An account of some walks, mostly in the Bernese Alps, serving mainly as a framework on which to present photographs of mountain scenery.

See the introductory remarks for general information about cameras and conditions.

Click on the links in the text or on the thumbnails to see the pictures. They have been resized to 1024 pixels width for the most part, so make your browser window big enough!

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Gantrisch

2175 M. 7136 ft.

Difficulty: T3

Gantrisch 13 July Just two days after flying in from New Zealand, I attempted to shake off the jet lag by doing my favourite quick and easy walk, the Gantrisch. Hard to say what ascent this was going to be, number 50, number 75...? I haven't kept records well enough over the years. From the plains, it's just a quick drive over the Gurnigel Pass (1584 M.) and down a little again to a handy parking spot at the foot of the peak.

Seen from the road, the peak looks quite a bit more impressive than it really is. The initial slog is up a jeep track, before the mountain track proper leads to the little Morgetepass, where it turns sharply to the east. After passing an abandoned military pillbox, the track heads up steepening grass before a short and easy scrambling section brings you out onto the surprisingly large meadow on top. The car is parked just to the right of the blue-roofed mountain restaurant in the upper centre of this view from the summit, and the walk begins on the jeep track seen running down towards the lower left. It's not quite 700 M. from there to the top, but the walk is greatly enhanced by the way the track doubles back on itself, so that you look precipitously down on your starting point. There were already a few people at the summit; it's uncommon to be alone there unless the weather is really poor or you go at an odd hour.

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Schibengütsch

2037 M. 6683 ft.

Difficulty: T3

Schibengütsch 16 July I was putting some emphasis on filling in local peaks I hadn't done before, so the next choice was something called the Schibengütsch, lying to the north of Lake Brienz and looking down on the Emmental. The public road ends at Kemmeribodenbad, where I parked the car and set off up through sunny woodlands and alpine meadows.

It's rare that a new walk has nothing unexpected, but this one had a major surprise. It negotiates a cliff using an abandoned military emplacement dug into the rock; with nobody else around, I had to climb its vertical exit shaft in pitch darkness. All you can do in these circumstances is take it really slowly. I've only come across this once before in the Swiss Alps. In that case, it was a stretch of natural cave, and if somebody coming out as we arrived hadn't given us his disposable flashlight, we would have had to turn around. Not far from the summit, a wonderful opportunity for boulder trundling presents itself. However, it's not reachable by walkers, even those with very powerful boots. On top at last, you can see your car park here too, but in this case the height difference is more than a thousand metres.

Back in Kemmeribodenbad, you can reward yourself for a successful walk with a meringue if you like them, as the restaurant beside the car park is said to have the best for miles around.

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Col de Cou (Val d'Illiez)

1921 M. 6303 ft.

Difficulty: T2

Col de Cou 21 July This walk was the only one I did with company this year. The name seems to be popular; there is a somewhat higher pass of the same name south of Sierre, and another motorable one south of Thônon-les-Bains in France. I collected an old Walking Friend who lives near Montreux, and we drove to the Val d'Illiez on the Swiss side of the French border south of Lake Geneva.

Though we had done some quite serious stuff in the past, the WF wasn't feeling fit, so this time it was just an easy path climbing about 900 M. to a pass called the Col de Cou. There was a border post at the pass, half hidden by a knoll in the picture, but it was unstaffed. Not surprising really, as Switzerland is now in Schengen. A tempting track led southwards towards the Dents Blanches, but time and condition were lacking. Having not yet exhausted our energies, we followed a path upwards along the border for a while, but it petered out in the middle of a very steep grassy slope which dropped off vertically into Switzerland just to the right of us. Things were getting T4ish, so we turned back at around 2130 M, there being no tempting destination in view anyway. Traces of path can be seen in this last picture, but they may just have been used by chamois or ibex.

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Hohgant

2197 M. 7208 ft.

Difficulty: T2

Hohgant 26 July A few days later, It was the turn of the Hohgant. This was an easy option in one sense, because although I hadn't done this peak before either, it was only necessary to park in the same place as for the Schibengütsch to do it; it's on the other side of the same valley. As it's right on the northern edge of the proper mountains, you get a great view over the Emmental countryside. You also get a pretty good view towards the Bernese Oberland peaks, from the Schreck­horn on the left to the Jungfrau on the right. At places like this, you notice that some summits are affected by a craze for cairn building; there were quite a few apart from the one in the picture.

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Dreispitz

2520 M. 8268 ft.

Difficulty: T4

Dreispitz 29 July Time for something a little harder now. The ascents so far were no more than 1200 M, so how about something nearer 1600? I had always wondered why the Dreispitz had no path marked on the walkers' maps, even though it is a prominent peak quite close to Lake Thun. Well, on the upper stretches it's marked as a blue route, which means it's considered harder than regular mountain paths, though in this case not by much.

After the long ascent from Kiental Village, it goes up the left-hand skyline in the picture, and it's not too bad, with some interesting side excursions (note the walker at upper right). As I watched from the summit, some people tried to descend via the lovely ridge to the NE, but they hadn't read the guide book; the little summit where the ridge turns has a sixty-foot vertical drop on the other side. After milling around there for a while, they had to turn back. This mountain had clouds of flies on top, even though the summit is surrounded by bare scree and is a couple of hundred metres above anywhere stock can get to. The question is... what do they feed on when my sandwiches aren't there? The peak must be just about the best possible place for a view of the Blümlisalp Range, none of whose summits are walking territory, although there are many beautiful paths which approach them.