Visp, and very little else

Posted on: 04 Jun 2016

Sorry to have been such a sporadic blogger/commenter recently. I've been a sporadic runner too! Work has been the chief evil in this, aided and abetted by some truly horrendous weather and the discouraging feeling that I am falling apart, shin splints being the latest affliction. (Brought on by a WALK(!), if you please - how ridiculous is that? I certainly haven't been overdoing the running!)


Work: well, this is not the place for a full-scale rant, but I am really hating it at the moment. As well as the general feeling that I dislike the direction the theatre is heading in, more specific hatred is directed at another really vile modern piece we are doing next season. It is very ugly, very tedious, and drones on for hours without actually SAYING anything. It is also extremely, pointlessly difficult. We have now been working on this pretentious heap of drivel since NOVEMBER, and will not be free of it until mid-October. It is sheer torture. It has virtually taken over our lives. There have been days when I have felt like hurling my tuning fork across the room and screaming, but now I don't even have the energy to be angry any more. I just feel weary and resentful and deeply negative. But there is light at the end of a very long tunnel: the decision is made, and my letter of resignation has gone in. It doesn't take effect for another year, unfortunately, but as of mid-June 2017, I am out of there. Catalyst in giving me the push I needed is the strong probability of something similar the following season. No thankyou, I never want to endure anything like this ever again. I used to love my job, and feel very privileged to have it, but now it definitely feels like time to go. I will lose out a bit financially, but at this stage of my life, time and freedom are more important than money.


Okay, enough of that, and a quick delve into Garmin's memory banks for the little I have been doing. Saturday 2nd April: our 'wood anemone' run along the Emme, from Malters to Littau and back. We try to do this every year while they are in flower - the woods are full of them. A nice evening, though I felt a bit creaky, rounded off with a pizza at Muoshof; 13 kms, and 1 hr 38. Wednesday 6th April: hill training in the Bit of Woodland - there via Imfang, then 6x hills loop. I did make a mental note of the times, and know I kept improving them, but have forgotten them now. (Memo: that's what the lap button is for!) Home via Gardens Path and Waldrand; 6.18 kms and 52 minutes. Sunday 10th April: Imfang, school track (3 faster kms), home via Wagner Museum and lake - 6.17 kms, 42 minutes.


Tuesday 12th April: a rare free evening (and even rarer, a beautiful sunny one) HAD to be made use of, so we Twiked out to Kastanienbaum and headed up onto the Horw peninsula. Past Boy Farmer's (leaving the milk container there to fill up on our way back), across the middle, then down through the vineyards to the lakeside. (Why don't we go this way more often? - it was really pleasant.) Along the lakeside road, upping the pace a bit, and around the nature reserve at Steinibachried. I hoped we might find the pond full of frogs again, but there were very few. Someone has rather savagely 'improved' half of it, removing the weed and cutting down the reeds; I don't think the frogs were too impressed with this new minimalistic environment (I certainly wasn't) and had voted with their little webbed feet. At any rate, we only saw four or five. Back the same way, upping the tempo again along the lakeside road (km 8 was the best, at 6:06), and toiling back up the steep tracks through the vineyards. A round of the whole peninsula; across the middle again to Boy Farmer's to collect the milk; then back down to Kastanienbaum and the Twike, J. once again impressing me with how he was able to run with a full container of milk and not spill it. 13.7 kms, 1:41:47.


Here things started seriously falling by the wayside, the next outing being Wednesday 20th April, and that was very low intensity. Out in the Bireggwald, I happened to meet up with A., and was quite happy to do run/walk with her. The pressure of work was getting to both of us, and neither of us had much energy, so we just dawdled about in the sunshine, and spent several minutes sitting on a bench at Oberrüti, admiring the view and watching the butterflies flitting past, (lots of them about today), enjoying this island of peace sandwiched between two tough rehearsals. When we eventually went our separate ways, I did step it up a notch for the final 2 kms home. 8 kms, 1:27:30.


I didn't expect to have to get the winter kit out again! - but the next outing (Monday 25th April) was seriously cold and gloomy. Distinct lack of inspiration......... but we made it out for a round along the lake, Alpenquai, and Ufschötti, and back via Wartegg, Sternegg, and Waldrand. 9.1 kms, 1:11:54. And that concluded April, with a total distance of 56.16 kms for the month. Yes, you did read that right.......... for the MONTH! That must be some kind of record, I think (in the wrong direction.)


