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Late Summer Hiking

Summer kept its tempo for longer than expected, and provided another two wonderful weekends for adventures. You went on two multi-day hikes, staying in huts, up into the mountains: Zinal in the south and Gauli in the middle.

Zinal Hike

Meike usually arranges an overnight hike for her birthday, which always occurs on a holiday in Switzerland thanks to National Day. This year the plan was to travel to Sierre (French part of Wallis) after work and stay in a hotel, hike from Zinal (a village waaaay up in the hills) to Cabane du Mountet the next day, hike to Tracuit hut on day three, then descend back to Zinal on day four. Ambitious perhaps but awesome-sounding!

It was another blastingly hot day. The few minutes you spent in the shade of the valley was a welcome chill before the scorching high-altitude sun. Many excuses were made to have breaks to take long exposure photos of waterfalls.

Le Pub Le tired
Le Pub, and me le tired

The path wasn't exactly easy with its slanty, slippery slopes; but you were having a ball bouncing from precariously-balanced rock to rock (even with a nasty backache). By early afternoon glaciers came into view backed by huge mountains of snow and ice. Cabane du Mountet sat on a plateu in splendid simplicity facing the panoramic view of glaciers. Most mountaineers had already arrived and set their boots to dry in the sun. Strangely, they all had the same type of boots (La Sportiva, same as yours but with a green band), totally qualifying your choice in mountaineering shoe.

Dawn breaking the tip of the mountain Cute spider
Dawn igniting the tip of Obergabelhorn, and a cute spider

Day two started with a bad joke: apparently you had to hike back down to Zinal before hiking up again to Tracuit hut. Haha... Oh, wait. They're serious! Fuuuuuuuu! By early afternoon you'd reached the mid-way hut, and the group were feeling the burn of both the sun and strain (and a swollen ankle, Meike). There was talk of just staying there but hut was booked out, so on you went towards the hard bit.

The path crossed banks of water cascades spotted with plants of all kinds and lots of water-logged bridges. It traversed rock fields spun with tiny spiders webs (cute), and then followed the ridge's razor-edge towards a glacier (somehow accessible to sheep). From the high point you could see Tracuithütte aaaaaall the way on the other side of a massive valley. It was to be a long day.

Me peeing off the edge
Me peeing off the edge

After some very unstable rocks, slippery snowfields, squeaky Marmotts and one hell of a last ascent, you arrived at Tracuit just in time for tea. The hut had just been rebuilt and sat teetering precariously on the edge of the cliff. The dining hall had huge glass windows which leaned outward to let you see the valley below. The hüttenwart managed to feed all 100 guests, even Sandra and Stefen who came in just as dinner was served.

A long walk over unstable rocks Paragliding near Tracuit
A long walk over unstable rocks, and a paraglider near Tracuit

Day three was nothing special until you arrived back in Zinal and dunked your feet into the local fountain. Aaaaaaahh, so much better! The bus ride back to Sierre took about an hour, and your driver was a serious ballsy bloke: he took corners to the millimeter, narrowly missing barriers and other traffic. You would later learn from Matthias (your bus expert friend from Thun) that some drivers close their eyes at the last minute. This you did not wanna know.

Gauli Hike

Rain during the week while you're at work makes you happy. It's a gambler's fallacy betting rain now = sun later, but it rang true for your last Summer hike.

Glaulihütte sits near Gauli glacier in a valley behind Interlaken. Gaulihütte is close to the glacier at 2205m, so popular with mountaineers rather than casual hikers. The main attraction is to visit the wrecked remains of the Dakota - a plane which crashed in 1946, exemplified as the first significant instance of Swiss mountain rescue. The plane was lost under snow only to reappear further downhill 66 years later, transported by the glacier.

Snow tunnel A Spanish, French and a German
Snow tunnel, and a Spaniard, French and a German

The hike etched its way carefully along the steep sides of the valley towards the hut. After this week's constant rain the valley walls and hiking track were awash with torrents. The hills seemed to be at saturation point and water wash gushing forth.

Being such a nice sunny day, every stream and rock pool begged to be jumped into. You found yourself a beautifully deep basin on the river and fell in - literally, when you slipped off a rock. It was excruciating! The waster was so cold you could barely breathe as you scrambled to safety and hunched into a ball shivering. It was freshly melted glacier after all.

Flamboyant Spanish LOTR esque scenery
Flamboyant Spanish, and LOTR esque scenery

Nearing the hut, the valley became a scene from The Lord of the Rings. Everywhere a swathe of luscious flowing green sewn with tiny streams so clear you could barely see the water; a few sheep grazing here and there, and huge faw-away mountains decorated with faintly-blue glaciers. It was magnificent! It was the most beautiful scene you've ever seen.

The hut was at capacity. You were actually lucky you all got a bed, even if it was in the loft. Somehow it's just made it even better that way. After a few rounds of UNO (playing 0's and 7's rules, naturally) and freezing your tits off, you came inside for tea and story time. This particular hut was host to one of many Swiss TV folk tail events, and your hüttenwart was rearing to provide some post-dinner entertainment. She told a story about two elderly mountain ladies complaining about washing too many cloths, and drinking schnapps until they started to see circus aminals (drunky-talk). Your storyteller was really good; she must be into theatre sports.

Hut on a hill
Hut on a hill

That night you slept cozily under the roof with your forehead pressed against slanting ceiling (the bed was too short). You were so happy to be warm and comfortable up in the mountains in your silk sleeping bag with no cares in the world. Even the 4am alarm which seemed to ring forever, calling the more motivated mountaineers into action, didn't phase you. You enjoyed a marvelous breakfast with all the space and time in the world.

Alpine frog Sitting on a cliff
Alpine frog, and sitting on a cliff

The hike down detoured towards the glacier - no circus animals but millions of frogs - and down beside a huge chain of waterfalls. Your tough as nails 7D didn't mind a little water spray while taking long exposure, shots of them.