Ovronnaz and Saillon Walks

Yesterday I took Jude’s mum, Angela, out for a drive to Ovronnaz, to catch the chairlift up to Jorasse.  From there it’s a relatively easy walk, with magnificent views all around, to the Lui d’Aout mountain hut.  (My mate Pete and I stayed there during our Tour de Muverans, so it brought back happy memories for me.  Read more about our adventure on this guest post I did for The Marmot Post). 🙂

After a picnic lunch, (see pic 7), we drove back via Saillon, where we walked the Farinet Trail up through the vineyards, following a series of 21 stained glass sculptures.  On our way, we were lucky to spot the last few vines being harvested.  A sure sign that the long hot summer in the Rhone valley must be over. 😦

Lac Léman lakeside walk

Today, Judith, her mum, Angela, and I went for a walk along the eastern shores of Lac Léman, (aka Lake Geneva), from Villeneuve to Territet.  The lakeside path passes one of Switzerland’s most famous tourist sites – the Chateau de Chillon, which is a medieval fortress built on a tiny island just off the shore.

When the sun shines, there is no finer place to be, with the mountain views, the many and varied colourful flower beds and passing paddle steamers.  It’s a must for an visitor to the “Swiss Riviera”. 🙂

Arthur’s New Website – artworkbyart.com

I’ve mentioned in the past (on at least these three occasions) that our good friend Arthur Manton-Lowe, is an extremely talented artist.  Some time ago now he asked me to help him set up a new website to both showcase and sell his paintings.  After a few false starts and a couple of tweaks here and there on the layout, I’m very pleased to announce that it’s now up and running and you can find it here.  🙂

You will find all of his paintings For Sale on the 2nd page, while on the first, Home page, he plans to post or blog his latest sketches or paintings (though I’m sure he will sell these too if requested).  Please feel free to follow him, as I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

Just to give you a flavour for some of his work (as I always like to post a picture or two) here are a few of my personal favourites…

Col des Ignes Walk, Val d’Hérens, Switzerland

The forecast for the week was (indeed still is) bright, with sun followed by more sun, so I just had to do a new walk, which I’ve been promising myself for the past year or so.  The route sets off from Arolla and climbs to the Pas de Chevres, with its infamous set of (now new) ladders, before dropping down slightly and turning right up to the Col des Ignes at 3,183m or 10,443 ft.  From there the path descends quite steeply before returning to Arolla via the Remointse de Pra Gra.

During my drive up to Arolla, I noticed that the grass was all covered in frost and the car warned me that the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees, so I wondered if my fleece and light windproof top would be enough.  But I needn’t have worried as within 20 minutes of setting off, the fleece was off and it never went back on all day.  With hardly a breath of wind, it turned out to be THE most perfect day for walking in the Alps… 😊

Greifensee Half Marathon

Some time ago now I noticed that there was a Half marathon which went around a lake, near Uster, in the northern part of Switzerland.  The route was also was quite flat but, perhaps most importantly, free transport was provided there and back, courtesy of the Swiss transport system.  The start was at 3pm and I worked out that I could catch the 9am bus, get there for 1.30pm, collect my number, run the race and be back home (well, in Sion) by 9:30pm.  The only ‘drawback’ was that my daughter Sarah and her fiancé Karl would be staying with us on that day.

Now, I knew Karl was pretty fit and had run several half marathons in the past, as well as the Oslo marathon last year, so I thought he might be interested.  But, other than a few Park runs, my daughter had never run a race in her life.  She had run up to 7 or 8 miles with Karl, but that was just for fun…  Anyway, you may have guessed it, they both agreed to run it with me.  Our goal was to run together and finish in under 1h 55mins (though like most runners, this was perhaps wishful thinking) but sub-2 hours was definitely possible.

For the first 7 to 8k (5 miles) we were ‘on’ for the 1h 55m, but it was clear we were slowing slightly.  The weather was warm and I, for one, was feeling the heat.  We plodded on, over a mixture of rough farm track and tarmac roads/cycle path until around the 14 to 16k (10 mile) mark when we slowed a bit more.  At 18k we had around 18 minutes to do the remaining 3.1k (2 miles).  However we’d seen that there would be a significant rise in the profile of the route at 19k.  We pressed on knowing that what went up, did come down slightly afterwards and we almost sprinted the last 500 metres knowing that the clock was ticking… and, unfortunately, we missed out on sub-2 hours by an agonising and unlucky 13 seconds! 😞

Sarah had said before the race that it would be both her debut and retirement race, but she couldn’t have tried harder and I’m immensely proud of her.  So well done Sarah!

Karl, by the way, could have run around 1h 35 minutes, but he came down with a cold the day before, so he too deserves a special mention for running along with us and providing encouragement (as well as some very corny jokes) all the way through.

As you will see below, I didn’t run with my camera, well mobile phone, to capture the race itself, so I only have a few pictures of our journey there and afterwards.  It goes without saying, of course, that the Swiss transport system worked like clockwork!

