Sunday, August 17, 2014

Where to go in the cold rain?

This summer has been unusually cold in the Alps, so hikes have to be chosen with care so as not to be caught up high in the snow, or in the torrential rains which dislodge rocks and create mudslides! The solution to this in the Valais is to walk along the ancient irrigation ways which were set-up in the 1400s!!

 There would not be much growing on the right side of the Rhône River without these irrigation ditches. And certainly the famous white wines, such as Fendant of the Valais would not be around!

In French they are called 'bisses' and in German 'suonen'. The locals built them with their bare hands, wearing leather boots that might have had 3 nails in them, often hanging off sheer cliff walls to dig a passage for the water from the glaciers to the fields that needed the precious meltwater drops.

 Some are easier to walk on than others, you just have to check the maps. Overall none are steep, but sometimes you do have to walk up to get to them or back down to get off them, as they do generally start at the base of a torrent emerging from a glacier above 2500 meters.
As you can see they pass through hot and dry spots. The vegetation is really fun to walk through.