Convinced that Matterhorn is the most beautiful mountain in the world, Yasuko’s birthday wish was to spend a few days in Zermatt. Our friend Patrick was so kind to let us stay at his studio with a fantastic view of that magnificent mountain. We could have sat in the studio just watching that magnificent mountain from the window, but not with Yasuko, of course.
For non-climbers, the closest you can get to the Matterhorn, is the Hörnlihütte, the base camp for the Matterhorn peak ascent. That’s not something one needs to tell my darling twice. So the birthday wish became a hike, as the weather forecast promised a sunny day. We packed the sandwiches and off we went…
Can u see the hut, right there?
Before the steep part
… almost there 🙂
The Hörnlihütte has been renovated a few years ago, is very modern and serves nice and simple Swiss food (Rösti and similar stuff, that is). Every hiker takes that same picture on the terrace with the Matterhorn in the background. Except us, we took many 😁.
very modern dining…
back of the house
We were a bit worried about the descent, as there are some really steep and scary parts, with a ladder, ropes and almost vertical drops of a few hundred meters right next to the secured path. But it all turned out to be quite manageable. We just avoided looking down for too long.
Schwarzsee (almost home)
Last steep descent
On the way down, Yasuko expressed a wish for her next birthday. The guess is yours…
Trockener Steg – Hirli – Schwarzsee 7km, not much up and down
This trail is a fantastic walk so very close to the towering peak of Matterhorn. The weather was changing rapidly from grey to shiny blue and then foggy. That change made this magnificent mountain change its face as well.
First, at Trockener Steg, the trailhead, we visited the exhibition about the new Kleine Matterhorn gondola station project. It is an engineering wonder built between 3000m and almost 4000m of altitude where even spaghetti take 45 minutes to be cooked. There was a little demo gondola cord to hang on and pretend. My (Yasuko’s) trial was so miserable, that I prefer to keep its photo to myself : ) But it made us laugh for a long while…
When we started walking, the sky was grey – Zermatt covered by a layer of fog. Pretty to look at it if you stand above the fog…
The atmosphere was winter-like with a calming stillness.
Lunch break with a view of Matterhorn
Matterhorn is reflected in the lake.
We could clearly see the Hörnlihütte and the path leading to it. Weather permitting, the hike to the Hörnlihütte is going to be my birthday hike.
Älplibahn Bergstation (1801 m) – Vilan (2376 m) – Älplibahn Bergstation (1801 m), 12km
A fantastic summer day with blue sky – a perfect day to go up the Vilan, one of the most impressive mountain viewpoints in the Prättigau.
A very cute funicular Älplibahn with a capacity of only 8 passengers, operated by local volunteers, took us to the station at 1800m from Malans.
After some steep uphill hike on the ridge (I tried not to look down!), we arrived at the summit and was rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree panoramas! The entire Prättigau valley in front, the majestic rocky mountain range of Schesaplana, Drusenfluh and Sulzfluh at left, and the wide valley of Chur and beyond. Behind us, the Rhein Valley with the backdrop of the Churfirsten. Simply magnificent!
With an amazing view, a quaint and historical funicular, friendly staff and nice home-made cakes at the funicular station restaurant, it was a satisfying outing!
La Châble (821m) – Les Ruinettes (2195m) – Cabane du Mont Fort (2457m) – Col des Vaux (2705m)
Another sunny day!
La Châble is situated just at the bottom of Verbier. In other words, from where we were the mountain stands almost vertical (or it looked like that). 1600m uphill it will be : (
Fortunately there is a way around this: take a cableway to Les Ruinettes (2195m). Sano proposed this to gain altitude and hike from there, and I did not need much convincing…
So early in the morning we were already up above 2000m without any sweat. From the cableway end station we started walking to the Cabane du Mont Fort. Verbier is a famous ski resort (apparently popular with British tourists) so many ski lifts are here and there. This in general disturbs the scenery, nevertheless the view from there is outstanding.
Arriving at the Cabane du Mont Fort (2457m) around 10 am, of course, we saw Haute Route hikers nowhere yet. On the sunny terrace of the hut, four local elderly Swiss men were enjoying the scenery over coffee. A great place to get together with friends! Some of them seem to be around my father’s age – I always admire these fit Swiss people.
