September 14, 2007

Dispatch from Arolla

We had an early breakfast, though it was late for the hut. Because so many people stay there to climb, breakfast only runs from 5 to 7. So, I had mueslix, bread and jam, and coffee at 6:30 and made a start at 7:30.

The first stop was the Col des Roux, which it right above the cabin and only needed a thirty minute climb, though frosty -- and a little slippery -- rocks. From the top, you leave the quarries of the dam construction behind and see the result, the five-kilometer Lac des Dix, elevation 2364m. And, at the head, the huge north wall of Mont Blanc de Cheilon. That view would be the rest of the morning.

The trail drops down from the pass, passes two open but untended cabins (you just leave your money behind) in the broad meadows flanking the west slopes of Lac des Dix, and continues along a level track for the length of the lake. There's nothing on the lake -- no hotels or marinas or jet skis -- just huge meadows teaming with marmots, reaching up to snowy peaks and cliffs. What a marvelous route!

At the end of the lake, where I re-entered the frosty shade, the trail continues up the valley, first crossing the Pas du Chat on a suspension bridge. Cool.

For much of the rest of the morning, I worked up the valley, closer and closer the Mont Blanc de Cheilon, with the massive Glacier de Cheilon showing more and more of itself. Near the top of the route up the valley, the glacier was revealed, streaming down its huge lateral moraines and carrying a large medial moraine, too. And across the glacier, on a big rock on the other side of the valley, sits the Cabane des Dix.

From there, the task was uphill and out of this valley, into the Val d'Arolla. That meant another steep and tricky climb up to the Col de Riedmatten. At the top, the footing was poor, the gully was narrow, and the climb was spooky steep. I was glad to see that the other side was much nicer.

At the top were a couple of tri-lingual Swiss, up for the day from Arolla, and two sisters from Canada, who were headed down what I'd just come up. I later ran into the Swiss gentlemen in town, as they were staying in the hotel. They'd been to school together and then went off to different jobs (petroleum engineer and economics professor at the Technical University at Bern). Now, they were on a vacation to various mountain towns and seeing what hiking there was in each. Similar to my trip, without the walking between the towns. I hope that in my retirement I can be so active.

On the other side, I met many people up from Arolla for a climb or a hike or just to sit in the sun in an alpine meadow. It was a great descent on a good trail through beautiful meadows. And, there were mountains. Arolla has its own version of de Cheilon, the Pigne d'Arolla, with its own glaciers streaming down below its icy north wall. To the left, is Mt. Collon, which looks like an island of peak, surrounded by glaciers.

So far, I haven't had any trouble finding the places I'm staying, and this was no exception. Arolla is really just one street, about four blocks long, and the Hotel du Glacier straddles both sides of the street in what would be the third block, if there were any side streets.

The dormitory is very nice, it seems new, and has six bunks, a bathroom, and a shower. Strangely, the shower is in the room, so there's no way to get into and out of the shower in privacy. That wasn't a problem for me, because I'm the only one here.

Dinner was very nice. I showed up at the restaurant and they had a place all set for me. Glyn and Elena were there, too, having taken a room. We had a nice dinner of a baked shrimp and cheese dish, green beans, rice with mushrooms, and a light, curried chicken, with a panna cotta for dessert.

Sept. 13 from Hotel du Glacier, Arolla, Switzerland: map, 2006m; accum. 86 km, 5697m gain, 4728m loss (6581'; accum. 54.1 mi, 18,691', 15,512')

Updated for spelling, links, and photos on 11/6.

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