This is one of the great views across the Gorner Glacier from the Monte Rosa Hut Trail. The Mountain in the distance is the Breithorn – three miles away with a 1.4 mile summit ridge.
On this particular day I was ‘investigating’. I’ve walked this trail, which includes a glacier crossing, to the new Monte Rosa Hut before; and if you click the link above you can see images from that previous trip including images of the new mountain hut. That was a few years ago, and since then the glacier has shrunk further and on this recent re-visit I was intending to take a look and see how the situation had changed.
The answer is quite a lot. I didn’t actually reach the edge of the glacier. I spoke to mountaineers travelling back from the Hut who confirmed what I suspected: access to the glacier has got more difficult and now requires crampons – something I wasn’t carrying. And getting down to the edge of the glacier involves ladders and gangways – not a problem but a lot of effort. With that question resolved I was able to slow down and allow photography to be the priority.
Photography and mountain walking/climbing do not go easily together. Walking and climbing in the Alps are almost always about reaching an objective: a place, a ridge or a summit and returning to base or occasionally the next base for that night. Inevitably there is a schedule to keep to. Photography requires time – demands time – waiting for the light, that elusive break in the clouds, hunting for the best vantage point and a good composition. At best it slows you down, or it can easily add an hour to the day if repeated stops are made. At worst it is disruptive.
So every time I step out for a day in the Alps I have to make a decision. Is the walk more important than the images – are the images just the narrative (= visual memory) of the day? Or is the day an opportunity to slow down, allowing photography to dictate the pace; having the time to sit and wait for the light? A chance perhaps to hunt down the detail and find the images that, when walking, are missed or ignored.
On this particular day, I remembered from my previous visit, that there was some fascinating rock strata close to the point at which the trail descended sharply to the glacier’s edge. And for an hour or so I enjoyed simply pottering around with the camera, finding an interesting bit of rock, focusing in on a bit of the glacier below, and photographing the alpine flowers. It felt good.
The image above is just a foretaste of the rocks that I found. the next post will be rather more dramatic.
PS – the blue and white marking on the foreground boulder is a way-mark arrow. Paths in the Alps are well signposted. Valley walks are usually marked by yellow diamonds; more strenuous walks have red and white stripes; high alpine trails that have sustained difficulties of one sort or another and which should only be attempted by serious walkers are marked with blue and white stripes.