Getting high

Postponing outdoor activity in favour of museums yesterday was the right decision. The weather today was much more suitable and we enjoyed a great day getting high in the Swiss mountains.

I was up at 5:15 am to join the online presentation that was rescheduled because it did not happen at the beginning of last week. We have shifted one time zone east in the meantime so I had an extra hour of sleep. This time the presentation did happen and I managed to keep quiet enough for Majella to slumber on once I was started. That was just as well because we had been up until 11:00 pm to call Simone for her birthday.

DSC_6771The day dawned with clear skies though by the time we were ready for breakfast at 8:30 am there was some haze in the valley. Clouds did appear through the day but there was sunshine most of the time and no rain where we were. After breakfast we gathered our warm gear and were ready to set off on schedule at 9:30 am.

Our adventure for today was Verticalp Emosson which was a gift to Majella from Myriam and Claude but their generosity included all 5 of us – Majella, me, Marie-Françoise, Roland and Michel. Unfortunately Michel had another commitment today and could not join us.

DSC_6773Roland drove us down the highway to Martigny and then up and over the Col de la Forclaz to Châtelard. From there Verticalp involves 3 stages – a large funicular that ascends 700 m with a maximum gradient of 87%, a panoramic train that runs 1.6 km around the mountain, and a smaller funicular that rises another 140 m with a maximum gradient of 73%. Allowing that Châtelard is already high in the mountains, the almost 900 m we rose took us to 1937 m (6355 feet). At that height it was cool and we were glad that we had layered on the warm gear.

DSC_6789From the time we started up the first funicular the views became increasingly spectacular. The ride around the mountain in the small train with open sided carriages allowed sweeping panoramic views of the mountains including Mont Blanc. The weather yesterday had done us a favour by snowing in the high areas so the mountains were freshly covered in crisp white snow. As we gained extra height on the second funicular we were able to see further into the mountain peaks across the valley.

DSC_6830Once we reached the top we had views across the barrage and the lake behind it to more mountains on that side of the valley. We walked across the barrage and some way around the roadway on the other side of the lake. In the distance we could see a second, higher barrage that is part of the system. There is a cafe there so the road must run all the way. There were several walks of varying lengths signposted but we did not have time to pursue those. Majella found enough snow to make a small snowman in celebration of Harry’s birthday. Further round we came to a shaded area where parts of the road were covered in ice. Majella almost slipped on the first patch but recovered and we were more careful thereafter. At one point I thought I heard music and Marie-Françoise identified it as the sound of alpenhorns that were being played for a group of elderly people that had come up with us but had gone to the restaurant at the top instead of walking.

DSC_6887We spent about 2 hours enjoying the fresh air and scenery across the barrage and around the lake before riding the small funicular and train back to the first station. There we had assiette valaisanne for lunch in the restaurant, also part of the package from Myriam and Claude. We enjoyed the selection of regional cold meats, sausage, cheese, and pickles before catching the larger funicular back to Châtelard.

DSC_6914Roland then drove us to the Gorges du Triège near Trétien in another valley above Martigny. There we walked up the gorge and and back to the village through the forest. The gorge is very steep with lots of twists and turns and unusual formations in the rocks caused by erosion over centuries. The path up the gorge is well developed with a spiral staircase made of metal easing our way through one difficult stretch. We were breathing heavily by the time we got to the top and that effort probably accounted for more than half the 47 storeys my Fitbit recorded for today.

Afterwards we had drinks at a cafe in the next village down before driving back to Veyras where we relaxed until it was time for dinner. We had suggested we take our hosts to dinner as thanks for all their effort entertaining us over the past few days.

La Contrée was close enough that we could easily walk there and back. Michel was committed to a meeting at 7:30 pm so we booked for 8:00 pm and he was able to join us sometime later. The specialty there was tartare (raw meat with spices) and Majella was adventurous enough to try that. I had steak but it was singed on the outside and very rare inside so not much different from Majella’s. We enjoyed dinner and conversation before walking back to Veyras where we had schnapps before saying goodnight. It was late enough by then for us to call Harry in Australia for his birthday and expect they might be awake to answer us. He was.  We wished him a very happy 10th birthday!