November 25, 2018

Quality father-son time - Hiking in Val d'Anniviers in Switzerland

The hiking fun back in 2017 did not stop at Corsica. Towards the end of Summer me and my older son, who was 11 years old at that time, spent an awesome long weekend staying with friends in Switzerland. From Geneva it is only a short drive to magnificent Alps, so we succumbed to the temptation of a 2-day walk in the region of Central Valais. Truth be told, it did not require a whole lot of succumbing from us.

The father of my son's friend has impressive hiking mileage on him. Therefore he had preplanned the route for the four of us: two father-son teams. Before this trip I had never though of the possibility of leveraging the ski lifts to take a short cut directly into higher elevation. Perhaps, I might even have frowned upon the idea of going on a hike but not hiking. As if it was cheating. With the two kids along the option did sound excellent. We were able to cut to the chase and start enjoying the majestic scenery without trodding 2-3 hours upwards.

Saint Luc to Zinal

Uranus jokes never go out of style.
We drove from Geneva to the village of Saint Luc in the Val d'Anniviers and left our car there. From there we took a funicular directly to mount Tignousa at 2186 meters. With only a few hours since we had woken up in Geneve we were already savouring the majesticity of Alps all around us with visibility to the so called Imperial crown of five 4000 m peaks including Matterhorn. On the first leg of the day 1, there was quite an interesting planetary trail to follow: Heavenly bodies made of metal are represented here with the relative distances from one another.

My not-so-hidden agenda for this trip was trying instil the joys of mountain hiking into my son. A truly successful moment during the course of induction was when we stopped for a picnic lunch on top of a rock overlooking into the valley floor below. Cutting pieces of fresh baguette with even bigger slices of local cheese and enjoying them in the fresh air after a good physical exercise did the trick of convincing how very enjoyable hiking can be. Some truly special father-son time happening here.

On a journey to anywhere you can draw your own map, quoting the words of Hip-Hop trio Ugly Duckling. 
The journey continued past Hotel Weisshorn which is serving locally famous tarte aux myrtilles. Given that we just stopped for a lunch, we did not stop for a piece of tarte. Next time then! Later in the afternoon, there was a moment when the two boys started to grow tired of the steady incline. The other father noticed the early alarms and devised a word game to lighten up the mood. I love my love with an A, because she is adorable. Her name is Amelia (as per Dr. Who's companion!) and she lives in an Anomaly in space-time continuum. Then the next person then goes with letter B and so on. I was so very proud of my son, who is able to speak English fluently to the extent that he was having fun with coming up with creative suggestions.

Quite a steep descent through a forest took us to a picturesque town of Zinal at the very end of the valley. There we had booked a room at a hotel. This is the civilised way of mountain hiking when you can rest your weary feet over a proper meal and a nice comfortable bed. Then you are ready to start a fresh the very next day.

Zinal to Grimentz

Col de Sorebois with spectacular views to glacial lake as you can see.
Kids' weariness was all gone after a good night's sleep, but again we opted for the cable-car short cut from town directly to ski center on the mount Sorebois and therefore avoiding almost 800 meters of dull looking ascent in a forest. Although the day was particularly cloudy and with poor visibility, we decided to ascent all the way to the peak of Sorebois at 2896 meters. My son decided to start listing all the mountains he has summited. For some reason he decided not to include grandiose Finnish mountains like Laajavuori (Grand Mountain!) at 227 m or Kanavuori (Chicken Mountain!!) at 197,5 meters (NB: the affectious level of accuracy). Where is his sense of national pride?

Apparently the views from the col de Sorebois down the lake Moiry with its Caribbean blue glacial waters would have been exceptionally dramatic if not for the clouds. We had to just trust our little trail booklet on level of dramatism. Perhaps next time. There were plenty of marmotte holes on the way to the lake, but no creatures in sight. Again we had such a lovely outdoor lunch on our way down.

Just what you except Swiss towns to look like in the Alps.
There is a massive dam to be crossed. I am suffering a bit from a sensible vertigo (not a good feature for a mountain hiker) and I felt queasy walking next to that damn (sic!) railing. The walk down from the dam following the river Gougra all the way to the town of Grimentz was quite uneventful. The other father's hiking boots ceased all their collaboration at the very border of the town. Excellent timing. Arriving successfully at the goal provided a rush of good feelings. We made it! There was a handy bus connection back to the car park. How convenient is that!

Final musings 

For me the personal significance of this trip easily was the fact, that I was doing a proper mountain hike together with my son for the first time. I have travelled with him quite a bit already before, including an Interrail trip across a number of countries, and I knew beforehand that he is one tough cookie and does not give up easily, but it was still an overflowing pleasure to be with him on the mountains and see how well he completed the hike carrying his own backpack. The trip was somewhat similar to the hike I had completed with my own father on the other side of Matterhorn on the Italian alps several years ago.

During the same trip to Switzerland we did a quick excursion on the French side of the border to the foot of mount Blanc. Unfortunately the cloud shroud followed us there all the way to the Refuge Nid d'Aigle and the view to the peak, which was supposed to be particularly spectacular, refused to show itself to us. A third reason to come back!

We did stages 2 and 3 from this suggested 4-day itinerary. 

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