Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Switzerland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Switzerland. Show all posts

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Dolomites Slideshow and Index

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Last night (22 October) we had the privilege of providing another ‘slide’ presentation to SWOG (Stockport Walking and Outdoors Group). All went well once an extension lead had been borrowed from the Grapes, and despite the large number of ‘flower’ pictures we managed to complete the task in precisely one hour. The slideshow (138 images) is .

I have now also produced a series of mini annotated slideshows on a day to day basis, as well as the one hour show referred to above:
“Hut to Hut in the Dolomites by Alta Via 1
...a floral interlude...
Followed by a few Day Walks and Via Ferrata”

This is available should anyone like us to present it in person.

Here’s an INDEX to our ‘Summer Holiday’ trip, making navigation through the pages a bit easier for anyone wishing to read about any of it, now including links to the slideshows, which include a total of nearly 1100 images, so I suggest you don't try to look at them all in one sitting.

Friday 27 June 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 1 - Timperley to Wokingham
Saturday 28 June 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 2 - Wokingham to Montreuil

Sunday 29 June 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 3 - Montreuil to Verdun

Monday 30 June 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 4 - Verdun to Heidelberg

Tuesday 1 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 5 - Heidelberg

Wednesday 2 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 6 - Heidelberg to Scuol

Thursday 3 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 7 - Scuol to Lischana Hütte (Chamonna Lischana)

Friday 4 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 8 - Lais da Rims

Saturday 5 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 9 - Lischana Hütte to Lago di Braies

Sunday 6 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 10 - Lago di Braies to Rifugio Lavarella

Monday 7 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 11 - Rifugio Lavarella to Rifugio Dibona

Tuesday 8 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 12 - Rifugio Dibona to Rifugio Città di Fiume

Wednesday 9 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 13 - Rifugio Città di Fiume to Rifugio Coldai

Thursday 10 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 14 - Rifugio Coldai to Passo Duran

Friday 11 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 15 - Passo Duran to Rifugio Pian de Fontana



Sunday 13 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 17 - Pralongia Plateau

Monday 14 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 18 - Col di Lana

Tuesday 15 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 19 - Sassongher

Wednesday 16 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 20 - Via Ferratas Averau and Nuvalau, and an evening in the pub
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Thursday 17 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 21 - Sass de Putia



Saturday 19 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 23 - Badia (Pedraces) to campsite at Lanzada in Val Malenco

Sunday 20 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 24 - Val Malenco

Monday 21 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 25 - Chiesa to Parc Regionale de Haut-Jura

Tuesday 22 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 26 - In Search of Cascades

Wednesday 23 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 27 - Lac de Vouglans and Longchaumois

Thursday 24 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 28 - St Claude to Louvemont

Friday 25 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 29 - Around Lac du Der

Saturday 26 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 30 - Louvemont to Montreuil (Full Circle)

Sunday 27 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 31 - Montreuil-sur-Mer to Timperley
No photo album - we just drove home...

Happy Days!

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Saturday 5 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 9 - Lischana Hütte to Lago di Braies


 
Last night's rain had cleared by the time we rose for a 7.30 am breakfast before ambling back down to the road head above Scuol. The lovely path dropped through bands of thin cloud. Redwings and a larger thrush sized bird flitted amongst the foraging marmots. There were frequent pauses for photos of one or other of the huge variety of wild flowers, with numerous different orchids gracing the path side during the course of our two hour descent.

After 5.5km and a vertical drop of over 1000 metres we were back at the car by 10.30 on a pleasant day with blue patches of sky on the one hand and drops of rain in the air on the other hand. 

The 150 mile journey to Lago di Braies passed uneventfully, with no traffic problems. After elevenses at a roadside café we descended slowly along the Merano road towards Silandro. For many miles our windscreen was filled with the sight of the snow draped Stelvio Alps, shrouded in several layers of cloud. By Bolzano the temperature had risen to 28C, so we were pleased to rise to 1500 metres, where it's a bit cooler and we are ensconced in the splendid Hotel Pragser Wildsee, the view from which is shown above.

Markus will be pleased to hear that the food and accommodation are both excellent. We arrived here around 4pm and then spent some time washing clothes and preparing for a week's hutting trip on Alta Via 1.

We went down for refreshments and were greeted by Susan, Roy, Karen and Mike, who had just arrived from Munich (having started earlier from Connecticut and California) to join us on this trip.

Thanks go to various folk for your comments and emails. The 'phone has been playing up today and this posting is only possible thanks to the hotel's wifi, as no network service is being recognised. It may be some time before another wifi is encountered, so don't worry if there are periods of silence.


Next Day
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Friday, 4 July 2014

Friday 4 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 8 - Lais da Rims


 
Today was rather overcast and a bit windy. I'm writing this from inside the cosy Lischana Hütte with a pot of tea, waiting for rain, whereas yesterday we were outside in t-shirts and blinding sunshine.

After an 8am breakfast - this is not a 'crack of dawn' establishment, though Silke will oblige if asked, Markus and I were requisitioned to the site of Heinz's love nest, where what looked like the components of a garden shed were piled onto a foundation of pallets. We helped Heinz and Marlene (who luckily is a carpenter) rearrange the piles and erect one wall. Unfortunately, as we lifted the second wall that should have meshed with the first, it fell to pieces. Shame! But Markus and I obtained our honourable discharges, leaving the others to assemble the shed bit by bit. 

We bade Markus farewell, and he headed down the hill and home to Dornbirn. It was great to see you Markus, and thanks for orchestrating this bit of our trip. 

