Monday, December 31, 2007

Snowshoeing around the Weissenstein

We gave ourselves snowshoes for Christmas and set out today to break them in and give them a try. We didn't want to do anything too strenuous or tricky on our first day on snow shoes, so we did an easy tour around starting at Weissenstein.

After taking the chairlift up, we set off across in the direction of Unterer Weissenstein and Hasenmatt. We did a bit of easy, pre-packed snow and a bit of fresh snow.

Total time was about 3 hours, including lunch. We didn't do too much height change. But I'm sure there will be sore muscles tomorrow. :-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas trip: Aachen and Wegberg

We spent a couple days with Andreas and Elke in Aachen and then headed up to Wegberg to spend Christmas with Andrea's family.

Back to Basel on the 28th.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekendtrip to Paris

We had to try the new TGV connection from Basel to Paris ( 3 1/2 hours) and went to visit Christina and Thomas for the weekend.

Friday night was spent at a late, long dinner at Brasserie Flo. We've been to a Brasserie Flo in Nice together and Greg has been to one in the airport (CDG). The place was a complete madhouse on a Friday night, but the food was good and there's something very appropriate about eating in a madhouse in Paris. :-)

Saturday, after a sleep-in and nice breakfast, Christina and us went for a long, random wander through town, from their place close to the Gare de l'Est, via Place de la Republic, down Rue du Temple to the Hotel de Ville, spent some time in the kitchen section in the BHV department store, had a warm drink opposite the Hotel de Ville, then went across the Ile de la Cite, past Notre Dame, via Saint Michel to the Jardin du Luxembourg, found a Christmas Market near Saint Sulpice, had a crepe/galette, and finally took the metro from Mabillon back to their place. It was rather cold, but beautifully sunny and clear, a great winter walk.
After a rest, we went all together shopping for dinner, Fondue Bourguignonne (very nice! Christina made a very nice sauce bernaise to accompany), and played games and drank wine till late....

On Sunday, again cold but sunny, the four of us took the metro to Saint Denis for a visit of the Basilique Saint-Denis, one of the first major structure partially built in the Gothic style. It's big, and high, and wide, and has lots of colorful glas windows. Great. Close by was a big open-air as well as closed market, one of those big, crowded, loud, crazy, random markets, just great...:-)
After a metro trip back to the Place de Clichy we walked through Montmartre, had a late lunch and warm-up at a small corner cafe, walked up to Sacre Coeur, down on the other side, and being all frozen through took the metro back. After a short rest and cup of tea, we packed up, went to the station and caught the TGV back to Basel.

Always crowds on the steps of Sacre Coeur...

All in all a very nice weekend. We'll come back, and next time we'll try (again) to get a table at Spring. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Niederdorf -> Bad Bubendorf

This was a "make it up as you go along" walk just to enjoy a beautiful sunny early-winter Sunday in the Baselbiet. We went from Niederdorf up past Oberserzach to Titterten, along to Arboldswil, down past Arxhof, around Wildenstein, and then through Bubendorf to Bad Bubendorf where we picked up the bus back towards home.

Total walking time was around 3 1/2 hours.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Arnigrat hates us

Today we made another attempt on the Arnigrat, after being turned away last time we tried. We started in Sachseln and the plan was to head up, past Oberschwanden and the Stucklikreuz to Stockalp and the Arnigrat. On the other side we'd then head over the Wandelen and down to Ällgi to stay the night. Sunday would then be another nice day towards Engelberg or something.

The weather forecast was for fog up to 1300-1500m and then clear skies. The Arnigrat is from 1800-2000, so that was no problem. We got to Sachseln (472m) and encountered the predicted fog. No problem! Up into the fog! At Gloters (780m) the fog cleared. Yay! But then we headed up into clouds. Clouds? Na, just more fog. Optimism!

Around about Unterschwanden (967m) things started to get muddy, and by the time we got past Oberschwanden (1100m) the path was really quite muddy. Still... onwards and upwards. Eventually we'll get above the fog! That illusion lasted until we hit the Stucklikreuz at 1800m. There we had lunch looking out over nothing and decided that doing another 2.5 hours through the clouds only to end up at a hut in the clouds was senseless. So we turned around and headed back.

This is about as good as it got... that's a bit of the Pilatus peering out between the fog layer and the cloud layer.


1400m up in four hours, 1400m down in 2.5 hours. Five hours total of train riding... we're back home. Turned back, again, by the Arnigrat.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Geissflue and Wasserflue

This walk is partially taken from Wandern mit den U-Abo; we extended it a bit at the end.

After starting in Zeglingen (535m) we went up to the Geissflue (963m) by way of Flueberg and Schaffmatt. The supposedly great views from the Geissflue weren't there today; it was way too hazy to see either the Vogesen or the Alps. The Schwarzwald was barely discernible.

From Geissflue we walked down to Salhöhe (772m), where we stopped for lunch before continuing on to Wasserflue (844m). Again, the very nice views one could enjoy from here just weren't there today.

We finished by walking down to Aarau (382m) by way of Hinterfeld, Hardmännliloch, and Hungerberg.

Not counting lunch we walked for about five hours.

It was very amusing to be walking in a highly populated area again. Sooooo many people on the paths! :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Memo to ourselves: life of a gas bottle

The 400g gas cylinder we just finished (CADAC, butane/isobutane/propane) lasted through 8 camping nights in the Pyrenees + 2 camping nights in Wallis. So a total of about 10 nights camping (dinner + breakfast) for us.

You could still hear some liquid sloshing around when shaking the "dead" bottle, but it no longer reliably produced a flame that last night. The cooking times had also been getting longer.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pyrenees Trip Info: Pack loads

