Thursday, September 7, 2017

Vitamin D deficiency...

was becoming a worry to me. That old Sunshine vitamin was taking an extended vacation in the Alps. Yes, it bothered me. 

Day One: Grimentz to Zinal

That all changed yesterday. The sun burst out from the curtain of clouds. I was so thrilled I performed an off-key rendition of "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music," as I waltzed through the scenery. My apologies to Julie Andrews for violating her classic. My warbling was so bad, I caused those mellow Swiss cows to run to the butcher shop for slaughter. Poor bovines. 

Who cares that I got sunburnt,  I had BIG views.  Heaps of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls,  an odd colored reservoir and chillin' cattle. (I stopped singing to halt the mass suicides.) it was my favorite day of hiking so far. I was even wearing comfortable cotton after a week long hiatus. That's living large. 

Day Two: Zinal to Gruben

Alas, the provider of Vitamin D was only temporary. The clouds returned. The ambient light went dull and flaccid. The winds had an icy pinch. Today I required four cappuccinos to gird myself for another 4,200"of ascent. OY! 

Somehow through this day of cold sweat and toil, I crossed over an invisible barrier. Was it Forcletta Pass? Au Revoir to the gentle sing-song French language. Guten Tag to Swiss-German which doesn't sound quite as intimidating or guttural as Deutsch spoken by Germans from the Fatherland. If that makes sense. 

Now a Swiss factoid lesson:  Two-thirds of the Swiss speak German. One fifth speak French. One tenth speak Italian and a smattering converse in a language called Romansh. The ladder lingua has varying dialects based on what glacial Valley the speaker is from. Clearly the Alps are more than physical barriers alone. These verticals obstructions divide countries, languages and cultures. No wonder there's so much human history surrounding them. 

It's not an easy place to hike, but it sure is interesting. 

Day Three: Gruben to Grachen 

After a rough night of sleep, I went straight towards the coffee at the breakfast buffet. One pot later, I was thinking I had to eat something, although I had no appetite for another carb and cheese fix. Outside, it was cool, cloudy and damp. Other Haute Route hikers were already on their way by the time I chugged more coffee. You can say I was on a liquid diet. Eventually, I packed my meager belongings and headed uphill once again. 

The trail switchbacked gently. The grade was kind. I caught a few hikers and noticed steam wafting off them. Higher up a crunchy layer of frost covered the ground. Still higher, the sun broke out. At the pass, this is what met me. Somewhere down below was Grachen (not that I would see it). 

My guidebook said I would score views of nearby peaks with muscular sounding names. That didn't happen. I felt like I was walking through a Twilight Zone" episode. I couldn't see where I was heading nor where I had been. It was unnerving. Fortunately, the trail was well trodden and generally heading downhill. I knew I'd eventually come to a Swiss village with cheese! 

Somehow I stumbled the right way to the hamlet of Junger. A cable car was available to save my knees from undertaking an incredible 2,770" in a tidbit 1.8 miles. 
Pretty much a no brainer at this point. The cable car dropped like it was in free fall. I ended up in the now sunny, modern and large town of St. Niklaus. From the cable car, locals pointed out Grachen. It too appeared to be a good sized town. It was situated way up a nearby steep hillside. There was a trail heading there which bisected the roadway. 

It just so happened my fellow cable car riders were going to my day's destination. They were kind enough to offer me a lift. I readily accepted. My caffeine buzz was long gone and with it my Mojo.

I'm cutting a rest day out of my itinerary to beat an impending storm. In the Swiss Alps you make your kilometers while the sunshines. I have a great forecast for tomorrow. On the final long approach to Zermatt, I'll be absolutely wet and cold.

Upon my arrival in Zermatt, I'll celebrate with a hot beer and some cheese!


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