Saas Valley Walk, Day 1 of 4, Gspon to the Weissmies mountain hut, Valais, Switzerland

To set the scene… The plan for our 4 day walk was as follows:

  • Day 1: Gspon to the Weissmies hut
  • Day 2: Weissmies hut to the Berghotel at Almagelleralp, with an extension up to and back from the Almageller hut
  • Day 3: Almagelleralp to the Britannia hut
  • Day 4: Britannia hut to Saas Grund

After driving for just over an hour from our chalet to Stalden, which sits at the ‘confluence’ of the Saas and Matter valleys, (the latter being most famous for the Matterhorn), Pete and I bade farewell to my wife, Jude, and took the gondola lift up to Gspon. As an aside, we were squeezed in with about 7 other walkers and another 8 cyclists with their mountain bikes. So much for social distancing! But, thankfully, masks were compulsory (and a week later, I’m still feeling OK. 😊)

I’d read that Gspon was ‘famous’ for having the highest football pitch in Europe. It often hosts the European mountain village championships so, as keen football fans, Pete and I had to take a look. (For more info. please read here).

From Gspon the path undulated along the east side of the Saas valley, passing some tiny hamlets and a beautiful church at Finilu. Several rocks and boulder fields were safely negotiated before the final climb up to the mountain hut, where we had a room (normally sleeping up to 8 people) all to ourselves.

As you will see the weather was a little grey, but the sun did eventually come out and the small amount of rain, which was forecast for late afternoon, didn’t materialised until the evening. 👍

Mke’s Music Monday #24

1966 was a memorable year for many things, most notably for me, apart from my 12th birthday, was a certain World Cup final. ⚽  It was also the year that this song was released by the Elgins.  Wind forward 6 (or was it 5? 😉) years and whenever my older brother and I would go down to the local Bailey’s night club in Hull, this song was almost always playing as we walked in.   Whenever I hear it, I’m transported back to that circular dance floor and the coloured flashing lights!

It was only by chance that I found this video which begins with the white rose emblem of my beloved home county. 😁

 

65 today!

I’m not usually prone to make a big fuss about ‘key’ birthdays.  Like when I turned 50, I was on holiday in Majorca with my two daughters, Joanne and Sarah, and only they knew it was my birthday (otherwise the compere in the hotel might have had me up on stage doing something silly, which was the last thing I wanted!)  On my 60th birthday, I ran the Vienna marathon.  The idea of running a marathon when I was ‘old’ always appealed to me as a challenge, especially when I knew I would be 60 on a Sunday, so it had to be done. Again Sarah was there, but this time with my wife, Jude.

Today, I’m 65 years old and I thought it worth a mention, purely because you readers are all my friends and I think you should know.  I am writing this in advance, as I’ll be in the UK for Sarah’s wedding next week, so I’ll have no time to be blogging!  All things being equal, I will have been out for a meal last night with my brother, Steve, and his wife, Beverley, and my sister, Karen, and her partner, Paul.  Tonight I will be having a quiet meal at a local hostelry in Hathersage, near Sheffield (and a few beers no doubt) with my lovely wife, Jude. 😍

As is customary, it seems, on these occasions, I’ve dug out some old, and I mean old, photos of me as a child, plus two more ‘grown up’ pictures that I came across recently.

See if you can spot me in the group photos… (Answers at the foot of the page).

Football photo: Back row, second from right.  Rugby photo: Front right.

Mont d’Orge, Sion, Switzerland

Sion, (pronounced Cee-on, as in Sea-on, by the way), is the capital of the Swiss canton of the Valais, which is in the south west, french speaking, part of the country.  It has around 30,000 inhabitants and a football team in the Swiss Super League.  Due to its position in the fertile Rhone valley, it has a rich and wonderful history going back to Prehistoric times.  It’s perhaps best known now for its two 13th century hilltop fortifications – the Basilique de Valère and Chateau de Tourbillon.

However there is a 3rd hill close by, called Mont d’Orge, which also has a ruined castle or chateau on top.  It can easily be reached from the railway/bus station and, for added interest, there is a small lake to the north, which teems with wildlife in the summer.  (See information sheet, pic 21, for a list, in French, of some of the creatures found thereabouts).

I’d read about this walk some years ago in a Rother walking guide, but had never done it, until yesterday.  Sadly the skies were a little dull for good photography, but I’ve done my best.

Those clever Swiss people have made best use of the geography by setting out a fitness trail up and around it’s sides.  (See pics 4, 15, 16 & 17 below).  I also stumbled across a yellow flower which my research suggests, (please let me know if I’m wrong), is either a Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem or an Early Star-of-Bethlehem.  If it’s the latter, then this is a very rare flower in the UK (where it’s also known as the Radnor Lily) as it only grows at Stanner Rocks in Radnorshire, Central Wales.  They believe that there are only 1,000 plants, of which only 1% flower each year.  However, it is quite widespread across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Last, but not least, I spotted a signpost with a plaque (pic 29) which shows that I was on one of the Swiss links to the famous Way of St James or Camino de Santiago de Compostela.   That makes it a little over 1,900 km to my good friend Arthur’s house. 😊

 

Aiguilles Rouges Hut walk

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).

Basel trip (part 1 of 2)

As soon as Judith and I had unpacked our bags after our UK trip, we were packing them again to go to Basel.  The reason?  A football (soccer) World Cup play-off match between Switzerland and Northern Ireland.

As soon as I realised that the Swiss might be playing either Eire or Northern Ireland in the play-offs, I vowed to try and get a ticket if they were drawn together.  Even though all the tickets were sold within 2 hours of going on sale, I managed to get one (Judith hates football), but it was right up in the top corner of the stand.

Now, I’m not Irish, nor Swiss, so it was just a case of saying “I was there”!  In a way I couldn’t lose as, on the one hand, another British team might go through, while on the other, it would mean that my ‘home’ country would be covering the Finals next year…

Despite the game ending in a goal-less draw, it was very entertaining.  It also meant that the Swiss went through, thanks to their controversial penalty in the first leg.  (Hopefully video reviews will be brought into footbally very soon).

I don’t have any pictures of the actual match I’m afraid, as I only had my (very old) mobile phone with me, but I did get a few city shots the following day.