After our 4 day, Saas valley trek, which finished with a steep descent into Saas Grund, Pete’s knees and body were just about shot. But it’s amazing what a few beers, a fabulous meal and a good night’s sleep can do. 😊 So, for Pete’s last day, we decided to do one of the many bisse walks in the Valais.
After a quick search of the Bisse website, I discovered a circular walk quite nearby, which I’ve never done before. It actually took in three bisses and started in the village of Mâche. Two of them were dry, but the third did have quite a bit of water running along the channel. Along the route also, we discovered several wooden carvings and a number of items which must have been left by some school children. Perhaps the most surprising was a beautiful glass pendant which (as this is Switzerland) I would imagine has been there and will remain there for some time. There are quite a few good cycling routes around that area too, so I may have to get on my bike and check to see if it’s still there in a few weeks time.
Footnote (for anyone new to this site and, as the Bisse website explains): “Bisses are historic irrigation channels of the Valais. A bisse is an open ditch delivering priceless water from mountain streams – often by daring routes – to arid pastures and fields, vineyards and orchards. Many bisses are still in use today and so are carefully maintained. Numerous trails accompany these historic watercourses, inviting visitors to varied hikes on historic trails.”
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… 😊
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).
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. 👍
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. 😊
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! 😊
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).
As I arrived at the Col de Brèona, the clouds were still swirling around. In the mist, I noticed two climbers descending from the Couronne de Bréona. They stopped to remove their harnesses and rope, while I was checking out the cloud cover. About 5 minutes later, the clouds started to clear and I followed the two climbers along the path up to the small, unnamed peak by the side of the col. If you look closely at the first picture, you can see them on the left and on the far end of the ridge in picture 3. They are also visible in photo 5, while two hikers are coming up the path which I would soon take. The climbers turned right into the Val du Moiry.
I’d seen nobody during my ascent to the Col de Bréona, but suddenly the ‘top’ was quite busy with another 2 climbers and around 10 people hiking up to the Col du Tsaté as I descended. Apart from 3 more people at the small lake at Remointse de Tsaté, (one is just about visible in red in pic 13), I saw no-one until I arrived back in La Forclaz. Maintaining a good social distance is rarely an issue while walking in the mountains!
The 15th August is normally the date when the Mid-summer Festival takes place in our village. But this year, for obvious reasons, it was cancelled. So we were not treated to the helicopter rescue of the dummy which had fallen (or was he pushed?) off the rockface, nor the stream of vintage cars. And the usual procession, of the villagers demonstrating the traditional arts and crafts, will have to wait until next year.
So, I decided to have a wander through the village and take some photos to show you what our village looks like during the summer. Normally the main street would be packed from one end to the other but, this year, there were just the usual weekend and holiday visitors. It was also nice to see the locals dressed in their traditional costumes, simply relaxing and enjoying some time with their families.
For the fifth year running, the Tourist Office has organised an exhibition of paintings along the path which runs from Farquèses to Lac d’Arbey. This year it showcases 26 pastel paintings of Swiss artist, John-Francis Lecoultre, who was born in Locle, Neuchatel in 1905. He was obviously inspired by the mountain scenery around Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), the Saas and Zermatt valleys and, of course, the Val d’Hérens. 😊👍👍
As you will see, huge copies of the paintings are hung between the trees at suitable intervals along the path. My apologies for not including all the French accents in the names of the paintings (or indeed some of my photos), but WordPress doesn’t seem to replicate them properly in the image gallery.
My apologies also for not naming the 8 butterflies, but I wanted to get this post published and I don’t have the time to look them all up. Also, I thought some of you might like a challenge! Hopefully it doesn’t detract from what is a beautiful walk (if only virtual for you). 😊
As an experiment*, I’ve set the first image as a featured image, to see if that arrives in the emails which are sent out. I’ve noticed that the emails have recently changed from including every picture (which I didn’t like as the emails were too long – sorry about that!) to having nothing in them at all, but the heading link to the post. OK, I could include a “Read more of this post” somewhere in the text, but hopefully this provides a more suitable alternative ‘teaser’. Please let me know what you think or prefer.
*Update: My experiment didn’t work, as no image appeared in the email. (Maybe I set the featured image incorrectly. I’ll have to check).