I had no aspirations or plans for today. So I was rather discombobulated to look out of the window at 7.30am and see blue sky. A mild sense of panic set in. I had to do something – there were only two days left here – but what to do. I discounted my original plan at the start of the holiday for an eight-hour hike to a distant col – I was not sufficiently well organized to get out early enough for that to be a viable option.
I settled on a walk to the Britannia Hut – always a sentimental journey as it was the first hut I spent a night in 52 years ago. By the time I had breakfasted, sorted out my rucsac and was ready to leave, the blue sky was already being replaced by strategically placed clumps of cloud. But I wasn’t going to be denied a day out. A half-hour, two-lift uphill ride and I was at Felskinn ready to walk. The sky was confused, peaks were partially obscured.
The walk to the Britannia Hut is generally a straightforward reasonably level walk across angled snowfields. In good conditions it takes about an hour. It’s a popular outing, although many of those who attempt it are really ill-prepared and equipped.
The first sighting of the hut was not that inviting. Visible in the cleft in the ridge, the clouds were down and the signage was sobering. I don’t remember previously seeing a ‘Closed’ sign or an advisory notice on the right reminding those who bothered to read it that this route was ‘for experts’. Clearly the signage had little effect on several families with small children and the occasional dog who were plodding onward.
The view back was better. The peaks of the immediate Saas valley were in sun and formed a dramatic backdrop.
The signage was appropriate. This was a tricky walk. I’ve walked this many times before but today the route was two-boots-width for long sections, (intimidating for some), rock fall littered the angled snow slopes, and there were a few outcrops of unstable rock to traverse. And at the journey’s end there was a minimal view.
There were brief moments when the sun attempted to pierce the cloud, and there were small patches of blue in the sky but none were headed our way. There was no distant view to be seen although I knew exactly what I should be seeing. But it was enjoyable to get my legs moving in the high mountains.
I headed back – thankfully some parties with small children had retreated and I endeavoured to advise others. Hopefully all made the right decisions eventually. I was back in Saas for lunch and this afternoon ended with a small shower. How predictable!