The view from the Cabane – priceless! A panoramic view from the snow-covered expansive Combin Massif to the Mont Blanc range with the Trient Glacier, and even the Dents du Midi. All these mountains at one go!
After checking into a small cute attic room with only two beds (no need to suffer from other snoring mates!), we went to explore the area and walked up to Col des Vaux (2705m). The terrain is barren like Mars, but with an amazing view. We stopped at the ridge overlooking the Lac des Vaux (Lake Vaux) for our lunch break. A solo German hiker came by and we started chatting about the German politics. A hot topic: Germany/EU saving Greece…
On the way back in the middle of beautiful moor-like meadows we found a great spot, a large rock in the sun. We sat on it, basking in the warmth of the sun and talking. It was still early in the afternoon and we did not need to go back to the hut yet. Nothing to hurry to. Just enjoy the moment, the scenery and the company. Great life!
By the time we were back at the hut the terrace was brimming with many Haute Route hikers. Jean and Robert, a couple from Scotland, whom we met earlier on the trail, joined us at the table. They walked 1600m all the way up here! They are older than we are, but they said,”we made many stops for drinks and no problem it was.”…. Ummm
I have not been to a mountain hut for a long time (Philippe finds it a horror to stay there) and did not expect much about food at the hut. However, the dinner at the Cabane du Mont Fort was fantastic: salad, pasta with accompanying vegetable and dessert. Plenty of food for hungry hikers and very delicious. It seems that only two men were cooking and serving over 40 people flawlessly!
Argentine, France (1251m) – Col de Balme (2204m) – Trient, Switzerland (1279m)
The clouds were hanging low in the morning. After having a wonderful breakfast at our pleasant Le Dahu Hotel, we decided to go for the lazy option and take a bus from Argentière to Le Tour and from Le Tour a tele-cabin to Col de Balme. In this way, we will save an almost 1000m uphill climb :- )
A bus driver kindly gave us a free ride to Le Tour and from there we hopped on the tele-cabin. It was not exactly cheap (€22 per person) but it was worth it. We could see other hikers walking up and felt a bit sheepish. Yesterday we lost a bit of confidence in climbing up 1000m with our heavy backpacks : ( In any case, we had to go down another 1000m to the other side of the valley to Switzerland.
Once we went up to the Col de Balme (2204m), the sun showed its friendly face for a moment reflecting on the Mont Blanc mountain range. It was magical. Despite the cold we hanged out there for a while, admiring the mountains, taking photos and talking about potential future hiking routes in the Chamonix area. An endless topic.
Finally, we started heading for the Col de Balme passing the mountain hut. From there our path was going straight down. Sano suggested that we go left around Tête de Balme instead and I jumped at his idea right away.
The weather did not look favorable and it would take more time, but seemed more interesting than to just walk down to Trient. Soon it started raining, our complete rain gear got its first show. In the heavy mist we could still see the Lac d’Emosson and the valley dropping into the abyss (kind of), which we saw from the train yesterday. It was scenic with a mysterious-feel to it. On the way we only met a couple of people, French hikers and two more. After a while the rain stopped and we started serious downhill. Once we went down to Trient, we headed for our hotel, La Grande Ourse. While we were drying our rain gear outside, two Japanese hikers and their two guides came out after lunch and we started chatting. These older Japanese women were also doing the Haute Route, but in a short and luxurious version, escorted by the guides and a car for hard parts. They were skipping 3 stages and going directly to Lac des Dix afterwards. The Japanese guide who is based in Chamonix told us that we had better not take the Fenetre d’Arpette tomorrow, if there is a thunderstorm warning. He told us that one Japanese hiker was seriously injured recently and helicoptered out from the Arpette path. Now he had me worried.
Sano and I intensively debated tomorrow’s hiking route over late lunch on the terrace. In the meantime, more and more hikers in wet rain gear were arriving a the hotel, with a couple of big groups which seem to be doing the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB). The first two or three days of our route are overlapping with the TMB so there were a lot of people in this small village of Trient where only two hotel/dormitories exist! By the dinner time, the hotel was completely packed with hikers.
After dinner I walked around this small village. Trient is a quiet and sleepy village but somehow charming.
