Author Archives: Carolyn

Leaving for Home 28 September

Monte Rosa, bless her pea-pickin’ heart, at least had the courtesy to come out to say goodbye, complete with alpen glow, as seen from our balcony.

And

By the time our bus left, she was in full blue sky. How I wished for one more hiking day!

Although in this photo the center nipple appears tallest, Monte Rosa’s high point is actually the 15,211-foot Dufour, which in on the dark blob to the left, a jagged ridge that extends across the top.

This photo taken on the hike from Trift above Zermatt shows the other side of these features.

To add a bit of perspective, the almost two-mile relief from Macugnaga to Monte Rosa’s peak is about twice that of our hike above Trift. According to Wikipedia, the 8,500-foot face behind Macugnaga is the tallest wall in the Alps.

As a testament to her height, Monte Rosa stayed with us quite a ways as the bus descended.

We also got better views of the villages clinging to the hillsides.

And

Even as we approached Domodosola, the terrain was abrupt.

We had a 5-hour wait in Domodosola, which was a pleasant surprise we would never have otherwise discovered. Domodosola is a simple non-touristy city. We lounged in sidewalk cafes and gorged on gelato before returning to the agritourismo near the airport.

So this year’s foreign adventure comes to an end. We are already contemplating the next.

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Macugnaga, Day 2

We have no valid complaint about weather on this trip, but today’s clouds were a bummer. At least there was no rain, so we got in one last good hike.

We headed up the valley in search of Monte Rosa. We had caught a slight glimpse of her at dawn.

Along the way, we found a communal oven from several hundred years ago. Bread would cool on these slabs.

There were occasional glimpses of Monte Rosa ahead.

We came upon a waterfall with a pool that must be popular in summer.

Above the waterfall, the trail looked dicey, so Roger left me in a field of wild flowers as he scouted.

And

We ended up retreating to another trail that went up a moraine through a grove of larches.

And

We came to a restaurant that was closed for the season, but the begonias on the balcony were like none I had ever seen.

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And

A couple thousand feet up, we came to the Belvedere, which we assume is the primary viewing spot for Monte Rosa. It has a lift up to it and this outdoor escalator.

Monte Rosa began to tease us.

And

Past the Belvedere, we came to the Belvedere glacier. It looked like a gravel pit to me, but Roger said there was ice very near the surface and crevasses. Roger went farther into it while I went back to the viewing spot to wait.

On the way down, we saw that the lift was running. I hopped on for the last leg.

Tomorrow we go back to the agritourismo near the Milan airport. This time we will have food with us.

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Macugnaga

Macugnaga is in a very deep valley near the northeast face of Monte Rosa–the peak of Monte Rosa is two miles above us. Plan A was to hike over the Monte Moro pass from Switzerland to Italy, then take the lift down to Macugnaga. However, the lift closed a few days ago, and without it we would have had to descend more than a mile. The weather was also questionable, so for Plan B, we took the train though the Simplon tunnel to Domodosola, Italy, then a bus to Macugnaga.

The bus ride from Domodosola featured small cramped villages clinging to the steep hillsides. They were hard to capture, but we tried.

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And

Two things about the bus ride yelled, “You’re not in Switzerland any more.” First, the tickets were dirt cheap. Second, the passengers were jovial, as opposed to the quiet calm in Switzerland. A gaggle of older women with hair colors ranging from green to orange certainly enjoyed each others’ company, then the bus filled with boisterous school children.

The afternoon was cloudy, so we just wandered about the village. The architecture was an interesting mix of stone and wood construction.

And

And

The Italian penchant for murals was evident.

This chapel dates from 1613:

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This fencing was unusual.

We had a late lunch at our accommodation because it was the only restaurant we could find open. It was not particularly good. At first, we thought that everything had closed for the season, then we remembered. Duh. This is Italy. They eat late. This evening, we had a much better meal at another restaurant.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we hope to see Monte Rosa.

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Randa and the Bridge

Today was our last full day in Switzerland and we made good use of it.

We are staying two nights in Randa, just north of Zermatt. It is essentially a farming community with the most grain storage buildings I have ever seen. They perch on stones to discourage mice.

And (Stairway is cut from one log.)

