Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Murren - Schilthorn


We woke to a beautiful, clear blue sky, and so set off, sandwiches made and packed for a great day out in the mountains. A different walk to yesterday, not as much distance, but a good climb up Schilthorn, about the equivalent to climbing Ben Nevis, when starting at the lovely little village of Murren. The journey from Grutschalp to Murren is breath-taking, with clear, close views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. I think it’s one of the best views around.

We chose the longer route via the Rotstockhutte, which takes you over delightful pastures, meadows, climbing higher and higher, pausing to turn around and admire the views of the mountains, and the meadow flowers, the Blumental. Stunning!

Then up and up, past the Hutte, where people can opt to stay for refreshments, and even overnight, if they want to experience the still of the mountain evening.

Up and up, and you cold clearly make out the Piz Gloria on the top of Scilthorn, with its James Bond connection. Then a scramble over scree. The last hour is an exciting climb using via ferrata and stairways up the mountain-side. Hard, but much easier going up than down. No blisters, and no strain on the knees. Really enjoyed it, and reached the top in just over four hours. Down by cable-cars and train to Lauterbrunnen, to a very hot afternoon, and a beer. Germany play Spain tonight, so a trip to the camp bar and restaurant might be called for!

First Faulhorn Scynigge Platte

First-Faulhorn-Schynigge Platte

Train to Grindelwald, and then the most amazing cable-car up to First. It’s a long ride, so you can relax and enjoy the views, climbing to over 2000m. An amazing piece of engineering.

A challenging, long walk but not much climbing. Weather not as good as last time we did it, with only brief glimpses of Eiger and later Lake Brienzersee. But a good walk of about 5hours+ . Met a couple along the way from San Diego, and chatted for a while. We’ve come across quite a few Americans and Japanese visitors today. In spite of limited views, the wild and alpine flowers have been wonderful, which was the main reason for coming at this time. Lots of tiny little phloxes and gentians in the scree and hundreds of others all over the meadows of the Platte. Lucky cows being able to munch such sweet-smelling grass and flowers!

A tough first day, with views of the Jungfrau and Mannlichen mountains, through the swirling mist and cloud. Out for just over 5 hours, tired and with sore feet, and that’s the first day!

Good atmosphere at the campsite, with two coach-loads of 18-25s con-tiki explorers from New Zealand and Australia. Loads of tents. Great to hear aussie accents and young people again, after being surrounded by retired, older people in France!

After a day chilling..

After a day chilling (or not, as it’s got really hot!), at Thonon-les-Bains, a genteel place on the banks of Lac Leman, swimming in the lake and relaxing, we set off for Swirtzerland.

Good to be back at Camping Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen, where we stayed for a week last September. We bought our six-day rail and cable car passes to start tomorrow, and then just walked up to Wengen to stretch our legs.

They’ve thought of everything at Camping Jungfrau. From the moment you arrive, you feel relaxed and taken care of. Their welcome is superb. The office was closed until 3pm, and it was only 12.30om, but we relaxed and had a great lunch of beer and rosti, a delicious potato dish, whilst the owner called someone to show us to our pitch, as soon as we were ready. Brilliant!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Stage 11 La Clusaz to Thonon and FINISH!

Ian writes - The final day and not off to a good start. Just like the first leg I took a wrong turn at the beginning and went downhill for nearly six miles when realised I had gone seriously wrong. Meant I had to turn around and cycle uphill over 1000ft to get back to start point. Anyway persevered and on a very hot day, I cycled to Bonneville and then over two passes until a great 13 km descent into Thonon les Bains - the finish and a dip in the lake. It was beautiful, so much so that Marie went for a morning swim the day after and swam 2 miles!The temperature is so much hotter here than in the mountains, at least 28 degrees.I covered nearly 60 miles today and over 4000ft of ascent ( 10 miles longer than needed to be!)
For those "anoraks" like me the average daily mileage for the 11 stages was 41 miles and 4400 ft of ascent. Total mileage for the trip including detours etc was 579 miles and a whopping 62300 ft of ascent! We are now off to Lauterbrunnen in the Swiss Bernese Oberland to do some walking.

