Last week, Jude and I went for a drive up to Arolla to do a walk up the valley. We knew that heli-skiing (and heli-boarding) had become popular, but even we were surprised to see not one, but three helicopters waiting to take their clients high into the mountains. We were lucky in that 5 people arrived just as we got to the first one and soon they took off. (See pics 4 & 5). On our return another group arrived and a second (pic 7) soon disappeared over the horizon. As we made our way back through the woods, it seemed like only a matter of minutes had elapsed and the 5 in the first group came whizzing by, obviously eager to take off for at least a third time!
Jude and I were just finishing our lunch on the balcony, taking in the bright sunshine, when something fluttered by… It landed in the field below, so I dashed for my camera, while Jude kept an eye on it. Sure enough, just as I got outside, it flew off ! But, luckily, it came back and I managed to get a few, albeit distant, shots.
You may not think this is very remarkable until you see the first picture below. It shows how much snow there is still around in the valley. Indeed part of the path at the end of our ‘driveway’, where it’s shaded by our neighbour’s chalet, is solid ice, about 2 inches thick. You may notice though that the south facing slopes, to the left of the first picture, are now starting to clear of the white stuff – as are a few patches in our garden and the field below.
Interestingly it was the 19th February last year when I posted my first butterfly picture, though that was taken during a walk along the far side of the Rhone valley, at a much lower level – like at 650 metres of altitude rather than 1,400 metres.
We have another week or so of sunshine forecast, so I will be keeping my eyes peeled from now on. 😊
I can always rely on a Bisse (i.e. ancient watercourse and irrigation channel) as an option whenever there’s snow at the higher levels here in Evolène. This walk started and finished in the village of Venthône, in the French speaking part of Switzerland and, around half way, crossed the ‘border’ into the German speaking part. Many of he towns and villages in the area reflect this ‘split’ personality by having dual names – like Sierre/Siders, Salgesch/Salquenen and Loèche-les-Bains/Leukerbad.
Like many people I prefer to do circular routes so, to make the walk slightly more interesting, I made it into a sort of figure of 8, by returning along what the map says is the Mengis Wasserleitu. This appears to be a much smaller and lower version of the Grossi Wasserleitu (which is also called the Bisse de Varen).
Sadly though, apart from the last kilometre or so, the Bisses were devoid of ‘wasser’ and there were no precipitous drops or chains to hang onto to get the pulse racing. 🙁 Despite that, I did very much enjoy the walk and wandering around Venthône, where I especially liked the bronze statue outside the Chateau. (See pic 26).
You may recall that a stag managed to completely dismantle our bird feeder (twice). So we moved it onto the corner of the terrace (on the first floor). Since then I’ve been trying to get some decent pictures of the different birds, but they seem to be very alert whenever I point the camera in their general direction and fly off.
However, I have managed to capture a few reasonable photos over the past few weeks, which I thought I’d share. As well as the usual suspects (Great Tits, Blue Tits, Crested Tits, Coal Tits and Long Tailed Tits) there has been a flock of at least 12 Siskins, which have taken up almost permanent residence.
Also an Alpine Accentor seems to have selected our neighbourhood for its new home. I’m pretty sure it’s the same one which regularly perches on our balcony and the apex of the roof.
On the way down to Sion the other day, I noticed that the path for this route on the far side of the valley was pretty much clear of snow. And indeed, but for some ice on the initial descent from La Luette, that proved to be the case.
Apart from two lost looking souls in the ‘square’ in Euseigne, I didn’t see anyone along the route at all. Perhaps that was just as well, since there would be no way of socially distancing oneself almost anywhere along the path and especially crossing the 133 metre/145 yard long suspension bridge. (See pic 14).
I’m always in awe of anyone who can paint and I think the mural on the house in Ossona (pic 18) is simply amazing. I’ve included some close-up photos to give you a better idea of the skill of the artist. I was completely blown away by the black and white ‘picture’ (which is just to the top left of the door in the main picture). Even the (apparent) wall and lintel to the right of it is painted! Incredible detail and I’m glad I can share it with you! 😊
On the descent to Combioula, I saw something flutter up in front of me – obviously a butterfly or a moth. It went high up and into the line of the sun and I lost sight of it. That was annoying enough, (it being my first opportunity of the year to capture one on camera) but only a few seconds later it happened again!! I also spotted just the tail end of what must have been a small green wall lizard. So Spring may not be far away.
