Friday 20 December 2013

Gluhwein recipe

Vin chaud on the Pla de la Le - Zinal
There's nothing like a drop of gluhwein or vin-chaud (as they call it round here) drunk under the stars on a winter's night. Following several requests here's the Edelwiess recipe.

1 bottle red wine
75g brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 lemon stuck with cloves
150 ml brandy

Put all the ingredients (except the brandy) in a pan and bring to simmering point.
Cover and simmer for 2-4 minutes.
Remove from the heat.
Add the brandy.
Strain and serve.

Monday 25 November 2013

Paws for thought...

Chamois tracks
Go for a walk in the snowy woods and you'll see tracks of the animals you know live there but rarely meet. You can see where they've scampered up a bank, walked around in circles following good smells, and scraped away the snow to uncover something to eat.
Squirrel, lynx, deer, & chamois prints
With freezing temperatures and snow covering the vegetation for the next 5 months or so it's a tough time for these animals. Conserving energy is the name of the game and for this reason resorts restrict areas of the mountain as no go zones for walking, snow-shoeing and skiing.
Foot-print chart from
Whilst not wanting to scare any of these beasts into having to run and use energy, you'll often see animal tracks overlying old ski tracks. Using the route where the snow is firmest they use less energy, so we believe both can co-exist in the same spaces. These animals become habituated to man and that we (in winter) are not a threat. With no natural predators the larger animals are culled each September by hunters ie the winter doesn't threaten their numbers. Unlike the hunters, who take only the beautiful and strong, nature takes the weak and those less likely to survive.

For more information on how animals behave visit

Since writing this the canton of Valais have introduced 142 no go (to people) zones. These zones have been designed by hunters! (hum...) Some of the best and most easily accessed off-piste terrain is affected by this ruling, areas close to the resorts. You can find out more about where they are on the following website -  - closest to here is off the back of the Bella Tola in St Luc, into the Turtmann valley.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Done and dusted...

Well it's as good as finished so today I took some pictures of our cosy new winter home.

Main living area with mezzanine 
We bought Le Mazot just over a year ago and for those following our blog you will know that it's been quite a renovation project. Here are some links to previous posts


It's a small place but that made for bigger challenges in the design. We've kept many of the original features (most of which were covered with old 't&g' panels) and have reused lots of the original materials to help keep the character - old beams found under the floor went into repairing and filling in the outside walls as well as rebuilding the internal dividing wall, and the old 2" thick floor boards found under layers of rugs and chipboard have been scrubbed and relaid. We've insulated the whole building, replaced the old windows with triple glazed units, use a wood-burning stove to heat the place and have installed LED lighting through-out - all of which go to make up a cosy, eco, cabin.

Lobby and bedroom
View from the kitchen across to old Mottec
Main living room with wood-burning stove and original timbers
As for all the old 't&g' that we stripped out - lots went into the construction of our new wood-store and all the little bits that couldn't be used are stacked ready to burn in our stove.

Monty and Eric - wood store builders

Friday 25 October 2013

Get fit for winter...

Winter is just around the corner and it's time to get fit for the coming ski season. Running is an easy choice and will improve your cardio, stamina and legs. Here are a few others we like...

- Lindsey Vonn knows a thing or two and there are some good exercises on this video - we particularly like the side to side sprints and knees up...

- For indoors, we've made our own wobble board which along with hours of fun is great for balance, knees and core - remember to look ahead...

- Finally this 'periodic table' has direct links to video clips on 'you tube' which show you how you should be doing each exercise. You can start easy and also select what area you want to work on...

Saturday 5 October 2013

Cabane fever

In the last three years there's been a flurry of building and up-grading in 4 of the valley's 7 mountain refuges or cabanes.

The new Cabane de Tracuit photographed in April 2013 - just before completion
The latest project to be completed is the largest and most ambitious (and expensive) of them all. The 84 year old stone Cabane de Tracuit ( has been replaced by a brand new, glittering silver block. Using the latest environmental technologies, this state-of-the-art building has wonderful panoramic windows, underfloor heating, running water, inside toilets, showers and modern dormitories. It still only sleeps about 120 people but it's a spacious building with a variety of sleeping rooms and spectacular views. Since opening in June it's been very successful - becoming a destination in it's own right.

The new extension to the Cabane Becs de Bosson with wonderful views
Over in Grimentz the Cabane Becs de Bosson ( built an extension last summer. It now has a beautiful new 'sun-room' (with wood-burning stove), more dormitories and inside toilets and showers. It's almost doubled it's size and the wall of windows give spectacular views.

