Day 7 Monday 22 August Prafleuri to Arolla

Today was a bit shorter than yesterday and there was less climbing but I still got an early start, leaving the hut at 7:30. The path up to the first col of the day, the Col des Roux started from outside the hut so I was climbing straight away. The top of the col was only 150m higher than the hut so it did not take long to reach the top. Three rocky towers dominated the un-named peak to the right of the path

There is meant to be a superb view of the Lac des Dix from the top of the col but it was hidden by cloud. The mountains across the valley were dramatic

Pointe de la Vouasson, the Vouasson glacier and the Aguilles Rouge d’Arolla

As I dropped through the cloud the southern end of the Lac des Dix became visible.

This large lake is dammed at its lower end. The dam took 10 years to build and claims to be the highest gravity dam in the world, (there are 4 higher dams of a different design, mainly in China). A gravity dam is one where the integrity of the dam wall depends on the weight and internal strength of the concrete. It is 285m tall, making it as tall as the Eiffel tower (and the largest man made structure in Switzerland). There are other dam designs which do not rely on the weight of the dam wall to resist the water pressure, an arched dam will be seen on day 9. The water in the lake is gathered by underground tunnels from the adjacent valleys and is used to generate electricity, enough to power half a million homes.

I descended past two unmanned refuges to the service road that ran alongside the reservoir. I now had an easy 5km walk to the head of the lake above which mountains and glaciers could be seen

Head of Lac des Dix. The peak is Mont Chelion

This was a very relaxing walk, there were a few cows (with bells) and marmots. At the head of the lake the way forward was obvious

My path climbs up to the right of the river that you can see in the midground, which is the main draining river for the Glacier de Chelion. It then climbs to the right of the rock seen in the centre of the picture to enter a region of glacial morraines and debris and pass towards the dip on the crest.

As the ice on the glacier slowly moves downhill it drags rocks that are deposited on either dside forming banks called morraines. The path follows the morraine on the left. As I got higher it seemed impossible that there was a path through the wall of rock on the left side of the valley

The path dropped down to cross the river on a bridge and then wound its way up past the first band of rock and across a boulder field to reach the base of the cliffs on the far left. There was then a fairly easy but exposed scramble, protected by ropes and chains, to a 25m series of fixed ladders leading up to the Pas de Chevres

According to a climber I met at the Europahut a few days later, these ladders used to be somewhat precarious. They were replaced in 2016 and felt very sturdy. There are 3-4 flights with a platform and a rail at each junction and the ascent was straightforward. Ahead, the top of the Arolla valley looked equally as desolate

The mountains to the east of Arolla are lower so there was no snow or glaciers. I now had a long 850m descent into the village of Arolla. This was a little steep at first but there was a good path across the scree. The ground became grassy underfoot at a plateau and I then descended further over grass and rocks. At one point a lazy marmot sitting at the opening to its burrow watched me pass, usually they run away as human approach. It is said that they can sense the vibrations in the ground from animals (including humans) walking nearby.

Above the treeline, the path continued to run gently downhill. There was a small area of ski tows. Behind me was the Pigne d’Arolla and its glacier

Once I passed below the treeline the path got steeper and began to zig-zag down through the woods to Arolla. I was booked into the dortoir of the Hotel du Glacier but I was the only one staying there so I was able to have a shower, do some washing and enjoy a quiet evening.

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