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

Scroll this

Read day one here.

It was the next morning. I surprisingly had a good sleep thanks to my down sleeping bag keeping me from the toasty 0-degree temperature outside but let’s be honest, getting up was hard – it’s never fun in near freezing! Yet, looking from inside my tent, seeing the enormous mountains and knowing that there will be a sunrise really helped making the push to get up. It wasn’t quite time for sunrise yet so the obligatory coffee from Taylors was quickly downed just in time for the first light on the mountains.

Haute Cime with first light illuminating it's beauty with a Virga in the sky.
1/15th sec at f/9.0, ISO 100 – 50mm (Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8)

I wasn’t really sure what composition to shoot, there were so many and my mind couldn’t really decide on which to commit to. I usually stick to one and watch the light change so in hindsight, I should have done some more research of the location beforehand so that I had an idea of what I wanted to go for. Visualising a shot beforehand can help greatly before shooting the real thing. Anyway, I settled for a more obvious composition as the reflections were absolutely beautiful. Combine this with the golden light on the mountains and I think the shot’s a winner.

Lac de Salanfe with the first light of the day htting some of the mountains with a mirror-like reflection
1/4th sec at f/9.0, ISO 100 – 18mm (Sigma 10-20mm f/2.8)

I then turned around to see what presented itself behind me. I wasn’t disappointed. The sun hadn’t quite risen above the dam behind, and so there was a lovely shot of the almost Mexican-looking church perched above the dam with a beautiful scene of mountains in the background.

I couldn’t find much information on the history of the church, so if anyone knows anything feel free to share in the comments below.

Lac de Salanfe's church silhouetted with mountains in the background, beautiful golden light
5-image bracket cropped shot at f/11 – 75mm (Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8)

After about an hour of shooting, I can safely say I feel I made the most out of the sunrise, now time for breakfast! Thankfully water wasn’t really an issue here being literally 5m from the lake. I’m not sure the water is safe to drink straight away, but as I always do, getting the water on a long-boil has never caused me any problems and makes for a great source of water for my Moma Raisin & Cranberry porridge – to be honest, not much of an interesting breakfast but it’s a great way to start the day. It was here Scott and Austin had their drones flying above. They captured some amazing video. I can’t show Scott’s yet as he’s working away at his film, but check out Austin’s here.

Starting the day’s hike

After probably another hour of chilling at the campsite, making it about 10am, we quickly realised that we should probably start making progress on the trail. We had to get up another 500m to Col de Salanfe, standing at 2,494m. We also had a desire to hike up to Haute Cime, adding another 600m onto the climb. This was quite an ambitious hike considering we’re fully kitted up and oh, we also needed to make at least 5 miles progress after the Col!

As we left camp the reflections on the lake were just as crystal clear as they were at sunrise. Honestly, an absolutely beautiful place and I feel very lucky to have seen it at the best time of day. We kept to a gravel path following the lake and turned right which is where we slowly made progress up to the Col de Susanfe. Another thing the Swiss have got right with this trail is the way its marked. Every direction sign has the logo of the Tour Des Dents-du-Midi plus in between, there are very distinguishable red and white flags painted on various rocks throughout the trail – it’s hard to go wrong with route finding.

By this point we had already stopped for a coffee break and we were only a mile in… not really, but that’s what we all were thinking!

Climbing up the Col de Susanfe

The view as we climbed just kept getting better and better and as we all were in such awe, progress was quite slow plus it wasn’t a chilly 0-degrees anymore! The layers definitely weren’t necessary now. Soon we reached snow, and we couldn’t help but do a mini photo shoot as we sat, admired the view and had a quick snack. I had a Clif shot block and a surprisingly good high calorie Clif Raisin, Walnut & Oatmeal bar.

Clif Bar with Swiss Mountain in the background

About 30 minutes of climbing later, we reached the point where hiking turned into scrambling up knee-deep snow.

The awesome scrambling section

Now as I looked up at the climb ahead, the immediate thought that came to mind was… how the bloody hell do you get up that?! Thankfully the flags saved us again. You can actually see them in the picture above from bottom and right to top, an ingenious way of showing the route.

You can just make out the flags. Austin’s prepping his drone ready for the ensuing awesome footage.

We all had a real rush scrambling up, clinging onto the metal chains as we made progress through the freezing snow – I was glad I had put waterproof socks on at this point as my boots are barely showerproof! Austin and Scott had their drones out again, now I think it would be easier to show you than write about it, so check out this section of Austin’s video here.

We reached the height of the scramble, fully out of breath and with the summit in view, we carried on taking in steady as we navigated our way up. As we neared the top, the temperature noticeably dropped, with the breeze increasing in strength even with the sun it felt cold so as we put on another layer, a down jacket for me, we heard a loud rumbling noise. At first, I had no clue as to what it was until Austin pointed at the opposite mountain where you could see the snow shifting – mini-avalanche! It’s amazing the power of nature but thankfully not on our side.