Meanwhile, Sue and I headed up the good path to the plateau, Lais da Rims,  south east of the hut. After only a few minutes we encountered a traverse across a steep snow gully. I baulked at this but managed to find a way around the obstacle by tiptoeing up some very loose scree, at the top of which a couple of ptarmigan were having a 'love-in'. They were still at it when I returned several hours later. 

Sue entertained herself by taking flower pictures while she waited at the top of her 'easy scramble'. I should have brought my ice axe and crampons instead of leaving them in the car.

There were no other technical difficulties as we ascended to the plateau at around 2950 metres. By now we were wishing that we had snow shoes as we kept sinking deep into the snowfields that dominate the scenery up here. We met the man with his son who are staying at the hut, then three Swiss who had walked up from San-charl and admitted to being a little disorientated. We comforted them by pointing out the path. "Three Swiss taking directions from an English couple" they mused "it doesn't seem right, but thank you."

We continued slowly onwards in the footprints - well, footholes - of the Swiss as far as an iced lake at 2856 metres,  4.5km from the hut. Lunch time - nice bread, cheese and tomato from Scuol's Co-op. Today's picture is taken from here. You should be able to see the Ortler Alps in the distance, but today's visibility was far inferior to yesterday's. 

Two joggers postholed past us, and a heavily laden pair stumbled towards us through the snow. We saw them later descending slowly to reach the path to Sur-En.

A front was slowly approaching. The limited views were diminishing. We flogged our way back up to the plateau's high ridge, retracing our steps to the high point. This is the start of the ascent of Piz Lischana (3105 metres). It's mostly a tricky scramble, but the walk up to the first high point - 3044 metres, was easy so we went up, despite increasing wind and cold. Sue justified the visit by finding Glacier Crowfoot and a variety of Rock Jasmine that has her stumped. This is probably higher than any point reached on last year's Pyrenean Adventure. 

Then it was back down to the hut to complete our 9km walk with 700 metres ascent by around 3.30, for a welcome pot of tea and another leisurely afternoon and evening. On the way we passed the shed/love nest and were impressed to see that it now has four substantial walls, if not a roof. Heinz and Marlene are probably rectifying that defect whilst I write this and Silke prepares supper.

That's all for now from a very warm and cosy Lischana Hütte, where Khaled Hosseini's brilliant novel 'And the Mountains Echoed' has been succeeded by the rather lesser literary qualities of the adventures of Agatha Raisin.


Next Day
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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Thursday 3 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 7 - Scuol to Lischana Hütte (Chamonna Lischana)


 
As predicted, early morning sunshine burst onto the tent. Sue and I didn't wake until after 8 o'clock. A quick brew for us kept Markus waiting - "I'm not in Challenge mode, I haven't even brought a stove" he professed. Eventually we enjoyed breakfast in town, where the 'Café' was the place to be - an excellent spot.

Apparently Scuol has 2000 residents of whom 500 are Portuguese. "Nice people" reports a local, "but rather prone to a surfeit of children." In the holiday season there are an additional 4000 tourists.

It was noon by the time we had done our shopping, showered, dried out the tent, sorted all our hutting gear, and parked at the start of the Lischana path on a beautiful cloudless day. The 6km, three hour climb of just over 1000 metres to the hut at 2500 metres was a delight. Through woodland at first, passing copious clumps of Lady's Slipper Orchids - it's worth walking up here for that reason alone - then into a more open area with fine views back to Scuol and the Silvretta Alps beyond. Paragliders in the distance looked like moving bits of snow slopes. The hillside glittered with a rich tapestry of alpine flowers. 

It was good to see Markus's sister Silke again. She spends her summers helping to run this mountain hut together with Heinz, Gabi and Marlene. They have just six guests tonight. Sue and I have an excellent room to ourselves.

We lounged with beers for a while after arriving at around three o'clock, before visiting Silke's nearby herb garden. Markus helped her to cultivate and seed it a couple of weeks ago. We hope it survives the ravishes of 'Fritz the Ripper', Lischana Hütte's resident gluttonous marmot, and the ibex that regularly visit.

The rest of the afternoon passed as much of this holiday, in 'chilled out' mode, in the sunshine outside the hut, before adjourning for a fine meal.

Today's images are of the iconic orchid, and the view from just above the hut to Scuol and the Silvretta Alps.


Next Day
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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Wednesday 2 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 6 - Heidelberg to Scuol


 
We said goodbye to Thomas last night as he had to leave early for work, and the unenviable task of a three hour telephone conference between Germans and Japanese, conducted in (pidgeon?) English. 

By the time we'd dragged ourselves from holiday slumber, Andrea had laid out the traditional table of buns, cheeses, cold meat, yoghurt, fruit, jams, etc, with her home made jam and cheese stealing the show.

Leaving at 9.30, we avoided the rush hour traffic as we started our 330 mile journey to the Swiss village of Scuol. The A6/A7 route to Ulm worked fine as we left the sunshine of Heidelberg and ventured into gradually more overcast surroundings, eventually turning hillier, but by then the sight of any hills was obliterated by persistent rain. 

Lunch in Lindau brought back memories of a wintry visit to Dornbirn and Markus and Wolfgang's 'Ritzy Shack'. It was warmer today. But wet. Memories of E5 returned as we wound our way around the waterways that flow into Bodensee. 

