Guide to Central Valais -Summer Section-

This guide has been written for customers of the Chalet Mazel in Nax. All references assume you start form Nax. The guide has been assembled from 15 + years of experience in the area and is intended as a living document.

Please send any additions and improvements to the author for inclusion in the next revision.

The guide is organised into 10 main headings. Some extracts grouped as Summer, Winter, Flora & Fauna Culinary & Bibliography have been ported to the WEB site. Others may appear with time.

Some sections are far more complete than others, sometimes I have the extra material but it has not yet been Web formatted.

The guide runs to c 25 pages of A4 when printed. The Web version has been kept graphic free to speed up downloading. It is assumed you have maps and can read them.

To navigate just pick a main category from the choices and descend through the index levels. Alternatively you might wish to browse, for instance, the walking section from the top.  Walking is filed under   Summer(Topography)

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Topography

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Topography

Fine walks abound in the Valais but a more complete description of the Geography is necessary.

At Martigny the Rhône takes a right angled bend to the east and sets out on its 35-mile almost straight-line course along the sub-alpine trench at the heart of the Valais, to Brig. Five parallel valleys branch south towards high Pennine mountains on the Italian frontier.

The first runs up behind Martigny old town through the gorge of the Drance, to a plain-let, housing the little town of Orsières.

The valley sub-divides and the left-hand branch leads up the Val de Bagnes, towards the Grand Combin (4314m) with Lac Mauvoisin at its head and the entry point for the Chanrion Hut.

The right-hand branch from Orsières becomes the long Swiss Val Ferret. This runs up below the corner-stone of the Mont. Blanc group.

The major road is the Great St. Bernard Pass to Italy.

There are two other roads from Orsières, one to the east climbing up via hairpins to the resort of Verbier, at the foot of the rocky comb the highest point of which is Pierre Avoi, visible throughout central Valais. Unbelievably amateurs can climb the Pierre (more later)

The final road from Orsières leads to the charming little resort of Champex, on the shores of a narrow boating-lake.

The second lateral valley to branch south at Sion is Hérens. Nax is built on the foothills of Mont Noble and forms the Hérens valley corner-stone.

Climbing in wide sweeps the road leads to Euseigne, noted for its remarkable ‘earth pyramids’, where the valley divides into two, the more important road climbs up to the flat meadows of the Val d’Hérens and its main village of Evolène. The other runs up the Val d’Hérémence to the famous Dix dam.

This is Europe’s largest in every sense (useless facts like it contains enough concrete to build a 4 lane highway from London to Moscow abound).

Beyond the dam a path leads eventually to the Cabane des Dix. The Cabane is close to the foot of the fine snowy pyramid of Mont Blanc de Cheilon.

The road beyond Evolène, leads to Les Haudères, and spectacular views of the Dent Blanche, a pyramid from this aspect.

The road splits again, the right-hand branch leads to the climbing centre of Arolla and the left to Ferpècle and the twin glaciers of Miné and Ferpècle.

I will describe walks in the Hérens later but a curiosity high above Satarma, is the exceptionally clear Lac Bleu, just like a calendar shot but real!

Returning to the Rhône valley highway, the next town is Sierre, from which a fine side-road on the left climbs to the posh resort of Crans Montana-Vermala. Crans is a very up-marked but tastefully developed resort serving both summer & winter tourists.

Beyond Sierre, a road swings steeply up the southern wall of the valley in exposed but protected hairpins and then tunnels into the third of the parallel valleys - the Val d’Anniviers.

Above the gorge, stands Vissoie which is the valley’s main ‘town’ and road-junction. Here three roads separate, the main valley road goes straight ahead to Ayer and Zinal. The right hand one up the narrow Val de Moiry to Grimentz, famous for its main street fringed by wonderful ancient chalets, and then the remote Lac de Moiry, entry point for the Cabane de Moiry.

The road to the left out of Vissoie swings up via hairpins to St Luc and Chandolin. Pre Skiing Chandolin was the highest permanently inhabited village in Switzerland.