Lunchtime!

In the distance was a small refuge just below the summit. As it was gone past 12pm, we decided to stop for lunch. Annoyingly I didn’t get any pictures of the refuge, but it was quite amazing what it was stocked with. Fully enclosed with its own gas cooker, fireplace, bed and a bottle of whiskey – obviously that’s the lifesaving bit right there. As we were sat here, it made me wonder who might have used this in the past. Clearly on a day like ours it wasn’t necessary but I bet in the winter, if all goes tits up, then the refuge probably makes for a lifesaving addition to the mountain as the chances of getting down in a full whiteout is a situation I wouldn’t like to be in.

I did however get a shot from inside looking out – the view was incredible!

The view from the 'Bivouac' near the summit of Col de Susanfe

Lunch was freeze-dried Potato & Vegetable Hotpot with a Taylors coffee bag, it was actually quite tasty. We had a French mountaineer pass us as we ate, smirking and said “bon appetite!”, I guess it’s only the Brits that have a cooked lunch up a snowy mountain. It was quite nice sat here looking across the view, one that became even better as we reached the summit.

Here’s a panorama from the Col De Susanfe – epic!

Panorama from the Col de Susanfe
12-image portrait panorama shot at 48mm (Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8)
Black/white image of me looking at snow-covered swiss mountains
Self-portrait of the view the other side, which was just as awesome. Completely covered in snow. This part of Switzerland had a freak snowstorm a few days before – lucky us!

It felt amazing being up here and looking around seeing only mountains. We decided here that the hike up to Haute Cime wouldn’t be a good idea. For one it was full of snow and we didn’t have crampons (you never know) plus we really had to make some progress on the trail. To be honest, I was quite happy about our decision and to be fair, the rest of the route looked just as exciting! More reasons to come back now too.

Making our way to the next cabin

Descending the snow covered Col de Susanfe

From here we started descending, taking it steady on the steep slope. What made this a hard descent was the loose rocks and yep, I did fall on my ass – feel free to have a laugh! Looking back, we all fell over during this period especially when you’re dealing with loose rocks + random pockets of knee deep snow – Lucy found that out for us! We passed a group of French and (sounded like) American locals with their friendly dogs, made think of Kesha back at home!

We’ve reached the Cabane de Susanfe

We decided to stop for a break here. We had hoped for a coffee, but unfortunately the owners were out as a sign was left on the door. Cool place though as I had a snoop around, it’s amazing how clean the inside was but I guess making everyone take their shoes off before entering helps with that. After a much-needed restroom stop, we decided to press on. We were approximately ¾ a way into our hike, and what proceeded was to be quite hard going as it was literally all steep downhill.

Making our way right down to 1400m

As we descended, the season changed from winter to summer with the humidity starting to build again and the snow slowly diminishing. Soon we met our first herd of sheep. Well, to be honest, we heard them about a ½ mile in the distance! It seems every farmer’s animal in Switzerland has a bell.

It was now about 6.30pm and it was getting darker with sunset only an hour away. With no sight of a camp spot, we were all a bit worried as to whether we would find anything before dark as the next part of the trail, although exciting, was full of scrambling and more downhill descents. The descending soon made hard work on my feet and about halfway down, they weirdly started shaking. I guess that meant they were done for the day. We had to press on though, as we finally had our destination in sight.

The Pas d’Encel – an absolutely stunning gorge. 1/80sec at f/4.5, ISO 100 – 28mm (Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8)

We found camp

We made it down to our campsite just after sunset. We camped literally right off the Tour Des Dents du Midi trail as that was all that presented itself and had all the things we needed such as water and multiple flat spots. I was quite knackered by this point, so I quickly pitched my tent, prepped all my sleeping kit and got the JetBoil out. For tea? a 1000 calorie Spaghetti Carbonara – probably one of my favourites! It might have helped to have removed the silica gel pack before putting the boiling water in though, glad that didn’t split as I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing this right now! I was clearly a bit knackered, so I soon went off to bed.

We covered only 6 miles this day, but without a doubt, worth it. I’m glad we took our time as this day was definitely a highlight.

An epic day for sure, and the next day is just as awesome. We have lunch in a cabin with… now that would be telling… oh and we don’t have your ‘conventional’ campsite for the night… plus plenty more stunning scenery 🙂

Read day three here.

Tags:

3
Leave a Reply

avatar
2 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
PeterLucyAustin Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Austin
Guest
Austin

This is great Pete and you tell it spot on . I’ve just put day 3 up and you can see how i dealt with the ‘unconventional’ accommodation lol . Cheers mate , catch up soon . Austin and Lucy.

Lucy
Guest
Lucy

Absolutely brilliant Pete ??
Can’t wait for the next instalment