From Lindau we took a scenic route via Buchs and Klosters to reach the excellent campsite at Scuol by 6.30. More memories for me as we passed over the 2300 metre Fluellapass, pictured top, that Markus and I cruised over on our TransAlp bike ride a few years ago. Given that this same Markus arrived at Scuol's posh campsite at the same time as we did, the reminiscing carried on long into the evening. We had passed through here on the bike ride, shortly after accidentally appearing to lead a mountain bike endurance race.

Tents went up under a seriously leaky sky. Then after a quick brew we adjourned to admire the Hotel Traube's lavish menu. We couldn't resist. The top of a mountain had appeared as if by magic between two buildings in Scuol, and Traube's chef turned out to be on good form. The pictures should speak for themselves. 

I'll mention Swiss prices just as an aside, being as we are paying a brief visit. The campsite costs slightly more than twice as much as its French equivalent. Other prices are subject to a similar formula. Be warned and consider staying away if you are on a tight budget. 

We emerged from the restaurant to a cool, clear evening, today's weather having ranged from a sunny 20C to a snowstorm at the pass. We are now set for a frosty night. Brrr.


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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Monday 6 September 2010 - A Stroll from Knonau

The local farmers were busy with their late summer activities as I started through the pretty village on an amble that had a final destination but no other plan.

The noisy church at Knonau
The farmers of Knonau are cashing in.  Much of the land in the village seems to have been sold for housing.  Apartments for rent in large grey buildings.  Stamford Brook (in Timperley) on a grander scale.

New apartments in Knonau
Following the smell of freshly cut grass, and using an excellent 1:25000 scale map, resulted in the squares on the map passing quickly by, despite today's lack of pedal power.

I passed signs asking for information about missing cats; buzzards wheeled overhead; some say the two are linked by more than just their mewings.

Past the evidence of a good maize harvest, into green woodland not yet touched by Autumn.  Here, the distinctive yellow flowers of Touch-me-not were rampant, making a change from the Himalayan Balsam we endure at home.

Touch-me-not
The woods were full of fungi – here’s a Polyporaceae (perhaps Trametes versicolor).

A Polyporaceae fungus

Vaguely following a roundabout route towards Cham, I passed through the small hamlet of Niederroil, with its neatly rendered church and its quaint wooden houses.

A wooden house at Niederroil
Further on, past apple orchards laden with fruit, there was lots of ugly building work and roadworks at Hogendorn/Rumentikon, rendering my dogleg to that small town obsolete from the scenic angle.

Down by the River Louxe, a pleasant pathway led all the way to Cham.  The tree-lined river bank was in fact an arboretum, with a huge water treatment plant on the other side of the path.

Big fish swished against the current in the area of a large paper mill below the smart Reformatory Church of Chan.

The Reformatory Church of Cham

It was very pleasant by the foot of Lake Zug, where I luxuriated on the warm, sunny day, watching the workers as they snatched a quick break beside the calm waters, looking across to nearby mountains that were faint on the horizon due to the haze.

Workers lunching in Cham

Lake Zug
Lots of information boards detailed the history of the area and its industrial heritage, but I understood little of the (Swiss?) German script.  An unkempt garden housed a sculpture - ‘Balance’ by Eva Burkey in 2000.

Eva Burkey's sculpture - Balance

Strolling on past a nudist colony next to a children’s beach, a long line of bike racks led in to Zug, where an impressive building awaited.

Posh house in Zug

Lunch by a children’s  playground revealed many English voices – there must be a significant ex-pat community around here.

With several hours to go before meeting Nick and Daniela, I headed up a few hundred metres to the Verena Chapel.  Very serene.

Then across to Blasenberg, my high point for the day at around 800 metres (the lake being at around 400 metres).  Farmers were working furiously in the dimming light due to the imminent onset of rain.

The view down to Zug from Blasenberg

Then back to Zug to wait for N and D, who are having a hard time looking for permanent rented accommodation.  Swiss rules are getting them down.  I was able to people-watch for some time – many English voices, and caged birds - Ibis, Kookaburra, Snowy Owls and many more kept me entertained before we all enjoyed another alfresco meal, albeit dominated by bemoaning of the difficulties of moving from Shanghai to Zug. That’s a shame, because today I had discovered a lovely area full of paths, bike trails and fine views.  It should be a pleasure to live in such a place.

Scarlet and other Ibis

Here’s a Google Earth screen dump of the area.  My wanderings amounted to about 20 km and 500 metres of ascent in a very leisurely 9 hours or so.

Knonau and Zug

The images above are just a small selection of the many taken on this leisurely stroll.  The rest are in this 68 image slideshow, should anyone be interested.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Alpine Exploits – 27 August to 15 September 2009

1901oes288 By way of an Index:

Day 1   -   A Home from Home
Day 2   -   Öeschinensee
Day 3   -   Path Bagging in Kandersteg
Day 4   -   Blue Skies over Switzerland
Day 5   -   First and Stand
Day 6   -   Kebabed in Kandersteg
Day 7   -   Relaxing in Kandersteg
Day 8   -   Hotel Restaurant de la Forclaz
Day 9   -   A Day Out In Italy
Day 10 -   A Second Home (from Home)
Day 11 -   Bad Pennies
Day 12 -   Mark the Mountain Guide
Day 13 -   Col de Balme
Day 14 -   Gentiana ciliata and the path to Hohtürli
Day 15 -   The Gasterntal and Kanderfirn
Day 16 -   Rote Chumme
Day 17 -   A Chance Encounter in Interlaken
Day 18 -   Studententorte
Day 19 -   A Quiet Day in Kandersteg

Links:
The Kandersteg Apartment – available to rent
Slide shows (to follow)
Web page (to follow)

Monday, 14 September 2009

Monday 14 September 2009 - A Quiet Day in Kandersteg

The cloud remained at about 1500 metres, so we spent our last day here quietly, with more coffee and cake (fruchtorten) for elevenses, and an afternoon stroll up Höh (only 1335 metres).