May began with that very cold, wet day of the Aargau marathon.......... and for the most part has not much improved! Tuesday 3rd May saw us heading on tour to Visp again. "A civilized time of year!" I rejoiced when I first saw the planning, "Not November, or January!" Hmmm, maybe not..........(as the bus stood in a long traffic jam , halfway up the Brünig Pass, with the rain hammering down.) All the same, it was a break from the misery of rehearsals, and I intended to make the most of it, rain or no rain. (Even if it were truly awful, there were always thermal baths.) I don't usually get too excited about going to Visp - a dull little place - but this time the prospect seemed like paradise. The chorus master had originally wanted to have a rehearsal on the Wednesday evening, but the howls of protest had convinced him to rethink this; and the following day was a Catholic holiday (Ascension). Two consecutive days free! Things did look better south of the Alps, so I felt optimistic. Just time for a short walkabout after checking into the hotel, then off to the theatre for the performance of 'Norma', leaving J. (who had been allowed to travel with me in the bus) to explore some more and have a meal. (I had to make do with sandwiches in the dressing room.) Back to the hotel afterwards, quick drink in the bar, then turned in.


Wednesday 4th May: my original plan for the day had been to get the bus back up to Visperterminen for another attempt at the route we were unable to do last time, when it was so icy. But a conversation with the waitress at breakfast persuaded us to modify the idea a bit - she told us where there was a path up to Visperterminen, so we thought we might walk up instead. We found the path, and it was one of the steepest I had ever seen - almost 40%, I swear - straight up the wooded hillside. We plodded up it for a while, but then encountered one of the 'Suonen' so characteristic of this part of the world. Wallis/Valais is a very dry Kanton, so over the centuries, these narrow channels have been constructed to transport water from streams and rivers to where it was needed. Some are of stone, some of wood, some just excavated out of the earth; and some are spectacular in the extreme, crossing sheer cliff faces. Originally there were hundreds of miles of them, though many are now derelict or known only historically. But the Wallisers have woken up to the fact that they are a unique asset, and have many walking routes that follow these watercourses. http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/summervacations/waterland-switzerland/hiking-along-the-suonen-in-the-valais.html gives a few examples. We did the Baltschieder one, one of the most famous, a few years ago, and they do make very attractive and interesting walks. So it didn't take much deliberation to make us abandon the steep uphill plod in favour of following this pretty little watercourse (the Visperi) which, the signpost informed us, was on its way to Eyholz. At first it meandered harmlessly through the woods.......... then it turned into one of those cliff-face ones, hewn out of solid rock, kept company by a narrow path above a long drop to the valley below, with strategically placed handrails for the nervous (like me!)


With my propensity for tripping over things, I walked with great care! But we made it across okay, and in classic 'make-it-up-as-you-go-along' mode, followed its continuation beyond Eyholz - it was now on its way to Brig - until an interesting-looking track leading up into the woods, signposted 'Rohrberg', induced us to part company with it and head once more in the general direction of Visperterminen. We stopped off by someone's garden shed/gazebo and enjoyed a short rest on their bench, and a snack of nuts and apple, and took a few photos before continuing on our way.

After a while we encountered another Suone, and couldn't resist following it for a while, as far as a little collection of huts, all still unoccupied and shut up for the winter - a sleepy rural idyll, sunny and peaceful.

 

 

A path of sorts led to here, but seemingly no further, so after more photos, we retraced our steps to the original path and continued upwards. A dividing of the ways required a decision, and I let J. convince me that a path shown on the map, though not actually a designated 'Wanderweg' (marked in red), was a viable alternative, and led to the same place. It looked okay, so I agreed - a decision I was later to regret! But for the time being it was very pleasant, and did lead us to the most wonderful place for our lunch stop, a bench on a sunny hillside above a ruined building, with views of the mountains - it couldn't have been more perfect.

 


