With a heat wave hitting Euripe, you decided to bugger off to Letten one afternoon to cool off. You chained your bike at the boardwalk at the lower end and walked towards the bridge to do the normal round, and float down the river. The black bitumen path was hot — very hot — burning hot — but with your tough Australian feet you decided to suck it up. Arriving at the bridge you checked your feet... Huge blisters on both feet. Damn, you've gone soft!
While the cool water was relieving, the ride home was painful. After a few hours the blisters had swelled to the size of your big toe — in both diameter and thickness. Walking was bloody awkward on your heels, so you resigned yourself to two days of home-office and salt baths. By day three the swelling had subsided but it didn't feel especially comfortable to walk on. You're an idiot.
Dents du Midi Hike
Your feet seemed to be healing fast, so you took the gamble to try hiking on the weekend as planned. You hoped that your stiff hiking boots would give support and avoid rubbing on sensitive bits.
Friday afternoon you caught the train to Thun (a place literally named Tuna) to stay the night with Mathias and Solenne. Thun is a really cool place. Like Zürich, it has a river flowing through, and everyone jumps in and floats down to the lake after (or during) work. The latest thing to do seemed to be jumping off the maccas roof. Thun sits right where the Alps start getting serious, so functions as a convenient base for weekend hiking adventures. The evening was spent making fun of your pronunciation of the word secretaries in German. At least none of them can say squirrel!
Getting to Champery Saturday morning by train took a while. It sits deep in the French part of Switzerland behind lots of mountains, high up in an alpine valley. Champery is a secret little skiing / mountain biking enclave — quiet and pretty. The hike started about a kilometre up the road and went straight up a steep zig-zag path for about 900 vertical meters. The track was fun, with a few semi-climbing sections and panoramic views of wide alpine valleys surrounded by 3000 meter high mountains.
Up the first plateau was a hut. The plan had been to stay there but it was fully booked, so you took six beds in the next one. You had a nap outside in the sun before hiking on past some edelweiss flowers (no so rare after all) and climbing up Col du Susanfe to 2494 meters. On the Col (saddle) it was windy, which did a quick job of cooling your sweaty self down below a comfortable chill. Once you all got moving you immediately overheated again, and began looking forward to the upcoming lake. Between you and the lake were another 600 vertical meters. Urgh...
According to the bloke at the next hut, the cows had taken to swimming in the lake — you were intrigued. Saying the cows went swimming may have been an exaggeration, but they had definitely taken to wading into the water. The grand valley fed melting snow and rainwater into the dammed basin, making a beautiful blue lake. The high mountain walls enclosed such an enormous space it was hard to take it all in; their reflection on the waters surface just made it all seem bigger. Everyone threw off their salty hiking cloths and joined the cows (at an appropriate distance) in the lake. Yes, it was bloody cold.
While drying off, Mathias showed you his hiking game. You throw a rock up really high and try to hit it with a second one. It sounds easy, but he claims to have only ever hit it once. Failing that, you found an effective towel-drying technique: tuck your towel into your collar and assume a superman-pose atop a rock. It nothing else, it looked amusing.
The hut was at capacity, with over one hundred beds filled for the night. It served up some acceptable grub — nothing exceptional but lots of garlic. Meike suggested the garlic soup may have been to lessen the impact of the multiple cheese fondues being consumed around you: "if everyone stinks, no one stand out". You made sure to keep an eye out for explosive fondue burners.
Day two went up Col d' Emaney and then to the summit of Luisin (2786 m). It was an alpine hiking track, so some climbing was necessary. The view from the top was amazeballs. You had time to admire the view after bouncing up the hill; you were extremely energetic today for some reason. You had a clear view of Mt. Blanc in France (near the boarder) and kept getting roaming SMS's on your phone, as if you'd already left the country.
Both days, there had been an unusual number of mountain runners underway. They are an odd lot: they strap a little water to their backs, wear the absolute minimum, sweat like animals and run up and down mountains. Stefan and yourself tried mountain running on the way down. The best you could manage were several 100 m dashes. At the very least, it got you past the idiots from the night before (table neighbours) who were meandering along the way. The buggers caught up at the next waterhole. No private bathing this time — just loud, obnoxious chatter.
The day ended with lots of blisters and a forty minute wait at Le Trétien station. There was no ice cream in sight, much to Mathias's disappointment. He bought everyone a round during a four-minute change in Martigny. What a nice bloke.