Today's images are taken at the viewpoint on Höh - the foliage really is changing colour, and our apartment is just about visible at the bottom left of the village.

Whilst the cloud was down, there was no rain, so we've again been blessed with superb Alpine weather. I'm so thankful not to have a job testing waterproof gear - it would be a complete nightmare!

Tonight we 'enjoyed' a meal at the Adler Hotel:

Starters: Sue had cool apple soup with bits of trout and no bread, whilst I enjoyed a spring roll, skillfully cut to make it look like two. These, despite being cool, arrived quite quickly (7.45), under the eyes of an attentive manager.

Mains: By 8.30 we were getting hungry, so I stole some bread from a table where the diners had left. They returned from what turned out to have been a fag break and gave the empty basket a look of puzzlement. We could have enjoyed a joke had they spoken English.

We sipped our watery Dôle, hopefully.

The mains arrived at 8.45 - late but passably warm, and quite tasty.

The Bill: 'A hundred and fifty' said the waitress (that's about £90). 'Pardon?' 'A hundred and fifty' she repeated.

I laboriously located my specs - this warranted closer inspection....

SF100.50 read the bill. We laughed. The waitress laughed. The attentive manager had long gone. We paid then left.

So ends our sojourn in Kandersteg. Thank you to Peter and Anne for making it possible, and also to John and Janet for the loan of their flat in Chamonix during the Belgian occupation of Kandersteg.

There will now be a brief pause in transmissions....

....I wonder what the Bridgewater Canal looks like just now?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Sunday 13 September 2009 - Studententorte

Whenever practicable we enjoy coffee and cake for elevenses. That was very easy today, as we didn't stray far from the apartment. The Sunday Newspaper is absent from our postcard as we can't read German. (We could have got an English paper by walking just a bit further - to the station.)

We are relying on Notchy's News Service to update us next time we see him. As you may imagine we are useless at end of year news quizzes.

This afternoon we did venture out for separate strolls - mine a bit further as Sue was having muscle trouble. Route 22 - a lovely path up to the Biberg plateau at around 1500 metres was duly ticked off. I'd intended to go on up to Fisialp (2150 metres) but with the cloud level at about 1700 metres it seemed better to wait for a clearer day to do that.

We have been very lucky with the weather; waterproofs haven't been used on the entire trip (yet!). (And they weren't required on the rest of the trip!)

Route 22 was narrow and steep, apart from a short section on the plateau. So it was something of a surprise to meet two mountain bikers, one of whom was filming their trip with a helmet camera. It may be a dull video; they were walking.

Willow-leaved Gentians are thriving in the woods just now, at a time when many flowers are going, or have gone, to seed and some of the vegetation is taking on an Autumn hue.

Today we were never far from the booming, banging and thwacking of Kandersteg's rifle range, which was involved in some sort of function. Luckily, it's at the other end of the village, but in a place surrounded by walls of rock the reverberations could be heard in all the environs of Kandersteg.

The odd thwack could be heard within these walls tonight, as we enjoyed a gem from the Morley Film Library - Hitchcock's 'The 39 Steps'.

Next day

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Saturday 12 September 2009 - A Chance Encounter in Interlaken

Imagine this conversation:

Roger: 'Isn't that Martin rude, not coming to our 25th wedding anniversary party?'

Sandra: 'Yes, especially as he was your Best Man!'

R: 'He did have an excuse.'

S: '"Going to The Alps."'

R: 'He's always going to The Alps.'

S: 'I'm not sure, maybe it was just an excuse not to come to our party.'

R: 'Perhaps he didn't want to come. Maybe Sue is just a figment of his imagination.'

S: 'Surely not!'

R: 'Why don't we check his alibi then?'

S: 'What, go to The Alps?'

R: 'Yes, I haven't worked on the railways for 42 years for nothing - we can get there, first class, for a snip.'

S: 'Ok, but I don't think we'll find Martin. The Alps is a Big Place you know.'

R: 'Don't be pessimistic. If he's there we'll see him...'

By and by, Roger and Sandra duly embarked for The Alps in their First Class Charabanc. One day, on a bike ride to Thuner See, near Interlaken, a white haired man stepped out in front of them.

"Hello Roger, Hello Sandra, sorry I couldn't make your party, I was here in The Alps."

"Just checking" said Roger drolly, "where's Sue?"

You see, it really is a small world. We went to Interlaken today and bumped into Roger and Sandra, who live near Lilo and Trish, and all those many years of Christmas cards now seem worthwhile. We had no idea that R and S were in the Alps. Reminiscences were only just getting under way (I think they stalled on the 'Three Tarns Adventure') when we had to part again, so we hope to resume those in the near future.

Roger did ask us to pass on one message to another contemporary from our days at UMIST: "Hello Peter!"

The gardens of Interlaken seemed to be decked with sunflowers vying for the best views of the paragliders and (increasingly rare) hang gliders.

Next day

Friday, 11 September 2009

Friday 11 September 2009 - Rote Chumme



Low cloud, as predicted, started to clear, as predicted. So we headed off to the Sunnbüel cablecar for some high level fun.

After an hour's crocodile walk past big pylons and bell-ringing cows the Schwarenbach restaurant beckoned. We enjoyed coffees in the sunshine whilst a school party armed with small laminated maps devoured countless flagons of soup, and aged Americans devoured the beauty of the place (...what pylons?...)