Lammerensee Walk, nr Leukerbad, Switzerland

My daughter, Sarah and her fiancé, Karl, are visiting this week.  We’ve done some of the ‘usual’ walks (already posted recently), so, in trying to find something a little bit different, we headed over to Leukerbad yesterday to take the cable car lift up to the top of the Gemmipass.  From there we set off to find the Lammerensee, which sits beneath the Swiss Alpine Club Lammerenhutte at the end of the valley.  As you will see from the series of pictures below, it’s a pretty wild and remote area, but a relatively flat and easy walk.  Anyone wanting to make it into a more challenging walk, could always walk up the impossible looking path to the Gemmipass from Leukerbad.  😓

Click or tap on any image to view the full screen, gallery display.

Circular Walk via La Sage, La Forclaz, Sépey and Les Haudères

Grass plays a very important part in the lifecycle of the mountains.  It’s around this time of year that the farmers take their second cut to feed the animals during the long cold winter.  And, of course, where there is grass, you will often find an abundance of tiny creatures, which leap out of your way as you walk along the paths.  Below are just some of the grasshoppers and crickets that I managed to capture.  (They are devilishly quick at jumping out of the way when you approach with a camera).

I’m often asked what’s the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper and the answer is that, in general, crickets have very long antennae, whereas the grasshopper’s are quite short.  The same sort of distinction can be made between moths and butterflies where, again in general, the latter have a sort of bulb at the end of their antennae, while moths don’t and theirs can be more feathery or saw-edged.

Ferpècle valley walk (and glacier ‘hole’ update)

A few weeks ago, my friend Matt asked me what had happened to the hole in the Ferpècle glacier.  I told him that it had collapsed last year, but I hadn’t been up there recently to see what the latest was.  So off I went on Wednesday to provide this report…

Although my photo from last year is not really comparable, as it was taken from above, near the Bricola hut, it is clear the collapsed ‘end’ of the glacier no longer exists and the whole glacier must have receded somewhere between 20 and 50 metres.  (It’s hard to gauge when you are standing maybe 500 metres away).  Perhaps a better comparison can be made with these two  photos though they were taken 2 years ago.

I also came across what must be one of the smallest species of frog in the world.  The little creature in picture 14 was no bigger than my little finger nail.  How they survive through the winter, when this whole area is covered in snow and ice for several months, is a complete mystery to me.

Grand Raid BCVS Mountain Bike Race, 2018

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d put my name forward to help out during the Grand Raid, which runs both from and through our village.  However, the organisers never got back to me on where they’d like me to be, so I presumed they had enough volunteers and I decided to do my own thing…

An ex-colleague and good friend of mine, Kevin, had successfully completed the ‘short course’ three years ago and he’d recently been in touch to say that this year he was doing the full distance, from Verbier.  I thought he and the event deserved my support, so at 7:15am yesterday morning, I duly set off along 2 different sections of the route, taking pictures as a I went.  Now, sporting events have never really been my forte when it comes to capturing the action, but I hope the pictures below convey both the beauty of the scenery as well as the agony and the ecstasy of some competitors.

While I was waiting for Kevin at La Vieille, I also bumped into another ex-colleague and friend, Jan, who was doing the 3/4 route from Nendaz.  He, I’m sure, will have revelled in the challenge and pain of the ascent over the Pas de Lona.   Kevin, however, missed the cut off time by just 2 minutes and wasn’t allowed to continue.   Unfortunately he broke his derailleur during the descent into Evolène and had to wait 15 minutes while it was being repaired.

If there are any mountain bikers out there reading this, then I can only say that you will not find many more demanding or rewarding events than the Grand Raid.  Apart from a variety of distances, (choose your own personal challenge), they now even allow for Electric bike competitors on the two shorter routes.  Though I certainly wouldn’t want to push, carry or simply lug one of those heavy things over the Pas de Lona!

Walk to the Pas de Lona, Val d’Hérens

I am very fortunate to be able to do quite a number of walks, some quite challenging,  from my front door.  One of those is to the Pas de Lona at 2,787m or 9,144ft.  It starts easy enough, along a track and then takes a path up to Volovron, before turning up through the woods to the alpage across to La Vieille.  It’s still a good walk to get there (and back of course).  But the real challenge starts when you set off to climb up to the col, where the path just seems to get steeper and steeper and your legs start to burn.  Once there you can go even higher to the Cabane Becs de Bosson (which many do, to rest for the night, as part of the Tour of the Val d’Hérens) but, since I’d set off quite late and we had some visitors coming, I simply headed back home again.

Now, just imagine how the cyclists must feel having to do that climb pushing or carrying their bikes as part of the Grand Raid, which takes place on Saturday…  There are 4 distances to choose from, either starting in Verbier, Nendaz, Hérémence or my village of Evolène, but they all have to do that climb before descending (and climbing again briefly) to the finish in Grimentz.  I’ve put my name down to support the riders by handing out drinks and/or maybe giving directions, but I’m not sure where I’ll be stationed yet.  It could be in the village or on the mountain side somewhere, but wherever it is, I hope to bring you some pictures next week.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this walk…