T 6/1 10:45 Hofstetten (bei Brienz), Switzerland. This is the start of my architecture study that will be continuing till July 13. Right now it's very sunny, hazy, a few fog clouds hanging around the higher mountains; 70° or a bit less. The trip over was fine – no missed connections or misplaced luggage – although exhausting. Further exhaustion was provided by the extended time I had to spend in Brienz running errands. But between then and now I got 13h sleep. It's quite something being in a landscape this 3-dimensional again. It was almost overwhelming to ride from Zürich thru Luzern to Brienz and see the mountains get higher and higher. It was especially something getting the first glimpse of Oberland snow-capped peaks while going past the Lungerersee. Even Prospect Overlook (which I visited on F 5/19) isn't quite as forceful as all this, and that's saying something. Time now to head to the Ballenberg Museum and start exploring.
The Nature Journal
During the Winter Study before this trip, I took the course Winter Naturalist's Journal and started a nature journal that I continued writing and drawing in in Switzerland and ever since. In Switzerland, I sometimes wrote in the journal in the field, while at other times I wrote recollections, including after I returned home. Below I offer up the whole Switzerland section of the journal, transcribed into HTML on first loading the page for the sake of easy reading and searchability — BUT to see actual-size scans of the original journal, just click on any of the pages. This is worthwhile for the sketches, particularly the large landscape sketches scattered through it. Click on any scan again for a zoomed-in version, and click once again to return to the HTML transcription. Or, you can:
In the transcriptions, roll over underlined passages to see further explanation. Also, there are lots of references in these entries to places and things well-represented by photographs elsewhere on this site. In such cases I've provided links that make said photographs pop up on the page. This now works on all major current Mac browsers, but I haven't retested on a PC yet.
Note: As with the report and the travelogue, please do not reproduce any of this material without first emailing me (jbdowse at gmail) for permission, and then please link to this page.
N 6/6 Oey, Swz. I've been meaning to write in this for several days now, but the record of my findings has turned out to be mostly photographic so far (well over 1000 to date!) Ballenberg was an amazing resource, as is the Museum Guide to it. It took 3 days of exploring it to exhaustion to see all the buildings. Some of the masonry buildings turned out to be just as fascinating for me as the Blockbaus. The farm animals were a lot of fun too.
Meanwhile, on late Wednesday (no, Thursday) afternoon (starting about 7:30) I went running on the Hofstetten mountain road, the Bärglistrasse. This, I later found out by looking at the topo, zigzags all the way up to the top of the Hofstetterbärgli, a smallish mountain that rises directly behind Hofstetten. (So its name is very apt.) ["Bärgli" means "mountainlet."] From below, one sees that there's a vertical cut thru the woods that goes straight to the top. The cool thing is that the road crosses this cut many times, each time affording a precipitous view back down to Hofstetten. There were nice Ausblicke of the Brienzersee and further up the valley, including Brienzwiler (at the time I thought it might be Hasliberg.)
On Thursday (actually Friday) it was sunny, again hazy, and too hot, but thunderstorms arrived that night and since then the weather has been much cooler, mostly cloudy, and sometimes rainy, which is highly preferable for me. On Friday (or rather Saturday) I went to Hasliberg and walked the whole Dorfweg – it was really neat to be back there after 6 years. Hohfluh looked the same, as well as I could remember it, which wasn't too well, but I did find Frau Gautschi's driveway and house, too, I think. The walk was especially nice in, in fact, the least settled sections, very peaceful, both in the woods by roaring brooks and also up on a high meadow overlooking the Brienzersee from afar. Similarly pleasant was the walk (5.6 mi) I did yesterday from Hofstetten thru Schwanden to Brienz and back. (Exact route: Dorfstr Hintergasse Schriedergassli (or something) into Schried then Bärglistrasse, thru to Ober Schwanden, down the curves to Unter Schwanden, Schwandenstrasse all the way, Hauptstrasse, Feldstrasse, Alpstr, Mettliweg (under the Rothornbahn), Talstr, above Glyssen, back to Unter Schwanden and back to Hofstetten.) Lots of interesting building to see as well as lots of nice countryside. In particular it was cool to see what was above Brienz Dorf - it pretty much looked like Schwanden or Hofstetten, except steeper, and overall newer, I think, which seems to make sense - that land would only have been built on after the more accessible Brienz Dorf was all built, except for alp buildings, which there are some of up there. Excellent views of the See and also some really neat secluded bits such as the little hamlet of Glyssen, which is about 6 houses all in one little groove of a valley. I wonder what its history is. A very pleasant outing except for getting scratched and growled at by an initially pleasant-looking Appi dog guarding a store at the upper Schwanden corner (Stocki, it might be). (sketch ← On the way from Brienz to Interlaken today, I discovered that the Ballenberg cuts a very distinctive profile from a distance.)
