Sunday, 11 July 2010

Day 5 - Cabane de Louvie to Cabane de Prafleuri (?)


Early start. Up just before 6 after dreadful nights sleep in the dorm - why does the snorer always sleep near me? Must be the altitude.My walking colleague is still suffering from a bad cold and has decided to revert to the valley to allow us to rendezvous in a few days.

Headed off at 7am from the Cabane de Louvie, heading alongside the lake before climbing quickly; 400m to a junction before heading towards the Col de Louvie. Retraced steps from previous day, and amazing how the change in light paints such a different landscape.



Made reasonable time to the first pass  though drained from bad nights sleep - 11am to the col where stopped for lunch. Some snow on the way up but nothing too major. Seen 1 person so far today - coming in the other direction. Whole world to myself aside from them.

Some typical paths – red and white flashes mark the route:



One or two boulder fields mark the way; have to go over rather than around….


Early lunch at the Col de Louvie:




Heading down the the Grand Desert proved very hard going  - 200m down snow covered scree. Slow going as sank knee deep with each step; very technical and a lot of concentration needed.

Some braver soul had gone down on their rear (see second pic, slide shape in middle)

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Cutting across the base of the glacier, which is retreating quickly (even since 2003), there were a mix of trail signs (red and white flashes on rocks) with some buried by snow. Crossing two glacier streams completed very wet feet.

(Glacier at top left of picture)




Picked up the signs for the Col de Prafleuri and started heading up. Lots of snow, getting worse as I ascended.

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Crested an alternate col as I couldn't trace the route to Prafleuri - and headed into the alternate valley (Nendaz). Heading down from 2950metres was hard - so much snow.
Loose snow on tight turns, creating my own steps section by section, using my poles to their fullest to stabilise my descent.

Mini icebergs on the way:

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With some challenging path down (!):


With no option to turn back, I pressed on, checking the map regularly ; the path markings appearing and disappearing with the snow. Traversing scree, snowfields and creation of my own path had slowed me considerably - 2km had taken over 2 hrs.Tried two further small hills, both ending in blind drops, before skirting on a wider loop to clear the morain. The route down criss-crossed these sections, taking me from about 2900m to 2600m:



Eventually caught sight of the more major path expected below and a Cabane in the distance. Continued to descend, creating my own path through the scree and shallow streams to meet the main path. Bumped into the second person all day - a Swiss hiker camping amongst the flowers.

Given the time for day (now 3.30), and with the weather closing in (mountain storm weather), I decided that the Cabane de Prafleuri was not reachable  (a further 2.5 hrs) and decided to skirt lower after the challenges of the days route.


Once clear of the scree and snoiw, heading down fast, I felt buoyed after the challenge of the snow to complete the day. With my head down, and on a path, I pressed on, covering 6km in 1hr 30ish, with 1000m of descent in the section; probably my fastest power walk, and without a Bettys Tea Room in sight!

Arrived in Seviez with moments to spare before an enormous alpine storm started - vertical rain with drops the size of maltesers (I can't think of a better analogy) 

Thunder and lightning echoed and reverberated across the valley (I was still at 1700m)  - glad of descent as the storm was vicious (locals playing boule in the rain):


Picked up post bus to head into valley for a rest day in Sion, will pick up trail from next accessible point.

Time to recharge....

Distance:18km ish

Climb: 950m (high point 2950m)
Descent: 1400m
Time: 10 hrs



This day was by far the hardest, most technical walk I have ever done solo (in any trip)  and tested all of my walking knowledge to track and manage the day.The amount of snow in the very high passes - 3000m is very high for the time of year, and I need to pick some lower passes for the next few days to reduce risk and make days more manageable.

1) High passes with snow can cover markings, paths and significantly lengthen any route plans against predicted time. Route may not be possible and the wise think to do is not to risk it…
2) Descending unmarked paths or new routes takes time and should not be rushed. Best route can often be counter intuitive from the initial indication of the terrain.
3) Walking solo takes a lot of attention and pauses to think through and reconfirm the route.

1 comment:

  1. Well done! What an experience - the scenery makes one gasp just to look at it. More stunning photos. Carry on and keep safe!
    Love - Sue xx