Ferpècle Glacier Walk

It’s almost a year since I went up to the head of the Ferpècle valley to check on the state of the glacier ‘hole’.  So, yesterday, I caught the bus up to Ferpècle and walked up to the Bricola Hut, to look down on the glacier, before walking back home again.

The images from the 2 posts are not directly comparable as the pictures below are taken from above, but it does look like the glacier has remained in about the same position.  There is, however, a lot of water gushing down the river.  Certainly I’ve never seen it flowing so freely, though that could be due to the late snow we had in April (and that which fell a few nights ago to around 2,000m).

It was a beautiful walk in bright sunshine and I was delighted to see lots of families, with some very young children, no older than 3, also exploring the valley.  You’re never too young, or old for that matter, to enjoy the countryside. 🙂

Note that the first picture was taken while waiting for the bus in Evolène, though it does also show the glacier, so I felt justified in including it!

 

Swiss National Route 6, Gruben to St Niklaus (Day 3 of 3)

Unusually, I was up at the crack of dawn for the last day of my walk.  Well, the hotel bar shut at 10pm, so what else was there to do but got to sleep and even I can manage on 8 hours!  So it was that I set off well before the ‘Brits’ (see previous post) and, if you don’t count cows or birds or butterflies, I never saw a soul until I got near to the Augstbordpass, where I espied someone on the horizon.  (I later caught them up on the descent – see pic 17).

The weather was dry, but rather dull, with high cloud, so not great for photography,  The highlights on the ascent were spotting and capturing (on camera, that is) 3 birds – one I knew, one I thought I knew, but didn’t, and the other I have no idea… (Help!?)

The descent was ‘interesting’ shall we say, as there was still a lot of snow around and I’m not happy walking across, especially sloping, snow in what are effectively trainers – oh yes, and without walking poles.  (Although they are useful in some circumstances, like 1% of the time, I’m not a fan of poles as, to my mind, they are extra baggage and they get in the way when things get a bit bouldery and some scrambling is required – which it was on this trip).  Anyway I survived about 5 or 6 short(ish) sections and my leg only disappeared once up to the knee.  I should have taken a picture – there was already a big hole and now there are two… 🙂

Later, the sun started to come out and the last section down from Jungen was a joy to behold, with butterflies everywhere.  I was being teased by Apollos and even a Swallowtail fluttering around my head but, when they landed, they were out of reach and I would have needed to hang off the cliff face to get a picture.  I saw more Marbled Whites than I’ve ever seen in my entire life (and that’s a few – well, maybe 12) and a host of others, not shown below, simply because they either didn’t land or I have no way of identifying them and there’s enough in this gallery anyway.

I couldn’t leave this post without highlighting two flowers…

Pic 12: I’m 99% sure are called King-of-the-Alps.  They look like Alpine Forget-me-nots, but they only grow to a height of between 1 and 6 cm (unlike their look-a-like, which grows to 5 to 15cm).  My book describes them as “Rather rare” and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them, certainly posted a picture of them.

Pic 27: Has the delightful name of Swiss Treacle Mustard and if that’s not a name to conjure with nothing is.  🙂

Swiss National Route 6, Zinal to Gruben (Day 2 of 3)

After a steep descent into Zinal on day 1, it didn’t take me long (maybe about 5 minutes) to realise that almost all paths around Zinal are steep.  My GPS was telling me that the 50m contours were coming every 120m, which makes it a gradient of over 40%.  However after about an hour the path levelled off and then it just meandered and undulated all the way to the Weisshorn Hotel, where I stopped for some refreshments. 🍺😊

From there I thought it would be a simple 450m/1,500ft climb to the Meidpass but, just to make life interesting, the path dropped about 200m before it started to climb again.  But what a wonderful walk it was.  I was completely blown away by Le Touno (see pic 19) which stood majestically above everything, even though it’s only 3,018m (9,902ft) high.  After that, both sides of the Meidpass felt extremely remote and I only saw 5 other walkers before reaching the Schwarzhorn Hotel in Gruben,

It was there that I met up with the dozen or so people I mentioned yesterday, who were indeed British.  They were all walking from Chamonix to Zermatt on a 2 week holiday – not that everyone considered it a holiday!  I’ve mentioned coincidences recently but, one of the party leaders hailed from my old neck of the woods, near Hull.  Also, I offered to take a picture of a couple near the Weisshorn Hotel and, although they lived in Germany, the lady also came from near Hull.  What are the chances of that happening on the same day in the Alps?

