Wild Camping The Tour des Dents-du-Midi in the Swiss Alps – Day Four

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It must be said, that night wasn’t the most comfortable that we were looking for. Cold, damp and filled with all sorts of creatures moving around in the night! I think I’d rather have stayed in the tent. It does beat walking in the dark through forest trying to find a flat spot though and definitely added to our adventure plus we had a table to eat on! I mean who doesn’t love sleeping in a dingy old concrete cabin in the woods for the night?!

The sun hadn’t quite risen yet, probably only about 6am so it was quite nippy; a down jacket certainly helps rectify that and looking up seeing cloud, it meant there was no sunrise. No problem though, it meant I could get a brew on!

The route for the day

Soon we were all packed up and ready to go – I was pretty happy to get out of there. Making our way back up onto the Dents-du-Midi trail, the first bit was probably the most boring of the trip; basically following a road but thankfully the view was still pretty cool.

Seeing the light shining on lucky peaks in the distance with a sky full of clouds was a sign of the beautiful weather to come.

Our next stop was Chindonne, another cabin along the trail. This one looked to be one of the most accessible of the bunch with a direct road straight up to it. It was here where we met the group of people from the second day when we were coming down from Col de Susanfe in the snow. They were finishing up today having completed the whole Tour, so we thought we’d ask them what the climb up to the Col de Jurat was like from here? Harmless question we thought… Well, their faces turned to almost a look of shock as they said from the side we are going it is the hardest, with a 1100m climb plus we’ll need to do at least another 4 miles to get there (having already done 4) – we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but that’s just confirmed it’ll be bloody difficult!

In the clouds

This really got me going! Add another mile from Chindone making it about 10am, we basically took a hard right turn putting us on a different side to the mountain range. The landscape really changed. It was here that we would be hiking in cloud one minute and the next in clear looking down into a valley filled with clouds.

Every now and again a mountain peak would present itself in amongst the cloud, I couldn’t help but capture it!

For a period of time our side of the valley was clear, but the same couldn’t be said for the other side. I thought this was a perfect opportunity for using the 10-stop ND (Neutral Density) filter for a nice long exposure of the moving cloud. I timed this shot well as during the shot, the cloud start rolling in our side to create an almost dream-like image.

We followed the track through forest and fields, navigating our way around the many cow pats placed perfectly on the path. We were getting closer to a huge alpine mountain which as I walked, watched it become engulfed in cloud. Every now and again it would present itself again. Then I hear the sound of a bird of prey, I think an Eagle, flying gracefully above and inline with the alpine mountain in the distance. The guys carried on whilst I watched to capture this moment and I really like the resulting image.

Taking a break

We soon found the culprits of the many pats with a large herd of cows hanging around enjoying lunch and looking at the view in front. Don’t blame them, it was stunning and we actually decided to join them and have a break here.

Their inquisitive-ness got the better of them and soon gathered round hoping to take our snacks!

We were now about half way to Mex, so we had another hour and a half of walking to get there. We felt pretty good as it was only half 10! We decided to crack on and get the miles in. Basically from here we followed a trail into the woods following a horseshoe to the other side of the valley. Amongst that were multiple river crossings with amazing ice-cold water, the signs of autumn with the changing trees and plenty of Swiss cattle with huge horns.

Stunning autumnal colours

We descended to our lowest point, approximately 1000m where we crossed over a torrent. It made for an almost perfect composition with the river leading up to the mountains behind and surrounded by trees changing with autumn colour.

Arriving at Mex

The remaining hike to Mex was surprisingly knackering – we were consistently climbing up and down, this really didn’t help especially as we knew what was to come!

The weather? Absolutely stunning.

We arrived in Mex for about 1pm so stopping for lunch was definite. We decided to grab some food at Auberge de l’Armailli and as it was a stunning day, we made the most of it outdoors. Just a simple sandwich but oh god it was awesome. As we sat there and ate, we could see the Col du Jurat and being that it stands at 2,210m, it looked bloody mighty.

Starting our ascent from 1,000m 

To be honest, I think we were all dreading how this might turn out, I mean it was already past 2pm and we had to climb the equivalent of Snowdon right from ground zero. Before the trail, we had the chance to walk through the village of Mex and it looked seriously cool. Cobbled streets leading into a centre with a natural water source.

Unfortunately no pictures for scale, but I did manage to get a selfie after a dunk in the river 🙂

The initial part of the trail was essentially a steep gravel road with hairpin bends. I’m sure I’ll be saying this a lot in the next section of the blog but it was hard! What made things even more annoying was the quad biker taking his leisurely time up and down the mountain as we crawled up. And to add salt to wound, he did it twice!! Never mind, the view was stunning…. As always!

We reached 1,600m where the gravel road ended and we were all getting a bit salty because we were a bit concerned one; whether we will actually reach the stop by sunset, two; whether we will find camp up there and three; whether we’ll die from exhaustion before reaching the top! After making up and having some much-needed snacks, we cracked on and made more progress.

Now the light was dropping and we were a bit worried about water as we were nearing the top and it didn’t appear there was any so we came across this lovely looking trough next to a cabin. Now I know what you’re thinking, did we really fill our water bladders from a trough?!….. Yes, yes we did…. To be fair it looked pretty clear but maybe that doesn’t account for all that animal saliva I’m sure was floating around in there. Anyway, we filled up, I had about 2 litres in my bladder which made my backpack even worse.

At this point I decided to stick my music in and crack on as I really wanted to be up there for sunset. I think this helped as I started making loads of progress and soon separated from the rest of the group.

Reaching the top

Once I reached the top, it felt like such an achievement and I had made it just in time, the sun was still in it’s golden hour. Before getting stuck in with photography, I tried to look around for camping spots and to be honest, there were only a couple not enough for everyone to use. Bummer – well looks like more hiking is needed! But first I had to make the most of the beautiful light.

Quite a fitting photo I think with the mountain in the background! As I tried to get closer, the goat decided it was better to run basically at full pelt down the other side of the mountain to join it’s mates. It looked awesome seeing the rocks scurry down with them. It’s amazing to think an animal has the balls to do this!

Next, I decided to focus on the sun setting and the mountains. In hindsight, I wish I did a bit more with this shot and find something in the foreground but in the spur of the moment and being that I was knackered, I was finding it hard to be creative. Definitely not one of my strongest images, but hey I was just so glad we made it up there.

By this point everyone had made it up and we were all amazed by the beauty in front of us. The next step was to find camp for the night. We all agreed staying on the mountain wasn’t feasible so we decided to head back down to the lake and stay at the same location as day one.

As we made our way down it was getting dark and some sheep decided to stalk us.

We made it to camp

It was pitch black when we got there and I was absolutely gone – sleep was needed! I could barely setup my tent, I’m not kidding I had to retry it at least two times. Once everything was setup I got my food on the go and devoured it whilst we all chat about the amazing events of the day. In total we hiked 36,000 steps – a new record for me.

The next day is our last and thankfully it was only a short hike down to the car. Although, the light was once again stunning and I couldn’t help but shoot another sunrise there. One more post to come 🙂

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Austin

Once again, brilliant Pete . What you actually meant was you left the old farts behind on the climb! A helluva day !
oh yeah , it’s a Red Kite that bird ?