What we carried:
  • toiletries
  • toilet paper+matches+the "poop shovel"
  • 2x pack towels (probably only needed one)
  • 2x sunglasses
  • 2x guide books (TiP and Zu Fuss)
  • a few photocopies of hike descript
  • maps
  • deck of cards
  • notepad + pen
  • personal documents
  • compass
  • watch
  • cell phone (SWITCHED OFF!)
  • first aid kit
  • camera and accessories
  • tent, tarp, poncho
  • 2x sleeping bags
  • 2x sleeping bag pads
  • 2x hiking poles
  • Kitchen stuff:
    • jetboil system
    • jetboil group cooking system pot
    • 400g gas bottle
    • 2x bowls
    • 2x sporks
    • folding knife
    • leatherman
    • small cutting board
    • 2x 1l Nalgene
    • 2x .5l sports bottles
    • 2x 2l water bag
    • 1l water bag
    • biodegradable dish soap
    • 3x small dish rags (only needed 2)
  • water filter
  • 2x head lamps (probably only needed 1)
  • candle lantern
  • clothesline
  • Andrea's clothes
    • 3x underwear
    • 2x bra
    • 3x hiking socks
    • hiking pants
    • city pants
    • 2x t-shirt
    • long-sleeved shirt
    • fleece
    • rain coat
    • stocking cap
    • sun hat
    • gloves
    • tevas
    • hiking boots
    • long underwear
    • "swimsuit" (bikini pants and top)
  • Greg's clothes
    • 3x hiking underwear
    • 3x hiking socks (went down to 2x on day 14 when Greg lost a sock)
    • t-shirt
    • short-sleeved shirt
    • long-sleeved shirt
    • swimsuit
    • long underwear
    • sunhat
    • stocking cap
    • fleece
    • raincoat
    • hiking pants
    • city pants
    • city socks
    • city underwear
    • hiking boots
    • tevas
    • knee brace
  • Food: varied, but we usually left towns with 4 days worth of meals.
We both ended up carrying packs that weighed in at 20-25% of our body weights, which is heavy but not too bad. Luckily there was enough water in the area that we rarely needed to carry more than 2-3 liters (for both of us). Not having to carry 3-4 liters each really helped with the pack weights. Still, there were a couple of times when we cut it closer than I'd like to.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Pyrenees Day 17: Lac d'Espingo -> Luchon

This is the end.

The day starts cool. After a late breakfast we set out at 9:15 and stop at the Refuge to pick up a picnic lunch (what crap! two slices of bread, ~100g of cheese (the butt!), a 30g package of pate, a bag of chips, a shriveled apple, a teeny crappy granola bar, and a bad packaged breakfast pastry. For 7 Euros... what crap!) and then head to the GR10. The initial climbing is in cool shade, there aren't too many people out, the views are nice.

After the first col (Hourquette des Hounts-Secs, 2275m) we're mostly in the sun and thing start to get warmer, but it is still breezy so we're comfortable. As we approach the second col (curiously nameless) the density of people goes way up. We crest the col (2272m, 12:30) into a group of 20 French, all speaking at the same time. Immediate retreat up the slope of the Sommet de la Coume de Bourg in order to have a quiet lunch. We've got great views East and West. This is, by far, our best overview of the Pyrenees yet. In addition to a bunch of vultures, we see something we're pretty sure is a golden eagle. That's very cool.

After having lunch we set out for the final leg of the trip (sniff...) at 1:15. We grab some water at a teeny spring (TiP++) and then continue on a path that's very nice to walk along but a bit too concentration demanding for serious walk-and-gawk. We gawk a lot anyway.

The non-hiker density increases with proximity to Superbagneres, which is gag-inducingly ugly. We sadly reach the end and take the gondola down to Luchon at 3:00.

We arrive in Luchon in the middle of some chaotic children's flower festival and parade. Wow is it noisy! Wow is it crowded! Gack! We find the planned hotel (Hotel Panoramic), check in, shower, do some laundry (in a machine! not the sink!), have ice cream, buy train tickets to Toulouse for Monday, rest, and then have dinner.

Civilization is loud, stinky, and hectic... we need to go back into the mountains!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pyrenees Day 16: Refuge du Portillon -> Lac d'Espingo + Lac d'Oo

We start the day by being the latest at breakfast, 7:30; things start early at this refuge! Most everyone else has gotten an early start for mountain climbing and/or a long HRP stage. We leave by 8:30 for the easy descent down to Espingo.

The way down is a pretty and very well laid out path. We take our sweet time and stretch the 1.5 hour walk so that it takes three hours to reach the Refuge d'Espingo (1967m, 11:30). We scout around the lakes for a while to find a good tent spot and finally find one on the Lac d'Espingo that looks clean and has a good view. It's also flat and out of the way. quite nice!

After pitching the tent, having lunch, and doing some laundry in the river we leave at 1:15 to walk down to Lac d'Oo. It's funny as hell to walk without packs on. On the way down, we pass some nice waterfalls and hordes of people sweating their way up the path.
We reach the refuge on the lake (1504m), have a cool beverage, and admire the big waterfall. We continue to be amused and surprised by the people in "civilian" clothes. Oh well, hope we don't smell too bad.

After a while we head back up to Espingo. We work hard at not running back up the hill (it's soooo easy without the packs on!). Along the way we pass many of the same people that we saw on our way down, only now they're coming down as we're going up. They haven't spent very much time up at Espingo... I guess they walked uphill for 3+ hours to spend less than an hour at their destination. "Der Weg ist das Ziel" and all that, but that's a bit much for me.

Along the stretch Lac d'Oo->the GR10 turnoff we finally manage to almost reproduce a walking time from TiP. Almost. Without packs. He must really run.

We get back to Espingo at around 4:00, have another cool beverage and watch as some shepherds gather the hundreds of sheep that have been scattered around the area and then drive them back down the path we just walked up. Good thing we're not on that path anymore!

Back at camp we have the soup course and a little rest in the sun. To our horror a group of eight people (three kids) shows up and makes camp within sight of us. We shudder and anticipate noise and chaos. After our nice rest we have a "use up as much as possible" dinner and then go for a walk along a random path near our side of the lake. This path leads us to the secret waterfall of Espingo! It's not super high (maybe 50m or so), but it has nice water volume and drops into a perfect looking pool. Too bad there's no apparent way to get down to that pool (cliffs all around). It's a very enticing pool.

We finish the day by enjoying the last sun colors on the valley walls and cursing the damn kids who are, of course, making loads of noise. Yes, we're old and fusty!

To be fair, the kids were put to bed at 9:00 and didn't make any noise after that.

We get up at 1:00 to do some stargazing. It's excellent.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pyrenees Day 15: Lago de Gias -> Refuge du Portillon

This was a day of stops and starts as the adventure of Lago de Gias continued...

The morning is clear, cold, and a lot less windy than the night (but still damn gusty). We set out at in long underwear and coats at 9:00. The idea is to take the "easy" route, ascend the Portal d'Oo, and descend to meet the HRP. For our first attempt we follow some stonemen over the boulders to the right central bit of the wall then climb. We scramble to the valley rim (2900m) pretty quickly (10:30) and look over the edge to find a ~100m sheer cliff on the other side. oops. The view is nice, but that's not an "easy" descent. There's also a nice plaque memorializing someone who died up here, but Greg chooses to believe that they died climbing one of the nearby peaks. We look around for a bit and see a possible route down the left side of the porte. Unfortunately, we have to descend 100m or so to get there. No problem, we scramble down.

Along the way we lose our nerve with the whole adventure thing a bit, change our minds, and decide that it's more sensible to just go back down to Estos and to re-enter France via Benasque. Decision made, Greg commences to change out of his long underwear. Pretty much immediately a couple of Spanish guys appear. Andrea talks to them a bit and they tell us that the actual Puerto is the left side of the wall and that it's easy to get over. Ok... no problem, we'll do it. Off to the left side.

