Walk around Lac de Montsalvens, Gruyère, Switzerland

Like many of you no doubt, Jude and I have been longing to get away for a bit of a break. The hotels in Switzerland are still open and we took advantage of a special Dinner, Bed and Breakfast offer at a hotel in the small village of Charmey.

I think it’s fair to say that the Gruyère region is more ‘chocolate box’ pretty than the more rugged Alps of the Valais, as I hope these photos show.

Lac Léman and Château de Chillon, Vaud, Switzerland

On Tuesday, Jude and I took a trip down to Switzerland’s largest lake, Lac Léman or Lake Geneva. We parked up in Villeneuve, which lies at the eastern end and walked along the lakeside towards Montreux. Along the way is one of Switzerland’s “Top 10” tourist sites, the Château de Chillon.

The site began as a Roman outpost, to guard the route through the alpine passes, but construction started in the 10th century. As you can imagine it has an interesting history and you can read all about it here.

Equally interesting are the legends which surround the small island seen in picture 4. Surprisingly (to me anyway) it’s the only natural island in the lake, Technically it’s called the Île de Peilz but, being British, I like the story about it being given as a gift to Queen Victoria when she visited the region. A tree was planted on the island and it’s known as Queen Victoria’s tree. For more legends and even a video of the tree please click here.

Note that the first two images below were taken near Ollon, on our way to the lake.

Châteaux de Sion et Environs, (Route 140), Valais, Switzerland

Most of the routes that I use are derived from the SwitzerlandMobility website, which is a fantastic resource (should you ever wish to explore this fine country). Not only does it show every single walking path or track, but it also includes cycling, mountain biking, roller blading and, would you believe, canoeing routes. It’s very easy to use – just zoom in to the region you’re interested in then select the appropriate type of exercise on the left and specify whether you’d like to view the National, Regional and/or Local routes. You can also draw and download your own routes, (as I do frequently), but this requires an annual subscription of around 35 Swiss francs (35 US dollars/£30). Well worth every cent, I’d say!

So, while searching for another new route to walk, I had a quick look at the cycling options and discovered this circular, regional route (no. 140) around the villages above Sion. At 42 km (or 26 miles), it didn’t seem to be too far, for a part-time cyclist like me, though it did have 950m of ascent. The altitude profile suggested that it would be done in 2 separate climbs, with a level-ish section in between, so I thought it might not be too difficult. It was only during the drive down to Sion with my bike in the back of the car that I realised it was the equivalent of cycling back up to Evolène from Sion. (My family and friends, who have visited us, will appreciate how big a climb that is!)

Anyway, all went well as you will see from the images below. Though, try as I might, I couldn’t get the Speed Checker by the side of the road to register anything, such was the incline (see pic 18). The first climb had an average incline of 8.5% over 4.5 km and, purely in the interests of producing this post of course, I did stop frequently to take a few photos. 😊

Lastly, I should also praise the Garmin Edge, which you can see in Pic 9. I’d only used it in the past to track where I’d been and this was the first time I’d downloaded a route to follow. For something so tiny it did an amazing job, giving an alarm around 150 metres before and then at any significant change in direction and also an alarm when I went slightly off the route, plus confirming when I was back on track. 👍👍

Winter Walk, Arolla valley, Val, d’Hérens, Switzerland

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!

‘New’ website…

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. 😊

La Sage and Villa from Evolène (Walk 5), Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

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! 🤣

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!”

Bella Lui Walk, Rhone Valley, Switzerland

We had a small amount of rain on Monday night which left a layer of snow down to around 2,300m or 7,500ft. With this in mind I scoured the map for something new and south facing, as the snow may well have melted away. I settled upon a walk above Crans-Montana to Bella Lui (at 2,548m or 8,360ft), with the possibility of carrying on to a peak called Tubang (at 2,826m or 9,272ft), if the snow conditions allowed. I also noticed that there was a return path from the Col de l’Arpochey, which sits between the two peaks, that would take me down to the Bisse de Ro and back to the parking area.

The map also showed that there was a ladder somewhere between the peaks, which I assumed would be to go up, but it turned out to be to descend. As you will see from some of the pictures below, there was quite a lot of snow still around and it was when I reached that ladder (pics 23 & 24) that I turned around and retraced my steps. I’d also spotted quite a lot of snow on the steep descent path (pics 21 & 22). After having had one fall this week, I wasn’t planning on having another!

The initial path was also interesting in that my GPS route took me up a mountain biking track. It wasn’t clear where the walker’s path was, but I have to say, those mountain bikers are brave souls! I tried to take a video on my way back down to show you how difficult the terrain was, but it didn’t work out very well. I did however manage to get a video of two parascenders (also in pic 18) taking off – which is at the end of this post.

The rather swanky resort of Crans-Montana couldn’t be more different to our, rather humble, little village. I only walked passed about 5 chalets and 3 of them are featured below.

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).

Fafleralp Walk, Lötschental, Valais, Switzerland

When I bought my new point and shoot camera, I also bought a new case, because the old case and the belt strap were a little too big. But I then discovered that the belt strap on the new case didn’t fit my bumbag. So, I’ve been in the habit of swapping the cases around, depending on whether I’m using my bumbag or rucksack.

On my way out yesterday I picked up the new case, but hadn’t realised, until I zoomed in for the 2nd picture below, that I had my old camera with me. Doh! I thought, as the my old camera has a dark blotch towards the top right corner, which spoils perfectly blue skies. From then on, I had to keep turning the camera upside down (for any landscape photos including the sky) and press the shutter with my thumb. It was inconvenient, but not the end of the world of course.

On the (big) plus side, the old camera has a 30x zoom and it proved useful on several occasions, not least of which was to capture the Crossbill image, (pic 12). It was at the very top of a conifer tree and was a ‘first’ sighting for both Jude and me. In addition Jude spotted a Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture, but it was far too high to get a decent photograph (worth posting anyway).

As you will see, this walk, which is Swiss Walk no. 152 by the way, takes in 3 small lakes, all of which provided excellent photo opportunities. And you will notice not one, but two mountain huts; the Anenhütte and the Hollandiahütte, which sits, perched above the Löschenlücke.