Distance: 15km of walking, 1500m gained
Today Francois boasted that we'd reach our highest altitude ever on a peak in the Swiss alps. We hoped he was right.
We set off early in the morning for a notorious area in the Swiss mountains that straddle Italy's border known as the Pennine Alps. An hours driving and a couple of stops for fuel later and we were at the Grande Dixence Dam, the highest gravity dam in the world with a wall 285 meters high. Apparently it produces so much hydroelectric power that the Suisse direct much of it to its neighbors in France and Italy.
By the time we'd hiked from the carpark to the height of the dam, 2,365 meters in altitude, I was already sweating profusely. Looking above I noticed the chair lift that was packed with people taking almost everyone else up to the dam, on the way down it would look even more tempting I imagined.
Over the next five hours we hiked through tunnels, across streams, up and along steep yet undulating rocky ridges of screed and falling rock, traversed across several small snow fields, abseiled down a short rock face at 3310 meters and finally we arrived at the glacier that we'd brought harnesses, ropes and crampons for.
It was hot and sunny (even at this high elevation) and we could all hear the trickling noise of the glacier melting under our feet. Concurrently we could also see where the snow changed color, covering a series of holes and gaps that could have fallen through into deep crevasses. I wondered to myself if there was any real way of knowing, and realised how people can so quickly and easily fall to their deaths in places like this.
Harnesses on and ropes attached we crossed the glacier, and after climbing up the steep snow face adjacent we had finally made it to the hut. Soaked in sweat I threw my pack on the ground and looked around, wow, what an amazing view. To one side we could see Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe, and the massif that surrounds it. To the other side I could see the Matterhorn, probably the most famous mountain in Europe with its spectacular steep four sided pyramid like shape, and its little brother, the White Tooth next to it.
Everyone was starving so we got out our camp stove and cooked some pasta while eating Swiss chocolate, bread with cheese and drinking yoghurt. Then we realised that we had no water. Luckily we found some huge old assorted pots laying about and hiking back down to the snow line we collected some snow to melt down and drink. Thirst quenched and the others set about finding a comfortable spot on the rocks for an afternoon nap.
For a moment I considered doing this, but then my excited curiosity got the better of me and I headed up over some other some peaks, a couple of small snowfields and across a ridge of shale and rock to another higher peak. Climbing amongst the rocks and a small slip, luckily a secure section of rock to hold onto, heart beating a thousand times per minute, wondering if I can make it up, didn't think I could, too wet, steep, slippery, go back now I thought to myself. A minute later and I was at the top. Wow, success, I made it.
This is fun I thought as I screamed out at the top of my lungs, no-one but a bird circling overhead to hear my cries, muffled by wind and space.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia