Saturday, June 16, 2012


We finally got a full weekend with a good weather forecast. Yay! Time for a two-day hike in Wallis!

Getting there ended up being more of an adventure than normal: The 6:30 train from Basel to Visp was continuing to Milano so we knew it would be somewhat full, but we kind of thought it was early enough to not be completely packed. Wrong: Every seat we saw was reserved from either Basel, Olten, or Bern. SBB to the rescue: they ran a second train for the Bern->Domodossola stretch. So we changed to that one (also full). Unfortunately somewhere along the way the locomotive experienced "technical difficulties", so they stopped the train in Spiez and had everyone wait for the next train. Of course this is going to be a problem, since the next train is also not exactly empty. They do what they can by allowing people with 2nd class tickets to sit in 1st class (greeted by cheers :-) and off we go through the Lotschberg. In Visp we, along with a bunch of other people, transfer to the train to Zermatt and then off we go. At Kalpetran we bid the train adieu and start the walking.

There's no messing around today, this is a real Andrea special. We start climbing steeply out of "town" along a nice, though sparingly marked by Swiss standards, path and don't really stop climbing until we hit Embd. The path out of Embd is even more sparingly marked and we can't find the direttissima, so we end up doing part of the "Yak Path". Here we at least get the consolation of walking past a group of the famed Walliser Alpenyaks. Instead of going past the yak farm, we get back on the path we were looking for and do a short, really nice, stretch along the Tschongbach (unsurprisingly reminiscent of this hike), and then head up some more to Pletsche. Above Pletsche we do a lunch break enjoying the great views to the south and southeast: Bishorn, Weisshorn, Nadelhorn, Weissmies, Lagginhorn, Fletschhorn, etc.

At this point the climbing is over (for a while) and we get to continue to appreciate these views as we take the panorama path around a contour towards Moosalp. Simple amazing views from here, particularly once we get a bit around the corner and can see the Bietschhorn towering above the mountains on the other side of the Rhone valley -- that's a really attractively shaped mountain.

At Moosalp we stop for cool refreshments and to figure out what to do next. The two choices are to continue along the panorama path to Brandalp (the day's endpoint) or to head up an additional 900m to the Augstbordhorn. The first route is a bit short (only another 1.5 hours) and, after the rest, we judge our legs to be up to the challenge, so we decide to head up. The first bit of this path is through a ski area, so it's not super pleasant, but it sure does do some climbing. At around 2600m we hit the start of the Halmine Grat, above all the ski crap, and the path gets more enjoyable. We're not moving particularly fast at this point (we both start to notice the altitude at around 2500m), but we make good progress along the very nice ridge until we hit the Grätji that heads up to the Augstbordhorn, where we take a quick food break. We've both got enough left in our legs to do the last 150m, but it's getting late (4pm) and we're not exactly sure how long it's going to take to get down the 1200m to Brandalp, so we opt to skip that peak. Turning the other way, we head up to the Violenhorn and March and then continue down along the Hühnergrat. This is a very nice ridge walk with incredible views of the other side of the Rhone valley. 
Down we go along the ridge, past Obers Gibidum and Gibidum, through the woods to Brandalp. On the way down it gets warmer and warmer and more humid, so by the time we arrive at Brandalp, we're both drenched in sweat again. Tja. Nothing a shower won't solve.

After showers and cool beverages we have a suprisingly good meal and then crash for the evening.

A note: like last weekend, we did the first part of the climbing (to Moosalp) without using our sticks. This is good practice for the balance and definitely works other muscles in the legs. However... Greg had some mild knee pain towards the end of the day last week and some not-so-mild knee pain during the descent today that's almost definitely directly attributable to this. Gotta do that in moderation.

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