Saturday, November 04, 2006

August 30th, 2006 Grimentz to Hotel Weisshorn

Sleeping in wasn't a big deal considering the hike today may or may not be 4 hours. We were off any Kev Reynolds sort of stage but he vaguely mentions the route (3 1/2 hours). Shawn looks out our balcony and he can actually see the Hotel Weisshorn across the valley and high, way high, on top of the mountain ridge, Pointes de Nava (on the very north end of the range). Just because we can see it doesn't make it a short walk, does it?

We go down to breakfast--after taking a shower (I'll never take them for granted again). Breakfast was grand. Croissants and hard boiled egg. We had our coffee and hot chocolate. Lovely. Went upstairs to pack while watching French cartoons. Isn't life wonderful?

We left the hotel around 10am really expecting the walk not to take more then 5 hours. The map is not too helpful in a village so we just wandered in the general direction of the town, Mission, from where we thought the trail to Hotel Weisshorn would lead.

Grimentz is a quaint lovely place and probably really old. Some of the chalets are up on these mushroom type stumps - it just doesn't seem stable. And a few of the houses have the littlest doors. Are we in Hobbiton? Sure enough the Swiss left some signs to Mission and we were on our way. Grimentz is 1572 meters up. Mission is 1493. Hotel Weisshorn is 2337 meters high. The river we cross to get to Mission is 1263. We look at the map, taking all of these elevations in and realize we would be doing a meter gain of at least 1200 meters. Super.

The trail to Mission was lovely and not just because it was mostly downhill. It started at the bottom of Grimentz passing probably the smallest chapel in all of Switzerland and then crossing a river (La Gougra). Most of the trail, in fact, walked alongside the river with the forest providing sun cover. Beautiful. Smelled like pines and water. We had a lovely time. When we arrived at Mission it was garbage day and we had to take a detour to avoid the truck. Actually I was fascinated to see a handle on the truck pick up this 20 feet tall tarp formed like a closed shute with a tie on the bottom. It picks it up, dangles it over the truck, and then another mechanical handle pulls the strings and all the garbage comes out. Seemed rather smart actually.

After that excitement we climb. Any more vertical and we would have needed ladders. It was back in the forest with soft ground but what a calf burn. When we looked down we could see Grimentz, St. Jean (different St. Jean then the famous chapel we visited earlier...St. Jean seems to be Switzerland's Springfield), and the houses we've past. Mission was quickly covered by the curve of the mountain we were on --oh and yes there were signs to Hotel Weisshorn from Mission like we suspected.

After an hour and a half of walking we broke for lunch in a patch of sunlight alongside a bisse. This time we bought petite baquettes, cheese, and sausage for our meal. Shawn had also surprised me with two boiled eggs he snagged from breakfast. He's such a good cook. And he bought a bottle of Rhone wine from the grocery store in Grimentz (COOP, the chain store we went to in Verbier as well). We walked for about an hour after lunch when both of us heard the close flapping of wings. We've heard them in movies but not quite like this. It was windy but a circle of ravens were quite close overhead and squawking a lot. We got deeper into the forest and you could still hear their agitation. I made a joke about them waiting for one of us to drop on the steep incline when they attacked. Not us, but these higher pitched squawking birds above us. BIRD WAR - and the ravens won. Suddenly silence.

Hotel Weisshorn was probably an hour and a half up from there. Even though the whole way from Mission was an ascent it was an interesting one. Our standard conversation when things got hard was "It looks so far away." "Yes, but it's closer then it's ever been before." Of course like all tough ascents the most vertical part is the last 10 meters to the hotel. Just rude, I think.

The innkeeper didn't speak English which is fine as long as he didn't ONLY speak German. He spoke French, great, and told us rather grumpily that we were early and the room wouldn't be ready until 3pm. Fine. Shawn had a beer and I a hot chocolate in 'the panoramic restaurant.' It was semi-cloudy but a great view of all the peaks we were about to be leaving. When we were done it was 3:30pm and grumps gave us the key to our room. As we walked to it we noticed a door with the word Douche on it. Showers. Even though Hotel Weisshorn is a 'hotel' you might as well call it a Cabane. I mean, yes, 2337 meters up with spectacular views but bathrooms are down the hall, folks!

Our rooms were small and the walls were thin but it was neat. We walked down the hall, took our showers--the stalls were private at least and then we took a nap. A quiet nap. Our view from our room is full west, the valley we just crossed. All of these beautiful scenic views day after day have spoiled us. Instead of staring out the window for hours we were able to shamelessly rest our eyes for an hour before dinner.

Ah, diner. It has become our custom to rate our sleeping and dining experiences along the route. I am afraid Hotel Weisshorn didn't make it to the top of our list for either category. Dinner was vegetable soup, black salad (I made Shawn take a picture because I've never seen or eaten black lettuce), chicken curry, and sorbet drowned in some liquor. Shrug. I guess we didn't work ourselves enough going up 1200 meters to appreciate the dinner. Thumbs down. Shawn took pictures of St. Luc-the village on the next level below us. Pretty street lights. There's an 1800's picture of the Hotel Weisshorn in the dining room that says 'St. Luc' underneath. I think at one point the town reached all the way up here but for some reason no longer does. Hotel Weisshorn is alone on this mountain top. It's suppose to be a legendary place (indeed there is a signed picture of Gerard Depardu in the hallway). It's probably as old as Hotel Mont Collon but no ghosts as far as I could tell. Old though, and creaky. The chairs in the dining room were the creakiest I had ever heard--and it takes some loud creeks to make the distinction--or acknowledgement really. There were four other groups besides ourselves and two of them smoked, the jerks. Just up there to enjoy the fresh mountain air. One of the tables were four Brits--with their posh Noel Coward accents--and they were well into their 60s I believe. We've come across a lot of elderly hikers. Amazing, the culture differences.

The sleep wasn't great this night but we'd take what we could get. There's always a new place the next night.


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