Walks in the Val d’Hérens

There is so much walking in the Valais that we only have space to describe the immediate "Hérens" area in any detail.

Arolla glacier Becca de Lovégno Bricola Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges
Col de Torrent Dix dam & Prafleuri Mont Gautier Mont Noble
Pas de Chèvres Pas de Lona Serra Neire Thyon
Tsa hut Vernamiège Walks outside Herens Summer activities

Vernamiège

Nax is the North East cornerstone of Hérens and is on the foothills of Mont. Noble. The inter valley mountain chain leads south from Noble and eventually culminates in the Dent Blanche which is close to the Italian border. The north west cornerstone is Thyon. Starting from Nax, the first walking target is the village of Vernamiège. This is just a short (30 minute) amble and is fairly level. The walk is spectacular and views open up of the Rhône and Hérens valleys. Combine this good short opening walk with a nose around the old village of Nax. There are many traditional "Mazots"(grain warehouses) and cuckoo-clock style geranium encrusted houses. walks in Val d’Herens index

Mont Noble

The first real walk you should attempt is the ascent of Mont Noble. Noble is more than 2600 metres high and quite strenuous. The view is terrific and involves no real climbing. Noble is high enough to retain patches of snow even in August. Plan for a height gain of around 350 metres/hour and 500 metres/h in descent (less if much sideways walking is involved. Thus Noble from Chalet Mazel will take best part of 4 hours up and 3 hours down. You therefore need at least 8 hours for a round trip and a lot of energy. (very fit could half this and less fit double it!). The best tactic is to shorten the climb by driving up one of the many tracks. Go down to Vernamiège, through the village, then drive to around 2000 metres by either the north side arriving at Le Chiesso or the south-side past the turning to Le Rimble as far as the track goes. Both tracks are rough but just about accessible to a passenger car if you take it very easy. Follow every bend on the map as it is extremely easy to go the wrong way in the multitude of forest trails that come and go with logging operations. Swiss rules allow you to drive these tracks providing there are no signs saying Interdit or Riverains/Bordorise Autorisé. Watch out for gates on logging or private roads that are sometimes shut as it is embarrassing to get caught the wrong side.

The track goes beyond Le Chiesso but is definitely beyond a car. Both routes up are obvious, follow the track until it peters out then head for the shoulder of Noble called the Tête des Planard on the map. A mountain way-mark signpost indicates a rough path to the summit (less than 2 hours from the furthest feasible driving point).

Noble has a double summit with a cross on the western end and a statue on the eastern end (crosses adorn most mountains and statutes are quite common). There is a good topological panorama to help identify all the mountains and the western end even has a waterproofed visitor’s book.

On a clear day the view stretches from Mont Blanc in the west to the Eiger in the north to the Weisshorn in the east.

Noble is always quiet and you could easily have it to yourself. It is definitely the best little known view in the Alps. walks in Val d’Herens index

Mont Gautier

Gautier is just to the South of Noble. It is slightly higher than Noble and requires some minor climbing ability. The view from Gautier is inferior to Noble but it feels like a more remote mountain. The route takes you up the Col de Cou between Gautier and Noble. You can then either scramble up the ridge or go over into the Val de Réchy and around to the easier south side. walks in Val d’Herens index

Becca de Lovégno

This is next mountain worth visiting on the Noble to Dent Blanche ridge. Take the car down towards Sion and turn up to the St Martin road. At Eison follow a left hairpin road towards the Mayens d’Eison. The road eventually turns to a track but is drivable for quite a way but sections are private so park very carefully. Follow the track up on foot to the Pas de Lovégno. On the left stands the Becca and on the right a rock tower known as La Maya. The pass is a very strenuous but a quite safe slog up through pastures and there is normally a bit of snow at the top in August. Lovégno is to the left and quite simple, just more of the same. It has a good view and an absolutely enormous amount of Edelweiss thrives there. La Maya is serious and you need to cross some steep snow, that is not too difficult, in order to get to its base. From then onwards it is rock climbing. The black Swiss topological guide has a description of the climbing route. walks in Val d’Herens index

