects – Damon Blues, Spotted Fritillaries, Meadow Browns and several Marbled Whites (so many in fact, I didn’t even take any pictures since they were so ‘common’). I took some comfort in having found a very strange looking black caterpillar with yellow stripes across its back and some weird looking things coming out of its sides. (See pic 4, which I later discovered was an Alder Moth caterpillar).

I wandered back down the road thinking that was it, when I was stopped in my tracks by a magnificent orangey brown butterfly with some white markings and a tail. (I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a Brown Hairstreak – see pic 14). Whoopee, I thought, a new one, exactly what I was looking for. And while I was there, a Brimstone landed right next to me and it was swiftly followed by a very scruffy looking Comma. Things were suddenly looking up. Suitably re-energised I carried on snapping away and even went into ‘the trench’ behind the road to capture a few more.

As you may gather, apart from a few obvious ones, butterflies are simply white, blue, brown or yellow to me, at least until I look them up. So I expected a lot of the pictures to be duplicates or even triplicates. But it was only when I went through my photos to identify them yesterday that I realised (assuming my id’s are correct) I’d captured 20 different butterflies.

I’m now suitably ashamed of myself for being so pathetic and not appreciating even those which I’ve seen and photographed many times before. I’m truly lucky to be able to see all these magnificent little creatures less than 100 yards from on my doorstep.

Once more, as in my post of “A Dozen Butterflies” of last week, it turned out that all of these images were taken inside 1 hour 20 minutes. In order to give you a flavour for how it sort of works, I took a video while standing in the trench. (See end of this post). It will never win a Wildlife Film of the Year award, but you’ll get an idea of how easy it is to capture so many butterflies in such a small area in such a short time. It shows at least 8, possibly 9, different butterflies in the 2m 20s or so of the film. I hope you enjoy!

P.S. The Happiness Engineers at WP have pointed out that I’ve been setting my Post Format to ‘Gallery’, which seemed reasonable to me since almost all my posts contain a gallery. However, when included with text, it has the effect of leaving the email blank (apart from the title of course). So this one is set to ‘Standard’ AND I’ve changed the Feed setting (under Settings – Writing) to ‘Limit feed to excerpt only’. So, we’ll see what happens… 😊

Exhibition Walk from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey

For the fifth year running, the Tourist Office has organised an exhibition of paintings along the path which runs from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey. This year it showcases 26 pastel paintings of Swiss artist, John-Francis Lecoultre, who was born in Locle, Neuchatel in 1905. He was obviously inspired by the mountain scenery around Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), the Saas and Zermatt valleys and, of course, the Val d’Hérens. 😊👍👍

As you will see, huge copies of the paintings are hung between the trees at suitable intervals along the path. My apologies for not including all the French accents in the names of the paintings (or indeed some of my photos), but WordPress doesn’t seem to replicate them properly in the image gallery.

My apologies also for not naming the 8 butterflies, but I wanted to get this post published and I don’t have the time to look them all up. Also, I thought some of you might like a challenge! Hopefully it doesn’t detract from what is a beautiful walk (if only virtual for you). 😊

As an experiment*, I’ve set the first image as a featured image, to see if that arrives in the emails which are sent out. I’ve noticed that the emails have recently changed from including every picture (which I didn’t like as the emails were too long – sorry about that!) to having nothing in them at all, but the heading link to the post. OK, I could include a “Read more of this post” somewhere in the text, but hopefully this provides a more suitable alternative ‘teaser’. Please let me know what you think or prefer.

*Update: My experiment didn’t work, as no image appeared in the email. (Maybe I set the featured image incorrectly. I’ll have to check).

Walk to Villa and La Sage, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

After three and a half weeks of ‘rest’, (well, not doing anything too strenuous), yesterday I decided to test out my heel on a short walk up to Villa, across to La Sage and then back home again. It was a bit sore by the time I got back, but it feels OK today, so it must be more or less on the mend. 😊

In the photos below (pics 2 and 5) you can see people climbing on the via ferrata. It looks pretty dangerous, but they are attached via a harness and short ropes to a cable which runs alongside the various stemples (which look like thick staples), metal plates and a ladder, which are fixed into the rockface.

