Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 23 January 2021

The Walker's Haute Route (15)

Leaving Arolla, and Mt Collon (click on any image to access a slideshow)

Tuesday 5 September - Arolla to La Sage 

I watched Mt Collon (3637 m) from my bed as the sky turned from black to grey to blue behind the mountain. Our balcony door was refreshingly open all night.

Carline Thistle

Stemless Thistle

Grass of Parnassus

Today was to be a short section to La Sage, so warranted a slow start. 9:30. Duly achieved. We followed the lower path to Lac Bleu - 11:00 to 11:45. If with a more experienced group I'd take the higher 'dangerous mountain path' that looked well used. Our path went down nearly to the road and back up again (complaints). I think the guide book tries to describe the higher route. Anyway, we joined the OTHs at Lac Bleu. Here our alcoholic friend (Waggy, bless his soul) was seen in very short shorts with no linings, so every time he bent over his 'bits' showed - not very nice! Some of them had already dipped, and Gaynor, by way of a final fling, ripped off her clothes and jumped in, closely followed by Sue. Much wet underwear.

Lac Bleu




View to Veisivi

Common Toadflax

La Gouille

Common Eyebright

Descending to Les Hauderes

Meanwhile, I brewed up for everyone, and eventually we pottered off down easy paths for lunch at picnic tables near a bridge in Les Hauderes. 

It was very hot here, and Gaynor left us to catch a bus home. 13:15 to 14:30.

Lunch in Les Hauderes

Above Les Hauderes

Ascending to La Forclaz

Autumn Crocus

View down to the Rhone Valley

La Sage

A short but energetic afternoon's walk took us steeply and sweatily up 200+ metres in temperatures approaching 30°C, accompanied by grasshoppers, grass cutters and a few autumn crocuses, to the delightfully situated Hotel de la Sage - 15:45. As usual, some of us lazed lengthily outside in the sun with beers. Colin, Hilde and I shared a room and Colin and I enjoyed a game or two of pool in the lovely drawing room with extensive views. "Salon fumeir", with library, telescope and pool table.

Outside Hotel de la Sage

View from the hotel

It was a lovely warm evening, and after dinner I strolled around the village in my waterproof socks, the only socks brought on this trip - two pairs, quite unnecessary. 

Dinner of spinach and feta cheese quiche, sirloin and mushroom sauce and veg and plantain, then delicious chocolate mousse. All very good.

There's not much skiing paraphernalia hereabouts, but snowshoeing (racquette) trails are heavily broadcast.

Colin in the 'Salon Fumeir'

Breakfast in Timperley

Mealworm heaven this morning. Our resident blackbirds are ever vigilant and rarely take more than a few minutes to spot replenishment of their provisions. This chap is nearly always quicker of the mark than his missus, the greedy wood pigeons, the grey squirrel that is frequently stalked by a neighbour's cat, and the robins and sparrows that also live here.

The blackbird can be seen in the next picture. Meanwhile a variety of tits and finches gorge on the nuts that dangle from our squirrel proof washing line. 

Friday 22 January 2021

The Walker's Haute Route (14)

Cabane de Prafleuri, with the old hut on its right (Click on any image for a slideshow)

Monday 4 September - Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla 

By 6:45 we were all ready for breakfast on another lovely clear cloudless day. I packed outside as the dortoir was cramped, and by 7:40 we were ready to leave - only about 30 minutes after the OTH, who despite their alcoholic tendencies do seem to be able to get away early.

Setting off towards Col des Roux

We zoomed up to the first col - Col des Roux (2804 metres) from our high cabane (2624 metres) by 8:00 for a ten minute break and lots of photos, before descending to Lac des Dix in warm weather, the sun having risen above the Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla as we reached the col.

Looking back down to Prafleuri

Lac des Dix

Col des Roux

River crossing

Biting Stonecrop

On the descent the field gentians were joined by monkshood, harebells, houseleeks and leopardsbane, with monkshood abundant in the marshy ground around the unmanned Refuge La Barma.

Common Monkshood by Refuge La Barma

Lots of deer here, and redstarts (not a lot of birds overall, choughs seen yesterday).

By Lac des Dix

Brewing up below Le Pleurer

We strolled down an easy path to the end of the reservoir for a welcome brew (10:00 to 10:35). And then on along a very scenic route, crossing steep gullies where the others would easily have lost the path. Our group was very slow and I could see ahead the choice between the steep scree up to Col de Riedmatten (2919 m) and the easy ladders up Pas de Chevres (2855 m).

Climbing above Lac des Dix

Suspension bridge at southern end of Lac des Dix


Colin, Gaynor, and the age of chivalry

Posing above Lac des Dix

Towards the Pas de Chevres ladders, seen in the centre of the picture below

So, as I wanted photos of the ladders, I chased after the OTH group (8 out of 10 had gone to the ladders) and reached the ladders just as they were "kitting up" with via ferrata gear that someone had brought. A long wait loomed large, but they let me go through, and I scooted up the ladders in front of them - so much for the photos, I'll have to go back, or track down those from 1984 (easier!). 

On the top ladder

I descended back briefly to allow a Frenchman to capture my image on the top ladder. These ladders were really easy compared with most via ferrata ladders, and much easier than the Mont au Sources chain ladders in South Africa.

First view of the Matterhorn

I looked back to see the rest of my group at the decision point junction. They all chose the Col de Riedmatten scree slope. So I waited at the top of the ladders, but no one else appeared so I ambled down towards Col de Riedmatten and said goodbye to Dave Lonsdale, who had sped over that col in a bid to reach Arolla in time for a 15:35 bus home (he made it). 

We were joined by lots of edelweiss in this area - most of the others had no idea what it looked like (despite seeing lots around Zermatt last year!). Scabious and Carline thistles were also prevalent today.

Pigne d'Arolla

I'd reached the top of the ladders at 13:15, from which a ten minute walk with our only view of the Matterhorn this trip, brought me down and part way up to the other col - which I could see, where I ensconced myself, brewed up, and waited for the others. They duly arrived; the Matterhorn was pointed out (they hadn't noticed it). Lunch finished at 14:30, then Sue and Caroline rushed down towards Arolla, followed by me and Colin.

We were down by 16:10, and were soon enjoying a beer in the sun at the first available hostelry, having overtaken the OTH Club, who had lost their hotel. The descent had been hot, and full of grasshoppers, which engaged with us for the rest of the trip. The hotel looked ok, but Sue and Caroline's search for rooms took us to a second floor balcony at Hotel du Glacier where Colin and I, Sue and David, Hilde and (reluctant, as she prefers dortoirs) Gaynor had twin rooms with shower and balcony, and Caroline had a single room. All for SF85, half board (£40).

Mt Collon from Arolla

Hotel du Glacier

This gave everyone accept me their best night's sleep. My bed was spongy, and I had sleep surplus. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate - Alexander McCall Smith, provided a good diversion though. 

It was a nice meal - pate salad, duck in orange with peas and spaghetti, followed by summer fruit, cream and ice cream. 

A nutcracker kept flying past en route from collecting food and delivering it to young in a nearby tree. 

The OTH Club discovered that whilst they thought they had booked Hotel du Glacier's dortoir, they'd actually booked Edelweiss Hotel. Something about a 'confusing colon' in the guidebook. 

I washed my North Face trousers and they were dry and crispy by morning. 

What a cracking day. I yearn to go back, and am jealous of Keith, who despite having an 'underlying health condition' managed to do the Haute Route in the summer of 2020, when the rest of us were afraid to leave home, let alone the UK!