As usual, I’ve done my best to identify the butterflies below, but one eluded me.  Despite it having some very distinct lines on the under wing, I couldn’t find it in my book.

Swiss National Route 6, Villa to Zinal (Day 1 of 3)

Since returning from my walk with the boys on the Inn Way to Northumberland, I’ve had itchy feet.  Jude has also been encouraging me to take advantage of our time here in Switzerland (not to mention while I’m still physically able to do these walks).  So, after checking that the forecast was going to be ‘fine’ for the next 3 days, I set off to do 3 sections of the Swiss National Route 6, which runs from St Gingolph, on Lac Léman, to Chur in the east.  The route would take me from Villa to Zinal, then to Gruben in the Turtmanntal valley on Day 2 and then from there to St Niklaus in the Mattertal valley on Day 3, before catching the train and bus home.

I’ll admit that I cheated a bit and got Jude to drop me off at Villa.  Well, otherwise I would have had over 2,000m (6,500ft) to climb and strictly, Evolène is not on the route.  When I got out of the car, I noticed about a dozen other walkers, who all seemed to be preparing to set off up the same path.  I wondered who they might be (I thought I heard English voices) and I was to find out the following day…

Zinal is clearly more geared up for the winter ski season.  It’s quite a large village, but only 4 of the restaurants were open.  The rest were closed, including the one in the hotel where I was staying.  Upon arrival, after finding the front door to the restaurant and bar locked, I finally located the entrance door to the hotel and there to greet me was just a note and a key. (See pic 41).  I didn’t see anyone from the hotel until breakfast the next morning.  This may sound like poor customer service, but I think that you would probably only get this ‘trust’ in Switzerland.

Walk from Arolla to Evolène, via the Cabane de la Tsa

Now here’s a weird coincidence… I like to check that the names of my photographs are as accurate as possible.  Call me pedantic if you like, or even a perfectionist, but it really frustrates me when I cannot find the exact species of plant or butterfly.  So my photos are littered with the words ‘possibly’, ‘maybe’ and ‘I think’.   Today I was searching the web for an image of a “Tansy leaved rocket” to check the name of the yellow flower below (which, if correct, is quite rare), but what should I come across but my own image from this same walk 2 years ago!  However, it looks nothing like this one, so one of them is wrong, maybe even both are wrong.  🤔  Ah well, they are both beautiful plants and it was a nice walk.

I also ‘think’ that the butterfly in picture 19 bears all the hallmarks of a Euphydryas intermedia, or Asian Fritillary, which again, if true, is quite rare and in Switzerland, it only appears in a few southern valleys.  But then, of course, it could be something completely different!

Another, happier coincidence, was when I was walking by the pond at La Gouille…  On my previous ‘Exhibition walk’, I had to step aside on a narrow part of the path for a crocodile, or should that be a snake, of maybe 40 children and a few grown ups.  After several “Bonjours”, (people are always polite and friendly in the mountains), I threw in a “Hello”, just to see what the reaction might be and one young chap replied “Hello, my name’s Charlie!”, then another said “We’re from Belgium!”   Anyway, further along the path I spotted 2 wooden discs or tags, which had obviously been dropped by someone in the group.  I decided to take them to the local Tourist Office in the hope/expectation that they might know where this merry band were staying and get in touch with them.  Anyway, who should be at La Gouille but 40 odd children…  After a brief chat with one of the leaders, they were indeed the same group.  He was so grateful for the news of the find, that he announced this to the assembled masses and yours truly was greeted to a big round of applause! (I have no idea what he said to them of course, but my actions were clearly appreciated). 😊

Walk to the Col du Torrent (almost), Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

With recent temperatures rising into the mid-20’s (70’s F), even in Evolène @1,400m or 4,600ft, most of the snow has now gone from the lower mountain slopes.  So I was expecting to be able to reach the Col du Torrent (@2,916m or 9,567ft), perhaps with a bit of detouring around any snow that might be left in the gullies.  However, it soon became clear, as I got higher, that the late April snow had left its mark and I decided to turn back, maybe 400m, or around 70m in height, from the col.   So I never did manage to get a picture of the fabulous view into the next valley. 🙁  Maybe next time.

Another dilemma was how much time to spend chasing butterflies.  I knew I had a good 6 hours walking ahead of me, so I couldn’t wait around too long to capture as many as I would have liked.  At least six Apollos escaped my lens, as did a couple of Painted Ladies (spotted on the descent).  Apart from those shown below, there were numerous others, which I would only be able to name once downloaded onto my laptop.  Thankfully, the flowers are a little easier to photograph, if not to identify!

 

Walk from La Luette to Nax

After several days, if not weeks, of misty, wet, dank weather, the sun finally came out in the Val d’Hérens yesterday.  As you will see from some of the pictures below, the peaks are still covered in snow, so I chose to do a slightly different ‘medium level’ walk from La Luette to Nax via St Martin.

As soon as I set off I knew I was in for a good day with the camera.  There were a lot more wild flowers in bloom and many more species of butterfly on the wing, including, I’m pretty sure, a Camberwell Beauty, which unfortunately escaped my lens.

My apologies for not naming all of the pictures below, but as you will see there are quite a few.  But this only goes to show what a wide variety there is in nature. 😊

 

Gornergrat, Zermatt, Switzerland

It’s hard to believe that I’ve now been blogging for over 4 years and this is the first time I’ve posted pictures, well, close up pictures, of one of the world’s most iconic mountains – the Matterhorn.  My excuse, if I needed one, is that Jude and I have been to Zermatt so many times before, with almost every one of our friends and family who came to stay when we first moved over to Switzerland.

Anyway, my sister, Karen, has been visiting this week with her partner, Paul, and they were keen to go there.  So, we drove around to Tasch, parked up and took the shuttle train to (the car free) Zermatt.  Now although the Matterhorn looks impressive from almost any angle, it’s far best viewed from the Gornergrat at 3,100m (or 10,170ft).  But do not worry if you are averse to hiking, as there is a train which will whisk you up to the top.  😊

To give you some idea of the scale of what you are looking at, I’ve posted a picture (no. 4) of the ultra modern, ‘space age’ looking, Monte Rosa Hut, which is 5 storeys high and sleeps 120 people.  Picture 5 zooms out a little (and you can, I hope, spot the hut in the centre of the lower part of the image) and then picture 6 shows the full extent of Monte Rose (also called the Dufourspitze and is Switzerland’s highest mountain at 4,634m or 15,200ft), with the hut towards the lower right.

Walk from Les Haudères to the Ferpècle valley

Yesterday, my car had to go to the garage in Les Haudères for it’s regular service, so I had some time to kill before picking it up later in the day.  Rather than walk back home, I decided to check out the Ferpècle valley, to see how the snow was getting on.  And, although there was quite a bit, knee deep even, from the small reservoir to the valley itself, a lot had disappeared.  But it will be a while yet, before I can venture too far above 2,000m (6,500 ft).

There are clear signs though that more flowers and creatures are emerging from their winter hibernation.  I couldn’t identify picture 22 though, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

 

The day after the day before…

The snow continued to fall until about 5pm yesterday, so it was inevitable I’d have a bit of shoveling to do this morning.  Luckily today has been quite warm and sunny, so after I’d shifted most of it to one side, our grassy driveway is green again and almost dry.  This prompted a European robin to hop down and take a look for something to eat.  (It’s the first robin we’ve seen this year).  And, with the snow about a foot deep across the rest of the valley, our bird feeder has again been quite popular.