This ambiance came as a surprise, but that’s not why we are in Randa. We are here because of the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, which just opened July 29. We learned about it only a few days before we arrived in Switzerland and it immediately went on my to-do list. Roger wasn’t so sure, but it turned out to be a great day for him, too.

The bridge was about 2,000 feet above Randa, so up we went. By now, that’s just a hike. The trail was good, and views got progressively better.

And

The bridge is about 1/4 mile long and about 300 feet above the valley. Today, with little wind, it was quite stable. It was built because landslides kept destroying the trail below.

And

I liked looking down on tall trees.

The cables had huge shock absorbers.

After the bridge, we trudged another 800 or so feet uphill to the Europahütte.

The weather was great for lunch on their balcony.

The view was a perfect ending for our trip. First, there was the Weisshorn, a bit less than 15,000 feet.

Next to the Weisshorn was the glacier Roger had photographed so many times from the train, except now he could see it so much better.

And

To the left of the Weisshorn was the Mettelhorn with the Platthorn peeking from behind.

We could even see the glacier where we turned to go up the Platthorn.

And Roger got a good look at the landslide that in 1993 blocked the river and flooded the lower part of Randa.

We took a different route down that was very steep but also had nice views.

As we entered Randa, we spied this short-legged horse

And huge cabbages.

Tomorrow, we go to Macugnaga, Italy, the south side of Monte Rosa.

Categories: Switzerland | 3 Comments

A surprising Bus Ride

It was supposed to be just a travel day, but Roger chose our route carefully. We went from Gadman over the Susten Pass to Andermatt, then then the Gotthard Pass to Arolla, then the Nufenen Pass to Ulrichen, where we caught a train to Randa just north of Zermatt. We covered much of this route by train in 2009 but didn’t particularly remember it because there were a lot of tunnels. Today, we went by bus and were awe-struck.

First, we learned that we erred yesterday by stopping short of the Susten Pass. Beyond the pass, the bus descended about 45 minutes without a hint of ascent. The scenery was wild and beautiful. We came upon more deciduous vegetation, and thus more fall color than we had seen.

Arolla is in the Italian Ticino region of Switzerland. It was interesting to see the Italianate architecture suddenly appear and then disappear as we returned to the Germanic region.

Reflections and glare made photos difficult, but we clicked anyway. It was difficult to decide which to include, but here are a few:

Another view of the waterfall tunnel


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We had several rest breaks. At one station, cannabis tea in the vending machine cost less than Coke. We did not try it.

And

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Steingletscher

Today we puttered around several very sick glaciers, the most prominent of which was the Steingletscher, near the Susten Pass. The scenery was Rockies pretty, not the jaw-dropping dimensions we’ve experienced the last few weeks. We climbed a bit less than 1,000 feet on trail wet with melting snow, but it was quite easy compared to yesterday.

The history of this lake

is explained by this sign. The glacier dug the hole and filled it with glacial ice, which melted when the glacier receded. Now it is filled with melt water from the receding glacier. The color is because of the glacial flour in the water. The referenced Tierberglihütte, closed for the season, appears as a tiny dot near the skyline in deep snow.

There were also many rocks with scars and polish from the glaciers.

And

There were many wild blueberries which were delicious. We have noticed an abundance of blueberry jam in Switzerland.

and

The name of this formation translates to “Five Fingers.”

More of Roger’s photos:

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and my favorite. How many tunnels are built to go under waterfalls?

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Gadmen

We left the high mountains behind today after a bit of alpen glow

and a last shot of the Breithorn standing more than 6,500 feet above Obersteinberg.

The 2,800-foot descent to Stechelberg in the Lauterbrunnen valley began innocuously, with decent trail and nice views.

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At Hotel Tschingelhorn,

the path split into upper and lower trails. We took the lower path in 2009–wide, well-graded, no surprises. This time we took the upper path. Big mistake.

This trail was a conglomeration of all the trail hazards I like least: slick limestone, slick tree roots, slick mud, exposure, and, worst of all, slick and exposure together. Anything wood was not to be trusted. Even the gravel could not be trusted. This is the first time I have ever scrambled down tree roots. It was exhausting to be so careful with each step.

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Finally, we reached Stechelberg and enjoyed good trail at last. This fellow didn’t mind our passing.

