Pointe du Tsaté Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

As you can imagine, after 10 days of isolation, (going no further than the letter box and the rubbish bin), I was itching to get out for a long walk and, I have to say, it felt great to be ‘free’ again. The forecast was for brilliant blue skies and warm sunshine, so yesterday I chose to head for the Pointe du Tsaté at 3,077m or 10,095 ft.

Jude thought I was mad, because there was still quite a lot of snow on the mountain tops. But it didn’t look that deep and the route I would be taking was on a south facing slope.

After passing the Remointse du Tsaté lake at 2,500m, or 8,200ft, there was a mixture of snow (no more than 2 inches deep) and bare ground on the path for another 3 hundred metres (1,000 feet) or so of climbing. But as I reached the ridge to the summit I was faced with a 2 to 3 foot wall of snow, where the wind from the north had built it up. (Picture 29 doesn’t really do it justice). I admit that I had second thoughts at this point, but I was so close to the summit, I decided to go for it. And I was glad that I did, as I was rewarded with magnificent panoramic views in all directions.

The beautifully stacked stones at the summit also helped me to set up my camera for the selfie in picture 35. 😊

My apologies for so many photos, but I hope you will agree that it was quite an adventure which ought to be shared! (Picture 1 btw was taken from the bus on the way to La Forclaz. (It just shows how clean the Swiss bus windows are!) However, I just missed one on the way back, so I decided to walk the 4 km/2.5 miles back home to Evolène. Luckily it was all downhill!)

Self-isolation in Evolène, Val d’Hérens…

Jude and I are now back home and, thankfully, over half way through our self-isolation period of 10 days. There are, of course, worse places to be holed up, but I’m feeling a bit like a caged tiger, wanting to get out and about, especially while the sun is shining and there’s not so much snow on the ground. (I’d estimate the snow line to be at around the 2,500m or 8,000ft mark).

I’ve kept myself busy by posting some of our good friend Arthur’s paintings of his time in the Comores. Click here for two examples, with 4 more to come over the next 4 days.

But, with nowhere to go and wanting to post something on this site, I decided to take a few pictures from both within and around the chalet.

Walk to the Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

After posting pictures of my glacier adventure with Pete, I managed to get out for another glacier walk. This time it was along part of the Haut Glacier d’Arolla. My aim was to try and get a decent photograph of the Bouquetins refuge hut. I had seen this hut in the far distance during a walk up to the Plans de Bertol and I wondered how close I might be able get.

In the event, I didn’t see it at all, as I was too low down in the valley. Though, after zooming in on some of my photos, I have just spotted the top of it, peeking out on the hump to the left of picture 18. Nevertheless, it was a new and exciting walk for me.

As you will see, it’s a big glacier and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get onto it, but another hiker came along as I was taking some photos and I followed his tracks up to the central, medial moraine of the glacier. (You can just about see him, slightly to the left of centre, in picture 17).

Saas Valley Walk, Day 4 of 4, Britannia hut to Saas Grund, Valais, Switzerland

Another blue sky day and another glacier to cross… though this time just a short 100 yards or so, before we commenced the long descent into Saas Grund. Our plan was to head for Plattjen, then traverse around the valley to Saas Fee but, at a fork in the path, a signpost indicated for us to go right, when we should have gone left and we had dropped around 300m (or 1,000ft) of height before we realised our mistake. Neither of us wanted to climb back up, so we continued along the very steep path down to Saas Almagell (much to the annoyance of Pete’s knees) before walking along the riverside path to Saas Grund.

Naturally we enjoyed a celebratory beer, before Jude arrived to pick us up and drive home. 🍻😊

Saas Valley Walk, Day 3 of 4, (part 1) Almagelleralp Berghotel to the Schwarzbergchopf, Valais, Switzerland

Pete and I have been doing multi-day events together for over 25 years – ever since we ‘ran’ Wainwright’s English Coast to Coast, in a relay format, with our good friends, Colin and Liam, in 1995. But I don’t think we’ve ever had a day as spectacular as this one. So I hope you will forgive me for splitting it into two parts. Even by my standards I took a lot of photos (almost 600) and, together with Pete’s, I couldn’t possibly pare them down to just one post.

By contrast to the mists of Day 2, we awoke to perfectly blue skies. (See pic 1). So the descent to Saas Almagell was cool, but very pleasant. And, for the first time ever, we decided to use public transport to get from there to the Mattmark reservoir. This saved our aging legs around 6 km (3.5 miles) of walking and 500m (1,650ft) of ascent, on what was already going to be a big day.