Cabane d'Ilhorn has a more restaurant space and new rooms
In Chandolin the Cabane d'Ilhorn ( also redesigned it's interior last summer. The staff now have a large new kitchen and the restaurant space has been extended to upstairs. Downstairs a whole new dormitory wing with showers and toilets has been built.
The new copper building is linked to the old Cabane de Moiry
And last but not least, the Cabane de Moiry ( which in 2010 added a new building alongside the old stone refuge.  The new copper clad extension has enhanced the old building and gives visitors a wonderful new restaurant with amazing views across the Moiry glacier, inside toilets and additional dormitories. You can read and see more pictures in an earlier blog

Saturday 21 September 2013

What goes up must come down - the désalpe

Leading the cows down with a bag of bread
Today was the désalpe - the day when the cows officially come down from the high summer meadows where they've been grazing since June (see the inalpe). It perhaps marks the end of summer but more often the start of an Indian summer. Today was no exception with wonderful blue skies and warm sunshine.
Tying on the flower headdresses - not that easy
It's a great day of celebration with an early start on the mountain and a mass herding of the beasts down to the villages. Help is needed to try and keep them from stampeding - best left to the experts and to stay at the back with the slow ones...

A variety of flower headdresses
Once down headdresses of flowers are tied between the horns in true Valaisanne tradition. Then the parade can begin. Each cow led by it's proud owner through the village - there's clapping for best milker, cheese maker and then the bossiest one (the Queen) whose kept the herd in check. At the end of the village it's time to crack open a few bottles and sample some of the summer cheeses.
Parading through Ayer

Sunday 1 September 2013

Bountiful balconies

'Geraniums' in Grimentz
Window boxes cascading with flowers is an expected summer site in alpine villages. Over in Austria they even give you a tax rebate to encourage you to plant-up your balconies. Here in the Val d'Anniviers the local commune plants tens of thousands of flowers every year - they hang in baskets along the side of the road, in niches and fill hollowed out logs next to fountains. Neighbours vie with each other as to who has the best display - some get creative with their planting - mixing blue and white lobelia, with yellow sunflowers, marigolds and nasturtiums.
Flowers fill every available vessel - including an old boot
Top choice of flower are the red varieties of pelargonium - easy to grow and lovers of sun they also tolerate dry conditions (ideal for those who forget to water their window boxes). However, it's quite tender and come the first frost the whole lot will be reduced to a brown sludge. Native to South Africa - this plant was first discovered and brought to Europe by English gardener and plant collector, John Tradescant, in 1633. Originally the pelargonium was classed as part of the geranium family, but as the numbers and varieties grew the two got reclassified into separate groups. Today there are over 200 species of pelargoniums and over 420 species of the hardy geraniums. Pelargoniums are not just pretty they are also valued for their oil and are used in perfume, medicine and aromatherapy.
Pelargoniums - top choice around here for window boxes

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Water damage

Trees and islands have been washed away and a new river route formed
Early last week we had two days of heavy rain which caused the Navizence River to break its banks and carve out a new route for itself - something locals have not seen before. The force of the water was so great that bridges and islands were swept away, boulders the size of small houses moved, trees ripped out and banks eroded back. At its height the river flooded nearly the whole width of Le Pla.
Bridges have been swept away or left miles from the water
What's been left is (I think) a more beautiful and more natural looking river which meanders a broader route - new islands have been made and the banks re-sculpted.
Walking along what was the jeep track- now stripped down to the moraine a few feet down
Work has already begun to reinstate bridges, and jeep tracks - but it will be interesting to see what they can do to the route used in winter by cross country skiers. Currently the once wide jeep track is down to the width of a footpath and one of the crossing bridges now spans a boulder field - the river now takes a route several hundred meters away leaving you unable to cross from east to west bank.

Looking down Le Pla and the new look Navizence River

Tuesday 13 August 2013

40th Sierre Zinal Mountain Race

Everyone who finishes gets a medal
On Sunday this legendary mountain race took place for the 40th time. Not only has it been going longer than any similar race but for many it's also the most beautiful. Its known as the race of the five 4000'ers because of the stunning views of five four thousand meter peaks, amongst others. Each year one of these five mountains is depicted on the reverse of the medal - it was the Dent Blanche turn this time.
Spectacular views  
This year over 3500 people signed up to take part as either a 'tourist' or in the 'elite' group of athletes, and the whole event was televised for the first time. The race starts in Sierre (for the 'tourists' that means a 5am departure to the sounds of a jazz band) and climbs on tracks for over 2200m before descending 800m into Zinal - total length 31km's. The 'elite' includes professional athletes from all over the globe; the course record was set by New Zealander Jonathan Wyatt in 2003 with an amazing time of 2hrs 29' 12" (this year - 10 years on - he took just 3mins 32secs longer and came first in the Veterans).

