Val de Rèchy Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

I’m quite often pleasantly surprised when I go out for a walk and last Thursday was no exception.   Although I didn’t manage to capture a picture of Cynthia’s fritillary, which is quite common in this remote valley, I did get some, albeit long range, photos of 3 different birds.  (I’ve made my best guess at each, though I’m sure there is at least one person out there who may be able to identify them for me…?)

One of the reasons I missed the Cynthia’s fritillary was because I was distracted by a herd of over 20 yaks, with no apparent shepherd looking after them.  As you can see from pictures 17 to 21, I managed to overtake them as they headed to the nearest watering hole.

Most of the butterflies were just by the roadside where I parked my car!

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 3 of 4)

I should mention at this point that my mate Pete suffers from vertigo.  He also currently has 2 bad knees (as you can possibly tell from his knee supports in the photos) and, as Monsieur Alfonse used to say on ‘Allo ‘Allo, a dicky ticker.  Plus, he will tell you that he only has one lung.  (Of course, if this were true, he would never have been able to run a half marathon in around 76 minutes, but we have to humour him…)

That said, our route for Day 2 looked simple enough on paper – a descent back down the path we had climbed the day before, a casual stroll along the valley floor, over the Col du Rawil and then up to the wonderfully (and as it turned out appropriately named) Col des Eaux Froides (Cold Waters), before dropping down again to the Cabane des Audannes.  It’s a distance of no more than 7 miles and around 750m (or 2,500ft) of ascent.  Simple.

However, the forecast was for rain by mid afternoon and what we didn’t know, was that there was a huge area of limestone to cross, which involved scrambling up and down over the sharp rocks.  Apart from the danger of falling down one of the many gullies, one slip and you could have been cut to ribbons.  This was not ideal with rain imminent.  So we pushed on, very carefully of course, foregoing our lunchtime picnic and we managed to reach the Col des Eaux Froides just as the clouds were gathering.  A flurry of white stuff started to descend, the wind got up and the air was increasingly cold.   Somewhat different to our previous 2 days.  (New readers to this series, please see the images from Day 1 and Day 2).

Even once inside the mountain hut, all was not as cozy as it might seem, as the toilets were in a small building outside.  This is just about visible to the right of the main building in some of the last photos.

As before, Pete’s photos are suitably watermarked.

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 2 of 4)

Although we had only 18km (11 miles) to cover, Pete and I knew that, with over 2,000m (6,500ft) of ascent, our second day would be the toughest (at least in terms of effort*).  Most people stop at Iffigenalp, but we chose to continue and do the Wildsrubelhutte variant.  So an early start was called for.

After a morning of lush green meadows, we had a short climb up to the Tungelpass and into the Iffigtal, passing the impossibly turquoise blue Iffigsee (pic 17).  We then stopped to catch our breath and a quick drink at Iffigenalp before setting off on the 1200m (almost 4,000 ft) climb to the hut.  As you can see from the pictures below, the terrain changes quite dramatically once you get above 2,500m (8,200 ft).  The only thing spoiling the views were the stanchions which supported two cable car lifts, which ran from Iffigenalp to the Wisshorelucke.  From what I heard, these were not for skiing as you might expect, but for use by the Swiss military.

*Days 3 and 4 would have their own challenges, but I’ll get on to them tomorrow… 😊

Again, Pete’s pictures are suitably watermarked.

Plans de Bertol Walk

We have two of our regular guests staying this week.  Malcolm is on one of the Frost Guiding courses, while his wife, Helen, is simply relaxing and enjoying the fresh Swiss air and reading her book.  In between times, she also likes to go out walking, so on Monday we took the bus up the valley to Arolla, to walk to the Plans de Bertol (@2,664m or 8,740ft).  It’s a walk I’ve posted before, but not for 3 years, so I thought I would share my photos with you all. 😊

 

Walk to La Gouille via Alpage de l’Etoile, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

You may have noticed that there was something missing from the pictures of my last walk – butterflies.  That wasn’t because there were none around, I just didn’t have the time to stop (or wait for them to stop) and capture them on camera.  Anyway, on Sunday I made up for that, and some, when I decided to walk to La Gouille, via the Alpage de l’Etoile.  There was one very small area, at the Mayen de la Cretta, which must have had at least a dozen different species fluttering around just a few thistle plants.

So my apologies if there now too many in this gallery, but even now I’ve left out the Marbled White, the Tortoiseshell and the Peacock.  At last though, I’ve finally captured an Apollo (which was rooted to the spot and I must have taken 20 or more photos of that one alone – see pic 16).

