Cabane de la Tsa Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Last weekend, my daughter Sarah and her husband Karl came to stay for a few days.  They have done many of the walks in our valley already, but they had never been up to the Cabane de la Tsa.  Although closed at this time of the year, the mountain hut sits at 2,607m (8.553ft) and provides a nice circular walk from Arolla.

Southern Finland

The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland.  After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km.  From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.

We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna

Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):

  • As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
  • There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging.  They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
  • The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be.  There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
  • The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
  • The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s.  The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
  • I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
  • The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed.  (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
  • In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
  • Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good.  They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻

Åland Islands, Finland

Let me take you on a little journey from Stockholm to the Åland Islands, which are an autonomous region of Finland…

Travelling to new countries (and blogging about them) certainly teaches you a few things, like there is hardly any tidal movement in the Baltic sea (which is why the thousands of islands are always visible); the water is not as salty as the ‘normal’ sea and, despite belonging to Finland, the islanders all speak Swedish (and most also speak English thankfully).

We caught a Viking Line ferry, called Grace, which was more like a cruise ship, from Stockholm to Turku, on the Finnish mainland.  It’s a sailing which is highly recommended, if you ever get the opportunity, as the boat weaves its way through the almost impossibly narrow channels between the many islands.   After an overnight stop and hiring a car, we then hopped on and off 2 more ferries to get to the group of interconnected islands called Brändö. (See map pic B11).

A particular highlight of our time there was a day on the island of Jurmo.  We arrived too early for the ferry, but an extremely friendly local, called Ari, offered to give us a lift in his small boat.  There was a harvest festival type celebration on that weekend and we were treated to a tour of the island on a tractor trailer.

Like yesterday, I’ve divided my photos into 3 distinct galleries. (Click on any image to get a larger view).

The ferry journey:

Brändö:

Jurmo island:

Stockholm

Jude and I have just returned from 2 weeks away, visiting Stockholm and 3 different parts of Finland.  We flew to and from Stockholm partly because Easyjet didn’t fly from Geneva to Helsinki, but mainly because Jude was looking forward to sailing between the 6,700 islands which constitute the Åland islands that lie between Sweden and Finland.  (No, I didn’t know about them either until we organised this trip).

Anyhow, below is a summary of our time in Stockholm where we meandered the streets, visited the Skansen Park area in Djurgarden (which has a replica village from the late 1800’s and a small zoo) and visited the National Museum.

Before going we’d read that it was very difficult to spend actual cash in Stockholm.  So we didn’t take any and easily got by with just a pre-loaded Debit card.  (I still don’t know what a Swedish Krona note or coin looks like).  Be aware though that Stockholm is quite an expensive place to visit, though the above two attractions are both free.

Below, in a slight departure from my usual posts, I’ve included three separate photo galleries – the first is of the City then Skansen and thirdly the National Museum.

Skansen:

National Museum, Stockholm:

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 4 of 4)

We awoke to see the nearby mountains covered by what can only be called a smattering of snow and we were buoyed by the forecast, which said no wind and no rain. 😀

When I’d organised the trip, I’d read that there was a ridge towards the finish, called the Arete de l’Arpille, which was not good for people with vertigo.  But, having seen some of the pictures, where it looked quite rounded, I convinced Pete, everything would be fine.  (He’s so trusting!)

However, whilst talking to a mother and daughter in the hut, who had done this section 4 days earlier, they told us about a series of ladders and ropes, which they found pretty challenging (aka scary) – though possibly no worse than what we had already done on Day 3.  Phew, we should be OK. (At least that was what I thought, but I’m not sure what was going through Pete’s mind… 😣😜😖😨😱🥶?)  But then we didn’t consider that the forecast might be slightly wrong…

