Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Water damage

Trees and islands have been washed away and a new river route formed
Early last week we had two days of heavy rain which caused the Navizence River to break its banks and carve out a new route for itself - something locals have not seen before. The force of the water was so great that bridges and islands were swept away, boulders the size of small houses moved, trees ripped out and banks eroded back. At its height the river flooded nearly the whole width of Le Pla.
Bridges have been swept away or left miles from the water
What's been left is (I think) a more beautiful and more natural looking river which meanders a broader route - new islands have been made and the banks re-sculpted.
Walking along what was the jeep track- now stripped down to the moraine a few feet down
Work has already begun to reinstate bridges, and jeep tracks - but it will be interesting to see what they can do to the route used in winter by cross country skiers. Currently the once wide jeep track is down to the width of a footpath and one of the crossing bridges now spans a boulder field - the river now takes a route several hundred meters away leaving you unable to cross from east to west bank.

Looking down Le Pla and the new look Navizence River

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

40th Sierre Zinal Mountain Race

Everyone who finishes gets a medal
On Sunday this legendary mountain race took place for the 40th time. Not only has it been going longer than any similar race but for many it's also the most beautiful. Its known as the race of the five 4000'ers because of the stunning views of five four thousand meter peaks, amongst others. Each year one of these five mountains is depicted on the reverse of the medal - it was the Dent Blanche turn this time.
Spectacular views  
This year over 3500 people signed up to take part as either a 'tourist' or in the 'elite' group of athletes, and the whole event was televised for the first time. The race starts in Sierre (for the 'tourists' that means a 5am departure to the sounds of a jazz band) and climbs on tracks for over 2200m before descending 800m into Zinal - total length 31km's. The 'elite' includes professional athletes from all over the globe; the course record was set by New Zealander Jonathan Wyatt in 2003 with an amazing time of 2hrs 29' 12" (this year - 10 years on - he took just 3mins 32secs longer and came first in the Veterans).

The course statistics
It's a fabulous day for both runners and spectators. We went up to Barneusa - one of several feeding stations along the route - to cheer the runners on. Some sprinted past grabbing for a sponge or cup of water while others stopped to drink, chat and listen to the alp horn.
Plenty of volunteers help out 
This year the winner was Marc Lauenstein from Switzerland with a time of 2:32.14. You can see part of the race on, who televised the whole event for the first time. To find out more about the race you can visit the offical website ( where you can also sign up to take part in next year's event.