Sex Rouge: Day 1
Finally - Finally - plans to climb Sex Rough had come together! This hill had been on Meike's to-do list for years now, ever hindered by weather and other interruptions, but now, finally, even in the face of storm predictions you defiantly shouted "fuck it!" headed to the edge of the world.
By edge of the world, you mean Les Diablerets: a village hidden high up in the mountains in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, in canton Vaud. Les Diablerets, bounded several large glaciers and mountain ranges, is known for its skiing, hiking and mountain biking tourism. To get there takes three train connections and over four hours of travel time. The way there, while long, is quite picturesque. The last section is on one of the slowest trains in the Switzerland, allowing track-side train photographers to really take their time. After arriving in Les Diablerets you bought some more snacks at the Denner Satelite shop and started up the mountain.
The trail didn't muck around - it got really steep really fast and stayed that way for the first hour or so. You sweat you way up through the humid, windless forest until emerging from the tree line at a farmhouse for a snack break. From there, both the temperature and view improved immediately. A light ice-chilled air breezed past as the view of a huge glacier opened up before you. The path also became more interesting: Several sections of track hung on cliff edges, while others narrow paths snaked along steep, slippery slopes. A sign along the way read: "Rock slide zone. Keep moving."
Just short of the hut, someone had actually managed to build a table and chair for hikers to picnic. The bench was cemented and bolted to the cliff just under a rocky outcrop, and looked out over the valley up towards the the glacier and down to the village below. Thinking that someone had the audacity to set up the table just for the luxury of a picnic made you smile.
Past a small glacial waterfall and some sheep, you arrived at the hut safe and sound. Refuge de Pierredar (hut) was set into the surrounding boulders on two sides, its red roof flush with the top of the rocks. The hut was subtly poised, minimal and friendly with its two French-speaking caretakers. Grég and Matthieu could chat comfortably to them in French. Swiss-French is more or less just spoken with an accent, unlike Swiss-German which uses different words. The madame de Refuge explained at lengths about the surrounding area's geology and flora, suggesting you all take a walk along the plateu towards the waterfall.
Following a tea break, the troupe set off over the sheep-poo covered grass and onwards past the weathered calcium cliffs. There was no path but the wobbly rubble could be navigated; everyone's attention was on their feet trying not to trip. At the edge of the plateau a steep slope of loose gravel spanned out several hundred meters along the curvature of the mountain, intersected by small waterfalls from the melting glaciers above. The will to wash won over cowering from the cold, so both you and Grég scrambled over to the waterfall to shower. Although freezing, for a quick drenching it was bearable and much nicer than being sweaty.
On the walk back you came across fields of Edelweiss flowers. Fields of Edelweiss! In six years you had seen only two instances of single wild Edelweiss, and now you stood in a whole field of them! This was obviously a place few even came, and the conditions just right for them the thrive. It was beautiful while at the same time stressful trying not to step on them all. Past the fields of flowers were calcium rocks weather-worn to razor sharp splines and jagged gashes. The landscape was littered with deep fissures and casums dropping deep into the mountain. Some holes were even marked with numbers for cave explorers. Unfortunately, you'd left your headlamp back at the hut.
Refuge de Pierredar's speciality was spaghetti bolognaise. It was also the only thing they served. Bar the obnoxiously-loud mountain guide from the other group, it was a pleasant evening spent inside. From you table you watched a distant thunderstorm roll along the French boarder. No matter what you tried (Meike's weather-witch skills nonwithstanding) your long-exposure photos missed all the lightning.
Sex Rouge: Day 2
Day two started with some light rain but nothing to put you off your adventure. The blue-white alpine markings were hard to find, and some parts were just a random scramble up the slope, but it wasn't dangerous. You carefully traversed a steep snow field by cutting steps with the side of your boots. Some of the kicked-up snow spraying the hiker in front, filling shoes. The via ferrata was relatively new and quite well made. It began up a vertical section of cliff, followed by a traverse along some small watercourses. The wet rocks were manageable as most of the climb was set into calcium stone which kept your hands dry. The wind steadily picked up during the ascent, peaking as you were climbing along an exposed ridge. If the gusts of wind had blown you off, you would have landed on a beautiful glacier about two hundred meters below. The glacier sealed a large face of the mountain under its ice, while the glacier's surface rubble formed fascinating patterns along its fissures and melting lines. Off in the distance the other group with the loud mountain guide were slowly ascending the glacier.
After about two hours of climbing you made it to the top of Sex a rouge. Atop sat a ski resort lift station, resturant and sun terrace. Somehow getting there the hard way gave you the privilege of feeling smug towards the jogging-shoe wearing Asian tourists, who were wandering up and down the tidy steps. You made haste across the "glacier", which was little more than a field of sloppy snow, and down across the moon-landscape rocks to Cabane de Prarochet (hut) for a lunch break. Matthieu had made the critical mistake of wearing jogging socks, rather than his hiking socks, and consequently had blisters on each of his toes. He did what he could with the limited medical supplies you had on hand and soldiered on.
Below the hut was another 1000m descent through fields of flowers, squeaky Marmotts, nave many more thousands of Edelweiss flowers. You couldn't really call them rare anymore - just selectively concentrated. Between the moon-landscape rocky field and the grassy descent was a big family of Steinbock. Matthieu stopped counting them after twenty six, saying he was falling asleep (as with sheep).
The way down was rather slippery, and there were a few nervous moments during the aledgedly red-white marked path ("easy hiking") which could better be described as climbing. Everyone made it down safe, but the thought that Sunday-hikers may have attempted it (based on trail colour) amused you. You made sure to wash again in another small waterfall along the way. Very refreshing.
Finally at the bottom you took repose from the long hike in a quaint village guesthouse in the garden terrace. You found a nice spot in the shade and let your bare feet loose on the world. The guys ordered Walliseller plates - various meats, cheeses and pickles - which was bigger than expected; they were barely able to finish. Although reluctant, after a good rest you made a move on your onward journey back to Zürich.
The post bus picked you up thirty meters down the road - enough additional walking for you all - and then the unexpected excitement started. The driver began by distributing lollies - perhaps a deal sweeneter for the 2chf "alpine surcharge" - and then set off down the alpine road. The street was no wider then the bus itself and it wound its way through very tight turns between trees, rocks and rivers. The valley widened, opening into a magnificent ravine many hundred meters deep, giving everyone on the right-side seats, which was by this stage everyone, a nice nice view. The road didn't get any wider as you went on. It hugged the rim of the mountain, ducking through tunnels cut into the cliff walls. The tunnels were barely large enough for the bus to pass through. The tunnels had huge windows opening to the ravine, some of which even having waterfalls cascading afront them. The driver was a jolly fellow, chatting to passengers the whole drive. He explained about hunting Dahu - a mountain animal with longer lets on one side. The trick was to sneak up and scare it, so when it turned it'd fall off the mountain. When asked "How do you drive your bus through such tight turns?", he casually answered "I have lots of practice, in fact I'm going for my license soon."
You had to wait for an hour in Sion for the connecting train. The time was spent sitting in the sun watching all the cool dudes on scooters hoon about the carpark. Matthieu explained the fashion shift which had occured in the last few years away from baggy pants to tight jeans. "Can't skate in baggy pants, they catch in the wheels." You shared a beer on the way home in a first class carriage - a temporary substitute due to high passenger load. It was half past nine by the time you made it home, making it a long day indeed.