By bus, train, then bus again, we have arrived in Gadman, northeast of the Grindelwald area. Other than farming activity, there is nothing at our bus stop except the hotel and a neighboring campground with one pitched tent. We are much lower and warmer than we have been the last couple of weeks. However, we are poised to investigate more glaciers tomorrow.

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Oberhornsee

Oberhornsee is a “lake” above Obersteinberg. At least, it used to be a lake. Today, I would call it a small pond.

The setting, though, is beyond spectacular and made for a day we didn’t want to end.

Looking up from Obersteinberg, I couldn’t imagine how there could be a trail up there that we could hike on.

Behind the hotel, we were startled by the sudden appearance of the deep-cut valley below us.

We followed this brink until we crossed a bridge

and found ourselves in a rolling meadow.

Then we began climbing. It was good trail, but there was slick ice to be avoided.

And

At last we came to the Oberhornsee. More importantly, we found a moraine upon which we had lunch.

The sky was a deep blue without a hint of cloud. I was mesmerized by the lighting on the Ellstabhorn. It appeared two-dimensional and glittered as if lit. Roger tells me that it rises 3,000 feet above us.

At 180°, the bases of the Breithorn, the Tschingelhorn and the Wetterhorn Kanzel were so close they looked like walk-ups. The Breithorn rises about a mile above us.

For the return, we chose a loop that would allow us to avoid the steep icy steps. We got steep snowy steps instead, but overall it was better trail.

And

We passed another small alp, the Oberhorn. It appeared the cows had already been moved to lower pasture.

We finished the day, and dinner, with the traditional Swiss dessert meringue with cream. This time, the cream was fresh.

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Obersteinberg, Part 2: 20 September

Much better than good enough. First a view toward the Lauterbrunnen valley. Mürren is upper left, Gimmelwald is below Mürren, toward the foreground. The village of Lauterbrunnen is at the far end of the valley. Schynige Platte is on the far skyline.

In the other direction, a wall of white we will become more familiar with as we head their way.

So we went down to the trail and the real fun began.

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And, finally–actually too soon, Hotel Obersteinberg below us.

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By the time we got to Obersteinberg, the sun was beginning to set and it was getting cold. Obersteinberg appears to have electricity only in the kitchen and heat only in the kitchen and dining areas–if you call 52°F heat. The dining area was lit by candles and gas light.

Our matratzenlager has no heat, no lights. Neither do the private rooms people pay about $50 more per night for. They complained more than we did. The night-time temperature dropped to the mid-20’s.

In addition to the hotel, Obersteinberg is a working alp. We are served cheese that is made here. This is also the place where pigs fly–they go to market by helicopter.

We ended our day with a candlight dinner with the Jungfrau shining out the window.

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Obersteinberg, Part 1: 20 September

Today’s hike has to be one of the most beautiful in the Alps. It is the one I remember most fondly from 2009 and the driving force of my desire to return. We judged the weather well. While the 2009 hike was in light rain and fog, today’s weather was perfect. And while the hike totally exhausted us in 2009, today it was just a hike.

Not to say that it was easy. The best part is near the end and it comes hard-earned after a steep 2,300ft climb through the woods–after we had endured a steep descent of about 1,000 feet from Mürren to the stream at the bottom of the valley.

The day started in Mürren with some clouds. We did not rush to get on the trail because we knew the weather would get better.

We descended to the village of Gimmelwald on a heavily touristed trail. As we turned a corner, we began to glimpse what the day would become.

I’m not sure, but I think this flower is only found in the Mürren area, according to signage we saw at Allmendhubel a few days ago.

We left the tourist trail and descended to a bridge,

then began the ascent through the woods. No photos from the steep part–we were too busy.

After the woods, the views opened up.

We finally reached the turnoff to the Tanzbödeli (dance floor), a high flat viewing point. In this photo, it is on the center skyline.

In 2009, we were too exhausted to even consider this side trip, but today we headed up. For the first time ever, we dropped our packs at the trail junction.

The trail was steep with lots of slick limestone, but the views kept getting better. Finally we reached our turnaround point–like our decision on the Platthorn, the view was good enough, and this last bit just didn’t seem worth the extra effort.

The views were actually much better than good enough, but I am going to end this post now and continue in Part 2. Cell signal is marginal.

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