Oberland Odyssey – Day 3

I’ve not mentioned mountain huts very much during my posts, but I think it’s fair to say that they vary quite a bit – at least in the facilities that they provide.  You can almost guarantee that they are built in some superb places.

The Konkordia hut is at the basic end of the spectrum, with no running water to speak of.  There is a small tap which emits a few drops of water to clean your teeth and that’s it.  I’ll not describe the toilet facilities as it might put you off your breakfast, lunch or dinner, maybe all three!  However, it is positioned with a magnificent view over what can best be described as the confluence of 4 glaciers – the Grosser Aletschfirn, the Jungfraufirn, the Ewigschneefald and the Grüneggfirn.   These all join to flow down the valley as the Gross Aletsch glacier.  (See pic 1, though I will be posting more pics of this view as we returned to the Konkordia at the end of Day 4).

Our day would take us up the Grüneggfirn to the Grünhornlücke.  There we turned right and shortened the ropes to climb, alpine style (i.e. all together) up to the top of the Wyssnollen.  After a brief stop for lunch, we descended towards the Fiesch glacier.  Though Des, who was on the rope behind me, descended a little more than he expected.  Each of us had stepped over a crack, but he somehow missed it and fell into a crevasse.  Fortunately I was keeping an eye on him and grabbed and held the rope as his body disappeared.  His head was just about visible, but he was stuck and couldn’t get out.  While I held him fast, Hannah, our guide, unclipped herself, walked back up to where he was and hauled him out.

After roping back up, we then continued to cross the Fiesch glacier and ascend the short distance up to the Finsteraarhorn hut at the other side.  If you look closely at picture 12, you may be able to make out our path across the glacier.  The mountain hut is also visible if you are able to zoom in on pictures 7 & 9.  Remember, again, all of these pictures are taken in August.

 

 

 

 

Mayens de Cotter Walk, via Volovron

A few weeks ago now, I placed my camera on the kitchen worktop.  When I went to pick it up, rather ironically, the safety strap got caught on a drawer handle and pulled it out of my hand, such that it fell on the tiled floor.  At first it didn’t work, but after switching it off and on a few times, it miraculously came back to life.  It had a blurred spot in the bottom left corner of the images anyway, so I decided to buy a new one, just in case it decided to pack up when I needed it most.

Having invested in spare batteries, I decided to by the same make, but ‘upgrade’ to a more expensive model (as would-be photographers tend to do) – a Sony RX100 (from a WX500).    On the face of it, it was the same camera, with much the same functions, but it had a 1″ sensor and had rave reviews.

It was only when I’d got it out of the box and tried it a few times that I realised it had a very poor zoom of only 3.6x. (My old one had a 30x zoom).  And it appears the ‘wide’ panorama isn’t quite as wide as my old one.  But, the images do seem to be a lot better.  To cover all the bases, I took both cameras with me on my walk from home today.  The route was a little challenging in places, due to the snow, but the weather was fantastic.

I always shrink the images to around 250k (to save WordPress space and you waiting aaages for the images to load).  Four of the images below, were taken with my old camera, but I would guess that you cannot tell which they are.

Fun in the snow

Firstly let me wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

My brother, Steve, has been visiting us this past week with his wife, Beverley, and their two sons, Gabriel and Sebastien.  Last Friday didn’t get off to a good start with snow falling all morning, but it did mean the boys could get to build a rather large (6ft/2m tall) snowman in the afternoon.  I say ‘boys’, but as you can see from the first few pictures, it was mainly Steve who built it, while Seb and Gabe did what brothers do – throw snowballs at each other.

From then on though it has been blue skies all the way and we’ve been out walking, cross-country skiing and downhill skiing.

With the sun shining brightly, as each day went by, the snowman started to tilt more and more.  Picture 29 below was taken on new year’s day (looking a bit how I felt!) and, even today, it’s still defying gravity by leaning at around 45 degrees.

Gozo

With the Malta Challenge Marathon being off my agenda due to my injury, I had more time to explore than I expected.  So I took the ferry over to Gozo to check out some of the places that Jude and I had visited 3 years ago.  I knew that the Azure Window had collapsed, but I wasn’t expecting to see the San Blas beach completely covered in seaweed.  To show you the contrast I’ve included images from 2016.

As I drove along I was also lucky enough to spot the Ta Pinu National Shrine.  The interior and mosaics outside, which appeared to have been done by people from all around the world, were very impressive.

Mdina, Malta

My apologies for not publishing a ‘real’ post for a while but, like many bloggers it seems, I’ve been busy doing nothing in particular.

Anyway a few months ago now, my wife organised a trip to Iceland with her friend Kate, so I had a look for something to do while she was away.  Naturally I wanted to find some warmer weather and I looked at the AIMS marathon calendar for some inspiration.  To my delight I discovered that the Malta Challenge Marathon was on at the same time.  It consists of 3 races over 3 days, covering a 10 miler, a 5k then a Half marathon.   So I entered, arranged all my travel and set about getting fit.  My training was going really well (even running while I was away in Finland and Mykonos) and I’d managed to get up to 20k in a respectable 1h 50 mins, so I figured I was ready…  That is until my final training run, the Saturday before I left, and my left calf seized up yet again!  (Insert a suitable curse or emoji here).

