Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hiking around Evolene: up to the Pic D'Artsinol

To take advantage of the the three-day weekend we decided to head down to the Val d'Herens, do some hiking, and hit a couple of the peaks that can be walked to. We also need to try out the new tent before our big trip in September, so we stay at the campground in Evolene.

It's a long trip, so we take an early train from Basel and after a couple of changes end up in Sion where we get on the standing-room only bus towards Arolla. We get off at Evolene, walk through town to the campground, and set up the tent (easy!). We're ready to start hiking at shortly past 10.

The path towards Vernec takes us out of town and then up the valley wall. It's a really nice walk up through the trees with the occasional cloud-limited view back out over the valley. Just past Vernec we pass the tree line and get the first good views up the valley (also somewhat cloud-limited, but the general idea is clear). The path leads us below Vouasson, continuing on upwards. We have a quick lunch break above the ski lift "station" just past P.2197 and enjoy the views of the ridge of the Mt. de L'Etoile (tomorrow's goal), what's left of the Vouasson glacier, and end of the ridge of the Aiguilles Rouges. The clouds are too low to see much else. In fact, the clouds are low enough that the Pic D'Artsinol, our goal for today, is obscured. This isn't so nice, but we decide to keep heading up in the hope that conditions will change.

We continue up, through the Pas d'Arpilles, past a big herd of sheep (complete with shepherd and dog), sometimes seeing the peak, sometimes not. By the time we hit around 2650m, the peak is actually in sun and it seems to be tending towards clear, so we opt to head up the last bit. Steeply up we go, then along the ridge to the peak itself. During this last phase we start encountering other people (it's been completely empty so far); they must have either come up from the other side or taken the higher path on our side, because we hadn't seen anyone on the trail until this point.

We're the only ones on the peak and are not standing in clouds ourselves, but we don't really have much of a view since there are clouds all around. Ah well... this is probably a great viewpoint when the conditions are good. A lot of the time we can hardly even see the dam under the Lac des Dix and the glaciers above it on the other side. No need for a long photo session, so after a short break we head back downwards. We take the higher path down, past la Nouva, and then down to Chemeuille where we opt to do our knees a favor and take the chair lift down the last 700m. If the option is there, we might as well use it, right? :-)

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