Actually, the views are magnificent despite the pylons - I'll add an image or two when we get back. (Here's one - there will be more for those interested in a slide show in due course - see index - here you can just about see the huge pylons marching across the landscape at the top of the vegetation on the left.)


There's a shortcut from the restaurant to the Rote Chumme path. This well graded route led us through columbine meadows under limestone cliffs to a grassy lunch spot where it joins the main Rote Chumme path before its steep final 200 metre ascent to 2600 metres.

Up at this high point for the day the mist swirled, but we were granted excellent views, as in today's postcard.

We lingered together with circling choughs before descending in an area previously occupied by a glacier, past a glacial lake - Tälliseeli - then dropping steeply to the Inner Üschene valley.

Dense clumps of the pretty yellow flowers of Yellow Mountain Saxifrage had taken root in the glacial area, and families of marmots and chamois kept close tabs on us as we made our way through the wide area of glacial debris.

We lost the view at around 2300 metres, and after 2.30 pm we saw no other walkers (a few had been descending Rote Chumme earlier). Mist and low cloud dominated the rest of the day, with the temperature dropping as low as 11C.

We were grateful for the well marked paths, the lack of rain and, later, the well stocked shops of Kandersteg.

But dinner was eaten without our usual view of the mesmerising waterfall, and even the nearby Öeschinensee cablecar stanchions disappeared into the gloom as we tucked into some of the Marmotte Tea Room's Magic Cakes.

Next day

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Thursday 10 September 2009 - The Gasterntal and Kanderfirn

Another sunny day in the Alps - perhaps our last as the weather is on the move, but we've had a good run and Sue's muscle problem has certainly eased a little, enabling a longer walk today (Sue's choice).

We took the 9.50 am minibus up to Selden, a hamlet at the head of the long Gasterntal valley. The 25 minute ride (we needed to book ahead to get seats) saves a good couple of hours, so is well worthwhile.

We were last away of the disgorged passengers due to my faffing and sun tan creaming, but soon drew ahead of any others as we commenced our 900 metre ascent to the tongue of the Kanderfirn glacier.

The route started gently through meadows where harebells, cranesbills, clovers, campions and crocuses are hanging on until the autumn snows finally dampen their growth hormones. Dwarf pines and juniper abound in the valley, and marmots whistled as we ascended over increasingly rocky terrain to a moraine wall. 'Elevenses' taken here granted us a bird's eye view of an avalanche across the valley down the cliffs of the Doldenhorn.

The cliffs we were heading for seemed very close, and the Gasterntal looked far below, but we still had 500 metres to climb! A well graded path got us there for lunch time, only a little more than two hours after setting out. We were going well in the slightly cooler conditions.

It was a surprise to find a visitors book up at 2400 metres where the red and white path turned blue and white, indicating that glacier skills are advised from this point. We wrote an entry and settled down for lunch in this magnificent spot, perched above the tongue of the huge Kanderfirn glacier.

Sue posed for today's postcard, and we both regretted not having the skills or equipment to safely carry on to the Mutthorn Hut (2901 metres), high up on the edge of the glacier.

Three others appeared from the valley, and three more from the glacier, but we encountered really very few people today.

There's fresh snow above 3000 metres on the nearby mountains. It must have fallen a week ago when it last rained in Kandersteg, and despite the subsequent hot weather this snow has clung on, especially to north facing slopes. First signs of the 2010 winter, I suppose.

The long and fine descent to Kandersteg, some 1200 metres below, took a good four hours, during which time the sky filled with cloud and a cool breeze kept me comfy in the cotton t-shirt that I discovered this morning was the last of my clean clothes. We've been so busy doing the Belgians' laundry that we forgot our own!

We were down in plenty of time to replenish our provisions from the Co-op and enjoy another fine home cooked meal.

All in all, another most pleasurable day out.

Next day

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Wednesday 9 September 2009 - Gentiana ciliata and the path to Hohtürli

There are two images today as I simply couldn't get the 'phone to focus on the gentian. So that poor image will be replaced when we get home. (Duly replaced, and now you can see clearly why it's called the 'Fringed Gentian'.)

The pretty blue flower, 1 to 2 cm in diameter, is abundant hereabouts. We also saw it around Chamonix. Curiously it doesn't feature in my book 'Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe', published 30 years ago. Perhaps it has flourished since then. It's almost unheard of to find deficiencies in this book, but the correct identification was verified by two separate flower books that we spotted in Aosta a couple of days ago.

There are still some very pretty flowers about, despite the approach of Autumn, heralded by the Autumn Crocuses already referred to in these pages.

Today was another thoroughly summery day. We took the Öeschinensee cablecar then set about reversing the circuit that I found so exhausting last week. I was perfectly ok today, and we managed an extension beyond the sparkly lake by walking up to 2400 metres for lunch some 400 metres above last week's high point but still 400 metres below the Hohtürli Pass.

Two sheep tried to share our lunch, but a nearby flock of yellow beaked choughs (which we would normally expect to intrude) must have had other things on its mind.

The postcard shows Sue at this spot below several glaciers, with Hohtürli and the Blümlisalphütte high above her head, on the horizon. Our lunch was punctuated by the crash of avalanches near the feet of these glaciers. The path follows a lateral morraine, and there are steep drops down to where a huge glacier once flowed. I can recall the moment on my first visit to this spot over 20 years ago - when a rather frightened pair, Dave Scruby and I, turned around in a July snowstorm and returned to Kandersteg.

