Walk to the Aiguilles Rouges hut from Satarma, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

This is another of my favourite walks, which I normally do from Arolla but, for a change, I thought I’d do it in the opposite direction. Parking at La Gouille has become a bit of an issue, due to the number of visitors, so I decided to set off a little further down the road, from Satarma.

I was about three-quarters of the way to the hut, when I heard a rustling sound to my left. A parapentist was sorting out his gear and getting ready to fly. So I paused and decided to take a video. If anyone has not seen them taking off, it’s quite a tense moment, for the observer anyway. So I’ve added it at the end of this post. (Note that there was quite a lot of background wind noise, even though there was hardly any wind, so I’ve set it to play muted).

Walk to No Name Lake from Arolla, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Let me take you on a beautiful walk to a small lake which has no name (other than maybe No Name Lake). It’s a while since I went up there. The first time was in June 2017, when the lake was still completely frozen and I couldn’t get anywhere near it for the surrounding snow. I went back again in the October and managed to get some ‘reflection’ shots, so I was hoping to capture something similar this time.

As you will see from some of the later images, the terrain gets a little barren and rocky at the higher altitudes, (the lake is at exactly 2,900m or 9,514ft), but I was pleased to find quite a few ‘different’ flowers around to photograph. If my identification is correct, the White-leaved Adenostyle (in pic 14) is quite a rare find.

I saw around a dozen other walkers on the way there, but all of them were heading for the Pas de Chèvres. So, after turning away north from that path, I had the upper valley and lake all to myself. It was so peaceful, (if not calm, due to a light breeze), I thought I’d take a video for you to enjoy… 😊 (See end of this post).

Mont Rouge and Thyon Ridge walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

The forecast promised bright sunshine, so yesterday I set off to do one of my favourite walks along the Thyon ridge to Mont Rouge. However, there were still a few wisps of cloud hanging over some of the mountain tops, so I decided to do the route in reverse, hoping the clouds would lift completely – which eventually they did.

From Thyon, the path climbs gradually along the east side of the ridge to two small ponds (or gouilles) before climbing up to Mont Rouge (at 2,490m or 8,136ft). From there the return follows the top of the ridge all the way back to Thyon.

As well as the picture gallery, I’ve included a 360 degree panorama video from the top of Mont Rouge – starting and finishing with the ridge. If you turn up the volume and listen carefully, you may be able to hear the sound of distant cowbells. 😊

I also noticed 3 red blobs on the back of one of the butterflies. (See pic 13). If anyone knows what these might be, please let me know. I’ve seen one or two on other butterflies recently and I’m guessing they must be eggs, but laid by who knows what and why there?

Even more butterflies…

On Wednesday, the sun was shining brightly so I decided to take an amble up our road to see if I could find a ‘new’ or different butterfly to photograph. After a few shots in an around the parking area, I wandered further up the road and was feeling a little despondent as it felt like ‘all’ I’d seen were the usual suspects – Damon Blues, Spotted Fritillaries, Meadow Browns and several Marbled Whites (so many in fact, I didn’t even take any pictures since they were so ‘common’). I took some comfort in having found a very strange looking black caterpillar with yellow stripes across its back and some weird looking things coming out of its sides. (See pic 4, which I later discovered was an Alder Moth caterpillar).

I wandered back down the road thinking that was it, when I was stopped in my tracks by a magnificent orangey brown butterfly with some white markings and a tail. (I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a Brown Hairstreak – see pic 14). Whoopee, I thought, a new one, exactly what I was looking for. And while I was there, a Brimstone landed right next to me and it was swiftly followed by a very scruffy looking Comma. Things were suddenly looking up. Suitably re-energised I carried on snapping away and even went into ‘the trench’ behind the road to capture a few more.

As you may gather, apart from a few obvious ones, butterflies are simply white, blue, brown or yellow to me, at least until I look them up. So I expected a lot of the pictures to be duplicates or even triplicates. But it was only when I went through my photos to identify them yesterday that I realised (assuming my id’s are correct) I’d captured 20 different butterflies.

I’m now suitably ashamed of myself for being so pathetic and not appreciating even those which I’ve seen and photographed many times before. I’m truly lucky to be able to see all these magnificent little creatures less than 100 yards from on my doorstep.

Once more, as in my post of “A Dozen Butterflies” of last week, it turned out that all of these images were taken inside 1 hour 20 minutes. In order to give you a flavour for how it sort of works, I took a video while standing in the trench. (See end of this post). It will never win a Wildlife Film of the Year award, but you’ll get an idea of how easy it is to capture so many butterflies in such a small area in such a short time. It shows at least 8, possibly 9, different butterflies in the 2m 20s or so of the film. I hope you enjoy!

