Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 4 of 4)

We awoke to see the nearby mountains covered by what can only be called a smattering of snow and we were buoyed by the forecast, which said no wind and no rain. 😀

When I’d organised the trip, I’d read that there was a ridge towards the finish, called the Arete de l’Arpille, which was not good for people with vertigo.  But, having seen some of the pictures, where it looked quite rounded, I convinced Pete, everything would be fine.  (He’s so trusting!)

However, whilst talking to a mother and daughter in the hut, who had done this section 4 days earlier, they told us about a series of ladders and ropes, which they found pretty challenging (aka scary) – though possibly no worse than what we had already done on Day 3.  Phew, we should be OK. (At least that was what I thought, but I’m not sure what was going through Pete’s mind… 😣😜😖😨😱🥶?)  But then we didn’t consider that the forecast might be slightly wrong…

As we approached the Col des Audannes and said series of about 6 or 7 ladders, each with 11 rungs, the weather gods decided to have a little fun and sent some more of the white stuff falling from the sky.  Thankfully it was short-lived, but at least this tells you that it was cold.   Pete had some gloves, but silly Mike thought he’d lost his somewhere the day before and I went down those wet, potentially slippery, rungs and snow covered ropes with my bare hands.  Gosh, it was cold.  One slip and we were gonners (see pic 15).  But, we survived. 😀

A little further along, there was another drop down a gully on a thick blue rope (see pic 21), followed by a much thinner climbing rope (pic 22).  Oh, the joy on Pete’s face was something to behold!  But we still had that last ridge to look forward to…  As it turned out, Pete’s new trainers had a much better grip than mine and he had no issues at all.  I was the one who slid a couple of times on the greasy surface.
(For the record and sake of completeness and safety, in case anyone is thinking of doing this route: The ridge goes away on each side at around 60 degrees and on 2 occasions the narrow path drops down to the side for about 50 m/yards each time, with no ropes or other form of protection.  So you have to be sure footed).

I’d like to show you some more photos of the final kilometre, but as you can see from the last few pictures, we finished in mist, with visibility down to around 25m/yds.  So, we skipped the final few kilometres and Jude picked us up at the Col du Sanetsch.  We returned home for a much needed bath and shower – not to mention a few beers and a superb chicken curry with poppadoms and dips (all prepared by Jude of course)! 😋

I hope you have all enjoyed this series of posts and our little adventure.  Clearly this route is not for the elderly or infirm… (Oh, sorry Pete! 😉)

As before all Pete’s pics are watermarked.

 

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 3 of 4)

I should mention at this point that my mate Pete suffers from vertigo.  He also currently has 2 bad knees (as you can possibly tell from his knee supports in the photos) and, as Monsieur Alfonse used to say on ‘Allo ‘Allo, a dicky ticker.  Plus, he will tell you that he only has one lung.  (Of course, if this were true, he would never have been able to run a half marathon in around 76 minutes, but we have to humour him…)

That said, our route for Day 2 looked simple enough on paper – a descent back down the path we had climbed the day before, a casual stroll along the valley floor, over the Col du Rawil and then up to the wonderfully (and as it turned out appropriately named) Col des Eaux Froides (Cold Waters), before dropping down again to the Cabane des Audannes.  It’s a distance of no more than 7 miles and around 750m (or 2,500ft) of ascent.  Simple.

However, the forecast was for rain by mid afternoon and what we didn’t know, was that there was a huge area of limestone to cross, which involved scrambling up and down over the sharp rocks.  Apart from the danger of falling down one of the many gullies, one slip and you could have been cut to ribbons.  This was not ideal with rain imminent.  So we pushed on, very carefully of course, foregoing our lunchtime picnic and we managed to reach the Col des Eaux Froides just as the clouds were gathering.  A flurry of white stuff started to descend, the wind got up and the air was increasingly cold.   Somewhat different to our previous 2 days.  (New readers to this series, please see the images from Day 1 and Day 2).

Even once inside the mountain hut, all was not as cozy as it might seem, as the toilets were in a small building outside.  This is just about visible to the right of the main building in some of the last photos.

As before, Pete’s photos are suitably watermarked.

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 2 of 4)

Although we had only 18km (11 miles) to cover, Pete and I knew that, with over 2,000m (6,500ft) of ascent, our second day would be the toughest (at least in terms of effort*).  Most people stop at Iffigenalp, but we chose to continue and do the Wildsrubelhutte variant.  So an early start was called for.

After a morning of lush green meadows, we had a short climb up to the Tungelpass and into the Iffigtal, passing the impossibly turquoise blue Iffigsee (pic 17).  We then stopped to catch our breath and a quick drink at Iffigenalp before setting off on the 1200m (almost 4,000 ft) climb to the hut.  As you can see from the pictures below, the terrain changes quite dramatically once you get above 2,500m (8,200 ft).  The only thing spoiling the views were the stanchions which supported two cable car lifts, which ran from Iffigenalp to the Wisshorelucke.  From what I heard, these were not for skiing as you might expect, but for use by the Swiss military.

*Days 3 and 4 would have their own challenges, but I’ll get on to them tomorrow… 😊

Again, Pete’s pictures are suitably watermarked.

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 1 of 4)

For the past 4 days my good mate Pete and I have been walking around the Wildhorn, staying in mountain huts.  After being dropped off by my wife, Jude, at Lac de Sénin, day 1 would take us to the Geltenhutte. As you can see from the images below, the views were classically Swiss, with green meadows, small lakes and waterfalls – all under perfectly blue skies. 😊

As you can see from pics 34 & 35, the inside of the mountain hut isn’t quite as rustic as you might think.  After a refreshing beer (or 2), Pete and I tucked into a delicious 3 course meal.  The perfect start to a fantastic trip.

