Reckingen to the Risihorn and the Fiesch Glacier – 2876m – A bike and hike too far?

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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Reckingen to the Risihorn and the Fiesch Glacier – 2876m – A bike and hike too far?

Saturday morning brought bright sunshine back to the Goms Valley and not wanting to miss the opportunity to reach some of the impressive peaks nearby, we had planned another epic. Our intention was to start out early, cycling another section of the Rhone cycleway after our ride to Gletsch the previous day, this time to the village of Blitzingen around 5 miles downstream where we would leave the bikes and start uphill to the Risihorn, climbing from 1297m to 2876m where we hoped to enjoy awesome views of the Fiesch Glacier and surrounding Bernese Alps.

Setting off before the sun hit the valley floor, a very cold bike ride over surprisingly rolling terrain on paths still muddy from yesterdays downpour did threaten to dampen our enthusiasm slightly. Also, looking up misty clouds were already forming on the rocky peaks and left us doubting whether the climb ahead of us might be in vain after all. However, reaching Blitzingen just as the sun arrived on the river we resolved to push on and see how far we could get, promising ourselves we would turn back if the weather worsened. Following signs to the Risihorn (4h 50mins away!) the path from Blitzingen proceeded surprisingly gently uphill in a series of very long, mild switchbacks through pine forests. With the sun remaining on these lower slopes throughout the climb we were soon very warm and had to rest occasionally just to shelter from the heat in the shade of the trees.

With few waymarkers en route to track our progress, we eventually emerged from the forest alongside a beautiful waterfall which we knew to be cascading down from a series of lakes that sit on the slopes beneath the peak of the Risihorn. Reasoning we must be close to the 2000m mark and halfway up the climb we attacked the next hour with renewed vigour, reaching our first altitude marker at 2400m alongside the first of those lakes, the Spilsee after more than 1100m of climbing. The Risihorn was also now in sight, a pointed, jagged top almost another 500m above us that we would negotiate by hiking our way first to the Mittelsee, then the Wirbutsee before the final steep ascent.

The clouds that had worried us at the foot of the climb had danced around the peaks all day, sometimes thickening, then disappearing only to return again half an hour later. Right now, however, clouds were threatening our target summit and the light drizzle that set in as we left the Spilsee left us feeling certain our climbing effort would be in vain after all. However, fortune smiled on us and just as we passed the final lake and tackled the final ascent they lifted once more leaving us in brilliant sunshine. About 100m below the summit the waymarked hiking trail ended and the path ahead was marked by the blue alpine markers (which can mean the path is more challenging), but after coming this far we weren't turning back now without trying it. The path was very steep and rocky, with a sheer drop to one side and the final 20 metres or so on a hairline ridge with fixed handrails, but we had experienced this before and we safely reached the summit after 5 hours of hard climbing.

The contours of the climb had been such that the Fiesch Glacier and surrounding 4000m peaks had actually been hidden from view the entire way up and although the view across the Goms to the peaks on the Swiss/Italian border had been beautiful the panorama now in front of us was breathtaking. The glacier swept around the narrow valley in front of us, joined on the right by the Galmi Glacier and topped in the distance by the imposing Finsteraarhorn at 4278m which emerged from the clouds within a few minutes of our sitting down. It was a magnificent reward for our efforts and one we savoured as much as we could, enjoying a snack in the hot sun that had broken through the clouds.

Sadly the sunshine couldn't last forever and with some towering, dark clouds rising from other nearby peaks we sensed a thunderstorm 'might' be on the cards and so only stayed for twenty minutes or so making our reward a short lived one. Also, with already tired legs the prospect of a 1600m descent followed by a challenging bike ride was not something we relished, but it had to be done and we made our way steadily downhill, retracing our steps until after 3 hours of descending we made it back to our bikes. The threat of thunderstorms had passed on the way down and the afternoon had brightened considerably with most of the clouds disappearing leaving only constant sunshine.

We were two very tired hikers strapping our gear back on the bikes before negotiating the 5 miles back upstream to our motorhome (even within sight of the campsite I wondered if I would make it at all). Collapsing on the floor by the van and peeling off our sticky gear to air in the late afternoon sun before preparing a very welcome hot meal, we did feel proud of ourselves to have powered ourselves to such a height and back. However, both of us agreed that today we had been right on the limit and that some less ambitious adventures might be needed in the days to follow.







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