Day 11 Friday 26 August Zinal to Gruben

Today’s task was to head generally northwards to reach the Forcletta pass and cross into the next valley, the Turtmanttal. In doing this I would pass from French speaking Switzerland, where I can make myself understood, to the German speaking region where I have no grasp of the language.

There were threatening clouds in the sky as I left Zinal. I climbed up between apartment blocks and a swimming pool on a track which turned northwards. It went under a tunnel and then zig-zagged upwards. A path cut a corner off the track and went steeply upwards through a field to reach a few chalets at a water spout. There was a view towards Zinal and, up the valley, the high mountain tops were hidden by cloud.

The path entered forest and continued to ascend gently. It crossed a field at a farm called Sierra Zinal which looked more like an American ranch rather than a Swiss farmhouse. I continued to traverse the mountainside, climbing steadily, As it turned into a valley I came out of the forest and I could easily see the route ahead

I followed the path to the trees seen in the middle of the picture. At that point, there is a choice to continue the traverse to the Hotel Weisshorn and cross the Meidpass to reach Gruben in two days. My route lay up to the ridge which is about 2500m high. At the top of this ridge there were a couple of cowsheds and a rather precariously situated chalet, which at least, had electricity (of sorts)

There was a water trough at the cowsheds and I could see a small brown mammal with a black tip to its tail. It was too small to be a marmot and I wondered if it was a stoat, although I do not know if they live at that altitude. Someone I met later, at the Europahutte, opined that it may have been a polecat. It was too far away to photograph with an iPhone and it was running in and out if the undergrowth by the trough so I will never know.

Ahead of me were large grassy mounds which led to the stony Forcletta Pass

From the pass I should have seen the final ridge before the Materall (the valley which has Zermatt at its head). However it was covered in cloud and I descended without delay before the Forcletta became enshrouded in mist.

The path was easy to follow, even in the mist and I arrived at a collection of farm buildings with confirmation I was in German Switzerland

I was between the cloud covering the mountaintops and the cloud filling the valley. The Cicerone guide says that there are tremendous views from here but…

As I descended I re-entered the mist. I joined a track at another collection of chalets and soon turned downhill on to a path that seemed to descend endlessly though forest. Eventually I came out of the trees at the valley floor by a large dairy. The Cicerone guide implies that the valley (the Turtmanntal) is only inhabited in the summer, presumably to graze cattle, run the dairy and provide accommodation for walkers and climbers.

It was now a gentle walk through fields for about a kilometre to the village of Gruben which consists of some chalets and a large hotel

The hotel has some “normal” rooms and dortoirs, on the top floor. these were arranged like a mountain refuge with a shore, aching facilities, toilets and a storage area for rucksacks. For the walkers, there was a dining area and I met up again with Felix and Flora for a drink and to compare notes about the last two days.

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