As you can see from the watermark, some of these photos are Pete’s.

Walk to La Gouille via Alpage de l’Etoile, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

You may have noticed that there was something missing from the pictures of my last walk – butterflies.  That wasn’t because there were none around, I just didn’t have the time to stop (or wait for them to stop) and capture them on camera.  Anyway, on Sunday I made up for that, and some, when I decided to walk to La Gouille, via the Alpage de l’Etoile.  There was one very small area, at the Mayen de la Cretta, which must have had at least a dozen different species fluttering around just a few thistle plants.

So my apologies if there now too many in this gallery, but even now I’ve left out the Marbled White, the Tortoiseshell and the Peacock.  At last though, I’ve finally captured an Apollo (which was rooted to the spot and I must have taken 20 or more photos of that one alone – see pic 16).

I also just happened to have my camera in my hand when the Hummingbird Hawkmoth came hovering by while I was having a little refreshment at the Hotel Dents de Veisivi.  🍺😊

 

 

Walk to the Cabane du Trient via Cabane d’Orny

Today I had another opportunity to do a ‘new’ walk and this time it was from the small village of Champex-Lac to the Cabane du Trient (@3,169m or 10,297ft) which overlooks a huge expanse of glacier called the Plateau du Trient.  I cheated a bit by taking the chairlift to La Breya (@2198m or 7,211ft) but it was still a good hike over some rough terrain and included a little bit of snow and a short section of metal stemples* to climb.
(*Think, thick staples stuck into the rock and you’ll be close).

As you will see below the views of the glaciers were incredible, but I was surprised to find a strange looking statue outside the cabane.  Since returning home I’ve discovered it was created by sculptor Nikola Zaric, who sadly died of cancer in 2017.  It was only meant to be there as part of a temporary exhibition but, after his death, a crowd-fund was set up to buy the statue, in order to donate it to the Swiss Alpine Club to ensure it remains in its current position.  It also looks like they have now reached that target.

Anyway, it wasn’t the only unusual thing seen at the cabane…  My blogging buddy, Stephen Black, has been getting a bit of stick for over-marketing his book ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ on his website, FracturedFaithBlog.  Having put together my dad’s book, I know how much effort that goes into proof reading and editing, let alone actually writing it.  So I’m unashamedly plugging it here. 😊  If you would like to purchase a copy – please click here.

I’m now hoping that I have literally taken it to a new level and my picture is the ‘highest’ picture ever taken of his book(?)

Walk to Pic d’Artsinol (2,998m/9,836ft)

Having recently done a walk around both ends of our valley, at Arolla and Ferpècle, and been up behind our chalet to the Col du Torrent twice (well, once nearly), yesterday it was the turn of the opposite side and an ascent of the Pic d’Artsinol.  Like most of Europe, we are having a bit of a heatwave at the moment, so it would have been foolish of me not to take advantage of the chairlift, which saved me around 700m or 2,300ft of climbing.  I still had over 800m or 2,600ft to go mind you, followed by a looong descent back to Evolène.

As you will see below, the skies were perfectly blue, the views from the top were simply amazing and the butterflies were out in force!

Swiss National Route 6, Gruben to St Niklaus (Day 3 of 3)

Unusually, I was up at the crack of dawn for the last day of my walk.  Well, the hotel bar shut at 10pm, so what else was there to do but got to sleep and even I can manage on 8 hours!  So it was that I set off well before the ‘Brits’ (see previous post) and, if you don’t count cows or birds or butterflies, I never saw a soul until I got near to the Augstbordpass, where I espied someone on the horizon.  (I later caught them up on the descent – see pic 17).

The weather was dry, but rather dull, with high cloud, so not great for photography,  The highlights on the ascent were spotting and capturing (on camera, that is) 3 birds – one I knew, one I thought I knew, but didn’t, and the other I have no idea… (Help!?)

The descent was ‘interesting’ shall we say, as there was still a lot of snow around and I’m not happy walking across, especially sloping, snow in what are effectively trainers – oh yes, and without walking poles.  (Although they are useful in some circumstances, like 1% of the time, I’m not a fan of poles as, to my mind, they are extra baggage and they get in the way when things get a bit bouldery and some scrambling is required – which it was on this trip).  Anyway I survived about 5 or 6 short(ish) sections and my leg only disappeared once up to the knee.  I should have taken a picture – there was already a big hole and now there are two… 🙂

Later, the sun started to come out and the last section down from Jungen was a joy to behold, with butterflies everywhere.  I was being teased by Apollos and even a Swallowtail fluttering around my head but, when they landed, they were out of reach and I would have needed to hang off the cliff face to get a picture.  I saw more Marbled Whites than I’ve ever seen in my entire life (and that’s a few – well, maybe 12) and a host of others, not shown below, simply because they either didn’t land or I have no way of identifying them and there’s enough in this gallery anyway.

I couldn’t leave this post without highlighting two flowers…

Pic 12: I’m 99% sure are called King-of-the-Alps.  They look like Alpine Forget-me-nots, but they only grow to a height of between 1 and 6 cm (unlike their look-a-like, which grows to 5 to 15cm).  My book describes them as “Rather rare” and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them, certainly posted a picture of them.

Pic 27: Has the delightful name of Swiss Treacle Mustard and if that’s not a name to conjure with nothing is.  🙂

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.