Visperterminen seemed within reach. I didn't anticipate any problems........... but how wrong I was! The pleasant little path began to turn seriously malevolent, very steep and tricky, with some strenuous all-fours clambering. Worse, we were now up among patchy snow, and it was very slippery too. Worse still, I became aware of the terrain dropping away alamingly on the right - this was no place to lose your footing. Ominously, there were no other human footprints to be seen - we were evidently the only fools to have come this way in months. Plenty of animal ones, however. Trying to identify them was the only thing that helped to keep my mind off less pleasant trains of thought, like the potential for fatal accidents............. Red deer; possibly Steinbock; roe deer; marten; hare; and something that looked like the pawprints of a large dog........... except for the lack of accompanying human. Could it have been a lynx? Or even a wolf? - both exist here. We were making painfully slow progress now; the path - WAS it even a path any more? - the painted markings had long since stopped appearing - kept dipping down into clefts in the hillside, necessitating stamping flat footholds in the snow to get across them, horribly aware of the steep drops below. At one point I almost lost it: coming up to one particularly wide and sloping cleft, I saw we were actually above sheer cliffs - I hadn't realized it before because of the trees - and they were very high. A feeling of panic rose in me; I began to whimper "I CAN'T______!" Then the voice of reason fought it down: "What are you going to do, then? - you can't go back, and you can't stay here.........." Okay, nothing else for it. Onwards. J, as ever, went first (though he admitted later that he was scared too), testing each foothold, stamping it flat, reassuring me as I followed, nerves jangling, still fighting down the impulse to panic. But that actually was the worst bit - nothing else thereafter was so bad, and after what seemed like forever, we finally reached the hillside somewhere above Visperterminen. The path we emerged from wasn't signposted at this end either; we decided later it must be a disused one, no longer maintained, since there was an official alternative. Even now, it wasn't all plain sailing, however. We began following another Suone, this one partly dry and in process of renovation, which should have led us neatly to Visperterminen, so promised the guide book (which we were now back with.) But when the path went one way, the Suone another, we stuck with the latter........ which then fizzled out in the middle of a field, with still no sign of our elusive village. Where the hell WAS Visperterminen?! Crossing the field at random, we came out on a narrow road - obviously not the one the bus came along - snaking its way down the hillside. Completely disorientated now, we set off down it, hoping for divine guidance (or something.) Finally the geography began to resolve itself, J. worked out where it must be, and we headed in that general direction. Signposted footpaths appeared (annoyingly not signposted where TO - just 'Wanderweg')......... and finally we saw rooftops below. Visperterminen, finally! - we're nearly there. Oh no, we're not, there's a valley in between. But this last obstacle negotiated, we finally plodded up the main street in search of a) a bus stop, and b) something to eat. Relocating the bakery with a cafe at the back, I was happy to find it open, so we plopped ourselves down at a table in the evening sun and devoured coffee and cake. Or a locally produced strawberry drink, in J's case. The cafe proprietress turned out to be English, from Rugby. On hearing that we were thinking of going to Zeneggen (another mountain village) the next day, she said that there had been trouble with a wolf there recently, 12 sheep killed. She also pointed us in the direction of the nearest bus stop, and told us when the next bus was. So back to Visp we drove, passing the final curiosity of the day: a herd of goats, all of them with a neatly delineated black front half and a white back half. 15.48 kms (probably more, as I lost a bit now and then, forgetting to turn it back on after a pause), 5 hrs 19 (though 4 hrs 25 moving time - taking out the map reading, photo taking, and dithering on the brink of doom!), and 1,300 m of ascent (well, Garmin says it was 1,298, but the stairs in the hotel more than compensate) - 4,265 ft, if you want it in old money. So dinner that evening felt very well-earned.


Thursday 5th May: Zeneggen proved to be a non-starter, as the bus timetable was the same as on a Sunday; we'd already missed the early bus, and the next was not until the afternoon, so after a rapid rethink, we caught a train in the direction of Zermatt and got off in St Niklaus to walk to Stalden, or possibly all the way back to Visp. A lovely confident path, bounding along the river valley, reassuringly certain of where it was going, with signposts wherever they were needed - it couldn't have been more different from the previous day's. This was easy walking, full of sunshine, flowers, butterflies. (And a woodpile so artistic, it merited a photo.)

 

At the medicinal-sounding Kalpetran, a village not so much sleepy as catatonic, the route crossed the railway line by the little station. Here we sat on a sun-warmed wall and had our lunch (consisting in part of some cold leftover Rösti! - tasted much better than it sounds) before tackling the one real uphill of the day, a short, steep climb up to another level, then a track along the hillside. This also had a rather unnerving drop below it, but was wide enough not to feel too unsafe. Coming out onto a road, we then had a long downhill into Stalden. Too early yet to get a train back; we decided to push on (but not before a welcome cold beer in the station buffet.) Coming through the village, I had seen a signpost to a 'Planetenweg' - a depiction of the Solar System along a 7 km route, finishing in Visp. This sounded like exactly what we wanted, so hot on the trail of planets we went. Well, we did see one (I think it was Neptune), but somehow missed all the others. I think we must have diverged from the route at some point, as though we did end up in Visp, it was not by the way we were expecting. The last 3 kms or so were a rather wearisome plod along an asphalt road by the river, battling a ferocious headwind. (Visp always seems to be windy - I think the valley funnels it.) Back to the hotel with 18 kms (but again probably a bit more) and 4 hrs 10 on the clock, feeling mildly tired and achy now after the two consecutive days; just time for another beer before retrieving our luggage and getting the train home.


So that was Visp: an eventful two days. After which it was back to the grind.......... But since it's taken me about 2 weeks to write this (piecemeal, mostly late at night - as in 'early morning'), I'll send this instalment on its way, and the next as soon as I've got it written.

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