Mon Joyeux Anniversaire in Val d'Anniviers

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Monday 15 September 2014

Mon Joyeux Anniversaire in Val d'Anniviers

Late on Sunday afternoon after a wonderfully peaceful walk in the Loetschental valley, we descended once again back to the Rhone valley. Arriving in the small town of Steg we parked up next to the river and sat for about an hour discussing where we might head to next and what our overall plans were for the next few weeks, also aware that the next day was my Birthday. Despite the weather getting colder in the last few weeks, I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Switzerland. After a succession of great walks, our legs were now asking for a rest and, without driving too far, we could think of no other better place to relax on my Birthday than returning to Val d'Anniviers which was less than an hours drive away.

We'd spent 9 days in Grimentz in June at the very start of our trip exploring the Val d'Anniviers thanks to the Liberte card, which for a bargain 5 swiss francs tourist tax (£3.60) a day gave us access to numerous benefits such as free buses, cable cars, pools, mini golf etc. What better way to relax on my birthday than to lounge by the brand new indoor pool and maybe take a cable car ride to save our legs as the weather promised to be good. Excited and our decision made to head this time to Zinal, the only thing that stood in the way was the 1400m or so ascent on the 25km road which had left me a little worse for wear the last time. Dan drove brilliantly, well practised from the other mountain passes we'd encountered on our trip since our last visit here. With each switchback the evening drew in. I actually think that the darkness helped how I felt as I couldn't see the drop on the other side of the road barrier.

As we neared the top of the ascent, we were greeted by a magical sight; as it was such a clear night the faint outline of the snow capped 4000 peaks at the head of the valley were visible in the moonlight. We knew instantly we'd made the right decision to return to this valley. We parked up in Zinal at around 9.30pm and I was swiftly 'sent to bed early' so that Dan could 'prepare' a few things'.

We didn't set any alarms and I woke up naturally around 8.30am to the sight of a balloon just visible from the cab bed. As I emerged I was greeted by many more balloons and banners decorating the motorhome and cards, presents and a cake, alight with candles, waiting for me on the table. The cake Dan had made was amazing – a raw carrot cake with cashew icing. He'd also cut up a plate of fruit for me which donned a '31' (for anyone wondering my age!). After a lovely berry and cashew cream fruit breakfast, opening my cards and receiving celebratory calls from family, I walked in the sunshine to the tourist office to pay our tax and receive our Liberte cards.

Sadly I was told that my birthday plans of lounging by the pool would need to be postponed as the pool wasn't open on a Monday. And whilst we had fortunately arrived in June on the day the cable cars started running in Grimentz, this time we had arrive in Zinal the day after the cable car to Sorebois had made its final run. However, we weren't disheartened as the weather was sunny (and this always makes for a very happy Esther), so we decided to use our legs and take a short walk to the head of the Zinal valley.

Happy and contented on this birthday stroll, without really thinking about it, we'd started the 500m ascent up the head of the valley to the Cabine du Petit Mountet. We had walked to this hut previously during our visit in June but hadn't been as lucky with the weather on that occasion so I was intrigued to see what view would open up for us. The start of the walk had already been very different as there was much less snow on the mountainside and now the green colours had already started to change to autumnal browns.

After the walk through the pine forest, with cascading waterfalls on both sides, then along the crystal blue glacial river we reached the hut and found a peaceful spot to sit and just take in the view. The view was of the specular 4000m snow capped peaks which crown this valley and the run off of the Glacier de Zinal. As we sat the slight haze cleared to highlight the outline of the white peaks with a deep blue sky. So the pool and cable car hadn't worked out, but what better way to spend my birthday than in these beautiful surroundings which my feet had taken me to. I felt very fortunate to be able to reach these amazing places.

After sitting for about hour, we returned back the way we'd come and back to the village where we headed for a birthday round of (free) mini golf! Last time we'd played here I had won, with a very fluky hole in one on hole 18, but this time it wasn't to be and Dan won this rematch by 2 strokes.

After a lovely dinner which we cooked together, the birthday celebrations continued with me opening my birthday goodies from Dan and the cutting and tasting of the amazing birthday raw carrot cake. A very tasty, triumphant mixture of grated carrot and courgette, soaked dried fruit, coconut and walnuts topped with an icing made from ground cashews and soya milk. We reasoned that obviously it wouldn't keep that well, so we'd just have to eat a little bit more! The evening drew in and we played a few games in the candlelight and also had a few more birthday calls from family, which was lovely.

At the end of the day, we were really happy with our decision to return to Val d'Anniviers and were looking forward to a few more days in this peaceful and relaxed little mountain village. Dan had really spoilt me and made it a great birthday and I fell asleep, my belly more than contented with the cake it had been treated too, feeling very fortunate to be spending a birthday doing the things I love with the one I love :-) !

Walk Information:
Motorhome Base: Zinal
Transport Used: None
Start / End Point: Zinal - Cabane du Petit Mountet - Zinal
Time It Took Us: 1 3/4 hours (one way to the hut)
Total Ascent: 467m
Level: Moderate
Map: LS 1327 'Evolene' 1:25,000 (see below)

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