Saturday, July 24, 2010

St. Niklaus -> Gruben

We were originally supposed to do a hochtour this weekend, but fresh snow on Thursday and Friday as well as a somewhat questionable forecast for Saturday put a stop to that. Andrea pulled this tour out of her bag of tricks instead.

An early start from Basel with a train to Visp, from there changing to the train up into the mattertal, whic we take as far as st. Niklaus. Now the Andrea special begins: we're heading up, up, up. The path starts uncharacteristically hard to find, but we manage to keep on track and eventually the markers start getting nicely regular. The path is lovely, under the trees, with occasional views out over the valley, soft footing... A dream. A dream with plenty of vertical meters. :-) We climb and climb, and eventually hit Jungu, 800m above our start. 800m that we could have done with a gondola, but we're too tough for that. Heh

From Jungu we continue upwards, through some cows, and then pick up an educational path with lots of information about flowers. Here the weather starts to play games with us: intermittently sunny then overcast then windy then lightly raining (Andrea points out that it wasn't really rain... kind of a mix of hail and snow with a bit of rain mixed in... something in between). The fresh snow above is clearly visible (it had snowed down to 2400m on Friday). After more climbing, the wind-blown drizzle wins the battle and we put on jackets and pack covers. Eventually we round a corner and both the wind and the precipitation let us loose. Deep below in the valley is a rainbow - don't remember being above a rainbow before - and in front there isn't too much to see... the clouds are pretty low. Shortly we end up back in the wind and rain-snow-hail drizzle, where we will stay for much of the rest of the day. Some nice block walking, not quite as carefree as last weekend, but definitely still fun.
We do lunch under an overhanging rock which keeps us dry and out of the wind. There are plenty of people out and about, most coming against us. Funny encounter with a group of Amis who all look pretty shell shocked and warn us about how slippery it is in the pass. Further on, into the fresh snow, always climbing until we hit the pass. Not good conditions for the planned detour to the Schwarzhorn, plus it's windy as hell, so we just go ahead and descend. Again, the fantastic views at we would have over the Turtmanntal are mostly wiped out by the low clouds... Tja.
From the pass we descend and descend and descend and descend and eventually we end up in Gruben, where a comfy hotel and refreshing beverages await.

Despite the unstable weather it was a really good day in the mountains. We did enough up and down that we went from lush green under trees to green with flowers above the tree line to the grays of the high alpine environment and then back down again to the lush green and trees. Plus, the constant changes in conditions and views made it so that the day absolutely flew by. Great!

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