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!

Pic d’Artsinol Walk – 2nd attempt

Almost a month ago I set off to walk to the top of the Pic d’Artsinol, but I was thwarted by too much snow. The weather since has not been particularly warm, but yesterday I decided that it was probably time to give it another go, especially with the chairlift from Lanna opening, which saved me around 700m or 2,300ft of climbing to Chemeuille. 😊

I was however a little hesitant as I drove the car the 1 mile/2 km or so to Lanna, as the peak was covered in cloud. But I hoped that the sun might burn that off and I’d have 360 degree views. Sadly that was not the case, though I did get a good view of the Dixence Dam, which I thought was at least a nice link to my last post. And the clouds did add a little atmosphere to some of the photos.

As you will see in pics 8 and 9, I was joined on the ascent by a very small butterfly (one of only four I saw all day, surprisingly enough, given the number of flowers around). It very cleverly landed on the strap of my camera, making it a little difficult to get a photo, until I realised I had my phone in my pocket. After what seemed like an age, fumbling to get it out, typing in the pin code and selecting the camera option, all without disturbing the butterfly, I managed to get quite a few (and surprisingly good) shots. My only doubt as to its identity as a Small Blue (male) is that my book seems to suggest the first 2 dots on the hind wing should be “equal or less than 90 degrees to the edge of the wing”. (Though it looks identical to a Small Blue photo on the author’s website). So, if there are any experts out there who agree or disagree, I’d like to hear from them.

Equally, if anyone can tell me what the flower is in pic 22, I’d be most grateful. It was at around 2,750m or 9,000ft.

Grande Dixence Dam Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Firstly let me say a big THANK YOU to Vivienne at BugWomanLondon, David at White-Rainbows and Brian at blhphotoblog for taking the time to reply to my Damsel/Dragonfly quiz. I don’t know the correct answers, so all I can say is, you’re all winners! 😊

The road up to the Grande Dixence dam is now open. So yesterday I thought I’d take a drive up there, to walk along the track which runs by the side of the reservoir. Everything was going well until I came across a huge patch of snow, (see pic 21), which was probably the result of an avalanche during the winter. So I turned about and headed up to the Gentiane hut, which was closed and completely deserted.

The reservoir is one of a 1000 in Switzerland and ‘Lac des Dix’ is the largest lake over 2,000m in the Alps. As I’m sure many of you will already know, (since I’ve posted this a few times now 😉) at 285m or 935ft, it’s also the tallest gravity dam in the world. (It’s the 5th tallest in the world and the tallest in Europe). The dam itself is 700m or 3,000 ft wide and contains around 6 million cubic metres of concrete. It holds up to 400 million cubic metres of water, but it was only just over half full yesterday. It’s fed by 4 smaller reservoirs in the neighbouring valleys, including Ferpècle and Zermatt, via around 100km or 62 miles of tunnels. The level of water gradually rises throughout the year in preparation for the huge increase in electricity usage during the cold winters.

My walk started in sunshine, but the clouds soon came over, so it wasn’t a great day for photography. If you’d like to see some impressive aerial shots and to find out more fascinating facts about the dam, please click here.

To Happyland and Beyond…

No, this is not a post about recreational drugs, though recreation and endorphins are involved… It’s about a Swiss running event, organised by Datasport, called One Million Run, where the aim is for all the participants to run a total of 1 Million kilometres this weekend. In typical, precise Swiss fashion, the event started at 00:00 this (Saturday) morning and goes on until midnight on Sunday.

Anybody (based in Switzerland I presume) can register and run any distance they wish. An app is available to monitor your progress and distance and, upon completion, the results are then transferred into the Datasport ‘Live’ results website. Or, you could use your own GPS device and upload that later. At the time of writing over 70,000 people had entered, 6,000 were running and 16,000 plus had finished (at least for today).

For my part, I’ve been doing a bit of running here and there, trying to get fit again, but my run last weekend was my longest at 7.6km (4.7 miles). So my first challenge was in deciding how far to run. 10km (6 miles) seemed a little short to be a sufficient challenge, but 20km (12.5 miles) might be just a bit too far, so I settled for 15km (9.3 miles). My next dilemma was where and when to run… The only route I have around here, is up and down the riverside, which is no more than 4km one way, so that would mean doing the 100m (328ft) climb twice! On the other hand it would be cooler here (at around 15 degrees C) versus the 20+ deg C heat down in the Rhone valley… After some internal debate, my decision was to go with the ‘flat’ of the Rhone riverside, but to set off early and run in the relative ‘cool’ of 17-18 degrees at 8:45am.