Pas de Lona

This is the next accessible point on the ridge. Drive through St. Martin and fork left for Trogne & Eison. About halfway between these villages is a hairpin to the left that is the start of a dirt road that leads up (with commune authorisation only) to the Mayens de Lana. The pass is about 2 hours beyond the feasible furthest driving point. The route is steep but safe. To the left of Lona is the Becs de Bosson and to the right Sasseneire. These are both serious mountains and detailed in the black Swiss topological book. walks in Val d’Herens index

Col de Torrent

Further excursions on the Noble to Dent Blanche ridge require one to descend by road via Evolène, turn left at Les Haudères and ascend to Villa. It is possible to drive up a track beyond Villa towards Mayens de Cotter but it soon deteriorates. Park carefully and continue on foot. Eventually, about 1000 metres vertical climb, culminates in the spectacular Col de Torrent. Torrent is quite a severe little pass and is bounded on the north by Sasseneire. The col. is also accessible from the other side starting from the Moiry dam. walks in Val d’Herens index

Serra Neire

The road up from Les Haudères forks right for La Forclaz and after a short distance you can park near some apartments. A very rough track leads onwards towards Bréona (jeeps & high ground clearance vehicles only). Bréona is an unusual cow valley that historically practised tenant farming. The walk is long and demanding but, eventually, you can get to the Col de Bréona above Lac Moiry and onwards to the adjacent mountain Serra Neire (2986m). This is all quite easy just hard work. To the right of the Col is a very difficult rock climb on the "Clocher de la Couronne". There is another small pass to the right of the Clocher that is possible but requires some slight climbing ability. The routes down into the Moiry valley look severe but this is an illusion. walks in Val d’Herens index

Bricola

Beyond La Forclaz, lies Ferpècle and the road ends a short distance further on. Ferpècle is famous as the entry point to the Dent Blanche, a serious mountain. The Dent Blanche is less known than the Matterhorn and Eiger but is much more spectacular and remote. The first ascent was about the same time as the Matterhorn and the climbing is more severe. It is very much the local large mountain and can be seen from far away. The climb is technical in places and impossible for walkers. It is also long and arduous taking several days including an overnight stay at the Cabane de Dent Blanche. It is perfectly feasible to go as far as the Manzettes glacier via the Bricola hut. This takes maybe 3 hours and the view is spectacular. One can see the full expanse of the Ferpècle and Miné glaciers and many large peaks.

An alternative to climbing up to Bricola Alp is to walk up the moraine to the glacier tongue. The left side of the river is best and you should see the ice cliffs and maybe even catch sight of an ice fall as the glacier is always moving. The moraine in front of the glacial lake is very popular with sun bathers and the various ponds on the moraine are teeming with aquatic life

This completes the east side of Hérens. I will go through the West Side in less detail as there are many side valleys that can be explored and it would take forever. Get a good map! walks in Val d’Herens index

Thyon

Starting at the Nax end, Thyon is the opposing cornerstone. You get there by going down to Bramois and back up. Thyon has good ridge walking and you can save your legs by using the chair lift. The trouble with it is that the ski system looks a bit like Clapham junction on a wet Thursday. There is a good ridge walk from Thyon towards the Aiguilles Rouges. You can take the chair lift to get a bit of a start walks in Val d’Herens index

Dix dam & Prafleuri

The Val de Dix branches of at Hérémence and leads to the Dix dam. This is in all the record books and is awesome. Take the cable car to the top and, if you are fit walk the length of the lake and back. It is a long way but fairly flat and a veritable flower garden in season. The more adventurous can climb up the track to Prafleuri. This is now the site of a climbers’ mountain cabin, but it was also the location where they dug out the ballast for the dam. A bit like a Dr Who set in places but very beautiful if severe. It is feasible to go on over the Col de Prafleuri to Lac Cleuson and Nendaz. (take the bus back.) This takes a long time, so plan carefully. You can also climb out over the mountain chain via the Col des Roux to the Dix lake shore. In essence one is circling Mont Blava, which can be scrambled up quite safety from the Col but it is a bit of a struggle. walks in Val d’Herens index

Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges

All of our next recommendations commence at Arolla. The first target is the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges. This is a fantastic climb, not difficult and with much varied going. Park by the Kurhaus Hotel and take the well marked path up the tracks. This soon branches off and leads over gazonné to an inflection called Pra Gra. This is a group of cow sheds and is very picturesque and has featured in many guide books. Beyond Pra Gra the path gets quite steep and crosses several rivers and moraine before eventually arriving with a final steep pull at the hut. This is normally open and has all manor of goodies flown in by helicopter. It is not cheap but very reasonable. This is a strenuous walk and takes 2 to 3 hours. The views are terrific, a vast panorama on 3 sides. You can go on beyond the hut to the glacier or even the famous Aiguilles Rouges teeth. An over night stay will be needed unless you are very-fit. The Aiguilles Rouges traverse is purportedly one of the best rock climbs in the Alps. walks in Val d’Herens index

Pas de Chèvres

The famous Pas de Chèvres route also starts off from the Kurhaus. The first part of the route is identical but you branch off left and follow the main track westerly. Go past some old chalets and skiing installations, then the path gets serious. After a long slog you come suddenly to the pass. On the other side of the pass and several hundred metres lower is the Cheilon glacier. The only way down is via fixed iron ladders and ledges. Most people give up at this point and laze in the sun, (watching the constant stream of walkers turned back by the ladders and the occasional brave ones). You can see all down the Dix valley, across the glacier to the Dix hut, and back east to the Matterhorn. This is a very popular pass, but a tough walk, nevertheless some real heroic people get up. Our favourite was a demure lady in designer mountain gear followed by a puffing admirer complete with cut glass goblets and a thermos of fizzy wine. The climbs takes around 2 hours, watch out for Edelweiss along side the path about 2/3 of the way up. walks in Val d’Herens index

Arolla glacier

Two more good walks start at Arolla, the first is a gentle stroll up the tracks and moraine to the bas Arolla glacier, with extensions onwards and upwards towards the Bertol Hut. This hut is a climb and beyond walkers. (see pictures on postcards). walks in Val d’Herens index

Tsa hut

The final route in Hérens is from Arolla to the Tsa hut. This is straightforward but tough. Just beneath Arolla is a sports shop run by Joan Pralong from north east England. Cross the river and walk upwards through trees and scrub, in numerous bends, to the hut. This has a flag pole which is visible early on but seems to stay at a constant distance. About 1.5 to 2 hours from Arolla. walks in Val d’Herens index

Walks outside Val d’Hérens

Here are a dozen suggestions in the near vicinity. There are many more but space & times legislate against.

Corne de Sorbois Illhorn. L’Omen Roso Lac Tenehet
Lämmerenhütte Moiry Hut Pas de Cheville Petit Mountet Hut
Pierre Avoi Rawil Pass Roc d’Orcival Roche de la Vache.
Sanetsch Pass Sex de Marinda Hérens walks Summer

Pierre Avoi

Drive east on the M-way and turn off at Riddes. Continue up the hill to Mayens de Riddes and go on through the village towards Verbier. The road is now a dirt track but easily passable. Park at the Col above Verbier and walk along the ridge towards the Savoleyres cable station. Pierre is signposted from here. The climb is quite steep but perfectly safe. Eventually the path ends in a cliff face but some kind soul has hacked steps in it and there are cables for security. This artificial section is only about 40 metres and the view from the top is terrific. A virtually sheer cliff several hundred metres high protects the Rhône valley side. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Sanetsch Pass

The Sanetsch is a depression between the Diablerets glacier and the Wildhorn area. There is no road through to Gsteig but you can drive up from Sion, as the road is good but very steep and bendy. Park on the top and explore the wonderful Lapis region between the pass and the glacier. Lapis is a sort of smooth stone with deep crevasses. The area is quite weird and beautiful. The glacier is accessible and there is some summer skiing from the Diablerets side only. From the pass it is possible to ascend the Arpelistock (3035M) by climbing the obvious arête. This is long vertiginous route that requires climbing ability.