Since it's raining off & on at the moment here in Oey, I think an exploratory run is about the only thing I'll be doing outside. With luck tomorrow will be clement (for my move from Rössli to Sternen!)
T 6/7 above Diemtigen (maybe just above the Diemtigerbärgli) overlooking both the Diemtigal and the Simmental. 3PM. Beautiful day – strong breezes, mostly sunny (low 60s). This area is just above one piece of the Vorderes Tal part of the Diemtigtaler Hauswege. I continued up here because it looked like I was coming to the ridge, which was indeed the case. It's pretty spectacular. The whole Diemtigen vicinity is very nice – I really liked Diemtigen Dorf and its surroundings when I went thru on a run yesterday, during a lucky break in the rain. On the side of the road, besides innumerable slugs (slugs, snails and construction companies seem much more common here than at home), I found a little bluish songbird. I was afraid it was injured, and I picked it up – it just stood on my finger, like Borne, though not before emitting a distress honk – only to have it fly up and away to a nearby tree. So with luck it's actually OK and just didn't know that the road's not a good place to be. Here's a sketch of the Ausblick here before I continue to the rest of the Hausweg:
big ol' sketch
N 6/12 Trub , my room im Gasthof zum Sternen (the other one), 9:30PM. It's clear and still bright out – the daylight doesn't go completely til after 10:30 – and 60 or maybe below that. The weather has been very clement since the last entry, — luckily every day from then on of my stay in Oey was clear, cool, and breezy. It was especially cool at higher elevations, often in the lower 50s even midday. (Waxing crescent moon tonight.)
I hiked the Mittleres Tal section on Wednesday, the Hinteres Tal on Thursday, and the Simmentaler Hauswege up to Därstetten on Friday. Even tho the Mittleres Tal part was based at Horboden, I instead walked from Oey, and was able to cut off going all the way down to Horboden since there weren't any houses on the Weg there, to avoid losing all the elevation. I was already so used to hours of hiking by then that it really didn't bother me adding the extra hour or two to & from Oey. I had lunch in a nice shady spot - only prob was the strong breeze and very cool temp made it rather chilly. Otherwise I would have written in here at that point. Lots of nice views all around, and a neat steep part thru the woods above the Chirel. It's funny how the Diemtigtal is not drained by, say, the Diemtig river or something, but rather the entirely different Chirel and Fildrich rivers. Seeing the Schwarzenberg sketch up close was cool.
The Hinteres Tal section was nice as well; it was kind of fun, in the oh-well-so-it-is kind of sense, traveling the whole valley 3 times that morning by bus – it did help me get better acquainted with the surroundings than I otherwise would have. And it was quite amusing seeing the same bus driver 5 times, including once when he stopped for me because I was taking a pic of a house and unwittingly standing at a bus stop. [Note, 7/2008: I still remember also being amused by him responding "cheis problem" ("no problem" in Oberland German) when riders would thank him upon leaving the bus. The "no problem" epidemic is not confined to English!] The section along the Fildrich was especially pleasant; one steep-roofed little house, which I guess is a camp, that was right near the river, looked pretty much more American than Swiss by its proportions/shape sketch. There were some other odd camphouses in the area, such as sketch and sketch. I get from this that the Swiss are much more willing to go beyond the boundaries of traditional taste in the design of such informal buildings as camps.