We scramble up the 100m, behind the two Spanish guys, and reach a lovely col with a clear, steep path down through the scree and boulders. From here we can see the central path and it's clear that it never would have worked without climbing gear and skills we don't have. There's also a little nook with a wall of stones that clearly at least one person has used as a bivvy. Holy crap, a bivvy in a windy col at 2900m. They must have been highly motivated to get up the mountain the next morning or very tired when coming down one night.

We head down the steep path, reach the bowl bottom (~2800m, 12:05), and have a short rest. Greg finally changes out of his long underwear (whew!). After the break we follow a fantasy of a path over rocks (rocks of many colors!) and over and around boulders (of many colors!), ...

...across the bowl, past some lakes, past the sad remains of a glacier, and up the other side to a col looking down on the Lac du Portillon. It's a beautiful lake in a great setting.

We follow some stonemen down a bit until we find a good lunch spot with a view (1:15). After lunch we follow contradictory stonemen as we walk across rocks and over and around boulders in a series of stops and starts and stops and starts. It's another one of those stoneman civil wars, this time with many factions and no clear leader. Eventually we find our way down the Refuge du Portillon (2570m, 3:30). Getting here from above is like solving a puzzle (the answer to which seems to be: "don't turn towards the Refuge...").

We thought about continuing the 1.5-2 hours down to Espingo but at least 95% of the day's walking was either uphill or downhill on loose stones, scree, or over and around boulders, and our joints are tired. Our enthusiasm for camping is very, very limited so we cross our fingers that there won't be any snorers and opt to stay in the Refuge.

Later we see the two HRP hikers we originally met back at Barroude and talk to them for a while. They're also a bit bemused about the stoneman chaos about the Refuge; we have a good laugh about that.

Random notes:
  1. The electricity in the hut is out and has apparently been so all season. The hut keeper seems to be resigned to this.
  2. The food is really good.
  3. There are less than 20 people staying this night, but the hut keeper says that he has reservations for around 100 people for the following night (Saturday, good weather forecast). I hope someone is going to come help him... dealing with that mob alone (without electricity!) doesn't seem particularly fun.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pyrenees Day 14: Camping Forcallo -> Lago de Gias

Today did not end up as originally planned... The plan was to continue past Refugio de Estos for an hour or so in order to get a head start on Friday's crossing back into France. What happened was some adventure.

We get up after a quiet night and set out at 8:40 for the Refugio de Estos. We start with a bit of climb up to the Refugio de Biados (or Viados, depending on which sign/map you are looking at), 1740m, which is very pretty and also has excellent views of Posets. We continue through a hay-making area (lots of grass, no animals), walk down a little bit an then start the climb to the Puerto de Chistau (2577m). The climb is steep, but we are back in our normal slow pace so it's not bad. Approaching the top we pass a group walking down where one of the hikers is wearing flip flops. Flip flops? With a backpack? On a rough trail? That's stupid! Oh, wait, he's got his boots attached to his backpack and has big patches of adhesive tape covering his heels. Ouchie. We have lunch at the top in cold wind (there's just nowhere to hide from it). Still, we enjoy our first views of the Maladeta massif.

We leave at 1:45 and begin the long, long descent. After crossing through many herds of cows we reach the valley bottom (~1800m) and then head up a bit to arrive at the Refugio de Estos (1890m, 3:30). We have some cold beverages and Andrea asks for advice about the next day's crossing to Portillon. The hut keeper doesn't know much about that pass, but he says that the crossing above Estos, the Portal d'Oo, is easier and that we should go that way. There are two lakes below the Portal (at about 2600m) and we like high lakes, so this sounds good. We assess the state of our legs and descide that we can probably handle the additional 700-800m up. If not we will be walking up beside a stream, so we can always just camp beside the stream. Yeah... that's the theory.

After a ham sandwich (for strength!) we set out at 4:30 to do the climb to adventure. There's no official path, and the way is rough, but it's clearly marked with stonemen. After 100-200m up the stream goes away. Ah well, there are no flat areas here anyway and the lakes will be good water sources. We're both still feeling fit, so "weiter geht's!". At around 6:15 we reach the area of the first of the lakes! There's nice camping around it! Greg runs off to find the lake and discovers that it's dry. Crap! Greg is not happy. Andrea is calm because she knows that we haven't gone up enough to be at the lakes yet. After the crestfallen Greg returns, Andrea imparts this information to him. This partially restores his spirits and we continue up.

Greg starts remembering all the dried out streams and lakes we've seen and is feeling pessimistic. Andrea leads on and we climb higher to the first of the lakes. It's dry. WTF? These are not indicated on the map as being seasonal. Shitty map. Shitty lake. We actually have a discussion of how bad it would be to spend the night with the 750ml of water we have left (it's getting awfully late to be heading back down the path we came up... it would not be good in the dark). Dry bread, salty ham, salty cheese, a sludge of ovalmaltine and powdered milk, and so on. It sounds awful, but it won't be life threatening.

Just to be sure, we leave our packs and scramble up the rocks the next 50m to the bigger lake. IT HAS WATER! YAY! WATER! It also has wind... hoo boy does it have wind! We investigate a few of the rock circles people have previously camped (or bivvy'ed) in. The best of these is already occupied, but we decide we can probably make it in one of the others (it's a good tent!). We head back to get the packs and think about how we might use the tent as a two-person bivvy sack. That's not happy thinking, but it's better to plan ahead.

We retrieve the packs, climb back up, scout some more, get some water (oooo, water), identify the best candidate site, and assemble the tent. Miraculously there's enough room in the stone circle and the stakes can all be driven in appropriate places. The tent is up and looks solid, but holy crap is it windy.
The site is beautiful, but there's a bit too much to do to really appreciate it.

Greg builds a quasi-sheltered mini-kitchen corner with some more rocks and patching of the existing wall and makes dinner as quickly as possible while Andrea sets up the inside of the tent and secures the packs.
We eat in the tent (big fun in the small tent) and then make everything as secure and stable as possible for the night. It's now dark and the wind is blowing like hell. Hopefully we won't have to test the bivvy sack theory, but the tent is good... we believe in it...

It's very, very windy all night and it gets quite cold. The tent does great and doesn't have any problems. It does punish Greg all night as it flexes in the wind, but that's a relatively minor price to pay.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pyrenees Day 13: Parzan -> Camping Forcallo

Well, they can't all be great days.