Sue and I turned around today at almost the same spot, but for a different reason - we had never planned to go to the pass, and time was against us.

We found the descent easy, and chuckled as we overtook a mountain biker on a wired section. Then a young calf approached Sue "may I lick your leg?" his little bell jingled. "Of course" replied Sue. Having extracted a mixture of salt, sun tan cream and dead skin from the leg, the calf proceeded to try to untie her shoe laces. Its mother stood nearby, unperturbed. Here the cows roam freely, much like sheep in the UK; dogs wander without need for leads. Strange to contrast this with angry UK cows that trample folk to death.

Finally (for those still awake - and my own level of wakefulness is very low!), thanks Mark A for your comment on yesterday's entry. It's always good to receive your words of encouragement, and despite the paucity of comments at present, I know there are a number of other readers out there.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors, and do take care.

Next day

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Wednesday 2 September 2009 - Relaxing in Kandersteg

Not to say we didn't get Some exercise.

This morning the storm had passed and the sun was shining, so we got back to some 'path bagging'. First, route 2 to the foot of the ski jumps. Their heyday was short, from 1979 to 1991 - a plaque names the winners of an international competition, but since then it seems that Kandersteg has dropped off the international ski jumping circuit. The equipment looks dilapidated but servicable. From above it looked like a 'dry' facility, with a synthetic landing strip and steel runners for skis, but the run off area is just grass, so either a synthetic carpet or a blanket of snow is needed for the jumps to be operational.

Today's image was taken on the way to the ski jumps, a few metres from home actually, with the 2502 metre summit of Bire, to the north east of Kandersteg, looming high above the valley meadows.

We explored the quaint road bridge over which a cross country ski trail passes in winter. There is no summer footpath here, and the bridge timbers are very slippery. Nor is their much evidence of the rest of the ski route. The geography of the village must be altered somewhat when winter activities take over!

Retracing our steps, we enjoyed a variation of the panoramic walk to the west of the village, taking the paths nearest to the cliffs rather than last Saturday's higher route to Höh. Today's route gave better views; all of Kandersteg's landmarks being laid out below us in the sunshine.

We were down in time to enjoy lunch outside the Marmotte Tea Rooms, during which it began to cloud over.

Next, route number 8, a delightful woodland path with a 'vita-parcours' - exercise route - involving various keep fit equipment being placed strategically by the path for fitness freaks.

The sky darkened and before we knew it the rain had started. It lashed down. We sheltered in a very small but conveniently placed brick shelter until the worst had passed, before adjourning to the Co-op and inadvertently purchasing (inter alia) a supply of 'tax paid' rubbish bags that will possibly last Peter and Anne several years!

Then house admin, a lovely meal (cordon bleu chicken - still hanging on from the 1970s), and a dossy evening....

...and that's all for today.

Oh, BTW between the two of us we have now walked 20 of the 60 routes annotated on our 1:25000 map. Target achieved! What next?

Next day

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tuesday 1 September 2009 - Kebabed in Kandersteg



Blue skies have reigned supreme for most of today, so we felt obliged to take advantage of them despite being a bit tired.

The Öeschinensee cablecar whisked us expensively up the first 500 metres (perhaps we should have bought passes, but we didn't expect to be using the cablecars so much), and an easy 20 minute stroll brought us to the lake, where we luxuriated in a restaurant with cold drinks.

It's people watching territory. We observed as family groups and bunches of youths played in the blue boats, jumping in and out of the lake. Clearly my thoughts yesterday that the holiday season was drawing to a close were premature! Sue thought it reminiscent of Nice, but here the bikinis were more like the traditional two piece items, as opposed to the Nice variety with the missing tops.

It was amusing to see the bathing area shared with a somnolent herd of cows - especially as there were lots of dogs wandering about (no traffic = no dog leads). I noticed one bemused animal get a friendly lick from a cow.

Today's picture was taken amidst this scene of domestic tranquillity. I didn't realise at the time, but Sue appears to have been speared by the boatman's canopy!

We'd spent all morning getting this far, and there were paths to bag. So we ambled (and I use the word 'ambled' advisedly) off towards Hohtürli - a high 2778 metre pass that we had no intention of reaching. Our plan was to head up 400 metres to Ober Bergli, then walk back to the cablecar station via a high level belvedere that just HAD to be walked.

Movement in an uphill direction soon became a problem for me. Nausea set in and frequent stops were needed. Heat stroke? (it was 32C even up here), dehydration? - I'd just had a long drink. It was a mystery that Sue attributed to a toboggan ride that I'd enjoyed at the top cablecar station having addled my insides.

[It was a good ride, especially for one who has an aversion to braking whilst speeding down such a metal causeway!]

Everyone, yes Everyone, overtook us as we struggled up to our 1980 metre high point, pausing on the way for drink stops, lunch, people coming down wired sections, people overtaking, photos of the view, photos of flowers, and for me to catch my breath and overcome the waves of nausea. I felt as if I'd been wound around a long stick and was being toasted or kebabed under the hot sun.

We made it. Eventually. And our pauses should result in some pleasing images despite the height of the sun and the heat haze. (Here's Sue at our lunch spot above Under Bergli.)

A fountain (spring coming from a tap) at Ober Bergli was used to refuel our water bottles. Sue's transparent bottle gained a leech; mine is opaquely green; the water was lovely despite any chewy bits.

