While I was away in Krakow it snowed, as indeed it did the day I came back, so our little valley was completely white once more. As ever though, it seems, the sun has been out since and doing its best to clear it all away again, particularly on the south facing slopes and this has led to the emergence of the first Spring flowers… (My little Swiss Alpine Flora book has been gathering dust for 6 months, so it was good to get it out again. 🙂)
I decided to get some fresh air yesterday and took a short (maybe 3km / 2 miles) walk behind our chalet along the still partially covered paths and tracks in the area called Les Flantses, which lead up to the small hamlet of Volovron. As you can see below, you don’t have to walk very far to get a good view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
I mentioned in my previous post that the weather here in the Val d’Hérens has been rather sunny of late. Well, despite the air temperature only hovering between 0 and 11 degrees C (32 and 52 F) and there still being 80-90% snow cover in our valley, we’ve actually seen 3 or 4 butterflies flitting about.
I was interested to find out which type they were, so I went in search of a photograph and sure enough, only a few yards up our road, I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell. It had its wings closed and was well camouflaged so, given the distance I was away and the light shining on the back of my point and shoot camera, I was amazed to capture it in the centre of the picture. The image below is exactly as it was taken (though reduced in pixel size to make it easier for you to load).
This is not the first time I’ve witnessed these brave and hardy little things out in the snow – as this picture from March 2017 shows.
We’re having some pretty incredible weather here in the Val d’Hérens at the moment. Since we returned from the UK last week, it’s been blue skies all the way and at least one forecast suggests it will continue for another 10 days, at least… (see pic 1). 😅 Early morning temperatures are still pretty cold mind you, with the ground frozen and as soon as the sun drops behind the mountains (currently around 3pm in Evolène) the warmth disappears instantly.
So I have little or no excuse for not going out for a walk, except that all the paths in the upper valley are still covered in snow and that’s turning into a squelchy wet mush under the sun, before freezing again overnight. Undeterred I decided to drive down the valley to the village of Euseigne, where most of the snow has now disappeared and walk right down the valley to Sion, before catching the Postbus back to Euseigne.
The total distance of the walk was around 15k or just over 9 miles. I had a few minutes to spare before the bus arrived, so I decided to run, well jog, another 1k around a 400 metre track which was laid out around a football pitch. (See last pic).
I received such positive feedback on the village photographs in my last post, (thank you Jet and M.Oniker), that I decided to take a few more pictures for you to enjoy. But first, a little background…
Evolène is a village at around 1,380m (4,525ft) in the Val d’Hérens, which itself is in the southern part of the Valais canton of Switzerland. The population of the whole commune (which includes the neighbouring villages of Les Haudères, Villa, La Sage, La Forclaz and Arolla) is only about 1,700. Despite this relatively low number, we have 8 bar/restaurants in our village alone. These survive due to the number of visitors that we get both during the winter, for skiing, and the summer for walking, cycling or mountaineering. I read that 55% of the available light (i.e from when it appears from, or disappears, behind the mountains), is sunshine. And with little wind and a fairly dry atmosphere, not to mention some beautiful scenery, you can see why it’s quite popular.
At the moment we have the annual Carnival, which this year runs from 6th January to 5th March, (this explains why some of the pictures still show what appear to be Christmas decorations) and in the summer from 10th to 15th August there will be the biannual, CIME mountain folklore festival. More posts to come on these no doubt… 😄
I think it’s fair to say that there was a modest turnout for the 13th Edition of the Evolène Nordic Skiing event. However, I’m sure every single one of them had a wonderful time. After around 4″ to 5″ of overnight snow, the conditions were perfect underfoot, if not overhead, due to the grey skies.
There are junior events covering 1 to 2 kilometres, but the main, senior, events, for both the Classic and Skating styles, are 10k (6 miles) in length. The course is 2 loops of 5k/3 miles and the Skating event started 5 minutes after the Classic, so the participants do get mixed up quite a bit. I wasn’t even sure who had won, especially as the (apparent) winner of the Classic event didn’t seem to be out of breath when he crossed the finish line.