The Simmentaler Hausweg, rather the section of the Terrassenweg and Talweg that I completed, was intense, because of the 6 hours it took, but had some really lovely sections. One in particular was above Erlenbach – after a confusing way up to the hamlet Tal via some fields extremely steep-sloped and some jumped fences — but beyond that, the way became a grassy lane, which for some reason was just wonderful. sketch It was delineated from the adjacent fields by wire & post fences, and anon by rows of maple trees. Really idyllic, it was, and especially when I consciously realized I was heading west (a case of cardinal direction significantly influencing my frame of mind). I don't know why I liked it so much, but it made me think that there ought to be more grass lanes about. Maybe I was subconsciously recalling the ones around Spruce Ledge, which I've always liked, but I don't know. One particularly interesting thing I saw was that a couple of the trees in these rows had "eaten" the fence wire by growing wholly around it. sketch There were slight protrusions in the trunk around the wire. The funniest thing was the complete lack of scar line – it looked as if the trees had had the wire inserted thru them.
Lunch, at a bench in a nice tree shade, with an awesome (when isn't it here) view, was also quite nice, as was a Wald-section of the Terrassenweg and a part of the
Talweg that went along the Simme; that was between Ringoldingen (or Ringdingdingen as I called it) and Erlenbach. – Anyway, overall I feel like I covered a huge amount of ground in the Diemtigtal and Niedersimmental, which is highly satisfying, and it was a great area kennenzulernen.
OEY→TRUB Now I'm in the Emmental, after a really quite easy schlepp via Spiez and Bern. It was really something to see, in the Spiez-Thun area, the high white Alps to the south but then total flatness in the north & west. I couldn't believe how flat it was around Bern - you could see all the way to the Jura! (I'm pretty sure.) Then as we headed thru Konolfingen toward Langnau the country became more rolling again, and we were in the Emmental. The Emmental is quite something – it's very distinct from even nearby areas in both the natural and built environment. For one thing the ubiquitous rolling hills and large proportion of woods makes it feel – and I found this more and more the case as I explored on foot yesterday and today – really more like Maine or something than Switzerland, if you only look at the land. The buildings, o.t.o.h., sure make you realize you're somewhere different. The hipped roof sketch (that was wicked quick to draw because I'm so used to seeing it) is close to universal; large soffits sketch are quite common. — and they can be VERY wide, more than 8 feet I believe, in the case of Gasthof Löwen in Trub. The number of really huge farmhouses is just redonculous. I was trying to compare their size to that of a typical big house little house back house barn, and they might not be all that much different in volume really, but just the sketch SOLID CHUNKY MASSIVENESS of these farmhouses is astounding. As noted here, the double-diagonal shed ell thingy sketch is very common – there are even tiny ones on tiny buildings. It goes without saying that the Ründi sketch is quite the local architectural specialty, and I STILL DON'T KNOW the reason for them – if they have any practical function or are just ornament. Plenty of places tho don't have Ründis and then their hipped gables have cavernous overhangs. sketch Another quirky architectural type here is the Stöckli, the elder generation's quarters, which are separate from the main house and often have quite small footprints but then larger 2nd floors and course a ginormous roof, so like this: sketch – quite comical in some cases. The plan must be like sketch, for real. [Note: it's clear that I was actually confusing Stöckli and Speicher here. Oopsies.] Overall the built environment is like Pennsylvania thru LSD glasses or something. I think the hips and Ründis are a more general Berner phenomenon; they were quite common along the railway from Thun to Bern, including a house like this sketch that gives "split-level house" a whole new dimension. Also I now realize that the Diemtig- and Simmentäler are an architectural transition zone between the great Blockbau [and chalet form] tradition of the Oberland and the Alps, and the wacky Emmentaler kind of scene. Which makes sense given their location close to both areas.
Hiking around the fields and woods here has so far been really nice as well - lots of logging roads, which contribute to the interior-Maine feel – some wide plateaus where big crop fields are grown; steep yet, in the Swiss range of things, gentle hillsides which would be maximally awesome for sledding, and
I wonder if maybe a lot of sledding does happen here in the winter. sketch Of course, as everywhere there are lots of cats out hunting in the fields as well.
S 6/18 10:05 AM, Trub – just a quick one before I head out — a great time here, a huge amount of territory thru both hikes and runs (4!) covered, great appreciation gained for the Emmentaler landscape. Yesterday's run/hike took me on the trail up to Stauffen over a crazy ridge dropping very steeply away on both sides – to preserve health I avoided running there and instead focused on staying on the trail. sketch Lovely country at Stauffen, especially nice in the late sun. (Daylight is definitely still visible till 11:30ish PM!) Burgdorf was cool, esp. the Altstadt, except for missing the train by :30(s), and the day before that, I learned that:
• Lauperswil is the Bermuda of the Emmental
and • Rüderswil is the New England of the Emmental.
