Friday, 31 December 2010

Haute Route: Gasenried to Europa Hut

This is a cracker! A specially built high-level route that provides a fitting finale to the classic Haute Route. Unfortunately for the first part of this two stage ending the weather was not accomodating, though not as inclement as the previous day, but still following much the same pattern - grey and overcast with very short glimpses of sun and very short patches of rain (snow at higher altitudes) in equal measures.
From Gasenried the route follows a tarmac road that becomes a broad track, the path heads off from here and climbs through the pine forest. When we eventually get above the treeline we gain great views of the Bernese Oberland and the Great Aletsch glacier to the north, as well as fleeting glimpses of peaks closer by across and down the Mattertal. On a sunny day I'm sure it would have been a great place to it was today was not such a day.

No dawdling, no admiring the spectacular scenery, no relaxing on the penultimate day of our Haute Route adventure. Instead the track and the weather meant a day for careful, cautious walking, making sure that we did not slip, foot placement on loose rubble and scree, unstable or slippery rocks is a premium. The dangers are not only underfoot, but also overhead with black cliffs and steep slopes above which rocks are perched precariously, ready to roll down and crush us at any moment. As this is Switzerland, the danger spots have warning signs and in the more dangerous places, fixed chains are ready at hand.

For most of the day we felt like we were on another planet. From time to time the clouds enveloped us blanketing sound and sense of the Mattertal valley many metres below us, or the swirling clouds briefly parting to allow us furtive glimpses of jagged peaks or ominous forbidding cliffs, or a rock slide that we had to cross on a rather patch-work suspension bridge.

We were happy to reach the Europa Hut, it was one of the tougher sections of the Haute Route.

Click here for more comprehensive information about this section.

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