After a reasonable breakfast at the hotel (they toasted the stale baguette instead of serving it "raw" and had some parrano ham available as well), we are out by 8:30. We walk up the road to the GR11 and then start climbing for real along a dirt and gravel road. The whole morning is on the road, which isn't particularly nice. For the first hour we go super fast (well, super fast for us... we're basically reproducing the times in TiP, which we have never done) and make about 600m. We're racing to get as much of the day's climbing done as possible before the sun hits us. When the sun does make an appearance we quickly discover that running uphill with freshly filled and stocked packs is a bad idea (of course we knew this already, but we had temporarily forgotten). We have a long rest above the dam and hydroplant at Urdizeto (1940m). It's good to have gotten about 900m of the day's 1600m of climbing done, but we definitely went too fast.

We proceed at our normal (much slower) pace to the Paso de los Caballos (2314m, 1:00) where we have lunch. The views from the col are excellent and include our first view of the Posets massif, which we remark for being amazingly gray and featureless after all the layers and drip-castle shapes we've been seeing. We pick the correct lunch spot and don't end up sitting in the big party of Spaniards "around the corner"; that would have been loud. The two HRP hikers we met at Barroude (who had also gone to Parzan and are on their way to Viados) aren't so lucky.

The next two hours are mostly downhill on trails and include nice views of a green valley with creepy red "bleeding" spots on the walls. As we get into the valley we cross one of these; it's probably some water running through a vein of some iron oxide, but it sure does look like blood. All the streams in the valley are red, so we opt not to get any drinking water here.

We continue on for a while with pretty constant and not particularly interesting views (the only thing really visible is Posets, but that's still gray and mostly featureless) and eventually hit a road.
After another break we continue along the road, which we'll follow for the rest of the day (another two hours). It's just too long. We're tired, our packs are heavy, the sun is hot, there aren't enough breath-taking views to restore our motivation.
To be fair, we do get a brief (but nice) view down the Valle de Chistau.

Eventually we make it to the the campground (~1600m, 5:30), where we find that the building is shuttered. Crap! No beer! No showers! No beer! Crap! Luckily there's no gate or fence or "keep out" sign, so we just go in and find a nice spot with a good view of Posets (which is fascinating to look at when you get close enough), have a cup of tea, rest a bit, sponge baths, make dinner, watch sunset via the color changes on Posets (fantastic!), and then retire to the tent for the night.

We kind of expect someone to show up at some point and ask for 4 euros (or something) to use the campground, but that never happens.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pyrenees Day 12: Refuge de Barroude -> Parzan

Breakfast at the refuge isn't as bad as normal. They have a nice selfmade apple preserve with honey and some decent graubrot (Andrea: "Only because we haven't had decent bread in days!").

We set off into the cloud heading for Parzan at 8:45. We get very occasional glimpses of the lakes and the cliffs above. But we never get a really good look at the refuge or its setting. Too bad... the photo in the book is nice. :-(

After climbing to the ridge, Puerto de Barrosa (2534m) we see that Spain is still cloudless; yay! We descend to the valley floor next to the Rio Barrosa (about 1700m) with a strong cold wind from France at our backs fighting the Spanish sun on our faces. It's damn nice to see mountains again!

As the morning wears on, clouds cover everything above about 2500m, but that clears up later as well. The valley is quite nice and the walking is relaxing. At the bottom (1400m) we follow some instructions from Zu Fuss, fight our way through some brambles, and end up walking along a watercourse for about an hour. This is a really nice, forested alternative to walking along the busy road.

We have lunch under the trees, then head down to the road for the last leg into Parzan (1144m, 3:00). The road stretch is hot, sunny, and a bit tiring (psychically), so it's reallly nice to get a hotel room and have a long relaxing shower.

After a cool beverage at the gas station/super market/bar, we head into the market to do resupply and fight our way through the crowds of French doing liquor and cigarette shopping tourism. As we are paying for our stuff an entire tour bus load of elderly French arrive (no joke). Despite the chaos, we still ended up with most of what we needed for the next leg of the trip.

All in all it was a pretty quiet day. Almost a rest day except for the 1500m of descent and doing laundry in the hotel bathroom sink (ah, the glories of backpacking!). :-)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pyrenees Day 11: Cirque de Troumouse -> Refuge de Barroude

Despite our best efforts, another late start (9:15). It just doesn't seem to matter what we do! :-) Part of the delay is caused by our gawking at the clouds as they move into and out of the Cirque. The cloud level is moving around between about 1800m and about 2000m, so we're always above the clouds (blue skies above!) but various pieces of the Cirque are being covered and exposed. It's most excellent.

Today's plan is to follow a suggestion from Zu Fuss and get out of the Cirque De Troumouse by walking up one of the walls and walking around the neighboring valley to get to the Horquette de Heas. This sounds kind of fun, even if it does involve spending another section of a day in "no-path" mode. The alternative, which doesn't sound like fun, is to descend 500m to Heas and then immediately gain that 500m back along the HRP to get to the Horquette.

After walking around the Tuc de l'Escaurede to reach the Cirque wall, we start up in a series of zig zags. From below it doesn't look particularly possible, but it's actually not that bad. 400m later and we're at the top in the Col de la Sede (2651m, 11:15). There were bits that we found challenging (different bits for each of us), but all things considered it was no biggie.

From the top we once again have great views in both directions, but France below 2000m is lost underneath the clouds. :-) Up here it's sunny and beautiful. We re-greet the Vignemale (surprise!) and continue along the rim of the bowl. Taking a good path across some scree, we reach the Col de la Gela with views of Spain, which is cloudless, and the Refuge de Barroude (today's destination), which for the moment at least, is above the clouds.

At this point things get a little unclear directionwise. We err on the side of not losing height and end up having to traverse a very steep and loose scree slope without a path. This is not the most entertaining of activities. A perceptual very long time later we're back on firm ground and on a path which leads without further adventure to the Horquette de Heas (2608m, 1:00). We have lunch close to a big group of surprisingly quiet young French. The views are excellent and just watching the clouds climb and recede and climb and recede is entertaining. They're at about 2300m or 2400m now.

Descending the other side we follow a nice path through a couple of cols and then end up in the clouds. Visibility drops to 10m or so. After turning onto an unmarked, but very good, path we proceed for a perceptually very long time without being quite sure if we're going the right way.

We climb some, descend some, climb some, descend some, see nothing, and start to doubt (well, at least Greg starts to doubt). 30 seconds after Greg checks his watch and says "well, we haven't walked too long yet" we find a sign. 30 minutes to Barroude! Hooray! Since there's nothing to see, those 30 minutes only takes us 20 and we arrive at the Refuge (2390m) and have warm beverages.

There's no sense camping in a very wet cloud, so we opt to stay in the refuge. It's not too full, so things are reasonably quiet. We play some cribbage, have sponge baths (cold, but great anyway), do some route planning, talk with a couple guys hiking part of the HRP, have a nice meal (Barroude is known for the cooking... not a coincidence that we're staying there), and go to bed. Of course there's a snorer and the room ends up hot and stinky. Still... it's better than cloud camping.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Pyrenees Day 10: Montagne de Pouey Boucou -> Cirque de Troumouse

Today was, by any objective measure, very very lazy.