After several weeks of sub-zero temperatures and looking at snow and/or ice, it’s nice to go for a walk somewhere warmer and where things look a bit more normal… So, today, with a ‘big shop’ to do as well, Jude and I drove down to the Rhone valley, did our shopping and went for a short walk along the Bisse de Clavau, which runs along the vineyards, just above Sion..
As you will see, the skies were a little grey and not good for photography. Indeed I wasn’t going to post anything, but we saw and learnt a few interesting things:
Pic 1: The frost on the side window of our car was rather bizarre – one bit looked like a large spider had just been squashed on it and in a few other areas the ice looked like feathers… 🤔
Pic 4: There was a huge flock of what turned out to be Alpine Choughs taking off and landing in the vineyards. One minute they would all settle, then whoosh, they all took off again. I now learn that it’s called a Chattering or a Clattering of Choughs. Along the way we also saw 2 European Robins, a few Rock Buntings and a female Black Cap. (Photos far too distant and blurred to even consider posting…)
Pic 7: Wiki tells me that the yellow lichen on the branch of the tree, has a wide distribution and many common names such as common orange lichen, yellow scale, maritime sunburst lichen and shore lichen. I just liked the bright colour and the way some bits look like little suckers… (You may need to zoom in to see them).
Pic 9: The information board told us that the dry stone wall (at the top right of the photo) is the highest drystone wall in the world. Given that Sion is only about 500m (1,650ft) above sea level and therefore the wall no more than 800m (2,625ft), we doubt it’s the highest in terms of altitude, but it could well be the tallest. If so, not a lot of people know that! For those of you unfamiliar with drystone walling, I can highly recommend the Shire Guide to Drystone Walling by Lawrence Garner (who just happens to be my father-in-law!) It also features some of Jude’s photographs!
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was working on adding all 33 of the walks I had documented to this website and now I’m pleased to announce, IT’s FINISHED!! 😊 I had wondered about waiting until 5am on 4th March ’21 to ‘launch’ it, but I just couldn’t wait that long! (I hope you see what I did there).
I’ve updated the banner photos too, to have a little more variety and added a Contact menu option – just in case anyone would like to comment or request any more information. So, please feel free to have a browse around the pages under the “Walks in the Val d’Hérens” heading – at anytime and especially if you are stuck at home and self-isolating. Just select Easy, Medium or Challenging and then click on any of the walks summarised underneath the overview map… You’ll then find a map and a gallery of photos, as well as a route description should anyone visit this area to do any of the walks themselves.
Below are a few random photos taken from the associated galleries… (I should have done a quiz and asked which walk they belonged to… Too late now of course!) I hope it showcases what a wild and naturally beautiful part of the world the Val d’Hérens is!
Your comments and feedback (especially for any improvements) are always welcome of course. 😊
It seems I was wrong in my post yesterday and the snow is expected to fall over the next 3 or 4 days… Fortuitously this meant another sunny day for me to pick off another walk from my list. I didn’t want to take the car, so I decided to walk to Les Haudères from our home in Evolène. As you will see there’s still plenty of snow around and it’s only going to get deeper!
Following on from my walk with Jude on Sunday morning, the sun was still shining brightly (and snow was expected over the next few days), so I decided to go out again in the afternoon. I chose another of the walks on my list, as it gave me the opportunity to check the detailed Route Description (which turned out to have a couple of errors). It also ticked off another of the ten ‘Easy’ walks, which I’m hoping to do over the next few weeks.
For info. I’ve now completed the Overview Map, Gallery and Route Description for 21 of the 33 walks described under the “Walks in the Val d’Hérens” menu heading (above) and I still hope to finish them all by the end of January. I’ll keep you posted! 🤣
Although I only posted some pictures of this walk 9 days ago, yesterday morning Jude and I went for a stroll around the paths and tracks behind our chalet. Jude’s eye for a photograph is completely different to mine, so I thought it was worth another post, including some of her images.