While I was away in Krakow it snowed, as indeed it did the day I came back, so our little valley was completely white once more. As ever though, it seems, the sun has been out since and doing its best to clear it all away again, particularly on the south facing slopes and this has led to the emergence of the first Spring flowers… (My little Swiss Alpine Flora book has been gathering dust for 6 months, so it was good to get it out again. 🙂)
I decided to get some fresh air yesterday and took a short (maybe 3km / 2 miles) walk behind our chalet along the still partially covered paths and tracks in the area called Les Flantses, which lead up to the small hamlet of Volovron. As you can see below, you don’t have to walk very far to get a good view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
I received such positive feedback on the village photographs in my last post, (thank you Jet and M.Oniker), that I decided to take a few more pictures for you to enjoy. But first, a little background…
Evolène is a village at around 1,380m (4,525ft) in the Val d’Hérens, which itself is in the southern part of the Valais canton of Switzerland. The population of the whole commune (which includes the neighbouring villages of Les Haudères, Villa, La Sage, La Forclaz and Arolla) is only about 1,700. Despite this relatively low number, we have 8 bar/restaurants in our village alone. These survive due to the number of visitors that we get both during the winter, for skiing, and the summer for walking, cycling or mountaineering. I read that 55% of the available light (i.e from when it appears from, or disappears, behind the mountains), is sunshine. And with little wind and a fairly dry atmosphere, not to mention some beautiful scenery, you can see why it’s quite popular.
At the moment we have the annual Carnival, which this year runs from 6th January to 5th March, (this explains why some of the pictures still show what appear to be Christmas decorations) and in the summer from 10th to 15th August there will be the biannual, CIME mountain folklore festival. More posts to come on these no doubt… 😄
I think it’s fair to say that there was a modest turnout for the 13th Edition of the Evolène Nordic Skiing event. However, I’m sure every single one of them had a wonderful time. After around 4″ to 5″ of overnight snow, the conditions were perfect underfoot, if not overhead, due to the grey skies.
There are junior events covering 1 to 2 kilometres, but the main, senior, events, for both the Classic and Skating styles, are 10k (6 miles) in length. The course is 2 loops of 5k/3 miles and the Skating event started 5 minutes after the Classic, so the participants do get mixed up quite a bit. I wasn’t even sure who had won, especially as the (apparent) winner of the Classic event didn’t seem to be out of breath when he crossed the finish line.
And, just in case you are wondering, yes, I have thought about entering, though purely to say that I did it. However, it is a bit disconcerting when the winners have finished before some of the slower competitors (and that would be me) have even started the 2nd loop!
Although I’ve walked up to this little lake many times before, I’ve never done it in winter. I had planned to get out my snowshoes, but the lock on the storage container at the back of the chalet (which gets no sun) was frozen solid. Anyway, it didn’t matter as plenty of people had been up there before me, although their tracks had been covered by a light dusting of snow overnight.
My apologies again for so many photos, (and for the sun spots but, hey, who’s complaining about sunshine?) but I thought it might make you feel like you’d been on the walk yourself… Enjoy! 😁
After several more days of sub-zero temperatures in the Val d’Hérens (both during the day and overnight) the forecast for today was for up to 4 degrees C (39 F). 😅 So, to take advantage of this balmy weather, I decided to take the bus up to Arolla and walk back to Les Haudères.
Again I decided not to take the snow shoes, which was a big mistake, (some people never learn 🤭), as the snow was thigh deep in places and, even where people had gone before, it was much more difficult to wade through than I expected. However, after one or two detours via the road (and a quick refreshment at La Gouille), the path thereafter became much easier and I soon made it to Les Haudères.
Note that the first 3 photos below were taken from the bus on the way up to Arolla.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (see post last Sunday), I should have been going for a long run today… This week the problem was that I went out on Tuesday and, after a stonkingly good outward 6.3k/3.9 miles*, my calf tightened up and I had to walk all the way back. ☹ So, I’m resting it for another couple of days.
*The only saving grace was that my pace for the 6.3k averaged around 5m 17s per km or 8m 30s per mile (which is much better than I expected).
I needed to get some exercise though, so I went for a walk, of around 9km/5miles, alongside the river.
For the third summer running the Commune have decided to exhibit some pictures along the footpath from Lac d’Arbey to Farquèses. Two years ago it was a series of photos of the Himalaya and last year, some paintings of the Evolène region by Belgian artist, Paul Coppens. This year it’s images by the comic creator, Derib. Some of his stories cover our local region, including the race of Val d’Hérens cows and the Patrouille de Glacier ski touring race.
An old friend of mine, Matt, is camping with two of his friends in the village and yesterday we walked up to Lac d’Arbey and along the path, before dropping down to Les Haudères (for a well earned beer 🍺😊) and then back along the riverside to Evolène.
As always at this time of year, there were many butterflies, but I was particularly pleased to capture a Violet Carpenter Bee feeding on a Woolly Thistle, which, my Alpine Flora book says, is “rather rare” (see pic 18). I have to say, given its stiff spikes, there was nothing woolly about it!
Our good friends Arthur and Michelle have been staying with us since last Friday. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great over the weekend. We did go out for a walk on Sunday, but my pictures were so grey, I didn’t think they were worth publishing. However, yesterday the sun came out with avengeance, so we decided to go cross country skiing up to Les Haudères and back.
If you’ve never tried it, you should. ‘Traditional’ is relatively easy to do being, at its simplest, just a walk on skis. It can be a bit more complicated than that obviously and a good balance is required for any slightly downhill stretches, where you slide along in the grooves. The ‘Skating’ technique is very much more demanding, though those Olympians make it look far too easy!
Chalet Les Criquets is just to the right of the church spire.
While I was away, the snow continued to fall in the Valais region of Switzerland. And, for the past few weeks, the temperature has been well below zero (32 F), even during the day. So we are still firmly in the grip of winter here in the Val d’Hérens. All things considered, this is a good thing, especially for the ski resorts.
Although yesterday was meant to be a little cloudy, I decided to take a walk along the riverside from Evolène to Les Haudères, partly to test out my new camera in the white, wintery conditions.
To remind you, it’s a Sony Cybershot, DSC-WX500 and, I have to say, that I’m quite pleased with the quality of the images (though you may not be able to tell, as I always shrink them to around 200kb before posting). However, I’ve lost the ability to take one point colour photos and, surprisingly, black and white (or at least, I haven’t found that setting yet). On the plus side, the camera does not switch iself on accidentally when I put it away in the cover, and the panoramic photos work 100% of the time. (My old Lumix didn’t like it when the lighting was different from one side of the image to the other and, frustratingly, just gave the message “Move the camera more quickly”!) I also like the fact that I can switch the aspect ratio quite quickly from 4:3 to 16:9 (or 3:2 or 1:1), which I think helps to frame some shots much better.
After quite a strenuous walk the day before, I decided to drive further up the Great Alpine Road to Mount Hotham to do a relatively easy walk to the top of Mount Loch @1,865m or 6,119ft. The route followed quite a wide and easy track for maybe 3k or 2 miles before turning off to the summit.
As well as an excellent base for walking, Mount Hotham is also, perhaps better, known as a ski resort. Though I found it strange that the village was situated towards the top of the mountains and the ski pistes ran down into the valleys. Well, I was ‘Down Under’! 🙂