Approximately two hours and half after I had started my run uphill towards the mountain of Arolla (see Running on ski slopes … part 1), I was back again at Les Magines. As I had time to kill before boarding the 3pm coach back to Sion, I decided to head towards the cross-country ski track that runs up to the foot of the glacier of Arolla so that I could use my Salomon Fellcross shoes a little more. [Click on any picture to obtain an enlarged version]

Arolla pine trees at ... Arolla_14 April 2014

Before doing so I would have to walk past a forest. The name of the area, Arolla, comes from the trees are to be found in profusion in the area: arolle in French, known as  ‘arolla pine‘ or sometimes ‘Swiss stone pine‘ in English. Before reaching the electricity plant, I decided to move onto the cross-country skiing track and thus changed from my Addidas into my my Salomon. I quickly came to realise that the snow was melting really fast and that, as a result, I would see one or both of my legs sink deep into snow — at times, as deep as mid-thigh.

Air Zermatt helicopter on the snow near Arolla landing point_14 April 2013

Because of the risk of avalanches, Air Zermatt had two helicopters on standby in the valley at one point, one of which had landed on the snow just before me. Strangely, the pilot did not come out immediately; instead I saw him pull out a camera and take a few pictures of the landing point in front him. He then stepped out and greeted with with a warm ‘Bonjour‘ with a slight Swiss German accent. He then made a few steps on the track towards the landing area, only to find out for himself that the snow would give way easily and deeply.

Snowslides near glacier Arolla 14 April 2013

My initial intention was to reach the foot of the glacier (as I had done a year earlier). However, the melting snow made it hard at times not to sink deep into the snow. Fortunately, I had my snow spade with me and was thus able to dig myself out. What was far more impressive was the noise and the volume of snow that I saw slide on my right from Serre de Vuibé for over 5 minutes. It came down from between some rocks, almost like sand slowly passing through the narrow opening of an hourglass. What a sight, what a sound (I shall have to upload on this blog the video footage I captured as it is really impressive).

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I decided that I would not go much further and I hoped that the snowslides would reach any of the ski mountaineers on their way back.

Panorama of the area towards the tongue of the glacier Arolla 14 April 2013

For my part, I still had to retrace my steps, hoping that I would not sink deep into the snow too many times.

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A family of snow-showers close to the helicopter landing point. I had warned the (French) couple on the left about the risk of the snowslides; they seemed to consider my warning as a little dubious and continued to walk towards the glacier. However, I saw them stand in awe when there was another snowslide and then saw them retrace their steps, too.

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Back again near the helicopter landing area. Rescue services were on high alert because of the risk of avalanches — in fact, a German mountain climber had died a day earlier on the nearby Matterhorn (three people died from Friday to Sunday in this part of Switzerland).

Arolla heading towards glacier

The second part of my run therefore did not cover much ground either … but it was better to err on the side of caution (geographical data courtesy of Swisstopo/SuisseMobile).

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A Range Rover which had been mis-parked, probably as the owner was under the mistaken assumption that it was safe to have the vehicle’s massive weight rest on some of the snow. These cars are popular with the well to do in Geneva (I placed the blog’s ‘signature’ on the plate number on purpose) but does not necessarily imply that their owners know who to park them up in the mountains …

Walking towards the village of Arolla 14 April 2013

Walking uphill towards the village of Arolla, I was able to enjoy the splendid landscape surrounding me. I love this village because, unlike say its close neighbour Zermatt, Arolla has managed to remain small which in turn has allowed to preserve the village from the negative aspects of mass tourism.

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One of my favourite spots in Arolla: the terrace of Hotel du Pigne, from which Mont Collon and the Pigne d’Arolla can be admired while enjoying some refreshments and the sun. The perfect way to relax before having to return to city life.

Val d'Hérens_14 April 2013

The ride down back to Sion through the valley of Hérens was quite serpentine and as the sun was strong and I had to struggle more than once to remain awake – I wanted to take in as much of the landscape as possible so that once back home I would have the impression that the whole trip would have been more than worth my while!

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Although it was warm in the bus, it was not hot. However, I was dumbstruck once the coach reach the outskirts of Sion and I saw that the digital screen of a thermometer set on the roof of a building showed 27-28 degrees Celsius. I assumed the thermometer was not working properly. When the bus reached the Sion coach/railway station,  I noticed another thermometer and it showed a similar high reading: 27 degrees Celsius. Indeed, when I stepped out of the bus, I could feel the heat. No wonder the snow had been melting fast up in the mountains.

Avenue de France_Sion_14 April 2013

Before heading to the railway station, I decided to walk a few metres away from the coach station so as to be able to admire the snow-capped mountains surrounding Sion, the capital of the canton Valais (or Wallis in German).

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The mountains above the valley of the Rhone almost totally concealed by the various buildings surrounding the railway station of Sion, so much so that it made me wonder how beautiful it would have been to be able to stand at this very precise point, say, a hundred years ago as my view would have been, I would assume, far less obstructed.

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Fully and le Grand Chavalard (altitude 2,899m): if everything goes well in terms of training, I might take part in the Kilomètre Vertical, which takes place in October on one the steep slopes of this mountain.

Link to part 1

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