Sion, Valais, Switzerland

Following on from my post yesterday… When I reached Sion, I had just missed the 14:10 bus back to Evolène (by about 20 minutes). This meant I had a good hour and a half to wait before the next one. So what was a person to do with all the bars and cafés closed? Answer: Take a wander around the town and, in particular, walk up to the Valere Basilica and Chateau de Tourbillon, which were also closed, but both give fabulous views of each other as well as up and down the Rhone valley.

You do see some weird and wonderful things though while wandering around. I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw a man not just taking his dog for a walk but his cat as well! (It looked like a Siamese to me, but I could be wrong and it wasn’t even on a lead). And then as I descended from taking picture 7 below, I saw a man walking backwards up a small slope, lifting his feet quite deliberately as he did so. I hadn’t realised until I looked closely at picture 8 that I’d caught him ‘in action’. As we say in Yorkshire (and Lancashire), “There’s nowt so queer as folk!”

Happy (White) Christmas

I guess many of you will not be blessed with a white Christmas this year, so I thought I’d bring you a little bit of ‘virtual’ snowfall, via the video below, which I took this morning.

I’d also like to thank all of you who have followed me over the past 12 months and especially those who have provided comments, your feedback is very much appreciated.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and, hopefully, a safe and peaceful new year.

Snowy Riverside Walk, Evolène, Valais, Switzerland

This morning I went for a stroll down through the village and along the riverside to the first footbridge and back. You cannot normally walk on the prepared cross-country ski piste which runs along the far side of the river, but it’s not yet ready for action. So I took the opportunity to go that way before it becomes off limits.

Before setting off, Jude heard the sound of some ‘unusual’ birds twittering outside. We went to investigate and discovered two Alpine Accentors having a right old beak wag on our bedroom balcony. Goodness knows what they were saying to each other. They are the most placid of birds and were not bothered at all when we both pointed cameras in their direction. I even had the time to take a short video, which I’ve added below the gallery. I hope you enjoy! 😊

Pic d’Artsinol Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Very occasionally, when I’m out walking I see the odd ‘lost’ piece of clothing, maybe a hat or a glove perhaps. But nothing could quite prepare my for the lost garment in picture 2. I’m sure there must be an intriguing story behind it, but the mind boggles!

As you will see from the gallery of photos, it was a rather a cold morning and many of the streams were completely frozen. As I approached the Pas d’Arpilles, two young guys appeared behind me and went passed in the blink of an eye. After exchanging pleasantries (in French) I caught up with them again just below the Col de la Meina. (They’d stopped to make a phone call). After another brief discussion in (my very poor) French, I heard one of them speak to the other in English. It turned out that they were British! (Both lawyers working in Geneva). You can see Sam and Alistair (my apologies if that’s Alastair) in pictures 16 and 23-25 below.

We walked together to the col, just below the Pic d’Artsinol, where we encountered another two walkers, who must have come up from the Hérémence valley. They were the only other people I saw all day. Both Sam and Alistair and I had to get back, so none of us actually went to the top and they left me having my lunch at the col, while they ran back down.

Pas de Lona Walk, Val d’Hérens, Valais, Switzerland

My last few walks have involved a drive down into the Rhone valley, so yesterday I decided to do a walk from home. But, to make this post a little more interesting (I hope), I’ve split it into 3 sections, describing each section of the walk as I go. Please let me know if you like, or indeed prefer, this type of format.

Part 1: After crossing the field to the side of our chalet, I picked up a recognised path which soon joins a wide track. This track has restricted vehicle access and ends after around 2.5kms (1.5 miles) at the small hamlet of Volovron, though there are some steep and narrow footpaths which allow you to cut off the corners.

From Volovron, the path ascends steeply into a wood where it continues to climb, though more gradually, until it exits at a cross path to a small group of chalets (and normally, in the summer, an open buvette/café) at La Vielle. This cross path is pretty much in the shade most of the day and there was a little snow and ice on the path, (pics 11 & 14), but this was safely negotiated. 😊

Part 2: Leaving La Vielle, the path is quite open, across the alpage (alpine meadow), before it turns left up to the Pas de Lona. The path becomes very steep just before the col and getting a good grip underfoot can be quite tricky. I wasn’t sure how much snow I would encounter and, before I’d turned the corner, I’d seen another walker about 300m (yds) ahead of me. I followed the recognised route, but as I crested the brow of a small hill, I saw that he had gone left and was walking up the grass and rocks, thereby avoiding much of the snow. (You can see him, in blue, towards the left of picture 20).

However, by now, I was committed to ‘my’ route, which initially involved hopping from one clear patch to another, before ultimately having to kick good foot holds into the snow to stop me sliding down the hill. It was slow, but safe, progress.

I eventually reached the col and was rewarded with a magnificent view over the Grimentz valley (pic 24). The other hiker was already there and he’s again visible in pic 22. I walked a little further across, through varying depths of snow (maybe 15cm to 40cm or 6″ to 16″) due to the drifts and was pleased to take a few pictures of the cross at the top with just my footsteps. (See pic 23). It was rather strange to see the ground completely covered in snow in one direction, but almost free of snow in another.

I had designs on walking up to the Becs de Bosson mountain hut and taking the path over the Pte de Tsevalire from there, but there was too much snow, so I took the ‘easy’ option and descended the way the other hiker had gone up.