It's been quite something to see all the grains growing around, too. Very unusual in my experience. Now time to get to the Engadin – time for some culture shock I bet! (Moon = waxing gibbous, weather = sunny, cool, ganz schöö.)
[S 6/18] 8:15 PM, Zernez. Moon has risen a while ago & is quite nice against the blue sky sketch: ZERNEZER STIL above the light-orange sunlit mountains. Perfect weather right now, clear, breezy, high 60s or so. Zernez, as I wrote just above expecting, is indeed some culture shock. It seems quite Mediterranean in architecture, language, and even vegetation to some extent, with grass growing under the trees. (→ mostly larches.) I'm sitting on a bench between the two churches, overlooking the town toward the SW, up the Engadin.
big sketch ← OBERENGADIN DIESE RICHTUNG
Just as I finished this sketch, the church bells began to ring (I could hear a motor just before they began) and because of their proximity they are VERY LOUD. Once again I'm reminded of Bermuda because of the breeze, the grassy slope, and the pastel buildings (tho these are more cream & earth-toned), and the swallows, or whatever's been flying around a lot (very pretty high in the sky) sound a bit like kiskadees. Now the sun is getting close to setting on the eastern alps. And the bells just got done, thankfully. There have been some excellent crepuscules from the silhouettes of the mountains with the sun set behind them. Just above here there's a neat little stream almost submerged between two sheaves of meadow, with rocks & shrubs around that make the area look like a garden. Maybe it is.
→→The crepuscules remind me of a cool thing from the marathon trip that I oughtoof mentioned then: when we were on the way down, we passed under the shadow of a contrail, and looking at the sky in the great circle comprising the contrail, it was visibly darker than the surrounding sky because that particular section of air was all shadowed by the contrail: sketch
M 6/20 Ardez – Today I started at Lavin and went on up to Guarda and then thru Bos-cha back down to Ardez. Guarda and Ardez are surreal – filled with ancient (to varying extents), crooked, sgraffito'd buildings of all different shapes and sizes. I think I took close to 200 pix, which is ridiculous, but it needed to be done. The sun has been extremely strong today and for once I've been wearing my hiking heat, which is a VERY GOOD THING. I'm in the sun right now at the train station, with my back to it, and it's like a close campfire. Must help that today or tomorrow is the solstice. Also I believe tomorrow the moon will be full and thus simultaneously in the same position as the sun on the winter solstice — as low as it gets. Anyway I believe today the temp (now) is about 80° in the shade maybe; it was 75° about 2:00. (It's 5:40 now.) BUT MUCH HOTTER in der Sonne. Train time! – 8. I got on the train. - - - Observations/remarks: • Bos-cha, for the tiny Dorf it is, was very trafficky, mostly with agricultural traffic. • Just after I left Bos-cha, a guy approached me and said I ought to go on the high trail durch den Wald instead of the road. — viel angenehmer seis. I said I was ein bisschen geeilt, since I was – a bit – but I ought to go up there and check it out sometime. As there's an architectural tour at 16:30 in Ardez on Thursday, maybe I'll even get up there this time! That sounds kinda cool. • The Lavin, Guarda, and Ardez depots are premuch identical except for their names, engraved in the walls. We're stopped at Lavin right now. Also the colors are somewhat different, I see. • The larch forests are really nice – softest forests going! Today I really felt like I was in the Rocky Mtns, except of course within the towns.