We get started after 9 (9:10), do a little 100m climb, and then walk around the ridge to the Auberge de Maillet (1830m). After passing the hostel we climb up to the base level of the Cirque de Troumouse (~2100m) on a very steep path cutting across switchbacks in the road. Since we're late, this is in the direct sun, so it's hot. The Cirque is very, very impressive: it covers about 300 degrees, has high walls (>500m), lots of variation in wall mountain type, and is about 13km across.

We walk across to the "middle" where there's a silly statue of Mary (why is she holding a rosary? "hail me, full of grace..."), a shepherd's hut (the only source of shade visible) and a ton of people. We have lunch and a nice rest in the shade of the hut then set off for another hour across the Cirque to find a good camping spot near water and the beginning of tomorrow's hike. The wall that we're going to be going up looks pretty steep and sheer, but the guidebook hasn't led us wrong yet, so this is no huge cause for anxiety.

We succeed with our quest at around 3pm and then spend the next couple hours doing some laundry and screwing around. After an early soup course at 5 we futz around a bit longer before pitching the tent at 7 and having the main course of dinner.

The earlier crowds are all gone and all is quiet; aside from us the only life in sight is cows and sheep. For whatever reason, these herds don't move down at night.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Pyrenees Day 9: Gavarnie -> Montagne de Pouey Boucou

The day's plan is for a short walk, about five hours, to pitch the tent somewhere in the Cirque d'Estaube (Greg, who always thinks of food, calls this "Cirque d'Escabeche"). We start late (9:30) after another crappy French breakfast, walk through Gavarnie, do a bit of last minute shopping, and then really set out.

After getting out of town the day really starts with a steep 600m climb to the Refuge des Espuguettes (2027m), which has a great location, fantastic views, and no terrace... odd. We continue on upwards another 400m to the Horchette d'Alans (2430m).

By this point we are in the sun and it was starting to get hot. The col offers great views of both the Cirque d'Estaube and the other side (the Breche, Tallon, etc. up to the Vignemale), so we could see some parts of day 2's hike. Unfortunately, a large group of loud Frenchmen are sitting in the best spot (and showing every sign of planning to stay there for quite a while... they can hardly be blamed), so we have a quick lunch looking out over the Vignemale and Breche de Roland and saying goodbye. :-(

A steep descent along a path with moderate crowds leads down into the Cirque. Halfway down we decide that we have plenty of energy and will finish the stage as described in Zu Fuss by continuing on to the Auberge de Maillet on the edge of the Cirque de Troumouse (Greg: "Cirque de Pamplemousse"). We pick up the pace a bit and head along the autobahn by the stream at the bottom of the Cirque, weaving our way through crowds. Along the way we look for possible campsites (if there's something good, might as well stick to the original plan!), but all of these are unfortunately either full of cows or right next to the autobahn, er, I mean "path".

After crossing the stream on a bridge (1680m), we set out cross country following an unmarked hint of a thought of a fantasy of a trail towards the Cirque de Troumouse. Eventually we find a real trail and start up another steep 200m climb. This is in the sun and quite hot, so our search for a campsite becomes a bit more serious. After crossing a stream we spot a potential site that doesn't pan out, but after a bit more exploration we find a nice location. The only problems are the thistles and the sheep poop. We solve both of these problems and settle in.

After admiring the views and having a nice nap in the sun, we start looking forward to the stargazing to come. These hopes are quickly squashed by the clouds that roll up the valley and over us as Greg makes dinner. We have dinner in the fog, listening to the retreating bells of the sheep as they move down into the valley (or wherever they go at night).

It's a wonderfully quiet night with neither adverse weather nor wind.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pyrenees Day 8: Rest day in Gavarnie

After breakfast we take a 3km walk down the road to a campground that's the only place near town with laundry machines and do some proper laundry. mmmm, clean clothes. Somehow we both manage to get a bit of sunburn while waiting for the laundry. Duh.

We get back in time for lunch, a nap, and some shopping to stock up for the next leg of the trip. We stop at a place selling mountain cheese and ask the guy for a hard cheese. After a bit of back and forth caused by our lack of French cheese vocabulary, the guy says "Oui" and then disappears into the cave (!) in the back of his shop. He comes back with a dried up old piece of goat cheese that we sampled and both liked. He wouldn't cut the piece for us, claiming it was too hard, so we ended up with 500g. Later on Greg had buyer's remorse and didn't want to carry the full 500g, so he cut off half and left the rest in the hotel trash can. The cheese is too sharp to eat on its own, but it ends up working quite well as an addition to dinners.

Gavarnie is horribly touristy and neither of us were particularly impressed by it. A conversation snippet from the day that kind of summarizes the general feeling:
Greg: "This town smells like horse shit."
Andrea: "Well, we never have to come here again."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pyrenees Day 7: Refugio de Goriz -> Gavarnie

Another late start: 8:45. We just aren't good at starting early.
We head off under cloudless (except for the clouds blowing in from France) skies behind a couple of other groups who we switch back and forth with the for first hour as people de-onion themselves in the heat. On the approach to the Collado de Millaris (2498m) the wind starts to get insane. We both discover what great sails backpacks are; wow! Atop the collado we take a quick break to add some clothing to handle the wind and then continue up and up. The wind makes the walking more thoughtful than normal: changing the pack's orientation with respect to the wind is something that requires some forethought. Plus the wind is blowing down the mountain face so on some turns it tries really hard to blow us off the path. whoo hoo!

At some unnamed stone point (unnamed on our map at least), probably below the Gruta Castaret we manage to forget the suggestion in TiP to head downhill and follow some stonemen across a very steep fine-scree slope and up the hill. After following the stonemen for a few minutes we realize that we have walked into a stoneman civil war with various factions each proclaiming to know the True Way. Somehow Andrea picks a faction and leads us along. The clouds blowing over from France have removed all visibility upwards, so we kind of have to guess which way is right. For a while the presence of a couple people with a dog behind us is reassuring ("we can't have gone the wrong way if someone else is coming this way too"), but then it becomes clear that they are actually following us up the mountain. Nice...

After some climbing we spot a chain attached to the wall above and realize that we have made a wrong turn from the TiP path and are now on the "mountaineering route". It's not the recommended way, but at least now we know where we are. This is the moment the two Spanish women (with the dog) behind us choose to ask us where we're going. If they don't know where we're going, why on the hell are they following us? Who knows? We make the steep climb up scree to the path with the chain, admire the ease with which the dog makes the climb, and let the two women pass. We cross the chain (the ledge is narrow enough and the drop far enough to make this scary for Greg), meet a big group coming the other way who confirm that we're not on the wrong path, and then finally reach the Breche de Roland (2807m, 1:00).

