September 20, 2007

Dispatch from La Sage

The morning dawned partly cloudy, but showed no signs of trouble. The forecast is good. After breakfast of bread, jam, mueslix with yogurt, orange juice, and coffee, I used the Internet café to send a backlog of dispatches.

Arolla is a little town, but has pretty nice facilities. There were a lot of people out for walks in the meadows yesterday, as well as more ambitious folks, like the two Swiss gentlemen I met at the pass and in town. There's skiing in the winter and lots of climbing within view of the hotel rooms.

Wanting to make both of the kinds of guidebook mistakes there are, I under-believed the book this morning, and took the lower path to Lac Bleu. The upper path climbs a little at first and then traverses over to the lake. My path drops down nearly to the road in the valley bottom, meaning I had to climb an extra 150 meters to gain the lake.

It was worth it. Lac Bleu is a little thing, but it is an extraordinary blue color. Clearly, it is well-loved, over-much, really, as there are dozens of paths around it. No one path is without its versions and variations, so that the shores and many of the trees around it are nothing but path. There were quite a few people up there for the views and the trails to the mountains above.

After a lunch of dark, solid bread with nuts, local Swiss cheese, a slightly aged, but sweet yellow delicious, and a bite of Toblerone, I headed down the trail, back to the valley bottom.

The route down was nice, as there's a trail that follows the road, but at a nice distance, so you didn't know it was there, as it drops through the canyon to Les Haudères, at the junction with another valley. Through the afternoon's walk, first Mt Collon and then Pigne d'Arolla were in view behind me.

From Les Haudères, the route up works through town on paved road, then leaves town on a paved track, which becomes unpaved, and then reverts to trail for the rest of the way. It could have been a trail in Washington (except for the mountains behind me) -- the trees, though different, were familiar, the tread looked the same, and the undergrowth was very familiar. Along the way, I looked up to see the low-slung body and long, bushy, red tail with a white tip of a fox, as it plunged into the brush ahead.

The Hotel de La Sage is large and old, but is really quite nice, showing signs of active management, unlike the Hotel Gietroz (where I was locked out). The view from my window is tremendous, but the salon on the first floor has better than 180 degree views through tall windows. It's also equipped with a library, computer, and a pool table. My room isn't large, but it has four beds and I'm the only one in it, so it has lots of room.

The pattern of the walks has changed lately. For the first few days, it was climb up above treeline and then drop into the valley for the night. Day five started a different pattern: climb into the high country and stay, which we did between Mont-Fort and Arolla. Once to Cab. du Mont-Fort, I didn't see a tree for that afternoon, all the next day to Cab. De Prafleuri, and almost all the next to Arolla. Nothing but alpine plants and rocks and ice. As I dropped toward Arolla I remember noticing the junipers and was reminded that I'd been above treeline for days. Within a few minutes, pines and larches appeared and I was back below treeline.

Tomorrow, the pattern returns to climb out of the valley, over a pass and then into the next valley for the night. I'll be high in the valley, in a mountain hut, but will still have to climb up and out of the valley to the next stay.

At dinner, I sat at a table of English-speakers. Glyn and Elena are here. A retired couple from New Zealand, who spend a good deal of their time, from the sounds of it, walking in the Alps, using transit to get to a town and make interesting walks from there. They knew all of the trails and cabane that we were using. Also, there was another couple, from Australia, who are doing the Haute Route. I saw them in Arolla. They'd taken a rest day (which isn't a bad idea), so we caught them there.

Dinner was very good, with a rich mushroom sauce on a biscuit for a starter and chicken and noodles nicely done, with crème brûlée for dessert.

Sept. 14 from Hotel de la Sage, La Sage, Switzerland: map, 1667m; accum. 97 km, 5996m gain, 5366m loss (5469'; accum. 60.3 mi, 19,672', 17,605')

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

Link to photo album

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Denise said...

Mike: Great info on the Haute Route, thanks! Any chance you can share more info on internet cafes/access along the Haute Route? We're staying in the following towns and we'd like to know if we'd be able to check email in the following spots: Col de la Forclaz, Champex, Cabane du Mont Fort, Cabane de Prafleuri, Arolla, La Sage, Cabane de Moiry, Zinal, Gruben, and St Niklaus. Thanks! Denise

Mike Kretzler said...

I didn't visit Col de la Forclaz, but stayed in Trient, instead, so I don't know about that place. I was able to use the computers in the Pension de la Plein Air in Champex, when I stayed there. I'm pretty sure there would be an internet cafe there in town somewhere.

There wasn't anything, that I recall, in Cabane du Mont Fort or Cabane de Prafleuri. There was an internet cafe in Arolla, not hard to find, which I used to post a few days' of posts.

I think Hotel de la Sage had access, too, but I didn't use it. Cabane de Moiry didn't have access, that I could see (they didn't have water, except to cook, when I was there. Zinal must have had an internet cafe, but I didn't find it or it was closed the day I was there.

Gruben might have access in the the big Hotel Schwartzhorn, but I stayed in the much cosier Restaurant Waldesruh. I'm sure St Niklaus has a place, too, but I hustled up to Gasenried and posted from Zermatt at the end.

To sum: none of the mountain huts had internet access, some of the places I stayed had computers, some of the more substantial towns had internet cafes. I was able to post every three or four days.

Denise said...

Mike, thanks for the great info! Appreciate your response.