Dwight Peck's personal website

Weekends at Salanfe

The "other side" of the Dents du Midi

Mid-July 2007, Kristin's visiting, and we're looking for a venue with nice quiet mountain views in the twilight hours.

Hike to the Col de Susanfe

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

We've got nicely installed in the auberge at the Lac de Salanfe and got through a considerable amount of conviviality over dinner, and now it's time to set off on a hike.

It's the next morning, and the Col du Susanfe (the tiny snow patch at the low point on the horizon) beckons. Up on the right, the Haute Cime ("highest peak", 3257m) presides, the only hikable summit on the Dents du Midi chain. The snowy step leftward below the summit is the Col des Paresseux (3056m), the 'pass of the lazy people' -- as hikers clamber up the 500 metres from the Col du Susanfe, Paresseux appears to them to be the grand summit, but it's not. When they reach the col, they gaze up at the real summit, the Haute Cime 200 metres still higher, and the lazy ones bag it at that point. Usually explaining that they'd love to continue, but old football injuries are preventing them.

We risk a glance back at the auberge de Salanfe, where it might be nice to sprawl out on the balcony with a big Victorian novel at this point.

The Col de Susanfe plays hide-and-seek as we prepare to leave the lake and wander upward hoping that this will go much more easily than it looks like it will.

The Haute Cime's southeastern side, with the Col des Paresseux on the left.

Farther along the Dents du Midi from the end of the lake. I'll name them a little later, with a more panoramic photo. There's at least one refuge up there near the glaciers, but damned if I can see it from below. (Philippe Noth's close-up of the refuge)

A last look back at the auberge de Salanfe as we leave the lake level, 14 July 2007

Dr Pirri, lost

We're following Dr Pirri up a likely trail-like thing on the hillside, but we have to wait a bit as he takes a few important telephone calls.

Dr Pirri, blowing on his short alpenhorn to summon the stragglers

Dr Pirri following trail signs into some extremely improbable countryside

Here is where it becomes apparent that the trail is, unfortunately, going to go straight up through those cliffs to the col de Susanfe. The narrator's aging memory had suppressed this part of it somehow.

Dr Pirri, having forgotten to bring along his ski pole, wobbles upward.

There's nothing for it but to stumble along behind Dr Pirri and hope that he knows where he's going.

Dr Pirri searching out water in an arid land, favoring his broken wrist

The path to the Col de Susanfe winds up through a good deal of interesting landscape . . .

. . . and the most interesting parts have chains laid on for safety's sake.

Topping out of the cliffs, Dr Pirri pours on the coals to beat us to the Col de Susanfe.

The last stretch up scree to the Col de Susanfe, with some fatties lunching at a little one-person survival refuge built into the side of the hill.

The narrator exults at the Col de Susanfe, 26 years after his first sojourn at this site, glad to be back.

The Haute Cime (3257m, 10,688 feet) in the centre, the Col des Paresseux (3056m) in the foreground, from the Col de Susanfe (2494m)

Down the far (west) side of the Col de Susanfe, a view of the Cabane de Susanfe (2102m) -- this is the first day's destination in the normal hike up from Champéry, before carrying on to the summit on the second day. Ice blocks cascade down all night from the glaciers up on the left.

Zooming in a bit, so that you can see the cabane itsownself. Irritated one night in the early 1980s by all the unpleasant noises in the dortoir, the narrator took a bivvy sac out onto the hillside above the cabane in a heavy snowstorm and had a much better night of it.

A super-Fuji-zoom focus on the Cabane de Susanfe for those who couldn't make it out in the previous photo. The loo's down to the left. The two little buildings to the right weren't there the last time I visited, so I can't help you there.

Dr Pirri nurses his broken wrist and holds up the trail sign with the other arm.

The narrator

The L'Eglise end of the Tour Sallière

A glance back down at the lake. The Col de la Golette, tomorrow's walk, is the col up on the center right.

If you're going to the summit, this is The Way Up! The trail, such as it is, leads out rightward up through the "2700m rockband" on the horizon, then back leftward over awful muddy stuff and up to the Col des Paresseux, thence to the summit. The "trail", at that point, consists largely of wherever the party in front of you walked. The group lunching on the col had brought a baby with them who was pleased as punch to be here.

As we lunch at the col, two girls and a guy head downward below us.

Young people preparing to glissade a ways

Another party of hikers preparing to descend towards Susanfe

A modern hiker using his hiking time well by moving his investments around with his little telephone

Dr Pirri in a rare contemplative mood; don't alarm him.

Lunch is over, and Dr Pirri is joining the party with the baby in descending towards the tiny refuge at the top of the cliffs.

Dr Pirri, having a good knee-day, is gaining ground and losing height on us.

Another party is picking its way down above us as we head back to the auberge.

Dr Pirri is still ahead of us but we're catching up with him now (because he took time for a little nap by the trailside).

The hotel at Salanfe, with its half-litre chopes de bière out on the terrace, beckons to us.

Viewing the lake with a chope de bière clasped firmly.
(The flags are those of the Swiss Confederation and the canton of Valais.)

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 4 August 2007, revised 3 November 2013.

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