Unfortunately, the visibility is only about 10m in the cloud, so we can hardly even tell we're in the Breche, much less see the spectacular views that are supposedly possible from here.

We continue down the very steep path and across ice and snow to the Refuge des Sarradets (2587m, 1:30). We have lunch and a hot drink, admire the views of the Cirque de Gavarnie, and get a surprise gift of a view of the Breche when the clouds briefly clear.

After lunch we start down towards Gavarnie (2:30), taking the more scenic HRP route down through the Echelle des Sarradets and the Cirque. This route is describe as "steep and exposed" (Zu Fuss), requiring "some light scrambling" (TiP), or "dangerous and not recommended" (the warden at Sarradets, but we didn't find that out until later). Initially the path is moderately steep, with good footing, but that changes to very steep and then very steep with scrambling. There are fantastic views of the Cirque, its waterfalls, and its swirly rock walls throughout (well, at least until the clouds come back in).
After an arduous and somewhat scary last section, we reach the bottom of the Cirque (1627m, 5:15). Greg's highlight for this hike was reaching the last bit, assessing how tired his legs are (very tired), looking down to find a decent route to scramble/climb the next few meters, and noticing a memorial cross for someone who had died there. hahahah. hooo boy.

We finish with a walk past the Hotellerie du Cirque (1530m) and down the road to town (1370m) , which takes about an hour. After checking into the the Hotel Marbore we enjoy well-deserved showers, a halfway decent meal, and then a good sleep. It was another long day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pyrenees Day 6: Sercue -> Refugio de Goriz

We weren't sure we were going to be able to complete this stage, so we planned an early start to the day. No such luck... we were underway at 8:30.
From Sercue we head steeply down into the Canon de Anisclo (~1000m) and then follow a path upriver through the canyon. It's initially a nice and shady walk through the forest with loud water below and glimpses of cliffs and water through the trees. This isn't mountain walking, it's gorge walking and it makes for a pleasant variation. After some climbing, we reach La Ripereta (1450m, 12:00) where we have a nice break on the rocks and do a bit of "laundry" in the river.

At 12:35 we head onwards upstream towards Fon Blanca. We do more climbing through forest and see some cool waterfalls (including one from the gorge side that started as a stream, turned into a shower, and basically dissipated into a fog by the time it made it down). Eventually we make it to a bridge across the river with fantastic views up and down the canyon. The sun is out now and things are really starting to get good in the view department.

We climb a while and do some mildly exposed bits (including a short stretch with a chain). After a while the valley widens and the gorge walk morphs into a mountain valley walk. The views remain "wow!".
We reach the bridge under Fon Blanca (1650m, 2:30) and have lunch with the views. There's a crazy phenomenon here (probably due to the limestone?) where waterfalls start from out of rocks or the ground.

After lunch we decide that we have the time and energy to make it to Goriz, so we set off at 3:30. We immediately start climbing over rough, poorly marked paths and rely on Andrea's route-finding. After a couple hundred meters up, we have a refreshing water break at the top of a waterfall in the Barranco de Capradiza. We continue to work our way up that valley and pass through several very steep scrambling bits. Along the way we see a goodly number of Edelweiss (very cool!). The views remain invigorating... this valley is excellent! We reach the end of the valley and have to do a bit of easy climbing to get out.
Continuing on, we reach the Col de Goriz and see clouds ahead that look like bad weather. Crap! We pick up the pace a bit to try and beat the weather (fat chance since it's between us and Goriz), but luckily it never materializes. Hooray!

After a bit, Goriz comes into view along with some crazy clouds streaming through the Breche de Roland (from France into Spain). The wind is now from the North, as it should be. We pick up a cool beverage, some wine, and some dinner makings from Goriz and have a nice dinner.

Overnight we have massive amounts of wind. No rain, but big big wind. The tent does great. Good tent!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pyrenees Day 5: Refugio de Goriz -> Sercue

We got a fairly late start (9:15) after buying a bit of wine for the evening meal and watching all the climbers depart for their assaults on Monte Perdido. We head the other way and have a nice easy beginning following a contour line along the Sierra Custodia (the outside of the canyon). We're above Monday's path today and have a great view back of the waterfall in the Circo Soaso, Goriz and Monte Perdido.
Walking through the pastures of the thousands of sheep, but they are now far below. Around 11:00 we take a little side trip to the edge of the canyon and look out over Monday's path.
It's still early enough that the autobahn is empty. Speaking of which, we seem to have left the high traffic zone: we've only seen one other hiker heading this way so far.

After passing a saddle and having a nice hour walking across a big "meadow" in the sun we try to find water at the Cuello Arenas (1894m, 12:00) but discover that the spring is dry. In fact, everything around here is dry. This triggers a bit of anxiety until we find a cow trough being fed by a trickle of water. We pump a couple liters and then move on.

Instead of taking the road down to Nerin, we follow a recommendation from Zu Fuss and set out for the nearby ridge to follow the national park boundary for a while. There are no paths, so we just start across a herd of cows. After noticing that one of the "cows" had a penis, we beat a quick retreat to the road and walked around the herd before climbing to the ridge. We walk from knob to knob for a while then stopped for lunch (1:00-1:45) atop a knob. We have excellent views of the mountains and the coming clouds. Coming clouds?!?!?

At the end of the ridge (La Estiba, 2004m) we head 100m down a steep slope to meet the path at the bottom. There's no path, but the low shrubs that cover the slope provide surprisingly good footing. This path is stony and exposed, but very well marked (by both yellow dots and stonemen... this provokes a little story about the battle between the way markers). The clouds turned into a couple of minor showers, but nothing too bad. After arriving in Nerin (1280m, 3:50) and walking around all 15 buildings, we find the one (out of two) open bar/restaurant/hotel and have a refreshing beverage. There was no market and no bread... oh well.

We set off along the GR15 for Sercue at 4:30. It's still hot and the sky is blue and cloudless (ha ha... not for long). Arrive in Sercue (1190m, 5:20), a mostly abandoned village (a couple reoccupied buildings) with a notable lack of water. Greg search for a good camping spot and Andrea looks for water. We're both successful: Andrea finds a fountain/washing place about 50m below town and Greg finds a campspot about 20m above town. The two geniuses lug water 70m after Greg has a "Nalgene shower".

After pitching the tent, we start dinner with soup and dumplings. Thunder starts. nearby. Andrea efficiently packs stuff away while Greg efficiently finishes making dinner. The rain starts just as dinner is finished. Greg moves everything to the tent vestibule and we prepare to have a cramped meal (neither vestibule nor tent is particularly large). The rain stops. We have dinner outside. More thunder, more packing, quick clean up! The rain starts. We finish our wine in the tent and listen to the rain start and stop repeatedly. We also listen to the 27 flies that are trapped under the fly of the tent as they fly and buzz around... but they can't get in.