And, just in case you are wondering, yes, I have thought about entering, though purely to say that I did it. However, it is a bit disconcerting when the winners have finished before some of the slower competitors (and that would be me) have even started the 2nd loop!
Although I’ve walked up to this little lake many times before, I’ve never done it in winter. I had planned to get out my snowshoes, but the lock on the storage container at the back of the chalet (which gets no sun) was frozen solid. Anyway, it didn’t matter as plenty of people had been up there before me, although their tracks had been covered by a light dusting of snow overnight.
My apologies again for so many photos, (and for the sun spots but, hey, who’s complaining about sunshine?) but I thought it might make you feel like you’d been on the walk yourself… Enjoy! 😁
For the past week or so we have had a flock of Siskins (Eurasian variety) hoovering up around our bird feeder. It started with maybe 8 of them, then there were maybe 15 and the other day, I couldn’t count how many there were. It must have been between 30 and 40. We have had these cute little visitors in the summer, but never in the winter, so it was a very pleasant surprise.
My RSPB bird book suggested that they were “nut basket feeders”, but all of ours were seen scurrying around the floor, picking up what the other birds (mainly Great Tits, but also Blue, Coal, Marsh/Willow, Crested and Long Tailed Tits) had dropped onto the ground. That is until yesterday, when we saw several of them hanging off the nut basket. And today I’ve noticed a distinct absence of Great Tits. So I think the Siskins have ganged up on the 10 or so Great Tits and scared them off.
Anyway, while I was taking some photos with Jude’s SLR camera (my point and shoot is hopeless in the sunshine as you can’t see what you’re pointing at) who else should make a short appearance but our old friend the (Eurasian) Nuthatch. Not only that but my photo shoot was interrupted when I noticed what I thought were 4 parascenders in the sky, but it turned out that they were hot air balloons. I then remembered that the Chateau D’Oex Balloon Festival takes place around this time of year. So they must have taken off from there (which is many miles from here) and they were heading south over the glaciers and mountains to Italy when I last saw them!
Even after deleting many, many photos, I still couldn’t decide which of these pictures were “the best”, so I thought I’d post them all. Please stick with the gallery as the quality (at least of image) improves towards the end as I edged closer to the feeders. Also check out the look of the 2 birds on the feeder in pictures 13 and then 14 as the bird above hops off its perch. (I thought it was quite amusing anyway). There was quite a bit of squabbling going on as you will also see.
After several more days of sub-zero temperatures in the Val d’Hérens (both during the day and overnight) the forecast for today was for up to 4 degrees C (39 F). 😅 So, to take advantage of this balmy weather, I decided to take the bus up to Arolla and walk back to Les Haudères.
Again I decided not to take the snow shoes, which was a big mistake, (some people never learn 🤭), as the snow was thigh deep in places and, even where people had gone before, it was much more difficult to wade through than I expected. However, after one or two detours via the road (and a quick refreshment at La Gouille), the path thereafter became much easier and I soon made it to Les Haudères.
Note that the first 3 photos below were taken from the bus on the way up to Arolla.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (see post last Sunday), I should have been going for a long run today… This week the problem was that I went out on Tuesday and, after a stonkingly good outward 6.3k/3.9 miles*, my calf tightened up and I had to walk all the way back. ☹ So, I’m resting it for another couple of days.
*The only saving grace was that my pace for the 6.3k averaged around 5m 17s per km or 8m 30s per mile (which is much better than I expected).
I needed to get some exercise though, so I went for a walk, of around 9km/5miles, alongside the river.
After a pleasant lunch on the balcony, watching and photographing some birds, I had a little time to kill before the football started. So off I went up the path behind our chalet. In a way, this was a little foolhardy, as the road has been cordoned off for 3 or 4 weeks, due to some (and by that I mean several tonnes) of loose rock above. However, my neighbour told me that it had been given the all clear, so it seemed like a change from walking by the river.
Now I often say that you never know what you are going to find, or see, on a walk and today was no exception. With all the snow around I was amazed to find a small skull, no bigger than 6 inches or 15cm long. It clearly had some sharp teeth, but I have no idea what it might have been. So if anyone out there can identify it for me, I’d be eternally grateful.