Sunday, 15 August 2010

Return to the Alps


Sat 14 / Sun 15 August

So.. return to the Alps following the previous events.

Weather shocking – constant torrential rain on arrival and since…

More to follow!

Challenges – the weather


The weather this year has been a big issue in the southern alps. Far more storms than usual, and a mix of weather patterns – all involving instability – which makes the routes very risky through high passes.

The normal pattern is for 4-5 days of stability, building to a storm, clearing and returning to stability.

This year it’s been a b*gger in the Valais region; 1-2-3 days of clear, but with storms building quickly and then settling in as storms for 4-5 days (!) leaving only narrow windows of clear each day.

As a solo walker, it is too risky to trek some days on my own with such varied conditions. The storms have been impressive and have kept me in one place for 2-3 days at a time before finding a clear window – essentially scuppering many of my planned routes.

It’s been a constant frustration and the worse year for trekking that I have seen…. :-(

Belated (brief) Update


Apologies to all for the belated update. Part computer issues, part other issues….

Many pictures to follow but not from my current web connection.

From the last posting in Cabane de Moiry - the route took the following course:

Cabane de Moiry to Grimentz – A reverse of the last section from the previous day; and then a diversion down to Grimentz.. Stunning views of the mountains reflected in the snow melt….

Grimentz – rest days + waiting for my wife and friends to join. Several epic storms, incuding one with over 200 bursts of lightning and thuinder in one 2 min period- all right above my hostel!

Grimentz > St Luc – fairly straightforward skirt around the valley to St Luc as a warm up for my wife and friends who joined me to Zermatt. First views of the Matterhorn. Nice hotel (at good price) with excellent food and sunsets. Found a lot of tendon pain – probably from a few days rest!

St Luc to Gruben – A longish haul over the Miedpass to Gruben – where you switch from French to Germsn in the space of one mountain pass. Sharp ascent initially gave way to a wider, gentler pasture with great views all around. Harder final section with switch back over scree to final saddle at about 2800m. Long descent (>1200m) into next valley was hard on all knees, with the valley seeming to fall beneath our feet. Much earned croute and rosti all round with one too many Cardinal beers!

Gruben > St Niklaus – with the planned route impassable due to the weather (heavy storms from noon),. we took an unusual variant down through the valley – which is not populated in the winter – to loop around to St Niklaus in the Zermatt valley. Forecast proved correct with torrential rain – the river nearest our lodgings was a torrent – whole trees being tossed down the flow like matchsticks! You could hear the boulders being moved by the flow of water – impressive to watch!

St Niklaus – Zermatt – a fair days stroll, again threatened by storms – 19km up the valley (about 600m of ascent) to Zermatt. Higher route enticing, but building storm clouds prevented ascent to Europaweg path. Passed the 1991 Randa rockfall; impressive for it’s scale – over 10,000,000 m^3 of rock fell into the valley; no-one killed by a miracle. The reality being that the valley is constantly evolving and reshaping – most of the peaks are crumbling at a remarkable rate!

Zermatt – rest days (planned) to catch up on washing, etc. Friends joined us and the weather continued to be very mixed – a constant threat of storms allowed some day walks to keep up the fitness but limited higher routes… except….

A highlight – Oberrothorn – the highest trekking route in Europe – a high point above zermatt at 3414m but still dwarfed by the numerous 4000m peaks. Following the route above Zermatt, an initially easy route switchbacking up the mountain lead to a couple of technical sections (scrambling) to the initial saddle at about 3200m. From this a sloping traverse around the final rocky sections to the summit at 3414m. Stunning views – a slight  lack of oxygen and the adrenaline from the exposed section amplified the view…



We had bad news at the end of Zermatt – a bereavement – so returned home for a short period.

With only 8-10 days trekking (weather allowing) left a return is intended to complete….