There's rain and thunder and lightning throughout the night. More flash and bang than wet, but a very exciting night. The tent does great and we stay dry.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pyrenees Day 4: Torla -> Refugio de Goriz

After a surprisingly nice breakfast at the hotel, we buy some bread (bad bread) for lunches for the next few days and then take the 9:15 bus up to the parking lot (1300m) in the Valle de Ordesa (the "Grand Canyon" of the Pyrenees). We partially justify this by saying we don't want to have to repeat the boring gravel road from the day before, but really we're just lazy. :-)

We start walking at 10:15 and immediately climb up, up, up to the Mirador de Calcilarruego (1945m, 11:45). This is along a very steep, but wonderfully shady path. We appreciate the shade a lot, which is good because it's a commodity that's in short supply later in the day. From the Mirador we, along with a ton of other people, have a great view out over the canyon.

At 12:15 we set back out and continue along the south side of the canyon for a couple hours. The views (including the Breche de Roland) are just amazing. Along the way we have a nice lunch (despite the bad bread). The afternoon is hot and shade is in short supply, so when we reach a little stream running down the canyon side it's cause for celebration, bathing, and water-bottle filling. We continue on to the Circo Soaso (1760m) and merge onto the autobahn leading to the waterfall at the head of the canyon. holy crap are there a lot of people down here! There were a lot up on the high path too, but this is nuts!

Thanks to some bad signage it takes us a while to find the path up and out of the canyon, but we eventually track it down and start climbing at 4:00. The first bit of the climb is quite steep and along a scree slope, so the little spring at the top led to another celebration. We continue on in the full afternoon sun. Wow is it hot... up... up... scrambling through rocks... wow! what a view!
hot! up! hot! where is than damn refuge? hot! up! hot! hot! hut! hut! We make Goriz (2195m) at around 6:15, find a place to pitch our tent, get cool beverages, and buy some wine for dinner. The refugio is crazy full (and high season is over); there are people and tents everywhere. The views are just spectacular.
During dinner (soup with dumplings, polenta with sausage, chocolate) we watch the herd of thousands of sheep on the Sierra Custodia graze and move around and make strange patterns.

Later we enjoy the view (full moon!) and do the day's diary by candlelight... this is camping! (and also the first real use of the candle lantern since we bought it five years ago).

The long bout in the afternoon sun made this feel like a very long day; but boy was it worth it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pyrenees Day 3: hillside above Barranco de Sandaruelo -> Torla

I wake up at around 6:00; it's still dark and raining; shit! back to sleep.
At 7:30 the rain is gone, the sky is blue, and there are cool clouds moving in and out of the valley. yay!
After giving the tent some time to dry in the sun and having breakfast, we start down to Torla at 10:00. We head down and down through mud and around (mostly) cow shit.

The first sign of impending civilization is a group of canyoners down in the gorge. We are soon walking down past other groups of canyoners and unprepared tourists on their way up (reminiscent of Yosemite Falls). We arrive at the Puenta de Bujaruelo (1338m, 12:00) and have a short break while gawking at (and enjoying!) the tourist madness.
Here we pick up the GR11 and head onwards towards Torla. We spend a while on a very nice, shady, soft path through the forest along the gorge and have lunch in a great meadow with a view back the way we came. We miss the turnoff for the scenic route down (suggested in Zu Fuss), but we probably wouldn't have taken that anyway. The path turns into road unfortunately early and we spend far too long on road. It's hot! hot! and humid! hot and humid! Finally end up on a gravel road that reflects the heat quite nicely. gacks.

The final insult is a steep climb up into town on a cobblestone road. But then we're there (1030m, 4:00). Of course all the shops are closed (it's siesta). We get a hotel room (Edelweiss Hotel), shower, shop, do some laundry in the sink, have a beer, stroll around town a bit, and eat dinner (A'Border Samper: boring but acceptable and reasonable cheap). Torla is a small town with a pretty high tourist density that seems to be doing pretty well (plenty of renovated houses and things mostly in good shape).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pyrenees Day 2: Oulettes de Gaube -> hillside above Barranco de Sandaruelo

The morning started out clearer but still drizzly. After a crappy breakfast we set out at 8:00 and headed up, up into the drizzle. There were thunderstorms behind us (to the SW) that were very scary, but they luckily never made it our way. We pass through the super windy Horquette d'Ossoue (2734m) and head down to the space-age looking Refuge Bayssellance (2651m, 10:30). It's planned to a be a long day, so we don't take much of a break here but press on along the crowded GR10. We head down, down, past many waterfalls and some nice views (including our first views of the Breche de Roland). It's good walking despite the overcast and drizzle.

After hitting the valley (Oulettes d'Ossoue, ~1840m) we have a lunch break (12:20-1:20) in the sun and then head up the valley to the dam at the end. Here there's a parking lot, so the place is pretty packed. At the dam we leave the GR10 for the HRP and head up , up, up into the Vallee de la Canau. We walk through this very pretty hanging valley, past the Cabane de Lourdes, to the end. Before climbing out we do a nice break (3:30-4:00) and then cross the Puerto de Bernatuero (2336m, 4:30) into Spain.

We descend a bit to the beautiful lake Ibon de Bernatuero. We'd love to camp here but the wind is strong an swirling around. Plus the one reasonable campsite (which already has a rock wall built around it) is pretty much on top of a dry stream bed; with the unstable weather this seems a stupid place to put a tent tonight.

Ibon de Bernatuero

We climb out of the bowl, where we expect to be able to pitch our tent in a cow pasture. No such luck: there are cows and there is pasture, but it's nothing like flat enough to pitch a tent. Plus it's still very windy.

It's now 5:00 and we're starting to wonder where we'll be sleeping (and, more importantly, eating!) for the night. We head down, down, along a poorly marked path (sporadic stonemen and footprints) looking for somewhere flat, sheltered, near water, and not covered in fresh cow poop. After some searching: three out of four ain't bad. We're exposed as all hell, but we've got the other criteria satisfied and a fabulous view. This may be the most ridiculous campsite ever for us: there's no shelter from the wind and the flat space is barely big enough to hold our tent, so we have to cook and eat a bit further down the hill at the next flat bit. Ah well, it's a great view.

We pitch the tent at 6:15 and have dinner at 7:00 (mashed potatoes, sausage, dried veggie mix, LINK). While eating dinner we admire El Tallon (or Pic du Taillon) as it makes clouds and, further South, the beginnings of the nice layered rock structures that we'll see more of in Ordesa.