The course statistics
It's a fabulous day for both runners and spectators. We went up to Barneusa - one of several feeding stations along the route - to cheer the runners on. Some sprinted past grabbing for a sponge or cup of water while others stopped to drink, chat and listen to the alp horn.
Plenty of volunteers help out 
This year the winner was Marc Lauenstein from Switzerland with a time of 2:32.14. You can see part of the race on, who televised the whole event for the first time. To find out more about the race you can visit the offical website ( where you can also sign up to take part in next year's event.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Lac de Moiry

Flowers along the lower path on the west side with great views to the south.
I'm not really a fan of man made reservoirs but the Lac de Moiry (when full) is an exception. Today the lake was only half full so some of the rubble sides were unfortunately exposed, but its turquoise water and location go some way in making up this downside.
Edelweiss and early morning views from the high path on the eastern side
Above Grimentz, at 2250m it is a great starting point for some stunning walks, including two circuits around the lake - one high, one low. Both are wonderful - the high route traverses around at 2500m, at one point it's a rocky (chain assisted) path but for the most part you are walking across alpine pastures, over streams and past smaller lakes. The lower one (on the west bank) is lined with alpenrosa and other alpine flowers that contrast against the turquoise of the reservoir. Perhaps my favourite combination is to start at the southern end, head towards the dam via the high western path and return on the same side via the lower path. This lower path is wide and an easy walk, so you have plenty of opportunity to look up and take in the spectacular snow capped mountain views.
Last rays of sun reflect the mountains onto the Lac de la Bayerina on the western high route

Sunday 23 June 2013


This weekend saw the 'inalpe' in most of the Val d'Anniviers villages. Locals would call it the official start of summer - the day when the cows go up to the high alpine meadows and milking huts. Traditionally the animals would have been herded up from Sierre on foot to their summer pastures - these days it's quicker, with most arriving by truck but the celebrations remain the same.

A benediction of the alpine meadows and cows followed by the journey up and fights between the beasts to see who's top-cow or Queen for the summer.  Here they stay, bells clanging as they chomp through the lush grasses and flowers, producing gallons of rich milk which duly gets made into tonnes of cheese. In September the process is repeated in reverse - the des alpes...

Friday 17 May 2013

Jewel in the Imperial Crown

As in previous years we ended the season by joining a Mountain Tracks group and some clients for a ski tour.  This April we decided to tour above Zinal on what's known as the Imperial Haute Route, as it takes you past the 5 peaks making up the Imperial Crown. Two years ago we did a varient but so so different (you can see pictures from that tour here).

This time we started off in Zermatt and took a route heading back to Zinal (the high way). It was to be a week of some real gems - we summited two peaks over 4000m, with climbs of up to 1600m in a day, skied though some of the most spectacular glaciated terrain and traversed the knife edge ridge line of the Moming... Staying in a range of huts from the 'self-catered' Arpitetta, to the comfy Grand Mountet and the soon to be replace (thank-goodness) Tracuit.

A real gem of a tour... it'll be hard to top this one

Stunning views above Zermatt

Some spectacular glaciers

Traversing the Moming Arete - heart stopping to say the least

Tuesday 30 April 2013

And then there was light...

As the season came to an end Le Mazot had a flurry of activity when the local carpenters finally arrive to fit the new windows. What a transformation - light streams into the rooms like it never has before. Great timing too - the resort is now shut and the guests have all gone home, so over the next few weeks we'll be able to push on with the interior and finish the insulation, cladding, bathroom, kitchen, cupboards etc etc.....(gosh there's still quite a bit to be done).

Even though it's been a bit of a black hole with work still to be done - it hasn't stopped us using it as our new winter base and so far we've had at least 7 weeks sleeping over there. Roll on next winter when it will all be finished.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Touno's Turn

Finally got to ski the big couloir above St. Luc. The 3018m Touno forms the southern edge of the domain, looming over the long piste descent to Prilet. There are several skiable couloirs but the obvious classic is west-north-west. The entry is not obvious from a distance and even less so once you've climbed up round the back. From the col there's a narrow snow-ridge with sharp roped descent into a notch, then down a snowy gully to the crux where it narrows and steepens. There's a fixed rope to help out on the scratchy rocky section though without Nick belaying us, we wouldn't have had a hope - one slip and you'd go a long way. After all that the couloir itself is wide and quite gentle, though we did manage to set off a small slide on the sunny side... Three people had got there before us but I guess they didn't have to serve breakfast to their guests first.

The ascent... 
The climb down...

The ski...
The end.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Skating fit

Last year we tried skate skiing for the first time in the nearby resort of Goms. After just one hours excellent coaching we were off - wobbling slightly less, able to pick up some speed and realising just how good this could be as a get-fit routine. 

One year on and we've taken the plunge and invested in all the gear. We've now got to remember all of Damian's tips as the wobbles and alarming jolts have returned. It's hilariously funny when you're not the one spread eagled on the floor but you're soon wiping the smile of your face as you find yourself going into the corner just a little bit to quick and ending up in the snowbank opposite.. Lots to learn..

Thursday 31 January 2013

Bygone days...

The renovations of Le Mazot continue with our new front door now fitted, the bathroom semi underway and the kitchen standing in the corner still in it's boxes. However, we've been using it and have already had a week sleeping over there.

As we work on the old building, it is hard to ignore just what it must have been like 100 or more years ago. Recently I came across some wonderful old photos ( of Mottec showing just how rough and ready it was...

One thing that is striking is just how many more trees there are today - no need to chop them down to build and heat your house with.

Old road to Zinal - you can see Le Mazot in its original location over in the far meadows.

The centre of Mottec - the old chapel is now renovated
Looking down on Mottec