S 6/25 Zernez, Alpina. 7:45 AM, probably <60°. Moon is waning gibbous — I saw it when I woke up at 2:30 temporarily, it's on its way back north again of course. The sun rose on the town about 1/2h ago, tho it was visible on the mountain at about 6:30. Which surprised me since I thought it was overcast, but I guess that was just fog standing on the verge of lifting off. It's moister here since yesterday's storms. Speaking of which! Yesterday I hiked thru the Parc Naziunal Svizzer and, while lots of other stuff has happened since Monday's entry, yesterday will be the main topic of this because it's prime material for a nature journal. My planned route was i → Chamanna Cluozza → Murtèr → Parcado 3, which was supposed to take 6 1/2 h. I set off at 1:10 after having checked out the Parc Naziunal info center, which was very cool (I think it's new this year), esp. the virtual 3D navigable flyover model of the Unterengadin and the PN. It took a while to get to the actual boundary of the PN, but the sights on the way were neat ito the vegetation — the ground under the trees was some grass but mostly a nice bed of different club mosses and mosses. The trail was quite wide for a while. Inside the PN the views started to open up dramatically. After a not very long time, I got to the highest part of the trail →
before the Chna Cluozza and from there the going became somewhat more edgy, shall we say, → sketch — a narrow path that sometimes looked like it could erode clean away, when it went thru a rock/gravelly slope. But the going went fine and then I gradually descended toward the river, crossed it, and got up to the Chna in 2h15 from the i; it was supposed to take 3h! I took a break there and had some snacks and put on my rainjacket to continue on since it had sprinkled a bit before but was by then fairly steadily raining. Even tho the sun was out too. The view up & down the valley up to this point had often been spectacular, especially on the hairier, exposed parts of the trail. It was also great as I ascended out of the woods around the Chna. After lots of switchbacks, going past krummholz, I eventually emerged onto the high fields. It was fun to be there, until the thunderstorms started rolling in. (Around that time I saw and photographed some ibex, which were really cool. They have a funny high-pitched, almost squeaky call (maybe that's their weather-distress call), not what you'd expect from an animal that size.) I forged ahead for a while, hoping the Tstorms wouldn't get hazardously close, but eventually there were some lightning strikes within the valley and I decided to lie down in a crevice to try to wait them out as safely as possible. I didn't want to go further because that would mean up to a ridge before I could get to lower elevation again. Besides being somewhat nervewracking, it wasn't too bad, until it started raining, and then I got wet and cold. Wet, cold, bored, and nervous are a sort of stupid combo. I eventually moved off the trail (totally breaking the rules, which I hadn't intended to do at all) and headed to a spot under a rock outcrop. I kept waiting. I tried to see if the lightning was getting closer and it didn't seem to be for a long time. Eventually tho it seemed the wind had shifted so as to drive the storm down the valley in my direction. At that point I'd had enough and decided to make a run for it back down to the Chamanna. I pretty much ran until I got back into the krummholz, at which point I felt less vulnerable. I got back to the Chna without the storm seeming to get closer, luckily. I took another short break there and then headed back whence I'd come, toward Zernez. This time the trip took 1h45! I just wanted to get back, being wet and hungry, so I hiked fast. There seemed to be more Tstorms to the north or west, but I didn't care and they never got too close. I returned to Zernez fine, tho I had to detour because the road I'd gone up on was closed due to Schiessgefahr. It was really quite reassuring hearing bullets flying thru the air below me as I listened to the thunder. Not! Anyway I ended up bushwhacking down some wackily large grass terraces, most between 5' and 10' high, sketch down into the southern field beyond the shooting range. I'm very curious about these terraces – I can't quite figure out whether they're manmade or natural. If they're manmade I seriously can't figure out why they're so big.→
Anyway, I definitely made the right choice in
going turning around and not staying up on the mountain. For one thing I thereby avoided being hypothermic, and also I saw a sign at the Chna when I returned to it saying bus service starts between Zernez and P3 on June 25!! I might have had to walk down the highway from P3, thru tunnels, and that would have been really dumbtastic. So it worked out for the best. And the shower and then dinner – gmischtr Salat, Brat, and Rösti – were totally awesome afterward, of course. I'll have to return on a clear day and try the planned route again – I was about 3/4 of the way there. Total hiking time as it was was about 5 1/2 h. Not counting Chna breaks and cowering. (One good thing about the storms was that at least it wasn't hot and sunny!)
S 7/2 Appenzell last-minute update 10 min before leaving, <60°, overcast, new moon? After being pretty hot for the first half of this week, it cooled down & got often rainy, much better. It's been great getting reacquainted with the Appenzell landscape and getting a better feel for it even than last time. Hoher Kasten was a standout experience, being cold (low 40s) & very windy with scud rushing by plus intermittent awesome views of the Rheintal, the Bodensee, Appenzell, and the Alpstein. The alpine garden was great too. Also of note were the runs from Kronberg as well as from Brülisau to Haslen/Schlatt & back, 14.5 [miles] much more than expected, in partial heavy rain.
big sketch - view from the house: ←Eggerstanden, Kamor, HK, Steinegg→, ←Brülisau, Bogartenfirst→, Ebenalp→→, [Alp] Sigel, grosses Haus
M 7/11 A large update is needed since so much stuff has been happening since the last one; for instance, we went to Gersau, but now we've been in Blatten for almost a week. 10 PM, Blatten, living room, mostly clear (twilight) and ~55° probably. I haven't seen the moon for quite a while so it's probably around new, I guess somewhere past since it was waning gibbout on 6/25. The weather has been much cooler in Blatten – often low 50s all day long, with a fair amount of overcast & rain. I've certainly been preferring it to hot weather. Without further ado let's start on some recent events →:
Appenzell → Gersau It was cool to go from Appenzell thru the Zürigebiet back to the Zentralschweiz. I saw the very beginning of the Oberzürisee, it was quite marshy, and we saw Zug from afar, across the Zugersee. And of course then we saw the Lauerzersee, Mythen, Rigi, and the 4waldstättersee itself, at least once we got out of Luzern station. Awesomely, it was Gallia that showed up to take us to Gersau. (After Dad and I walked over the old bridge, the first time I'd been there, it was really cool.) The boat ride was nice with mild air. It reminded me of Bermuda, diesmal because of the water. I can't count how many times I've been reminded of Berm on this trip, for different reason – water, feel of the air, sounds (tree breeze, mopeds), smells (diesel zaust), etc. Funny.
T 7/12 7PM, 70°, ptly cloudy, Tstorms to the south Gersau was pretty much just as I remembered it, but this time I noticed the land behind/above it a lot more — it gets very rural very quickly, and there's the Gersauer/Vitznauer-stock (depending on which side you're on.) I ran to the limits of both Vitznau and Brunnen, and one day walked back from Rotschuo, so I had the shoreway well covered. There were both warm sunny days and cool rägnerische ones there. One new (actually not quite but seemed so) experience was seeing Uri – the Oberreusstal – both on a hike from Göschenen to Andermatt and going thru several times on the train. The infrastructure is a dominant part of the landscape there – the multiple generations of roads, the cog railway, the hiking path, incredible bridges, and myriads of power lines (of course, since there are like 4 or 5 power stations working for the railroads in Uri, which is what caused the Great Strompanne of '05 a few weeks ago). [This had happened while I was in Zernez – one day the electricity for the rail system failed, a highly rare and embarrassing event for the people in charge. The culprit turned out to be that one power line had failed, and because the grid was bottlenecked in Uri, this caused the failure of the whole system. Luckily, it was fixed quickly.] Also the mountains themselves are high and rugged. Gersau → Blatten I'd say that Andermatt/Furka feels a lot more like Europe's rooftop than the Oberengadin, which is the place that gets that moniker. After all it's the high crossroads between north (Uri), south (Ticino), east (Bündner Rhein), and west (Valais). The wideness of the valley up there, a great plateau, tho did remind me of the OE. I would have liked to go over the Furkapass on the train but we went thru the tunnel instead. But it was really cool to get up back into the Valais, finally. The Blockbaus were very familiar looking – even in the Rhone valley they looked like Lötschentaler ones, relatively speaking. Again the upper Rhone valley was quite flat. And lower down I guess it still is (Brig/Visp area) but otoh at that point you have some of the highest base-to-peak mountains in all of Europe. Very huge-looking, spacious, from across the valley going up from Brig toward Goppenstein. Of course it was wonderful to reemerge into the Lötschental and get reacquainted with all the old haunts. The Balkon really is wonderful (it's where I am now) – a great view of the town & the Langgletscher (seems grayer than last time but that's hard to know for sure), the sound of the Lonza. The church is wonderful both on the outside and on the inside, as I rediscovered this afternoon. The new building next to us obscures the view of the Breithorn, but we can still see the Bietschhorn – it could be worse.
full-page sketch - Blatten vom Balkon, 7/12/05
↑ it was tedious drawing all those spruce trees but it came out well
W 7/27 - So uhh it's been a while since I did that drawing and I meant to finish writing about the Lötschental time on the plane home, but it was inconvenient to hol the journal out of my stuffed backpack at that point so I just left it to do the day after. Well, clearly I didn't get it taken care of then, but now I finally am. I'll write some more stuff, albeit proly less than it would have been, about the last part of the Swiss trip now, because there were certainly a few encounters with nature that ought to be mentioned. The picture ought to help jog my memory, it's nice to see it again.
