Reaching the Summit of the Grathorn from Reckingen – 2673m

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Thursday 4 September 2014

Reaching the Summit of the Grathorn from Reckingen – 2673m

After leaving SaasFee the previous evening, following two tremendous days riding cable cars above 3000m in glorious sunshine, we knew it was going to be hard to find a base for hiking that would inspire us in quite the same way. Still with a vague plan to loop around the Bernese Alps towards Interlaken and get a closer look at the mountains we had seen from afar the previous day we had driven out of the the Valais from Brig, heading north east and following the River Rhone towards it's source at the Rhone Glacier and had stopped at a lovely campsite in the little village of Reckingen.

 Waking up alongside the River Rhone on Thursday morning and looking up to see the peaks shrouded in low cloud, our hearts sank a little. Aware only that we had already passed by the most convenient ascent to re-visit the Aletsch Glacier (which had been one of our possible options) some 10km back down the road in Fiesch we felt a little lost and needed to find out what was on offer nearby to decide if we should push on right away over the Grimselpass in search of better weather.

Wandering into the village we discovered the tourist information at the train station and picked up a hiking route card which showed plenty of trails in the vicinity, but with shaky weather we felt uncertain whether it was worth hanging around. Also, with campsite prices in Switzerland being much higher than the free aires we were used to, we didn't want to waste a day sitting out the weather. However, the forecast looked to improve the next day and in the end we opted to stay put and give the Goms region (as we had learned this area was called) a chance, which turned out to be a very good decision!

With lunchtime now approaching but the clouds showing no sign of lifting, we opted to hike up one of the valleys to the south of Reckingen where the sky looked a little brighter with even the occasional hint of blue. Setting off directly from Reckingen, we followed the well marked trails across the river to begin the nice gradual descent of the Blinnental, a round sided valley lined with pine forests. Primarily following the river which runs down the valley from the Blinnengletscher (which was hidden from our view behind a ridge resting at right angles to the valley itself), we gradually climbed from 1326m up towards Larch at 1781m which we reached after around 90 minutes of gently hiking and occasional resting.

Our heavy legs raised some questions as to whether we should push on at all, however, we decided to give the next stage a go and crossed the river to follow the track marked 'Grathorn' which we knew to be another 900m of climbing – after all we could turn around at any time (couldn't we?) The trail after Larch was certainly a shock to the system, immediately transforming from gentle, rocky path into steep, grassy switchbacks with heavy foliage choking the path which we pushed through for what seemed like hours. However, the exertion did wake us right up and as an added bonus the sun came out and started to warm us as well. Soon looking down into the rounded bowl of the Blinnental and the high, spiky ridge which marked the head of the valley we felt a new energy to push on and try and complete the loop over the Grathorn.

After 2 hours of climbing a marker told us we had 1 ½ hours to go to the summit, which turned out to be over much less well trodden terrain. Trekking from waymarker to waymarker (a red and white stripe painted on a rock), over uneven ground was burning our calves and thighs, but eventually we saw the summit ridge a couple of hundred metres above us which inspired us to keep at it. Finally emerging on a sharp, rocky ridge just a few tens of metres below the summit of the Grathorn, we treaded our way carefully to the summit cairn and breathed in the view. Although the clouds hadn't cleared completely, we could clearly see much of the Bernese Alps across the Goms valley, including the Bach and Munstiger Glaciers which cascaded from the rocky peaks. Better still was the awesome sight of the Rhone Glacier some 10 miles away, one of the largest remaining in Switzerland, a gigantic mass of ice at the head of the valley from which sprung the mighty Rhone itself.

Feeling very satisfied with our efforts, but aware that a new wave of grey clouds had just appeared from the south we couldn't linger too long and so began our descent of the rocky ridge towards Mannlibode some 300m below, where the path would split. Despite some drizzle setting in we made good time and soon reached Mannlibode, with amazing views right along the Goms valley, where we forked right to enter the pine forest and return to Reckingen.

Arriving back at the campsite after our 7 hour epic we were very ready to sit down to dinner, but were also feeling very happy that we had made the decision to stay and explore and enjoy the magnificent views we had just been treated to.

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