The path contouring above the lake was a delight, absolutely brilliant - a wonderful path with immaculate views. Blighted initially by aircraft noise, the huge bowl in which the lake sits then reverberated to the melodic sound of an alpenhorn. It became louder as we reached a rocky promontory overlooking the lake. The sounds were emanating from a couple with a huge horn - 10 feet long at least. After listening for a while I was about to record one of their numbers when they packed up the horn (it concertinaed into a package less than a metre long) and wandered on along the path.

By 3.30 we were back near the cablecar. Sue used that for descent whilst I stumbled down path 13, through pleasant woods with cows sheltering from the heat, and steep meadows where locals were busy bundling their harvested grass ready for it to be taken down to the valley by helicopter. (Hire cost less value of grass = subsidy? I wondered.)

Interestingly, from a near cloudless sky at 4 pm, half an hour later the whole sky had clouded over, and by 5 pm the friendly ginger cat had joined us under our canopy to watch the first drops of tonight's storm. We were expecting it.

We need a rest!

Next day

Monday, 31 August 2009

Monday 31 August 2009 - First and Stand

To the west of Kandersteg the relatively low summit of First (2549 metres) towers over the village a bit like Ben Nevis towers over Fort William. The relative elevations are similar, but First is much closer (just over 2 km) to Kandersteg than the summit of The Ben is to Fort Bill (a good 5 km).

Hot summer days in the Alps make initial ascents by cablecar irresistible, so today we used the Allmenalp cablecar again to get us up the first 600 metres, leaving only 900 metres of ascent for the rest of the day (plus a bruising 1500 metres of descents!).

Last week's empty playground was full of children as we passed by at 10 am, a sure sign that the central European holiday season is over. In fact we only encountered two other people doing today's walk - a far cry from yesterday's busy paths.

Even the cablecar 'cheat' and the well graded paths didn't make the stiff ascent up First very easy. It's an extremely steep hillside, so pretty difficult to devise a non-energetic route.
The jangle of cow bells slowly diminished as we rose steadily, with Öeschinensee soon coming into view across the Kander valley. A small bird of prey with white plumage floated overhead. (A peregrine, perhaps.) The flowers were wonderful, with huge banks of deep blue monkshood as we neared the summit. It had taken just over two hours.

Time for lunch. It's a narrow ridge, with steep drops, so I strapped my rucksack to my leg! The views were splendid - today's image was taken from here and shows Öeschinensee, with the Blümlisalp massif above it. To the left (top centre) are the Eiger and the Jungfrau, and the white slashes of Kandersteg's dry ski jumps show clearly near the bottom (centre) of the image.

Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn were also in (somewhat distant) view from here.

Poles were stashed for an interesting descent over steep ground, aided in places by wires, and backed by the sound of whistling marmots. With such a fine mountain backdrop it was hard to have to concentrate on 'micro foot placement'!

Difficulties over, we mounted Stand (2320 metres), and admired its gentians before toiling down steep slopes in hot heat to reach Kandersteg around 4.30 pm - in plenty of time to buy beer and salad to enjoy on our patio in the company of a somnolent ginger cat.

Next day

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sunday 30 August 2009 - Blue Skies over Switzerland

The Alpenglow has just faded on one of those idyllic Alpine days that encourages us to return again and again to enjoy the settled spells of weather that so frequently prevail at this time of year.

We started slowly - I blame the shutters - rising at 9 but then, moving quickly in a relaxed sort of way, we managed to get to the top station of the Sunnbüel cable car, suitable daubed with sun tan cream and ready for a good mountain day, by 10.45.

We ambled off amongst the hordes deposited up at 1900 metres by the crowded cable car. There's a motorable track across the Spittelmatte plateau, but we soon left this to explore the Arvenseeli, a small lake set amongst pines. The narrow path was deserted, with everyone else bashing on along the main arteries. I tried to picture the scene of my last visit to this spot, on skis in March 2006, when we spent some time watching a group being taught about such topics as avalanches, and how to make a snow hole.

Anyway, today there was hardly a patch of snow in sight. We returned to the main drag (hardly a drag in this weather!) and admired the view back over the Spittelmatte towards Kandersteg, hidden in the valley beyond. This is the subject of today's image.

The day rushed on. Coffees outside a busy mountain hut; lunch on a high col - Schwarzgrätli - 2400 metres. Then Sue headed along the airy Höhenweg Ueschenegrat ridge whilst I took a longer route, rising to 2639 metres on a broad unnamed summit overshadowed by a mountain that looks as impossible to climb as it does to pronounce its name - Tschingellochtighorn.

Fabulous views to far corners of the Alps.

Having encountered some slow sections along slippery vertiginous scree, and I reckoned Sue would have been waiting at our rendezvous point for a good hour by the time I got there. I waited there for 30 minutes - no sign of her. 'Must have gone down for a beer' I thought. So I returned to the lower cable car station - a 1300 metre descent altogether. No Sue. Luckily our meeting point was on a narrow toll road, so I hastily drove back up 500 metres to find Sue waiting, unperturbed, enjoying the last of the afternoon sun and pleased not to have to walk down the final 500 metres, much of which duplicated yesterday's pleasant woodland descent.

The shops were shut (we cater on a day to day basis) so we enjoyed a pizza at Pizzeria Antico tonight, before enjoying the stroll home in still warm mountain air, with the fading Alpenglow.

...I think that's where we came in...

PS Pleased to hear you are feeling better, Dot.
Robin - I think you'll find things here have moved on a bit since your childhood - you should plan to revisit. (We know of a nice apartment you could rent!)
Actually, for a period we were horrified to think that all the scouts may be staying in the International Scout Centre - a huge sort of Alpine Hut/Refuge - but today we were relieved to spot a few tents as well. (Better here than in the Carneddau!)