First tho, current conditions: 2PM, in the kitchen with AC on, ~90 outside; a cold front is approaching and the large cumuli are beginning to blot out the sun. Should be exciting and it's supposed to clear out the weather nicely for [going to] Maine tomorrow. Waning moon proly around 3rd qtr right now. The weather here has been quite warm most of the time, 80 or up, but there has been occasional much-appreciated 70s relief. One day it was pretty dry and even tho not particularly cool, the breeze almost gave me a chill when I got out of the water at Waldhüsli, and that was great. And also I feel as if I'm somehow better able to stand high temps these days, which is nice – yesterday for instance it was proly around 90 in Pboro but with the breeze and not too much humidity I actually didn't mind it much.
But back to Blatten and the rest of the Lötschental. I think that in the competition for most rugged area visited by me, the Lötschental either wins or, more likely, is just edged out by the Gasteretal, that notorious glaciated and hanging valley. The Ltal is close tho, mainly due to the landslide damage of a few years back and all the jagged rocky area at high elevation. Maybe the Parc Naziunal was close but the memory of that is so dominated by the T-storm that I'm not sure about that. Let's see, it was neat to get reacquainted with
e the valley's towns & villages, e.g. Eisten, surprisingly close to Blatten - almost connected - and Kühmad (or Chiemad), right on the main route, which I'd forgotten. I realized that you can see both e the Eistenkirch and the actual village of Fafleralp from the Balkon, which is pretty cool. You can see also the Amenhütte and the Hollandiahütte and in the foreshortened perspective of the Langgletscher they look quite close together and you wouldn't know they're actually miles apart, the Amen near the end of the glacier and the Hollandia overlooking the Lücke itself.
Speaking of glaciers!! As I've already written about online, we accomplished the much-prepared-for Lötschenpass hike. Had we known how basically difficult the route would be, or what the weather would get to be like, we would never have done it. But we did! Frau Schröter was äs bitzli erschreckt to learn that we'd actually done it. →
The way up to the pass would have been hike enough. It started out during early- to midmorning as meadowy, clear, and mild, and very pleasant. The First Moment of Realization was when I thought we'd reached the pass but had only gotten to the Kummenalp junction which I'd thought we'd passed over an hour previously. Indeed the topography did jibe better with the topo map that way. We had a horizontal rocky scramble for another hour and a half to get to the real pass. It was certainly worth it tho — besides the amazing soup and bread at the hut, the neatness of the hut itself, and the farm animals living there, the views were great of the Balmhorn and the Ferdenrothorn, both nearby, and if it had been less cloudy (precursor!) the views in the Ltal direction would have been magnificent. The Ferdenrothorn is brownish, slightly ruddy yes too, and the really distinctive thing about it is the multiply-folded old strata that are now in a big squiggle: → [sketch] – geolicious! And the Balmhorn was majestic, with lots of snowy jags on its rocky front face.
After that was the fog and the climbing on the glacier therein. It was intense getting down the screey cliff (it was pretty much that) on the way to the glacier, then nice along the cirque on the right side, then interesting on the glacier at its rocky part — a substantial layer of rocks underlain by ice — the ice just peeked thru and you didn't much notice but at the small crevasses (just uplifted areas, ~1', not really gaps) – and at that point the fog became pretty thick at ground level and so it was pretty slow going trying to find our way on the trail with just the poles for guidance, that we often couldn't see. The really tenuous part tho was the snowy sloped walkacross. We couldn't see where the slope led. I think, looking at the topo, that it leads to a dropoff. So I was very pleased not to slip. After that it was switchbacks, hundreds of them, down to Selde but at least it was on solid ground with visible paths of trails. There was a bit of a reprieve at what I figured to be Gfelalp but, consistently with the rest of the day's experiences, wasn't. Just like on Parc Naziunal Day, it was very reassuring to hear cowbells again. Getting across the bridge and almost immediately to the Steinbock Berghotel, in the continuing rain (yes it was raining and foggy), and the >2 full meals I ate at the restaurant, were quite a treat. We decided, a good decision, not to hike out to Kandersteg the next morning, as it was, again, raining, and the hike would have been tedious and long. Of course it was sunny when we got back into the Lötschental.