September 3, Arolla to Grimentz

Day summary:

    • 7 hours (Kev time)
    • 6 miles
    • gain 218 m, lose 554 m

Our original plan was to take a bus to La Sage or Villa, hike up to the Barrage de Moiry and then walk down into Grimentz for the night, expecting to take the bus back up to the barrage the next day – I didn’t want to cover the same ground twice, so the bus seemed like a nice option.  You can also stay at a refuge at the Barrage, but we’re all about comfort.  We found out later that our British friends had planned to stay at that hut, but it was full.  Our friends ended up having to hike a lot further up to a more remote refuge (actually running out of water on the way), so it may be wise to make reservations ahead of time.

In order to give Barry’s feet a break – and to muster the energy to complete our trip, which had turned out to be more challenging than we had anticipated – we took a postbus from Arolla to Sion, a train to Sierre, and then another postbus from Sierre to Grimentz.

It was an enjoyable break, and we came to appreciate the amount of vertical ground we had been covering and the geography of the region beyond the mountains themselves.  It was weird (and wonderful) to cover so many miles so quickly!

Here is the journal entry for today:

I can’t say enough about Hotel Mont Collon!  Yes, there were very few guests there, but the owner went out of her way to help us.  We had a great petit dejeuner – typical, but plentiful.  The owner investigated travel info to get us from Arolla to Grimentz and printed it out for us.  Barry asked about Internet access and a computer, and she offered up her laptop, all while preparing the hotel for a conference of 85 people (which turned out to be PhD graduate students in environmental studies offering presentations of their theses, and going for hikes in the mountains – pretty cool!).

Our first leg was a bus from Arolla to Sion.  We actually rode past Ann and Joe (a couple from Australia whom we’d met at Mont Fort) as we neared Les Haudres.  It was crazy taking the bus up and down very narrow mountain roads with tight switchbacks and blind curves.  It was also great NOT TO BE WALKING.  It appears that the switchbacks are just big enough for the postbus to fit around – the driver goes right up to the rail before cranking the wheel to make the turn.  As a bus, we always win the war when bus encounters car coming towards us and there is only width for one vehicle.  Many a car had to back its way down to a spot with enough shoulder to pull off and let us through.

We lunched in Sion (capital of the Valais province) and caught a train to Sierre, then finished our motorized traveling day with another bus from Sierre to Grimentz.  We saw a lot of towns and farm fields along the way.  We are now in the Hotel Alpina, right across the street from the bus stop that will take us up to the Barrage de Moiry tomorrow morning.  We will hike up from there catch a cable car at Sorebois that will carry us down into Zinal.  Then we will decide what Barry’s feet can handle.  We have a couple of options: straight into Gruben or 2 days via Weisshorn.  We have already decided not to go to Zermatt via the Europa Hut. The book offers warnings about the trail from Gasenried to the hut.  If Kev offers warnings I get scared now – because there wasn’t enough warning for the steep, class 4 climb to Col de Riedmatten.  We have checked the weather and it looks pretty good for the next several days.  We have also heard that there is avalanche damage to the trail from the Europa Hut into Zermatt, creating quite the detour.  No thanks!

Off to dinner in a few minutes.  Hotel Alpina is pretty posh and modern compared to our stays over the last couple of nights.  No creaky floors, no dormitory-style beds, sleek shower, TV, etc.

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We enjoyed our rides on buses and trains.  Sion was interesting – bustling big city, with two tall islands of hills upon which sat a castle and what appeared to be an old monastery.  As mentioned in the “Accommodations and Traveling in Switzerland” article, we could have saved a lot of money if we had purchased a 3-day pass that would have covered the buses and trains we took today, as well as the bus from Grimentz up to the Barrage de Moiry tomorrow.  Oh well.  Live and learn.

Today was “picture light” because we were speeding past all the scenery.

Interesting view of hillside agriculture

Roadside shrine/crucifix looking down into valley

Sion, provincial capital of Valais – and an old castle (?) atop a hill island

Hotel Alpina in Grimentz

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