My route would start near the Sion Golf Club and take me past a couple of lakes to my expected turnaround point at 8km, just beyond the Happyland amusement park. I chose to turn around at 8km as, psychologically, it makes it lot easier to do the 7km on the way back, plus it gave me a km to warm down/cool off!

I measured the distance on my old GPS watch and it appears to have sold me short by 50 metres. Although my watch said I’d done 15km when I stopped, the GPX file uploaded to my SwissMaponline app (see below), says 14.95km (and the official result says 14.9k). Either way, I’m very pleased that I decided to take part and managed to finish without stopping or getting injured. 😊👍

Oh, and for those who may be interested, my time was 1h 22m 8s.
To save you doing the maths, that’s a shade under 5.5m per km (or 8m 52s per mile).

Alpine Flora and Butterfly Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

Yesterday my wife, Jude, and I went for a walk from the parking area near Les Farquesses up to Les Mayens de la Cretta. With the sun shining brightly and many more alpine flowers in full bloom, we were expecting to photograph a few butterflies. I hadn’t even switched the engine off and Jude announced that she’d already counted 11 butterflies fluttering around the meadow beside the car. We didn’t even need to venture into the meadow to take the pictures, as there was plenty of activity by the side of the road. About 20 minutes later we finally dragged ourselves away. I believe the first 3 butterflies in the gallery below are ‘firsts’ for this website. 😊

Remointse du Tsaté Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

For the past few days I’ve been itching to do this walk, but the clouds have been clinging steadfastly to the mountain tops. With clear blue skies forecast yesterday, at least initially, I set off to drive the short distance to La Forclaz (VS).

My aim was to reach the small lake or pond at the area called Remointse du Tsaté (@2,502m or 8,209ft). I had no idea how much snow there would be and, in the event, my route to the lake was clear, but the lake was almost surrounded, as you will see below.

I was quite lucky because the sun had all but gone in when I arrived at the lake, though the distant mountains were still as bright as ever. I took a few photos and then, miraculously, the sun came out, so I took them all over again! It was an amazing sight for sure and one which I had all to myself. 😀

Butterfly photo experiment

The other day I went for a short walk behind our chalet, taking my my wife’s SLR camera, complete with telephoto lens. I wondered whether it might give better results than my point and shoot and the results can be seen below.

Note that with the SLR telephoto lens I couldn’t get it to autofocus from within 1 metre / 3 feet, so all the pictures had to be taken from afar. This was a great advantage as I didn’t disturb the butterflies as much and I managed to capture maybe 80% of the ones which landed nearby. With my point and shoot, it’s a case of stalking the butterfly, taking photos as I get closer and closer, until it either flies away or I get to within 5 to 8 cm or 2 to 3 inches. With this method I maybe capture 30 to 40%. However, if I do manage to get that close, then the images from the point and shoot, as you might expect, are much better. Though that could be down to my handling of the SLR of course.

So, is it better to capture more butterflies with ‘OK’ results or are we seeking to achieve that ‘perfect’ shot? If you have any views, I’d be pleased to receive your comments.

Most of the butterflies in this gallery you will have seen before but, given the cloudy weather conditions that we’d had during the day, I was amazed to photograph 12 different sorts in the hour or so that I was out. (One photo of a female ‘blue’, which I couldn’t identify anyway, was too blurred to include).

Tsalet d’Eison Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

When our road was closed on Sunday, I created a Plan B, just in case I couldn’t get out to do my walk on Monday. That was to take the cross path from our chalet to Eison, then climb around 500m (or 1,600ft) to the Tsalet d’Eison. From there I’d take the track towards L’A Vieille and then the path back down through the woods to Evolène. My only doubt was how much snow there might still be on the north facing slope.

With the weather set fair on Thursday, this was my chosen route. However, as you will see from pictures 25 and 26 there was quite a lot of snow on the return path. So rather than risk soggy wet feet, a slip or, worse still, an avalanche, I returned the same way that I came. Though it worked out pretty well, as the bright sunshine had brought out many more butterflies for me to photograph. 😊

My apologies for so many images, but I hope it gives you a flavour for the abundance and diversity of the flora and fauna I’m privileged to see on these walks (even if I can’t identify them all!)