The road goes on down over the pass as far as a dam where Gsteig/Gstaad is visible. Beware Sanetsch is always cool even on hot days as the pass funnels wind off the glacier. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Pas de Cheville

Follow the route described under mountain scenery to Derborence. Continue on foot to the pass via some picturesque meadows. Eventually one crosses a stream and climbs up alongside and occasionally through waterfalls to the pass.

This area is heavily protected and has a riot of flowers. Tour St Martin, a curious rock tower above the Diablerets glacier is visible for much of the way. Tour St Martin is clearly visible in silhouette from the chalet. Legend has it the Tour is the Devil’s skittle target. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Rawil Pass

Follow the Tseuzier road from Sion as far as the dam. Walk around the lake and straight towards an impenetrable rock wall with a large waterfall on the right. Cross the river and head for the rocks, eventually a man made path is discernible. This winds its way up and the rock band, through a small tunnel and onto the flatter Plaine area. It is about another couple of miles to the pass itself, but the views and desolation of the area are memorable. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Lac Tenehet

The route is as Rawil pass but one you have crossed the river branch left at the next opportunity avoiding the Rawil rock wall. Eventually the track apparently dead ends in a cliff alongside a waterfall. There is a way to turn this over some very loose shale. The route is then very remote and climbs via several plateaux to an obvious small inflection. The Lac is over the top another 200 metres and completely surrounded by mountains. Expect snow up here even in mid summer. A path goes on beyond high above the north bank to the Wildhorn summit. It is a very long way and you need to spend a long time on the glacier. It is possible to head east from Lac Tenehet to the Rawil pass. There is a track of sorts but you need a map as there are false trails at the time of writing this was bein improved and makes a good circular walk. Basically you cross the rocks, descend a cliff and eventually end up near an old farm at the top of Rawil cliff.

See the gmap link for a rout and photos.

Tsuezier link

Walks_outside_Hérens index

Lämmerenhütte

This is a modern aluminium wigwam set high above the Lämmerenboden. From the top of the Gemmipass cable way head out across the left fork in the mountains across the Lämmerenboden (an almost dry sea) towards the high mountains. Cross the river at the bridge and climb up first moraine then cliffs via a trick path to the hut. This stands on a small plateau complete with lake. It is fairly easy to go on beyond the hut, through a curious man-made cairn land to the Wildstrubelgletscher. Walks_outside_Hérens index

L’Omen_Roso

This mountain (3041m) is above Gruben on the chain between the Val d’Anniviers and the Turtmantal. Drive through Gruben and turn up a difficult track on the right towards Chalte Berg. The track is drivable, with difficulty, almost all the way. The high point of 2488m is about as high as any normal car can get in the Alps, and certainly our maximum.

Walk through the Berg (a cow village) and head for Forcletta, an obvious pass to the left. L’Omen is a tricky scramble up loose but safe ground from the pass. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Petit_Mountet_Hut

Beneath Lo Besso and the Zinal-Rothorn. Drive through Zinal to the road head and follow up the obvious, well-marked path. The hut is a restaurant and posts its opening times on the approach paths. The trip to the hut is easy but if you go much further towards Mountet proper, the way gets very difficult with many cut steps, cables and ladders. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Corne_de_Sorbois

This is the cornerstone of the ridge between Moiry and Zinal. Drive to the top of the Moiry dam, via a tunnel. Follow up the obvious path on the left. It is totally safe but very steep with no sideways distance covered at all. One gains a small saddle just to the south of the summit then follows up the ridge. The view from the skiing garbage strewn top is absolutely terrific. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Moiry_Hut

Drive along the east bank of the lake as far as the road goes. The hut is on high ground overlooking the glacier and the way up is obvious. The going is varied, first moraine, then snow and finally cliff zig zags that seems to go on for ever. Moiry hut is large and well equipped with food and drink. It is feasible for walkers to go on to the Col du Pigne (3141m) providing snow conditions are suitable. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Sex_de_Marinda

Marinda (2906m) stands above Grimentz and to the west of the Moiry dam. It looks severe but is very easy. Park on top of the dam and walk across it up the track to the Alpage de Moiry. Bear right towards the Basset de Lona, an easy track and climb up from the pass (Basset) to the top. The going is moderate apart from the last few hundred metres. The view is stupendous with the Dent Blanche in profile and Moiry Lac in the foreground. See picture above the fire place.

You can branch off at the first cow village on the way up for the Col de Torrent and eventually Les Haudères. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Roche_de_la_Vache.

This is a long very safe walk to a viewing point above Zinal. Turn left south of Zinal and follow the road up through chalets to its end. Park and follow the way-marks towards the Cab. de la Tracuit which serves the Weisshorn. Just after a large waterfall the route to Vache turns left. Cross the river and onwards to the summit. This is grassy but has a 300 m drop on one side. Views are phenomenal. There is another way down to the south which eventually joins up with the Mountet Hut route. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Illhorn.

The Illhorn is the corner stone of the Val d’Anniviers and enjoys a similar view to Noble.

It is an easy climb if you use the Chandolin chair lift. The Schwarzhorn is also easy from the chair lift and much more severe and hence less popular. The whole area around Chandolin & St Luc is a no go area off metalled roads for cars. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Roc_d’Orcival

This is a very good ridge walk. Take the cable car from Vercorin to the Midi. The route then leads along an ascending ridge to the Roc. In places it looks impossible with many gendarmes, but all the major obstacles can be turned and some of them climbed if you have the energy. The summit view is mainly south towards the Dent Blanche and the Moiry lake. Walks_outside_Hérens index

Other Activities

Cable-ways Flying/Parapente Local practices Mountain Biking
Rafting Swimming Tennis & golf Summer

Swimming

There are many open air pools in Switzerland and most of them are heated. The larger hotels also often have indoor pools. Nax, itself, has an excellent heated outdoor pool. This is at the end of a short drivable track that leaves the Sion road about 500 metres below the Ma Vallée Hotel. There is a separate children’s pool section, a good grass terrace and a quite good modestly priced restaurant with entertainment sometimes included in the evening.

Views from the terrace are absolutely spectacular along and across the Rhône valley to the snow covered Diablerets glacier.

Open air swimming is possible in the many lakes, but the mountain pools are very cold. The Lac de Geronde near Sierre is an exception. This is very large and set in a park and takes on a beach air at times.

If you want to try Mountain pools go to Lac Bleue near Satarma on the Arolla road. It is quite a hike up the hill but the view is exceptional and the water comes straight off the Aiguilles Rouge glacier. You will not be alone. Mountain lake swimming is something of a local fetish.

Sion has an excellent indoor pool which is part of a very good sports complex. This is alongside the main route west from Sion just before the intersection with the M-way spur to Sion Ouest. There is also a running track, an all weather football pitch, roller rink, park land and much more. All within an easy stroll from the centre of Sion. Other activities

Flying/Parapente

Parapenting (steerable parachutes) is the current in thing for those tired of life. Hang gliding still goes on but Parapentes are so much more portable. Good launch sites are the top of the Mont Fort cable-way, the Plaine Morte glacier and the alpage above Cotter, to name a few. There is a school at Verbier if you wish to increase your chances of survival, but why be a sissy just buy one and jump!

Sion airport is home to quite a lot of General Aviation aircraft. Gliders and light planes are available for hire. If you have the stomach, and deep pockets, book a "Vue des Alpes" from a small plane. The pilot will go just where you like and it is absolutely fabulous. A trip from Sion round the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche & Lac de Dix will cost circa 250 CHF for 3 persons and take maybe 45 minutes. Beware Mountain pilots love to show off and frighten customers. It can also be very bumpy due to turbulence. The best time is late morning as haze generally increases throughout the day as the sun boils off moisture from the snow & ice. Take your camera! Other activities

Rafting

The Rhône is very rough in places and commercial operators run large rubber rafts on the section from Sierre to Riddes. Theses are more of a party than a white water experience. The price includes lunch and a bus back. Various programmes are available and it sounds a good way to spend a hot day. They normally beach the raft for a barbecue at a remote spot. Cost ranges from 35 to 80 CHF depending on the duration of the trip and the quality of the food. Torrent-Rafting is also available and is altogether more serious. The cost is c 60 CHF for a very wet trip lasting an hour. Other activities

Mountain Biking

Mountain bikes are every where and there are some marked routes. The rule is that bikes should be used on tracks not paths although no one seems to enforce such things. Properly designated bike routes abound in the area. There is one from Nax to St. Martin further up the Hérens. Other activities

Tennis & golf

Nax has its own tennis courts. This is quite unique due to the shortage of flat land. The courts are about a kilometre out of the village alone a drivable track. Starski hire Rackets. There are many other courts in Sion and Sierre but not up in the mountains. The larger hotels often have courts for the use of their residents.

A wetlands park, that the Nax commune is trying to develop, adjoins the tennis courts. There are a number of good courses in the area. The best is the championship one at Crans approximately 40 minutes drive away. Other activities

Cable-ways

Switzerland has many magnificent cable-way systems. Other activities

Plaine Morte: Take the gondola system and 2 cable cars right on to the Plaine Morte glacier from the lower end at Crans Vermala. From here one can summer ski or ascend a peak. The easiest one is Mont Bonvin 2995m.

Mont Fort: The cable-way starts at Siviez (a modern monstrosity above Nendaz) with an exotic, pseudo stopping, chair lift, and a bus sized cable car (Europe’s largest) to the Col des Gentianes. Summer skiing is possible on the Mont Fort glacier alongside the col. A further cable way leads up to a higher col. just below the summit. The fit can easily scramble up to the very top of Mont Fort(3329m).

Gemmipass: This is a real hairy climb almost vertically from Leukerbad to the Gemmi pass. Gemmi is the entry point for the Lämmerenhütte & the Daubensee. The terrain beyond the pass is quite flat and the Lämmerenboden takes on the appearance of a sort of enormous beach stranded in the mountains with snow in its folds and icy rivers running through the shingle. On a hot day you need gallons of sun oil to survive.

Rinderhütte: The bottom end is in Leukerbad and it rises a magnificent 1000 metres plus in less than 6 minutes. Climb onwards to the Torrenthorn (2998m) in an hour or so of up hill slog.

These are just a few examples of the many cable-ways all over the Valais. The highest and most expensive (second only to the Aiguille de Midi) on Mont Blanc in all of Europe in both cost and height, is the Klein Matterhorn from Zermatt. The shortest and probably the most useful to walkers is the 300m ascent of the Dix dam. Walking up is just too much in the shadow of this enormous dam. Other activities

Local practices

The winning of water was an important part of cultural development. In the Central Valais (from Martigny to Brig) the cultivation of the table lands overlooking the Rhône Valley raised difficult problems of irrigation. The paucity of rain and the enclosure of torrents in the depths of inaccessible gorges gave the Valaisians there a chance to display a tenacity and inventive spirit that found expression in the bisses.

These narrow canals that numbered 207 at the beginning of this century and with a total length of 2000 km, drew the glacier-waters of the Rhône tributaries almost from their sources and carried them, with an imperceptible drop in level, along the mountain-sides. When a rocky wall blocked their path they ran through dizzily suspended wooden troughs, the upkeep of which demanded dangerous acrobatics. The maintenance of the irrigation bisse and the careful distribution of its water among those who are entitled to it, hold an important place in the lives of the small mountain communities. The filling of the canals at the beginning of spring is still accompanied in some places by a religious ceremony, including a blessing. Technical progress in water supply has led to the abandonment of many of these rustic aqueducts, but some sections of them - in the woods, for instance - still offer tourists charming scenes for walks on level ground.

In the Valais - above Verbier, for instance - they also have an ingenious way of transporting milk by pipe-lines. These "milk ducts" which run between the Alpine pastures and the dairies have a total length of about 220 km

Bisses still exists and the best example we know is above Amonina near Crans. There is also a goo d one in the forest above Mase. Other activities

return to home to winter