Rain showers darkened the slow drive down from Como, and little did we know that those ominous storm clouds would follow us for the next several days. Fortunately, no delays were registered at the Milan airport, and Burak’s plane arrived right on time. After some luggage tetris in the car and a look at our map, we began our ascent towards the Switzerland border.
With the rain subsiding, an eerie mist blanketed the skirts of the Alps. The drive climbed through the haze into dense forest, occasionally revealing newly forming waterfalls, and descended, twisting and turning through tiny villages scattered along the mountainside.
Each village displayed a unique set of three flags, including the Swiss, along with respective canton and district flags. After a few hours of driving, a new set of flags welcomed us to Arolla, a village in the region of Evolene that, at 1900 meters elevation, is home to the highest camp site in Europe. We set up our tent just as the sun was setting, and soon we were all fast asleep, resting for the long day ahead of us.
In the morning, the camp site host detailed the surrounding trails for us. All of the hikes were relatively challenging, climbing steep slopes to the summits of the surrounding peaks, so we chose the most moderate to warm up our muscles. “Pas de Chèvres,” a 7 hour hike ascending 1000 meters, worked its way through long stretches of forest, grassy meadows, streams and rocky slopes.
Beginning the hike at a steady pace, the steepness of the trail increased surprising quickly. Before long, our pace slowed dramatically as we realized we would need to conserve our energy, as well as the limited water we had foolishly under-packed. It was hard to imagine what the other trails were like if this was the most moderate.
As the vegetation slowly died off with the altitude, it was interesting to watch the surroundings change. The first 200 meters went through a dense forest of trees, plants and flowers, home to various little animals.
At about 2,100 meters elevation, forest abruptly ended, opening up to dirt paths that led through meadows replete with flora and greenery.
Very few plants remained at 2,500 meters, where we were greeted by the first snow that still clung to the mountainside. A beautiful glacier appeared in the distance at 2,700 meters, with very few signs of life remaining around us. At this point, our path turned to a rough trail of boulders, rocks and pebbles that scaled the remaining 200 meters to the peak. Dehydrated and drenched in sweat, we took this opportunity to cool down with a small packet of orange juice, saving the half liter of water remaining for the descent.
About 4 hours and approximately 9 kilometers after beginning our trek, we successfully made it to the peak and celebrated our summit with the breathtaking views:
The hike down the mountain proved to be relaxing and swift, presenting new sights and wildlife along the way:
After returning to camp and vigorously hydrating, a well deserved sleep ended our short yet memorable stay in Arolla.