Water – a diversion through Switzerland, a tributary

I spent a few wet days in the Kiental, in Switzerland, in 2012. Looking again at my photos I see that water became the subject.

Like many valleys in that part of the Alps, between the Valais and the Bernese Oberland, a broad, pastoral lower valley meets a hard band of rocks which the road climbs steeply and narrowly to reach the higher Kiental with its summer pastures, leading to a great ridge of high mountains including the Gspalternhorn and the Blumlisalp. I set off tentatively towards those peaks on the wettest day. Another band of hard rock cuts across the valley and the path runs along the edge of a bare ravine.

Then you come to the huge cwm facing a great amphitheatre of peaks where too many streams to count stood out whitely foaming in the gloom.

See the hut? Here a couple with a young child were looking after the sheep and cattle and a few goats which had been brought up for the summer grazing, a short summer between the melting of the snow in June and the fresh falls of September-October. From the young woman – who didn’t speak English, a measure of remoteness in sophisticated Switzerland – I bought a cup of what turned out to be horrible nescafe and about a pound of delicious soft cheese. The two things cost roughly the same price. The child’s toys – indelible plastic – gave the scene colour: there were few wild flowers.

But even there they grew geraniums!

I only got as far as the beginning of the real wild country:

The rain came down harder, to cross even relatively tiny streams began to seem challenging and I took shelter beneath an overhanging rock:

From this little lookout I was surprised to see two happy hardy young children come hopping and skipping down another path which led to the Gspalternhornhutte a thousand metres higher, followed by a young woman. I think she must have been one of the wardens of the hut where they were spending the summer with her hardy children. I turned back. The rain eased lower down and there were lilies with fat raindrops:

Lilium martagon, Kiental

How does water do that? How do the molecules stick together in a crowd?

A fly sheltered beneath an umbrella decorated with balloons:

Back among the hay meadows:

Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss, Kiental

Tourist info: in that second section of the valley, a little further down from where those last two photos were taken there are one or two hotels and the delightful Naturfreundehaus where I stayed. Here you can have your own tiny room. The food is excellent, the staff friendly, and most important on a day like that there’s a massive woodstove in the big living/dining room. Because of the weather the atmosphere wasw less athletic thatn it usually is in these places: lots of people sat around chatting and drinking and eating. One of those astonishingly frequent Swiss bus services take you up there, to within a few minutes walk of the guesthouse. The bus runs from the station in the main valley that the Kiental leads to Reichenback in the Kiental; bus and train times are synchronised, naturally. |The terrace, on one dry evening, was set up with a big screen for the 2012 european championships final in Kiev. Spain beat Italy 4-0.

On another day I walked away from the high peaks, climbing up to a lower point on the ridge which gradually ascends towards them. Through flowery fields in the mist and then I suddenly saw this:

I crept up to the edge and looked over, nothing but mist.

When I left the Kiental I walked down the twisting road to the lower valley. At the top and bottom of this section of the road are signs indicating that level of organisation which many people find somehow suspect in Switzerland: cars are banned at that point at certain times because the bus will be going up or down and there are no passing places. This only works of course because they know that the buses will be on time. At one point a bridge takes you within the spray from a thunderous waterfall where all the little streams of the mountains gather. Even the globes of water on the lilies get there eventually when they can no longer hang on:

I was on my way to Bern to get the train home. (Change in Lausanne for Paris.) There the water is a different colour. It would be more blue on a sunny day; the colour is due to the presence of tiny sedimentary particles in glacial melt, rainwater is pure.

And you can see from that impressive weir – I don’t pretend to understand its function, in fact I’ve not thought about it until now – that the river is well organised.

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1 Response to Water – a diversion through Switzerland, a tributary

  1. tinastclares says:

    Sent from my iPad

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