Later we paid the price for the exposed campsite...
9:30 holy crap is it windy. I get up and check the tent stakes
10:30 Better check the stakes again. Wow, it's raining! Hard!
11:30 Last stake check of the night, everything is still fine. Oh! the wind! Oh! the rain!

We didn't sleep particularly well, but the tent performed flawlessly. Good tent! Andrea's backpack cover (from my old pack) isn't quite so worthy of praise... who the hell makes a backpack cover that's not 100% waterproof?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Pyrenees Day 1: Pont d'Espagne -> Oulettes de Gaube

We arrived in Lourdes at 8:00 on the overnight train from Geneva and took the 8:12 bus to Cauterets, where we had a nice breakfast and cursed the gray, drizzly weather. Since we wanted a slow start (and are lazy), we took the 10:00 bus up to Pont d'Espagne (1500m, 10:35) and walked up the GR10 to the Lac du Gaube (1800m, 11:45). Here we saw loads and loads and loads of people... bus loads of people. On the other side of the valley there's a gondola up to a path that is practically wheelchair accessible.

The piece of the GR10 that leads around the lake to the Refuge des Oulettes de Gaube was bit rougher, so it cut the numbers down some. We had lunch in the drizzle on our way up the valley and arrived at the refuge (2150m) at 2:30. The crappy weather kept us from seeing the Vignemale or any of the other mountains around the bowl and caused us to reject the plan of camping (despite the nice spots around the refuge) so we slept inside. During dinner (decent, but not great) the clouds kept moving in and out of the bowl at the end of the valley; every two minutes we had a different view.
Of course we ended up right next to a chainsaw, so it wasn't a particularly restful evening.

Pyrenees trip

The entries from this trip are edited (and expanded) transcriptions from the notebook that we kept while we were underway. Clearly we got more into it as the days passed.
  1. Pont d'Espagne -> Oulettes de Gaube
  2. Oulettes de Gaube -> hillside above Barranco de Sandaruelo
  3. hillside above Barranco de Sandaruelo -> Torla
  4. Torla -> Refugio de Goriz
  5. Refugio de Goriz -> Sercue
  6. Sercue -> Refugio de Goriz
  7. Refugio de Goriz -> Gavarnie
  8. Rest day in Gavarnie
  9. Gavarnie -> Montagne de Pouey Boucou
  10. Montagne de Pouey Boucou -> Cirque de Troumouse
  11. Cirque de Troumouse -> Refuge de Barroude
  12. Refuge de Barroude -> Parzan
  13. Parzan -> Camping Forcallo (~Refugio de Biados)
  14. Camping Forcallo -> Lago de Gias
  15. Lago de Gias -> Refuge du Portillon
  16. Refuge du Portillon -> Lac d'Espingo (~Refuge Espingo) + Lac d'Oo
  17. Lac d'Espingo -> Luchon
  18. Luchon -> Toulouse (train)
We used two guide books:
  • Trekking in the Pyrenees (TiP) by Douglas Streatfeild-James, Trailblazer Publications, 2nd Ed. 2001.
  • Zu Fuss durch die Pyrenäen, Der Westen (Zu Fuss) by Francois Meienberg, Rotpunktverlag, 1st Ed. 2005.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Leyman -> Rodersdorf

This was a Wandern mit den U-Abo hike. We took the tram to Leyman and then walked through Alsace to Rodersdorf. Along the way we stopped at the Auberge St-Brice for a very nice lunch of Flammkuchen and jambon de foret noir.

We were a bit worried about the heat, but most of the hike was in the woods so that was no problem.

Total distance: 13km in about 4.5 hours (including the lunch break). Not much in the way of altitude change.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Two days hiking around Luzern

After a couple cancellations due to weather or other plans, on Saturday we finally managed to get in our Pilatus hike.

We started in Gfellen (1007m), climbed quickly to Alpeli and the Risetenstock (1802m), then followed the ridge past the Mittaggüpfi (1917m), down to a saddle at 1701, back up and around the Widderfeld (we didn't go up to the peak, which would have been a big detour), along the final bit of very nice narrow ridge to the Tomlishorn, then finished at the Pilatus Kulm hotel complex (~2100m). We took the fantastic cog railway down to Alpnachstad. Total climb was about 1300m, with about 300m of descent; we walked for 8.5 hours, including breaks.

On the narrow ridge

Ridge to Tomlishorn and Pilatus-Kulm

After spending the night in Sarnen, we took the Postbus to Stöckalp (1075m) then walked up up up, past Stepfen (1522m), through a really nice gorge and up to Innenbach (1828 m), then over the ridge at Bocki, along the mountainside above Chlister, then steeply up to Wandelen (2105m). The plan from there was to follow the Arnigrat and head down to Sachseln. 20 minutes into the Arnigrat it started to rain. Since the walk was at times pretty hairy and we didn't know what to expect further along, we turned back to Wandelen. From there we headed down to Sachseln (483 m) by way of Mettental (1579m), Unt. Mus (1077m), and Musschwendli.
Total climb was about 1100m, total descent about 1700m; we walked for about 9 hours, including breaks.

That's where we want to go?

On the Arnigrat

It was sad to stop the Arnigrat hike, but we'll definitely go back and do it again. In the other direction so that we're looking towards the Alps instead of away.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Aesch -> Grellingen

Today we set out for a Sunday stroll without much of a plan beyond: start in Aesch and walk.

We ended up doing a two hour hike past Angenstein, along the Falkenflue, then back down the hill into Grellingen where we caught the S3 back into Basel. This was a straightforward walk with some nice views out over the Jura.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Läufelfingen -> Hägendorf

The theme of the day was flexibility.

Our original plan was to get up early and head down towards Luzern in order to do a long gratweg up the Pilatus. The weather forecast (for rain and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon) nixed that idea. So Andrea pointed out that if we started a hike in Läufelfingen and crossed the last bit of the Jura we would have (by combining different hikes) completed a path from Basel all the way across the Jura. That's combining Birsfelden->Rheinfelden, Rheinfelden->Gelterkinden, Gelterkinden->Läufelfingen, and now this hike. If we keep this up and are systematic, we should be able to complete a path across Switzerland. :-)

The devolving weather conditions forced a couple of changes later in the hike as well; this is what we ended up doing: Läufelfingen (566m), Muren (718m), Schmutzberg (969m), Challhöchi (847m), Belchenflue (~1100m), Allerheilengberg (880m), Richenwil (~600m), Gnöd, Hägendorf (423m). We didn't go through the Teufelsschlucht (the big attraction along this hike) due to the weather.
on the Belchenflue

Bad weather coming from the west...

Total hiking time was about 4 hours, including a snack atop the Belchenflue, from which we had fantastic panoramic views of the Alps, the Jura, the southern Schwarzwald, and the clouds which were moving in. Here's the view to the North: