|These are two pictures are from my early visits to the Austrian Alps in
particular to the Zillertal in the 1990's. Left, a popular target near Mayrhofen
in the Zillertal is the Ahornspitze at 2976m which overlooks the town. The
usual route to the summit passes the Edelhutte at 2237m from the
Ahornbalm cable car. The easy walk to the Edelhutte takes 1 hour. From
there, the summit of the Ahornspitze can be reached in under 2 hours. The
final part of the route includes a little straight forward scrambling, in some
places on loose rock and snow.Finally you reach a narrow col between the
two summits just before the top. The summit, as like most of the tops in
Austria, is mounted with an elaborate cross. Below, a view of the
Schlegeiss from about 3000m on the Reipenkees, below Olperer.
Hochfeiler (3510m) and Grosser Moseler (3478m) decorate the horizon.
|Europe is an oasis of different mountain ranges and varied cultures that offer a tremendous range of plant and animal life, scenery and weather. Stretching from
west to east through central Europe there is the continuous mountain chain of the Cantabrian mountains, the Pyrenees, the Cevennes and the Alps, the
Carpathian mountains and the Balkans. There are also the Dolomites and Julian Alps amongst others - all mountain ranges with their own grandeur, scenery
and local cultures. Nowadays, the popular ranges in Southern Europe are criss-crossed with major mountain routes or tours and there are guidebooks, too
numerous to mention, describing the routes in great detail. In several countries it is also possible to walk an entire tour and spend every night in a comfortable
mountain refuge, enjoying the company of others and having local cuisine cooked for you. This page gives a brief insight into walking the mountains of Europe.
|Above, the famous and protected Edelweiss, now quite rare in many parts of the Alps. Below, an adult alpine Ibex. Since the middle ages the Ibex has featured in
medicine and nearly every part of its body was thought to cure some kind of ailment. The Ibex was so badly persecuted that in the early 19th century only a single
herd of around 50 animals remained in Europe - in the Gran Paradiso National Park. Since then, the Ibex has been reintroduced to many areas and the
population is now over 10,000. The age of an Ibex can be judged by the prominent dark rings on the horns which result from slow growth during the winter.
|Above, the view westwards towards Argentiére along the l'Arve valley while descending les Frettes to the village of le Tour. This wonderful route path can be
incorporated into the Tour of Mont Blanc. Below left, the brightly coloured European Alpine Primrose (Primula pedemontana) seen here flowering in June in the
Swiss Alps. Below right, a curious young marmot showing its face in late spring in the Vallon de la Lée Blanche near the Refuge Elisabetta in Italy.
|Above, the view to the Aiguille Verte and Mont Blanc massif in France on a beautiful warm clear day from near Tëte de Balme on the French-Swiss border.
Below left, inside the dining room of the Refuge de Col de Balme - a cosy antique refuge. If you wish to sample old fashioned hospitality then this is one of the
huts to stay in. Below right, posing on the summit of the Croix de Fer (2343m) at the end of the narrow ridge walk with Switzerland behind.
|Left, Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna) and above Mountain Avens
(Dryas octopetala). Especially in late June, alpine flowers provide amazing
colours to the mountainsides during the short polenating season.
|One of my favourite alpine valleys is the wonderful Val d´Anniviers in the French speaking part of the Swiss Alps. The valley lies southwards from the town of
Sierre in the Rhone valley and ends below the snow and ice covered walls of the Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Ober Gabelhorn and Dent Blanche - all of which rise
majestically above 4000m. Along the valley floor are the villages of Vissoie and St. Luc, Grimentz, Ayer and finally Zinal. In the village of St. Luc there is the very
good Gîte du Prilet and in Zinal there is the highly recommendable Auberge Alpina together with a campsite and shopping facilities, hotels, bank and tourist
information. The area offers a wide range of alpine walking options from easy trails to high mountain routes over challenging terrain. Below, looking down valley
to Zinal from the path to the Cabane du Mountet. The Petit Mountet refuge is on the opposite side of the valley from this viewpoint.
|Above, the Pointes de Nava seen from the slopes above the Chalet Blanc. There is a wonderful circular walk around the Pointes from the Gîte du Prilet in St. Luc
which follows the Tsa du Touno valley and crosses the Bella Vouarda col at 2621m before returning along the outward side overlooking the Val d'Anniviers. The
cream coloured Hotel Weisshorn where refreshments can be bought, is passed on the return. Below, traditional alpine architecture in St. Luc.
|Above, walking towards the summit of Bella Tolla (3025m) from Rothorn. This peak has been visited since the late 1800's and is regarded by many as the best
viewpoint in the Valais. The peak can appear to be snow covered from a distance due to the light chalk that forms the summit cone. In my opinion, Bella Tolla is
best approached by a cunning route that offers peace and quiet compared to the popular direct route to the summit. From the Tignousa furnicular in St. Luc, follow
le Chemin des Planètes before breaking off up the grassy hillside past the Chalet Blanc and continuing towards the Meidpass. Stop to enjoy the tranquility by the
Lac de l'Armina before heading northwards on a faint path that leads to the Pas de Boeuf. From here the summit of Bella Tolla is only a short distance above.
|Above left, Stemless Carline Thistle (Carlina acaulis) is abundant on the
middle mountain slopes. Left, on Le Chemin des Planétes above St. Luc.
|An excellent circular walk can be made from the Bendola cable car that leaves Grimentz, southwards around the Pointe de Lona and then westwards to the Pas
de Lona which affords views to Mont Blanc on a clear day. From the pass there is a short ascent to the Cabane des Becs de Bosson. From the cabane, where a
stay over is also recommended, the route contours the steep slopes of the Becs de Bosson to the narrow col on its east ridge at 2942m. From the col, a rough
descent a first leads to pleasant walking through varied rock scenery and then to grassy slopes leading back to the cable car station. An option from the col is to
ascend the Becs de Bosson which requires scrambling and some would appreciate a rope on one or two small sections. The view of the central alpine chain
from the summit at 3149m is expansive (above). The picture below is taken looking eastwards from the Pointes de Tsavolire (3026m) which is easily reached
from the cabane. The cabane can be seen just right of centre with the impressive Becs de Bosson itself to the left.
|It is possible to start and finish many walks from the town of Zinal. From the mountain walks in this part of the valley you certainly feel the closeness of the high
mountains. It appears that the tops are only an arms length away. A excellent walk for views is the traverse from the Sorebois cable car, that leaves the town
centre and terminates at 2438m, along the mountainside to the Petit Mountet hut towards the end of the valley on the moraines of the Glacier de Zinal. The path
contours the hillside for 5km before descending to the hut at 2142m. Over its length the views are stunning of the west face of the Weisshorn. Behind the cabane
there is also another trail leading further along the valley to the edge of the glacier and affording superb views of the fishtail peak of Besso opposite.
|Left, on the north side of the Col de Milon (2990m) where a short section of
fixed chains protect the steep section. The col is crossed on the route that links
the Cabane de Tracuit and the Cabane d´Ar Pitetta (above) which sits at 2786m
in the magnificent cirque of glaciers and peaks including Besso (below).
|Above left, situated at 2686m at the very head of the Val d'Anniviers is the Cabane du Mountet. The panorama from the cabane is one of the finest in the Alps -
including the Ober Gabelhorn at 4063m (below). Above right, evening light in the dinning room of the Cabane du Mountet.
|The main Val d'Anniviers has an impressive side valley with the very picturesque village of Grimentz and higher up, the Lac de Moiry reservior (above). This is
another wonderful area for walking and the head of the valley is impressively decorated with the icefall of the Glacier de Moiry. A visit to the Cabane de Moiry is
recommended - the cabane is perched at 2825m above the glacier (below). The cabane can just be seen in the upper left of the picture.