The Mattmark reservoir is one of many in the Valais, generating renewable energy for the canton – hence it’s marketing strapline of “Source d’Énergie”, which equally applies to the feeling you get when you visit this wonderful part of the world.

Tomorrow, I will bring you not just photos of Pete and I crossing the Allalin and Hohlaub glaciers, but a video or 2 as well. So stay tuned… 😊

Saas Valley Walk, Day 2 of 4, Weissmies hut to the Almagelleralp Berghotel, Valais, Switzerland

We awoke to find that the hut was shrouded in mistand visibility was down to about 20 yards. But we hadn’t been going more than 10 minutes when the clouds miraculously lifted.

We had chosen to take the less steep service track down to Kreuzboden, but we hadn’t realised that the overnight rain had swelled the stream, which the track had to cross several times. Our first crossing was OK, as there were some decent stepping stones, but we had to scramble down by the side of the stream to find two other crossing points. (As in pics 1, 4 & 8).

By the time we neared Kreuzboden the cloud had come down again, so it was with some amusement that, after we had crossed for the third time (pic 8), we noticed that there was a bridge not more than 30 yards away. (See pic 9). Oh, how we laughed!!

I was also extremely excited to find out (later of course, when I looked it up) that the Incised Bellflower, (pics 13 & 14) is described as “very rare” in my Alpine flower book, which I think is a first. In Switzerland it only occurs in the south of the Valais and in NW Ticino. (I therefore thought it deserved 2 photos. 😊)

Our plan for the day was to drop off our rucksacks at the Almageller Berghotel, where we would stay for the night* and then walk up to the Almageller mountain hut and back again. The 700m or 2,300ft of ascent/descent was certainly a lot easier without our packs.

*At the Berhotel, not only did we have a room to ourselves but, apart from the staff, we were the only people staying that night, so we had the whole place to ourselves! (This also happened on our Tour de Muverans trip a few years ago, so hiking midweek in September is certainly recommended, if you want to keep away from the crowds).

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. 👍

Walk to Lac d’Arbey, Les Haudères and La Sage from Evolène, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

As mentioned in my previous post, my good mate, Pete, came over from the UK last week to do a 4 day trek around the Saas valley. Due to a certain youknowwhat, both his flights were cancelled and, after re-booking them, his stay became 6 days long instead of 5. However, that meant that we could have a ‘warm up’ and ‘warm down’ walk either side of our hike.

So this was Pete’s acclimatisation walk (of 15km, or just under 10 miles, with over 930m, or 3,050ft, of ascent) and your ‘aperitif’ before the main course starts tomorrow. 😊

Walk to La Forclaz (VS) via Sepey from Les Haudères, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

My mate, Pete, is coming over today to do a 4 day trek around the Saas Valley, starting on Sunday*. So yesterday, I decided to go for a relatively short, circular walk from Les Haudères, as a sort of warm up. The route goes up the Ferpècle valley to the small hamlet of Sepey, before turning back left towards La Forclaz and then down again to Les Haudères.

It’s not the most attractive start, as it begins near to the recycling centre, but you’re very soon leaving that behind and into the woods and alpine meadows. Again I was beginning to think the butterflies had deserted me but, in the clearings, there were several Marbled Whites and two or three Adonis Blues around. I’m not sure what the butterfly is in picture 4. I thought it was a Small Blue, but another of my photos suggests there’s a small tail on the hind wing, so I’ve plumped for the Provencal Short-tailed Blue, but I may well be wrong. Either way it was a very pleasant walk in glorious sunshine. 😊

*My apologies in advance if I’m not as responsive as usual to all of your posts, but I will endeavour to catch up with you all this time next week. I will, of course, be posting some photos of our adventure! 😊

Walk to the Aiguilles Rouges hut from Satarma, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

This is another of my favourite walks, which I normally do from Arolla but, for a change, I thought I’d do it in the opposite direction. Parking at La Gouille has become a bit of an issue, due to the number of visitors, so I decided to set off a little further down the road, from Satarma.

I was about three-quarters of the way to the hut, when I heard a rustling sound to my left. A parapentist was sorting out his gear and getting ready to fly. So I paused and decided to take a video. If anyone has not seen them taking off, it’s quite a tense moment, for the observer anyway. So I’ve added it at the end of this post. (Note that there was quite a lot of background wind noise, even though there was hardly any wind, so I’ve set it to play muted).