Next day

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Saturday 29 August 2009 - Path Bagging in Kandersteg

The summertime visitor to Kandersteg with his/her eyes on a good hike or 60 could do worse than head straight for the Tourist Information Office and splash out CHF 18.50 on a customised 1:25000 scale map 'Kandersteg Wanderkarte'. This extracts the relevant sections from four standard 1:25000 maps to centre the map just south of Kandersteg, leaving the visitor fully equipped with just this one excellent sheet.

Imposed on the face of the map are numbers 1 to 60, representing 60 routes varying from short walks in Kandersteg village to multi-day Alpine excursions requiring ropes and ice axes. The back of the map is crammed with information, including descriptions for all 60 of the routes. Tourist Information kindly provide an English translation, so it seems reasonable to start 'bagging' these routes. We are (ie I am) aiming for 20 during our short stay here. And if we return one day to find some of them deleted and new ones in their place, I for one - in true Munroist spirit - will not be at all upset!

We also have Kev Reynolds' excellent walker's guide to the Bernese Alps (Cicerone), but for a holiday based in Kandersteg the above map and translated route guide is all that most people would need.

Yesterday's circuit gained two ticks on the list, and this morning's short stroll to Höh, less than 200 metres above the village, gained another.

The low cloud lifted as we lunched in the sunshine outside the apartment, so this afternoon we took the Allmenalp cablecar (a small DIY affair) up to 1700 metres, to 'bag' two more routes as we rose a further 100 metres, with fine views across the valley to Öeschinensee, before a gentle 700 metre descent back home.

The cablecar trip afforded us a good view of route 56. We won't be doing that on this visit. We had a bird's eye view of both its Tyrolean Traverses (which on closer inspection appear to be optional) - it's a Via Ferrata (Klettersteig) of the harder variety, and we have left our zypers at home.

Allmenalp is a mecca for paragliders - yesterday we could see masses of them from across the valley. But today we were alone in the small cablecar; very few 'fliers' were out due we presume to unfavourable weather conditions, though the ones we did see looked fine.

Despite the promise of a sunny afternoon, it never really materialised; the cloud lifted but it remained dull. So today's image is a rather boring snapshot taken in Kandersteg village during our short spell of sunshine.

The journey here did Sue's muscle problem no good at all, but after two days in situ she reports that it is benefiting from some good books (thank you Susan and Hazel), light exercise, mountain air and sunshine.

Next day

Friday, 28 August 2009

Friday 28 August 2009 - Öeschinensee

Last time I visited Öeschinensee we enjoyed a beer outside a restaurant whilst being entertained by the antics of a group of scuba divers on the lake. By all accounts it was pretty cool beneath the ice!

Today we enjoyed a beer outside the same restaurant, then we lunched beside the lake, entertained this time by the antics of overloaded rowing boats full of predominantly English scouts. This must be where the scout masters bring their charges in an effort to drown or otherwise calm them before setting them loose to practice their smoking, drinking and petting skills in front of the residents of the small town far below.

We had a lovely walk, just 8 km with 600 metres of ascent, on a lovely summery day. The flowers are not quite the spectacle that we enjoyed on our last visit to the Alps, but are still in good form, with the same Autumn Crocuses that we will soon see adorning the banks of the River Mersey, doing very well indeed.

The other picture, by the way, is what it looks like here in summer. I had wondered. Our 'Home from Home' is the ground floor apartment.

Finally, a few messages, as I find 'commenting' difficult using the small 'phone:

Louise - I have to get to Montrose as well, of course, but YOU WILL GET A PRIZE, even if I have to co-opt the Old Hobo Pie Man to convey it to you - he certainly will be there - it's his 10th TGOC so he gets automatic entry.

Old Hobo - masquerading as a Bridesmaid? Not so unlikely as it sounds, I fear!

Judith - hello - as a recent arrival to these pages you may find the above comments bizarre! I hope you like the image of 'Home from Home' in summer. It's in a wonderful location (more on that in future postings) and is available to rent! And today's walk didn't worsen Sue's condition in the way that our planned backpack may have done...

Hendrik - yes, it is a brilliant sign, by the café half way up the Wrekin.

Next day

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thursday 27 August 2009 - A Home from Home


Today Sue and I were due to arrive in Saas Grund with a view to continuing our 'Italian Border Route' (IBR) backpack, roughly in the direction of Trieste.

Sadly, Sue's muscle problems mean that at best she can only manage short days carrying no more than a bum bag.

Whilst we do know of someone who backpacks in that style, it's not for us, so our IBR has been abandoned for the time being. Quite upsetting really.

Anyway, we had tickets to Geneva that we didn't want to waste, and a couple of emails opened up the opportunity to enjoy a Home from Home (or two) in the Alps.

So we packed the kitchen sink, loaded it into a strangely 'unmarked' C3 hire car at Geneva, and were here at our first Home from Home soon after lunchtime.

Much as we like Timperley, the view from our living room window there is not one that I can recall having used in a blog posting. However, today's postcard from our Home from Home is just that - you can even see the window frame at the top, but the wine glasses are just out of shot.

Hidden in the middle of the image is a huge, mesmerising, waterfall - 50 to 100 metres high and prominent in our view despite being a good 2 km away. Beyond Öschiback a backdrop of retreating glaciers acts as the foreground for the bulky peaks of the Blüemlisalp massif, some 2500 metres above us and 9 km distant.

Fabulous.

I think we'll tarry a while!

Next day
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