I also just happened to have my camera in my hand when the Hummingbird Hawkmoth came hovering by while I was having a little refreshment at the Hotel Dents de Veisivi.  🍺😊

 

 

Walk to the Cabane du Trient via Cabane d’Orny

Today I had another opportunity to do a ‘new’ walk and this time it was from the small village of Champex-Lac to the Cabane du Trient (@3,169m or 10,297ft) which overlooks a huge expanse of glacier called the Plateau du Trient.  I cheated a bit by taking the chairlift to La Breya (@2198m or 7,211ft) but it was still a good hike over some rough terrain and included a little bit of snow and a short section of metal stemples* to climb.
(*Think, thick staples stuck into the rock and you’ll be close).

As you will see below the views of the glaciers were incredible, but I was surprised to find a strange looking statue outside the cabane.  Since returning home I’ve discovered it was created by sculptor Nikola Zaric, who sadly died of cancer in 2017.  It was only meant to be there as part of a temporary exhibition but, after his death, a crowd-fund was set up to buy the statue, in order to donate it to the Swiss Alpine Club to ensure it remains in its current position.  It also looks like they have now reached that target.

Anyway, it wasn’t the only unusual thing seen at the cabane…  My blogging buddy, Stephen Black, has been getting a bit of stick for over-marketing his book ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ on his website, FracturedFaithBlog.  Having put together my dad’s book, I know how much effort that goes into proof reading and editing, let alone actually writing it.  So I’m unashamedly plugging it here. 😊  If you would like to purchase a copy – please click here.

I’m now hoping that I have literally taken it to a new level and my picture is the ‘highest’ picture ever taken of his book(?)

Grand Chavalard Hike

Earlier this year, I promised you something ‘new’ in the way of walks and, with blue skies forecast, yesterday I set off to walk to the top of the Grand Chavalard (@2,900m or 9,500ft) from the small village of Chiboz.   In March I posted this picture of it, then snow covered, in the background.

What I hadn’t factored into my plan was that it had rained quite heavily the day before and there was an awful lot of early morning cloud circling around the mountain tops.  But I trusted that the forecast would eventually come good and, although the valley to the east was completely obliterated by the mist during my ascent (unlike the west side, thankfully), the clouds finally lifted… 😊

 

 

Walk to Pic d’Artsinol (2,998m/9,836ft)

Having recently done a walk around both ends of our valley, at Arolla and Ferpècle, and been up behind our chalet to the Col du Torrent twice (well, once nearly), yesterday it was the turn of the opposite side and an ascent of the Pic d’Artsinol.  Like most of Europe, we are having a bit of a heatwave at the moment, so it would have been foolish of me not to take advantage of the chairlift, which saved me around 700m or 2,300ft of climbing.  I still had over 800m or 2,600ft to go mind you, followed by a looong descent back to Evolène.

As you will see below, the skies were perfectly blue, the views from the top were simply amazing and the butterflies were out in force!

Arolla Butterfly Field Trip

As regular readers will know, I like to take and post pictures of butterflies, though, as there are so many different species here in the Val d’Hérens, I often have great difficulty in identifying them.  Well, yesterday, in an attempt to put that right, I went on a field trip with an expert, Vincent Baudraz, and 4 other keen, would-be lepidopterists.

The method was quite simple.  We essentially let Vincent catch a few butterflies, put them carefully into a plastic containers, then the 5 of us would try our best to identify them, using Vincent’s and his brother Michel’s book “Guide d’identification des papillons de jour de Suisse”.  Yes, it’s in french, which makes it a little more difficult for me, but I think it’s fair to say that, by using the step by step, question and answer approach at the beginning of the book, ‘the team’ got the vast majority of his challenges right.  And, I have to say, Vincent is an absolute genius, he actually identifies them on the wing, even the tiny ones (which certainly saves a lot of time catching and releasing the same species of butterfly multiple times).  He would spot a ‘new’ one then snaffle it up in his net with a swish and a flick of the wrist, so that the delicate little creature was completely unharmed and they were always released in the same area that we found them.

It would be remiss of me not to thank Vincent for his patience and outstanding knowledge, not to mention the rest of the gang for making it such a fabulous day.

Below my usual gallery but, for anyone who may be interested, I’ve shown a worked example using the guide book, pictorially of course, below that. 🙂

Below an example of a captured butterfly and the step by step approach through the book to get to the correct identification.  As you will see, once identified, there is also a reference to more detailed information, with drawings, of both the male and female upper and lower wing attributes.  I recommend viewing the series of pictures in gallery mode (i.e. double click on the first picture, then right arrow through) to best appreciate the logic and sequence. 

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!