Along the walk I saw many, many Marbled Whites (I gave up counting after 20), quite a few Damon Blues and Small (Cabbage) Whites, three or four Spotted Fritillaries and a Chalkhill Blue or two. But, since I’ve recently posted pictures of them, I’ve only included the ‘new’ ones.

If anyone knows what the brown butterfly is in pic 21, please let me know. I didn’t find a very good match to any of those in my Swiss book.

A Dozen Butterflies

Last Thursday I went for one of my usual walks up the road behind our chalet. Almost all of the fields in our valley have been cut now, so the butterflies are having to find their nectar in the flowers which grow by the sides of the road. There’s also a huge trench to the side of our road, which was created to catch any falling rocks. The wild flowers have re-grown and it has proved to be a fabulous place to capture some photographs.

I missed a few, including some sort of Clouded Yellow and a ‘large orange one’, which flew away as I approached, but I was pleased to get sufficient images from above and below (where needed) to identify these 12. As an indication of how many butterflies are still around (and how lucky I am) all of these pictures were taken in just 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Swiss Trip to the South-East (Part 1)

For our first full day in the Engadin, we decided to walk from Maloja along the path which runs by the side of Lej da Segl or the Silsersee to the village of Sils Maria. Jude was keen to see what it looked like as Colletts Mountain Holidays have (or at least would have, had it not been for COVID-19) started running holidays there.

Quick aside here: I first met Jude while on a Colletts Mountain Holiday in the Italian Dolomites in 2004. Jude was the chalet host. The rest is history as they say… 💕😊

Anyway, even before we’d left our apartment, we’d noticed some people, running in pairs towards the lake. Only the day before, Jude had read about an event called the ötillö, which required a team of 2 people to run, swim, run, swim, run, swim, etc. for a total of 45km. (39km of this is running and 6km swimming across the 2 lakes in the Engadin). One of the rules is that the 2 competitors should never be more than 10 metres apart, so they are tied together with a piece of rope. (The madness of the human race never ceases to amaze me!) On the plus side, if there is a plus side, they are allowed to use paddles on their hands and floats between and on their legs. (In the second picture below you can see the 2 competitors had them on their shins, but not everyone had them). Of course, these had to be carried during the run sections. All I can say is, it’s not an event you’ll catch me doing!

We stopped at the rather quaint village of Isola on the way for a coffee, where there’s a huge cascading waterfall. Sils Maria itself was quite charming, with restricted motorised transport from what we could see. It’s clearly a great base to explore some of the excellent walking routes and attractions in that area. (But it’ll never beat the Val d’Hérens of course! 😉)

We returned to Maloja via a small ferry boat, which criss-crosses the lake to pick up passengers. Apparently it’s the highest operating ferry in Europe, at an altitude of 1,797m or 5,896ft. Swiss facts – Jude has them all! (It’s no wonder I married her! 😍)

Swiss Trip to the North (part 4)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s nothing my wife enjoys more than being on a boat. So when she discovered that you could take a boat up the river to one of, if not, THE best preserved medieval towns in Switzerland, it had to be done, even if it did involve wearing a mask en route.

Above the town sits Hohenklingen Castle. We hadn’t planned to visit it, but when we discovered there wasn’t a return boat at 15:30 and the next one was at 5pm, well… It’s only a 200m/650ft climb and there is a café/restaurant at the top so, it just had to be done. It was worth every step of the way though for the views from the top of the tower – and the refreshing beer of course! 🥵+🍺=😋

Ferpècle Valley Walk to Bricola, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Long-time followers will recall how a ‘hole’ mysteriously appeared in the Ferpècle glacier in 2015. Each year since then I’ve been back to see how the hole has collapsed and receded to what it is today.

You can walk along the Ferpècle valley and scramble up a rock slab at the end to get a closer view, but this year I decided to walk up to Bricola, where you can look directly down upon the glacier.

The glacier doesn’t look to be much different from last year, but there was plenty of water rushing down the Borgne as I crossed the wooden bridge. It was so loud, I was drawn into taking a video. (It’s funny how, once you find a ‘feature’ on your camera, you keep using it! 🤔) However, I’ve spared you that today.