Thankfully I had another reason to go… My father spent some time in Malta after the War, as a Signalman on a minesweeper and he had mentioned enjoying some time ashore down a street which he called “The Gut”, but is actually called Strait Street in English.   So when my wife and I went to Malta / Gozo a few years ago, we searched for a copy of a book by George Cini, called Strait Street.  We couldn’t find an English copy anywhere, so I got in touch with George and managed to get hold of a copy to give to my dad.   During my email exchanges with George, I mentioned my dad’s book and he suggested I present a copy of it, personally, to the Fondazzioni Wirt Artna (FWA), which is an organisation dedicated to preserving the history of the island.  And so that was also arranged…

So, like London buses, you don’t hear anything from me for a while and now a few posts of my, sometimes very wet, time in Malta & Gozo, beginning with the Mdina…

 

Mike’s Music Monday #19

It’s quite timely that I should have posted this picture of my two good friends Ian and Martin, as Joe Jackson was a particular favourite of Ian’s and the song always reminds me of a camping holiday that the three of us had in Guernsey in the summer of 1979.  We travelled over on the ferry when the infamous Fastnet storms were beginning.  The boat was pitching and rolling all the way.  Almost everyone on the ship was ill except the 3 of us, who could be found propping up the bar.

Martin played on the wing for York Rugby Union Football Club and was quick as well as strong and he decided to enter the Guernsey Open Athletics Championship.  He chose to compete in  the 100 metres and the Shot Putt event.  (Not many people attempt that ‘double’!)  Ian and I didn’t want to be left out so we recruited another 100m sprinter to form a 4x100m relay team.  We finished 4th out of 5, beating the team put together by the 1500m runners, who had finished their own race only about 20 minutes before!

It’s those sort of holidays that bond friendships for the rest of your life.  Even today, 40 years on, you may hear one of us say “Is she really going out with him?” 🤣

 

 

Swiss National Route 6, Zinal to Gruben (Day 2 of 3)

After a steep descent into Zinal on day 1, it didn’t take me long (maybe about 5 minutes) to realise that almost all paths around Zinal are steep.  My GPS was telling me that the 50m contours were coming every 120m, which makes it a gradient of over 40%.  However after about an hour the path levelled off and then it just meandered and undulated all the way to the Weisshorn Hotel, where I stopped for some refreshments. 🍺😊

From there I thought it would be a simple 450m/1,500ft climb to the Meidpass but, just to make life interesting, the path dropped about 200m before it started to climb again.  But what a wonderful walk it was.  I was completely blown away by Le Touno (see pic 19) which stood majestically above everything, even though it’s only 3,018m (9,902ft) high.  After that, both sides of the Meidpass felt extremely remote and I only saw 5 other walkers before reaching the Schwarzhorn Hotel in Gruben,

It was there that I met up with the dozen or so people I mentioned yesterday, who were indeed British.  They were all walking from Chamonix to Zermatt on a 2 week holiday – not that everyone considered it a holiday!  I’ve mentioned coincidences recently but, one of the party leaders hailed from my old neck of the woods, near Hull.  Also, I offered to take a picture of a couple near the Weisshorn Hotel and, although they lived in Germany, the lady also came from near Hull.  What are the chances of that happening on the same day in the Alps?

As usual, I’ve done my best to identify the butterflies below, but one eluded me.  Despite it having some very distinct lines on the under wing, I couldn’t find it in my book.

Swiss National Route 6, Villa to Zinal (Day 1 of 3)

Since returning from my walk with the boys on the Inn Way to Northumberland, I’ve had itchy feet.  Jude has also been encouraging me to take advantage of our time here in Switzerland (not to mention while I’m still physically able to do these walks).  So, after checking that the forecast was going to be ‘fine’ for the next 3 days, I set off to do 3 sections of the Swiss National Route 6, which runs from St Gingolph, on Lac Léman, to Chur in the east.  The route would take me from Villa to Zinal, then to Gruben in the Turtmanntal valley on Day 2 and then from there to St Niklaus in the Mattertal valley on Day 3, before catching the train and bus home.

I’ll admit that I cheated a bit and got Jude to drop me off at Villa.  Well, otherwise I would have had over 2,000m (6,500ft) to climb and strictly, Evolène is not on the route.  When I got out of the car, I noticed about a dozen other walkers, who all seemed to be preparing to set off up the same path.  I wondered who they might be (I thought I heard English voices) and I was to find out the following day…

Zinal is clearly more geared up for the winter ski season.  It’s quite a large village, but only 4 of the restaurants were open.  The rest were closed, including the one in the hotel where I was staying.  Upon arrival, after finding the front door to the restaurant and bar locked, I finally located the entrance door to the hotel and there to greet me was just a note and a key. (See pic 41).  I didn’t see anyone from the hotel until breakfast the next morning.  This may sound like poor customer service, but I think that you would probably only get this ‘trust’ in Switzerland.