Setting our alarm clock at 6 am to catch 6:50am bus next morning, we went to bed a bit concerned about tomorrow’s weather…
This morning we joined a guided walk on the Wild Pacific Trail, “Survival on the Edge”, organized by the Central West Coast Forest Society.
A young, friendly Canadian, Taylor, who is studying resource management gave us a very instructive 1-hour tour of the coastal old growth rainforest of Ucluelet, the Lighthouse Loop.
The old growth forest in this area is magnificent due to the yearly rainfall of 3.5m. Gigantic trees spread angular branches (sometimes with 90 degree angles!) to get the maximum sun. Their twisted branches are like arms and they call them “witch’s bloom” (many branches are spread out like bloom). It looks as if the branches were shouting out for sun!
These trees live under harsh environment. Their branches are blown by fierce wind. This area is famous for wild storms and the coast in the area was called “the Graveyard of the Pacific”. There are apparently 500+ shipwrecks under the waters. The trees on the coast are surviving these fierce wind and storm, “surviving on the edge”.
The fallen trees, are also vital to this forest. They become “nurse logs” to help insects and other plants to grow on them. With years they decay, rot and become soil. When the trees fall, it creates more space and bring sun to the forest floor to help new plants and tress to grow. We can understand the amazing ecosystem of the nature here.
Ucluelet promotes “storm watching” for their storm season and I was wondering who would want to see it. When I mentioned it to Philippe, he said he would love it!
Later we went to walk the Ancient Cedars Trail, another part of the Wild Pacific Trail. The trail was graveled and not “wild” at all, but it was a wonderful walk in the pristine forest with gigantic red cedar trees.
When we arrived at the trailhead of Botanical Beach, the area was completely fogged in. We hesitated a bit but we went ahead to walk the last part of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
It was one of the most dense coastal rainforests with 40-50m high cedar trees. We felt like we were in the deep amazon jungle!
It seems that this part of the coast gets fogged in often and therefore the forest is verdant with moss. This trail had several beach access points and the beaches with full of driftwoods in the mist were mystical and beautiful.
For this short 3km trail we spent almost 2 hours admiring majestic forest and rugged rocky beaches.
After the walk we had our lunch at a picnic table over the fogged bay view….
The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is a 47km wilderness trail which is just south of the famous West Coast Trail. Today we walked the first section of the Juan de Fuca Trail from China Beach to Bear Beach (9km) via Mystic Beach.
The info board at China Beach warned us, “You are in Bear and Cougar Country” : (( It was a nice start but we felt slightly encouraged by a number of cars which parked in the parking lot, assuming that bears and cougars would choose more round people (the choice is impressive) than a Japanese who has not so much meat on her body…. I would if I were a bear.
The trail started in a dense forest and it continued on. That surprised us because I thought the trail was along the coast. We arrived soon at the first beach, Mystic Beach, which was a narrow, beautiful sand and pebble beach. After a break, we continued on. The trail was to pass many creeks, more than ten, which meant that we went down to a creek, cross a bridge and up again and back to the forest. This ups and downs were a little too many for Philippe´s liking.
When we finally arrived at Bear Beach, several campers had already set up their tents in the wind. After looking at the map again, we realized that there was no access path to the road so that we could hitch-hike back to our trailhead. We have to keep hiking another 18km to the next trailhead or walk back the same path (9km). Of course, our choice was clear.
The trail was mostly in the forest, which was unexpected, but nonetheless it was full of magnificent trees with occasional spectacular views of the wild Pacific coastline.
A coast trail in the East Sooke Regional Park. This trail is surprisingly not well-known under the shadow of the famous West Coast Trail, but the rugged trail is beautiful wilderness. Stunning coastal views with Olympic Mountains (USA) on the horizon. Jumping fish and fishermen on boats. On the way back, the dense rainforest with gigantic trees.
Finished with nice lunch at the Becher Bay Marina where hobby fishermen were bringing their catch home with pride.
An afternoon 3 hour hike, starting from Aylard Farm Entrance to Beechey Head (a great viewpoint). Back to Aylard through the forest. The entire Coast Trail is a 10km rough, uneven and winding trail (6-8h).