As we approached the Col des Audannes and said series of about 6 or 7 ladders, each with 11 rungs, the weather gods decided to have a little fun and sent some more of the white stuff falling from the sky.  Thankfully it was short-lived, but at least this tells you that it was cold.   Pete had some gloves, but silly Mike thought he’d lost his somewhere the day before and I went down those wet, potentially slippery, rungs and snow covered ropes with my bare hands.  Gosh, it was cold.  One slip and we were gonners (see pic 15).  But, we survived. 😀

A little further along, there was another drop down a gully on a thick blue rope (see pic 21), followed by a much thinner climbing rope (pic 22).  Oh, the joy on Pete’s face was something to behold!  But we still had that last ridge to look forward to…  As it turned out, Pete’s new trainers had a much better grip than mine and he had no issues at all.  I was the one who slid a couple of times on the greasy surface.
(For the record and sake of completeness and safety, in case anyone is thinking of doing this route: The ridge goes away on each side at around 60 degrees and on 2 occasions the narrow path drops down to the side for about 50 m/yards each time, with no ropes or other form of protection.  So you have to be sure footed).

I’d like to show you some more photos of the final kilometre, but as you can see from the last few pictures, we finished in mist, with visibility down to around 25m/yds.  So, we skipped the final few kilometres and Jude picked us up at the Col du Sanetsch.  We returned home for a much needed bath and shower – not to mention a few beers and a superb chicken curry with poppadoms and dips (all prepared by Jude of course)! 😋

I hope you have all enjoyed this series of posts and our little adventure.  Clearly this route is not for the elderly or infirm… (Oh, sorry Pete! 😉)

As before all Pete’s pics are watermarked.

 

 

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.

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 1 of 4)

For the past 4 days my good mate Pete and I have been walking around the Wildhorn, staying in mountain huts.  After being dropped off by my wife, Jude, at Lac de Sénin, day 1 would take us to the Geltenhutte. As you can see from the images below, the views were classically Swiss, with green meadows, small lakes and waterfalls – all under perfectly blue skies. 😊

As you can see from pics 34 & 35, the inside of the mountain hut isn’t quite as rustic as you might think.  After a refreshing beer (or 2), Pete and I tucked into a delicious 3 course meal.  The perfect start to a fantastic trip.

As you can see from the watermark, some of these photos are Pete’s.

La Luette to Euseigne via the Passarelle de la Combe

So, while her husband, Malcolm, was conquering the Matterhorn, Helen and I took the Postbus just a few stops down the valley to La Luette, to walk along the path which crosses the Passarelle de la Combe.  We then dropped down to the naturally heated waters near Combioula, before climbing back up passed the Pyramids to Euseigne.

Helen was thanking me for taking her along this walk, but I was thanking her in the end as I managed to take pictures of three new butterflies, which I’d never seen before – and therefore never posted on this site before. 😊

The first (pic 4) was of an albeit tatty looking Dryad (minois dryas).

The second (pic 16) is of a rather shy Tree Grayling (hipparchia statilinus), which decided to hide, as it’s name suggests, under a felled tree trunk.  It’s not widely seen across Switzerland, so I’ve included a distribution map (pic 16a) with an arrow indicating (very approximately) where we were.

The third (pic 17) was of a Lesser Purple Emperor (apatura ilia).  In French it’s called a ‘Petit Mars changeant’ and it certainly seems to take many forms, being blue/violet or red/orange or, as my luck would have it, dark brown/black!  This one flew up to the top of a bush, so I didn’t get a great picture of it.  So, for some better pictures of this colourful butterfly please click here.   Although more widespread across Switzerland, it’s classed as vulnerable on the Red List and is not that common in our area (pic 17a) .  So I was a very happy bunny once I’d identified them all from my book.  😁  Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the flowers, which I couldn’t find at all.  It seems every silver lining has a cloud…!

Footnote:  The link above and distribution maps were take from Michel and Vincent Baudraz’s excellent website:  https://www.lepido.ch/cartes-de-distribution
If you click on a particular group, the individual species are listed with distribution maps.  Further photographs of each are also available by clicking on the name of the butterfly).