The highest point

_DS85293Heading towards the highest point reachable by able-bodied ‘hikers’, with a good head for heights, in the Zermatt area.

This is the final rock pyramid of the Mettelhorn at 11,180ft. A group of fellow hikers just a few minutes ahead, crossing the final snowfield, en route for the stiff and final zig-zag climb to the summit. A superb, but long day out in the mountains.

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One of the great views

_DS85185The phenomenal weather continues, said by locals to be the best weather this summer. We are so fortunate. Today we strolled to one of our favourite locations – Fluhalp (or as the English often write it – ‘Flualp’. It was too hot to do too much hard work.

Fluhalp is a place with a wonderful high hut that commands a magnificent panoramic view – where we partook of some wine and Apfelstrudel. But along the way we passed the lake called Stellisee and that just adds another dimension to an already classic view. There is no one right view across this lake and so I captured quite a few and there were a considerable number of other people with the same intention. But it is actually remarkably quiet out here – schools in Germany and Switzerland have already re-started, and the Mountain Restaurants, Cable Cars, and Paths are much quieter than we have experienced previously when we have come earlier in the summer. And that is all good news. The peace and quietness that we are privileged to find in the mountains is something very special.

I have a host of images to work through when we return home, meanwhile other images are being uploaded to my Instagram feed where I am known as ‘andyhooker’. Do take a look and follow if you are interested.

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Showing the way

_DS85064Piles of stones – cairns – have acted as waymarks for centuries and wherever I travel in the mountains in barren environments where paths are not easily discernible, cairns of one sort or another mark the way.

They become balancing acts sometimes as here, high up on the Matterhorn Glacier Trail.

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Matterhorn East Face

_DS85084The Matterhorn is remarkable in many ways. One in particular is how its shape changes so dramatically with a relatively small change in one’s position.

From Zermatt it shows a beautiful symmetry as in the image re-shown below. The traditional line of ascent (Hörnli Ridge) is the obvious central ridge off which cloud is boiling. There is no indication of how steep that route is, but everything else about the mountain suggests a ridge that is extremely steep.

_DS84525Take the cable car ride up to Trockener Steg (leftwards from this image), and there is a distinct change in the shape as evident in the headline image. The Hörnli ridge is now the right skyline (significantly less steep than might have been anticipated) and the hut from which it is climbed is a small palish square on the top of the ‘bump’ at the base of the ridge.

The view is now dominated by the East Face and the mountain now appears even more outrageous in the way it stands in splendid isolation, taking the limelight.  Utterly dominant. There is nothing quite like this. And every time I stand in this spot, it takes my breath away.

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The climber’s view

_DS85005It took me six and a half hours of walking today in very hot weather to capture this image. It’s an image that I have wanted to ‘get’ since I first climbed the mountain that you see centre frame eight years ago.

This mountain is the Dom and it is special because it is the highest mountain in Switzerland. A fact that is not universally known and causes a lot of discussion, even argument. I wrote a post about this fact a few years ago and it is the most frequently viewed of all my posts. Click here to view it and get some background information on the Dom.

Normally the line of ascent of most peaks is easily visible, but the strange thing is that it is impossible to view the line of ascent of the Dom easily. Viewing the mountain from Saas Fee you see the vast precipitous face of it and its neighbours – rarely climbed from that side. From Zermatt you see merely the silhouettes of the Dom and neighbouring peaks, and from vantage points above Zermatt that silhouette remains largely unchanged.

It is only when you move back down the Zermatt valley to Tasch or Randa and climb up out of the valley at a point opposite to where the mountains are placed that you get to a vantage point where the line of ascent can be appreciated. And that is what took a lot of hard graft earlier today.

Like most Alpine climbs, climbing the Dom takes two days. On Day 1 you climb up to the Dom Hut (or Refuge) and on Day  2 the summit climb starts in the night (before 3am for this peak). The Dom Hut is just visible low down on the left of the image just to the left of a grey curl of moraine. From there the route heads diagonally up and right and hugs the left bank of the glacier. A short rock climb is then necessary to crest a ridge of rock where it reduces in height – the Festijoch. The route then follows the very easily seen, and largely snow-covered, ridge that angles up to the Dom’s summit. The climb takes about five hours.

So today was mission accomplished. Finally I have an image that shows a route by which this peak is climbed. There is another route, still not visible but which climbs the snowy face out of sight and beyond the skyline ridge. I will need to find another walk that gets me to a point where I can capture that too – but that will have to wait for another year.


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In the cool of the forest

_DS84942On a blue-sky day, as we have had today, it may seem strange to post an image from the forest. I captured a lot of images today that involved blue skies and ‘views’, but to do them justice and create stories I need to work on a bigger screen than the one with me, and dip into the archives: so those images will have to wait.

On a hot day it is very pleasant to finish with a cool walk down through quiet forest. During the last week there have been a few forest walks and on each occasion I have been on the look-out for that je ne sais quoi that sums up coniferous forest: straight trunks, a feeling of depth, and the filtering through of light. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. This is among the best yet found, the quest will continue.

Big day tomorrow: good weather promised, and I am heading high to somewhere new – with a view I have been searching for.

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After Rain

_DS84741After rain, low-lying clouds fill the valleys in a constant state of flux. Looking back down the valley my eye was attracted to the roof-lines echoing the ridge lines of the lower slopes of the Mischabel chain of mountains.

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