P.S. The Happiness Engineers at WP have pointed out that I’ve been setting my Post Format to ‘Gallery’, which seemed reasonable to me since almost all my posts contain a gallery. However, when included with text, it has the effect of leaving the email blank (apart from the title of course). So this one is set to ‘Standard’ AND I’ve changed the Feed setting (under Settings – Writing) to ‘Limit feed to excerpt only’. So, we’ll see what happens… 😊

Swiss Trip to the South-East (Last Part 3)

As we drove back from Diavolezza, we came across one of the most amazing, certainly sporting, sights that I have ever seen. There must have been at least 50 or 60 kite-surfers, criss-crossing the Silvaplanasee. After the extremely calm morning, the wind had picked up and the surfers were having a fantastic time – some leaping high into the air and landing gracefully, but occasionally trying some tricks (like removing the board from their feet) and then, more often than not, crashing back into the lake.

We later read that there is a particular feature of the local summer climate, called the Malojawind. This is due to the morning thermals rising above Silvaplana much quicker than the neighbouring St Moritz and Sils and thus creating a strong, warm wind.

Not only were the kite surfers having fun, but everyone watching them seemed to be smiling too. It was certainly mesmerising and entertaining in equal measure.

The unfortunately named Crap da Sass Castle, comes from the Romansh and Italian language (Crap = stone in Romansh and da Sass = from stone in Italian). It was built in 1906 by the German general Graf von der Lippe and is now privately owned, so not open to the public. However it does create a marvellous back-drop to the activities on the lake, which also include wind-surfing.

Below I’ve created my usually picture gallery. This is followed by a sequence of photos, which should be stepped through in gallery mode, to see a sort of moving image. (Just click on, or touch, the first image and click or right arrow forward). Finally, there’s an actual video, which finishes in dramatic style! I hope you enjoy! 😄

Swiss Trip to the South-East (Part 2)

We awoke to another beautiful day with blue skies and high clouds. We also soon discovered that there was hardly a breath of wind. As we drove along the lakeside road, we just had to stop. I certainly don’t remember ever seeing such a perfect mirror-like reflection on such a large lake as the one we saw on the Silsersee. (See pic 2).

Our plan for the day was to tour around to the Val Bernina and take the cable car up to Diavolezza. Jude had read that this gave the best view of the 4,049m (13,284ft) Piz Bernina and how right the guide book was! As you will know, we have seen many, many glaciers. The views from the Gornergrat (of Monte Rosa amongst other 4,000m peaks) and the Aiguille du Midi (of Mont Blanc) are very impressive, but I think the panorama we encountered from Diavolezza was even better.

From the viewing platform there’s a relatively easy walk to the summit of Munt Pers (@3,206m or 10,518ft). Unfortunately the top was in cloud most of the time and we never did get a view to the east. But it did clear sufficiently to get a glimpse of the Morteratsch valley. (See pic 16).

I was so blown away by the views, I decided to take a video for you as well. 😊 (See end of this post).

P.S. Happy Swiss National (& Yorkshire) Day everyone!

Swiss Trip to the North (last part, 5)

As you may recall we chose to go to Schaffhausen as it’s very close to the Rhine Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Europe. OK, it’s not as high as the Angel Falls, nor as wide as either the Niagara or Victoria Falls, but it’s impressive nonetheless. As with the Tinguely fountain, a static image doesn’t really do it justice, so today you have not one but TWO videos. I spoil you.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, since you are possibly wondering where all the big mountains have gone, I’ve included some photos of our journey home.
From Schaffhausen we headed east to the small town of Arbon, which sits on the shores of Lake Constance, or the Bodensee, just a few miles from the Austrian border. After lunch we headed south, through Glarus and over the Klausen and Furka passes back to our beloved Rhone valley. During our trip, we travelled through 16 of the 26 Swiss cantons.

It also seems someone has found a new and potentially much more useful role for “Mr President”. (See pic 15 in the second gallery).

Mike’s Music Monday #52

Please note that this post was scheduled well before the Coronavirus outbreak, so please don’t be offended by the title of the song…  (I did think about swapping it for another song, but it is quite humorous in a ‘dark’ sort of way).

OK – some of you may be glad to know that this is the last in this series. (Hooray, I hear you cry).  I know it’s not been that popular, but it has filled in some gaps, which I may well fill this coming year with some other random posts (yet to be determined).

Anyway, for my last song, it seemed appropriate to play this one by Just Jack, called the Day I Died.  I had the pleasure of watching Just Jack live at the D Club in Lausanne some years ago.  He introduced this as a ‘happy song’, so who am I to argue.  Whatever, I think the lyrics and video are superb.  (In case you didn’t know Just Jack (Allsop) appears at the end of the video, as the medic who shakes his head).