Part 3: I stopped for lunch at Vielle, (a ham and tomato sandwich made with Jude’s wonderful sourdough bread. 😋), where I pondered my next move. I generally don’t like doing out and back routes, so, to make it into a sort of circular walk, I took the path down towards the village of Eison. I was surprised how much I had to descend before I turned left along a different path, again through the woods, to Volovron and then, from there, it was the same path back to Evolène.

Croix de la Chia Walk, Rhone valley, Switzerland

After being thwarted by the snow on my last walk, I discovered a route, again on the south facing side of the Rhone valley, which only went to 2,350m or 7,700ft. (This was about where the snow started last time). The objective was the Croix de la Chia, which sits at a col between two small peaks called Mont Gond and La Flava.

The map only showed a path to the col (with a route going down the other side), but I had secret hopes of trying to head towards, maybe even up to the top of, either Mont Gond or La Flava. Two dimensional maps can be deceiving of course and, if you look at pictures 26 and 27, you will see why I didn’t attempt either. There were two guys at the col when I arrived and they headed up towards La Flava, but I’m not sure if they even managed to climb over that first set of rocks.

I’ve also include a photo of the previously posted Bisse de Savièse, as seen from across the valley. (See pic 37). It highlights how much some of those bisses ‘cling’ to the rockface.

It’s not often I get the opportunity to take a photo of where I’m going to walk, but photo 1 shows where I was heading yesterday from ‘our’ side of the valley. The last photo was taken on the way back.

Finally, I was a very happy chappy throughout the walk, as the first thing that I saw as soon as I set off was the Clouded Yellow butterfly in pic 2, which was kind enough to land and have its photo taken. (Note that it could be a Pale or Berger’s Clouded Yellow, I didn’t get a good look at the upper side of the wings). Whatever, it was a joy to see so late in the year. 😊

Lac de Cleuson Walk, Val de Nendaz, Valais, Switzerland

After scouring the map for something new, I came up with this circular walk from Siviez, which takes in Lac de Cleuson as well as the Ancien Bisse de Chervé (an old watercourse). My decision to go in a clockwise direction proved fortunate in that I was in the sunshine for the vast majority of the time. The combination of low winter sun and high mountains meant that if I had gone in the reverse direction, I would have been in the shade most of the time.

As you will see from the photos, it was very cold in the shade, with the stream at the far end of the lake (see pics 15 to 17) almost completely frozen. It proved a challenge to cross but, after scrambling about 30 metres up the right hand side, I found a large, dry rock in the middle, which helped me to jump across.

The ice had the last laugh though, as on the return path I rather carelessly slipped and took a tumble. The worst bit wasn’t the pain of hitting the rock hard ice with my hip and cutting my elbow and finger (only slightly thankfully), nor the fear of sliding off the path onto a 45 degree slope as I went along on my back, nor even the embarrassment as the couple of walkers following behind came around the corner to find me struggling to get up. No, it was that split second, where time seems to stand still, when my left foot went from under me and, as I looked down, realised that the only place I could put my right foot, to correct the fall, was slap bang in the middle of the self same ice. Time restarted. I was on my back in a flash and went sliding along. I managed to dig my (very sturdy) GPS into the ice to arrest my slide and I came to a stop about 2 metres further on. Needless to say, I will be more careful in future!

To add insult to my injuries, the bisse proved a bit of a disappointment. OK, the path was relatively flat and it provided nice views over the valley, but there was hardly any evidence that a bisse ever existed. That is, apart from the struts sticking out of the rock in pic 35. In addition the final descent ‘path’, which looked good on the map, proved to be the service track up to the ski installations. (What a mess it all looks until the snow arrives!) And if you look very carefully at pic 37, you will see that the young man, on the left with the dog, is carrying a gun. The hunting season must still be under way. (It’s no wonder I never saw any animals, they must all be in hiding!)

Note that the first picture was taken on my way to Siviez.

Six Blanc and Mont Brûlé Walk, Val de Bagnes, Switzerland

It’s not often that I start the gallery with a panoramic photo, but there’s an impressive view of the Val de Bagnes from the parking area at La Côt. From there I set off to do a walk which runs along the ridge between that valley and the Val d’Entremont.

I first discovered this walk waaaay back in 2006, when I was a ‘novice’ walker in Switzerland and I thought I was being quite adventurous climbing Six Blanc (at 2,444m or 8,018ft) and Mont Brûlé (at 2,571m or 8,435ft). How times have changed!

You will also see that I have finished the gallery with a slightly more modern ‘WC’ than the one I posted in my Cabane de la Tsa walk last week. That photo created a lot of interest, so I thought I’d redress the balance, just in case you thought all Swiss toilets were like that. 😉 (And, yes, it is a public toilet, adjacent to the car park).

Val de Réchy Walk, Valais, Switzerland

This is another of my favourite walks, which I haven’t done this year, so I thought I’d give it a go before the winter sets in. The snow, which fell a few weeks ago now, has largely melted away, certainly on the south facing slopes, but I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the valley.

My mate Pete has been encouraging me to post some more videos, so yesterday I decided to take one as I approached the Pas de Lovegno and then another near the lake called Le Louché (not Lac de Lovegno as I incorrectly said on the video). You’ll find the videos below the usual gallery of photos and I hope you find them interesting.

As you will see the skies were blue, but there was definitely a chill in the air and I was a little surprised to see 4 butterflies, two of which I captured, but a blue one and an unidentified one escaped my lens.