Switzerland Awaits!

So my Alpine adventure to Switzerland is very nearly upon me. I will by the weekend be in a place called Arolla, Switzerland. I will be there for a week, staying alternatively in a hotel in the town or in mountain huts, depending upon what the day’s activities are at the time. I have to say that I am ridiculously excited, but also not a little nervous. The course will include ‘proper’ climbing up 4,000m or so mountains, and that makes me a little edgy as I am just so inexperienced in that area, although that is of course why I am going in the first place:)

The internet reliably informs me that Arolla is tiny. It sits at the end of a the Vall d’Herens in the south of Switzerland in the municipality of Evolene. It is at about 2,000m, and has a population of just 200. There is not even a bank. It looks quite pretty, and has a number of 4,000m peaks surrounding it, some of which I will (I trust) get to see from the very top. It sits on one of the most famous of all mountaineering trails, the so called ‘Haute Route’ which connects Mont Blanc in France to the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Here is a link to the Arolla website:

http://wanderland.myswitzerland.com/en/orte_detail.cfm?id=313286

And a piccie of some of the mountains – I think the one at the back in this picture is called Pigne d’Arolla, one of the ones we will climb next week:

The mountains around Arolla....

And this is a closer view of the summit ridge on the Pigne D’Arolla itself, and where I believe the glacier training will take place:

The snowfields/glacier on the Pigne D'Arolla.

The hotel I am staying in on the other hand, looks like it needs a bit of updating, to say the least. A few reviews of it I have read online have used descriptions like ‘comedic’, and ‘like that place in The Shining’. Comedic I can cope with, I believe, but I don’t need Jack Nicholson pouncing on me with an axe in the middle of the night!

The journey looks quite eventful too. The trip does not include travel, so it is ‘make your own way there’. After a flight to Geneva I have to catch a train to Sion, and then I believe two different buses to get me up to the resort. It should take about 4 to 5 hours all in. Should be interesting, but I am sure with typical Swiss efficiency it will all be pretty smooth. I look forward to the trip – it all adds greatly to the adventure.

I am finally nearly ready with all of my kit, I think. Over the last week I have had a bit of a splurge, and bought myself a new climbing rucksack (Deuter Guide 35+), a new Primaloft climbing jacket (Rab Generator Alpine), a new Mountain Equipment holdall, and various other bits and pieces like gaiters, glacier glasses, Sigg Bottles (they don’t recommend Camelbacks), a buff (!) and several pairs of climbing gloves. I have also packed my fixed rope system that I bought for Island Peak, in the hope that I will get some help and tuition with it too, although fixed lines are not part of the teaching for the week. I will be amazed if I get below the weight limit of 23kg for the plane, so there may well not be many ‘normal’ clothes coming with me!

Some of the kit that I will hire over there includes helmet, ice axe, plastic boots, belay equipment and ropes, and also crampons. I look forward to the glacier travel and also crevasse rescue parts of the course in particular. Crevasse rescue looks terrifying!

I’ll do one more post on Friday before I go with some pictures of all my kit. It all feels like this is the start of a new part of my journey, and almost of my life. If next week is successful for me, then not only does it springboard me into being able to climb Island Peak in October (and of course if it doesn’t go well then I won’t be climbing it at all), but also towards climbing more mountains. My ultimate goal from here is as many of the Seven Summits as I can – it may take some time, and it will certainly take a hell of a lot of resolve, effort and money, but I am very determined. I don’t want anything to get in my way, and certainly not Jack Nicholson!

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