Stage 10 Beaufort to La Clusaz

Stage 10 Beaufort to La Clusaz

We started off the day together, as I was determined to get up the Col de Saisies, with Ian. When I say with Ian, I obviously only mean in spirit- I’m not that optimistic. As it was, even though it was my third consecutive cycle, with plenty of climbing, (something I try to stat clear of), I managed it much better than I expected. Must be getting fitter! With a pleasant gradient of 7% and 8% most of the way, I reached the top a mere 15mins behind Ian! Shocked!! It is a lovely climb with superb views all the way up. Then Ian continued down into Flumet, a lovely town, along the Gorges de l’Arondine (really dramatic and steep-sided), through the lovely La Giettaz(Tour de France goes through here on 13July),up the Col des Aravis (1486m), and tdown the other side to La Clusaz and then on to the campsite at Le Fernuy, in the val des Confins. Great views up the jagged teeth of the Chaine des Aravis mountains. Very different to other mountains around, jagged and volcanic-looking!

Very hot today, and I was concerned about Ian climbing in the heat of the day. Glad we didn’t plan to come any later, purely luck really, but it gets very hot in the afternoon, so you need to be off by 8ish.

Just accept that nothing will be open until July, and relaxed back at the van, cooked, washed, blogged etc. All the drive over have got the impression that everything is being made ready for the short season of “les grandes vacances”, early July until September. So basically, cater for yourself and don’t expect anywhere to be open, unless you’re in biggish town. Curious. If this was Mallorca, they’d be open and ready for business, but there you go! There is a curious attitude towards tourism in France, which is like nowhere else. The Dutch people we met said the same thing, and remarked about the inflexibility of the French culture, but loved visiting the place nevertheless!!

Can’t believe it’s Ian’s last day tomorrow! Bought a bottle of Cremant de Bourgogne sparkling wine to celebrate, but it all feels a bit sad that this part of the adventure is coming to a close. Mind you that’s easy for me to say, I’m not the one with a sore a***se!! Thanks for the Sudocrem suggestion, new-grandma Caroline!!.

Rest Day

“Rest Day” aka “More Flippin’ Hills”

We’d always planned to spend an extra day in Beaufort, having really enjoyed being here last year. Camping des Sources lives up to its name, with several mountain rivulets channelling into the site, and the proprietor has cleverly engineered and planned his delightful garden-site around them. There are several hand-made troughs fed by taps, concealed in “arms” of wood, which hang over the top. There are lovely flowers planted all over and the owners have considered everything that campers might need- simple things like hooks for you to hang your clothes on when having a shower! Loo roll is provided. Delivery of wonderful beaufortain bread and croissants, even though it’s not July yet, and even walking guide books. All this and a cheery smile and conversation, and one of the cheapest sites around. The site is only about one quarter full, which we have found is typical of this time of year, but she explained that July and August get very busy.

After a leisurely breakfast, we set off on a blue sky morning and explored the Haute Savoie, particularly HauteLuce Valley and on up towards the Col du Joly. The Savoy area is very much like Switzerland, very pastoral, dairy-farming, big on cheese. Famous cheese from here- Reblochon, a soft creamy cheese, a bit smoother than brie, and Tomme, a harder white cheese, delicious! The cows all tinkle around all day and evening with their cow bells. In some places, although the cutting of the grass is all done by tractor, the threshing seems to be done by hand.

Running out of time and energy, we made the decision to head for home. As it turned out, we were cycling ahead of another afternoon storm. This seems to be the pattern in the mountains at the moment. The storms only last for an hour or two, and give way to a lovely sunny evening and cool night. That said we still have unfinished business here, and will be back to cycle up the Col du Joly in the future. It’s quite a toughy. Ian tried it late in the day last year, and had to postpone.

In spite of our efforts to make it an easier day, we still ended up climbing more than we anticipated, 4200’ and very tired. Also getting very hot pm, if you don’t set off early enough.