Day 9 and we awoke to blue skies. I can never get tired of writing that. I didn’t sleep well in Cabane Praflueri. We were in one of the dorms with 10 other restless bodies. It was humid and hot, and even with the earplugs it was hard to tune out everyone. All in all I found the Cabane kind of crummy. There was no potable water and they charged 8 Swiss franks (10 dollars) for a bottle of water, 5 Swiss francs for a three minute shower, and 2 Swiss franks for electricity to charge devices.
The dining room was crammed full with tables smushed up against the walls so you had to crawl over people to get a seat. They fed us well (4 courses) for dinner, but breakfast seemed disorganized. I guess it is the only place for miles so they are always busy.
The hike that day was to Arolla. We quickly cleared a pass and dropped down towards Lake Dix, then followed a flat trail along the lake. Easy hiking. The only difficulties we had were trying to pass an enormous group of Korean hikers. They took so many pictures of the flowers, it was hard not to be tripped when they stopped suddenly.
The lake is fed by a beautiful glacier, and you have to either cross the river or the glacier to reach the pass. We had heard mixed news about the ease of crossing the glacier, so we were planning on crossing at the river. The problem was that the path on the map showing the river crossing was the old path, so it was all a little confusing. A couple from Great Britain spent almost two hours looking for the path, only to find the old one and take it. The new, and easier path, was well marked, but much higher up on the moraine. Luckily for us, we were trying to figure it all out when the guide of the Korean group caught up to us and gave us great directions.
As it turned out, the glacier could be crossed with normal equipment, but the crossing was described by someone who attempted it as scary.
Trying to keep ahead of the big Korean group (thankfully they took a long lunch) we scrambled over the moraine and up to the pass.
Now there are supposed to be two ways to get over the pass. There are basically two notches in the mountains. A lower one that has three vertical ladders bolted into the rock. It is not the way to go if you have vertigo, but it is slightly easier. Unfortunately for us the ladder route was closed because they were doing maintenance. Maintainance meant causing intentional rock slides to clear the route. We thought there was a huge rock slide at first and are worried about the safety of our friends that were just ahead of us. Talk about getting your heart racing. The pass we took was – well awful. It was an unrelentless scrabble up the side of the hill – often on all fours (for me at least) until it got so steep you had to haul yourself up hand over hand using cables affixed into the rock.
After that was a long, steep, and tedious descent into Arolla. Because we weren’t sure if we were going to make the crossing, we had canceled out accommodations in Arolla, and the Cabane from the night before had no cell service, so we entered the town without a place to stay. Our choice was dorm beds or a three star hotel. Ahhh – the luxury of a private room and best yet, private bathroom, with a bath tub. It does not get better than that.
Our little group of nine is still hiking the same route, running into each other a few times a day.