• BLOG
  • Cabin Trip And Glacier Hiking In The Swiss Alps: Cabane Des Dix

    This is how I spent a weekend of my dreams. Up in the mountains, learning new things and smiling a lot. This time, a few weeks back, we went to Valais region and in there Cabane des Dix, after friend’s suggestion; hiking over one a bit scary ridge and one very scary glacier (my first ever glacier crossing) and spending the night in a Swiss Alpine Club’s cabin, or hut (hütte) as they call them in here. May, in general, isn’t the best month for mountaineering, and this trip also proved to be challenging, with unstable snow and rock and mud slides, and typical glacier with its crevasses. But nothing worth having comes easy and this experience, if something, was worth to get.

    It’s hard to describe the feeling when you are standing on a glacier, on the whitest of snow with a hint of glacial turquoise. When you move ahead slowly, tied to each other by a rope, and trusting each other. And end the day in the primitive cabin with only the essentials for survival; fireplace, some cups and mugs and blankets and each others company.

    Tiina Kivelä

    NIGHT IN CABANE DES DIX

    On Saturday midday we started our hike above Airolo, reaching the Cabane Des Dix by the evening, not extremely happy with the snow conditions on our way (would have been better with skis), but luckily only the next day we learned how it could have been even worse already in the beginning. The sun and I guess climate change too, does its job very well this time of the year, and when the temperatures don’t descend low enough at nights, the soft and wet snow doesn’t make your mountaineering efforts easy. Nevertheless, we reached our destination that day and my first ever night at SAC hut’s winter room was more that pleasant. There was wood for fire and tea and dinner, and there were the funny and smart people to share the stories and the experience (and bottle of wine) with. It wasn’t a five-star hotel, but it was a five-star experience.

    Later on, I learned that the hut belongs to a variation of the Haute Route and now I just wonder on which winter I’ll finally make that dream come true… Some winter surely, as this little taste of it proved to be one if the best trips I’ve done. There are no words to describe the beauty of the mountains like Mont Blanc de Cheilon with its turquoise glaciers and majestic faces. Not to mention the peace and the huge landscape which makes one so aware of one’s real place in the world. And the primitive, yet cosy hut, which once again taught a lesson of how little one needs to be happy.

    Cabane Des Dix Tiina Kivelä

    Mont Blanc De Cheilon Tiina Kivelä

    LESSON IN RISK AND FEAR MANAGEMENT

    During this trip, I also said I’ve never been that scared in my life, climbing tumbling my way up and down the unstable rocky slopes, while loose stones were falling nearby and big avalanches raced down the steeper slopes. Nevertheless, I remember being ok (kind of, the feeling isn’t so easy to describe) with the fear, using it as a stepping stone and way to keep my mind organised. I managed to be concentrated on the most important tasks and more than else trusted myself and the others, rather than letting the fear to paralyse me, or setting myself on panic mode, when something unexpected happened.

    On this trip, I also learned that I do hold some important knowledge of the snow and especially how it behaves, how it sounds and what the various sounds mean. While my friend might be more experienced and trained in climbing and rope techniques and how to save himself from a crevasse, I now know that I happen to know more of what some of the sounds of the snow mean. In Switzerland, yhe mountains have finally taught me to be grateful for the lessons childhood in the north have taught me, most of them while doing something I fondly enjoy doing.

    You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.

    © René Daumal

    Cabane Des Dix Tiina Kivelä

    HOW TO DO A HUT TRIP IN THE SWISS ALPS

    Interested in a trip like this but not quite sure how to do it? Let me give you an introduction in here and if needed, just drop me a comment or mail and I’ll follow-up with more detailed guiding.

    Finding a hut

    : Simply, you just have to put one foot on the front of the other. Repeat enough many times and you’re there. No, but really, there are various ways to do a trip like this. First of all, you may do like I do did, and go with friends who have more experience and know their huts; adding some more extra by looking at maps and googling the interesting looking SAC huts around the country. Then you just back your pack(s) and start walking/skiing/biking/whatever style you prefer for moving forward.

    Second, you can always contact local tourism office in your main destination (or home region) or company offering mountaineering trips, courses and guiding services, or similar. This’s an especially good option if and when you have not enough previous knowledge of mountains. And even if you do, local knowledge is always recommended. This time we were with my friend who has done an alpinism course in the area and stayed in the hut previously, so he was kind of our pro bono guide this weekend. Thank you, M!

    That said, I would always recommend the second option first. The services are more than worth the money and more than else it’s important to do all the necessary things to return home safe in the evening, or the next day. And smile, oh boy, remember to smile! We live on an amazing planet and when you get to a place like this, you just have to smile. And most of the time, luckily, it comes naturally, in a place like this and when you know what you are (capable of) doing

    Timing

     Most, if not all, of the huts are officially open during the summer season and most of them even at winter for ski touring. Nevertheless, it’s always good to check what are the seasons and opening hours, and you should also either call them or make an online reservation, if possible, for a spot. Most of the huts have so-called winter rooms for adventurers looking for (a safe) place to sleep in, even in the off-season, but extra attention should be given to the firewood – some have, but most doesn’t, wood for warming up the hut during the off-season.

    Eat and drink

     During the official seasons, mostly summer and spring ski touring, most of the huts offers food, breakfast, lunch and dinner for reasonable prices. In the winter rooms, you may also cook your own meals, but again check first what kind of utilities and utensils there is available (most of this can be found on the internet these days) and bring your own, if and when needed.

    Survival

     Most of the huts require some physical work  exercise to be reached; multi-hour hike, skiing or climbing. You don’t need to be a superwoman or superman, but being physically “fit” does make everything more enjoyable. In Switzerland, I’ve been thinking all the hours spent running and cross-country skiing, swimming and biking, as a teenager. I don’t know if I knew already then where I’d enjoy the results and the well-built endurance base best (few times the motivation was really hard to find), but I do know I enjoy my trips way better because of those hours back in the days. I can go further, I can go higher and I don’t get tired so easily; I can also stand some degree of additional pain and take the extra step because my body knows what it is capable of doing, and what not.

    So yes, it’s not the toughest sport this hut touring, but it’s not super easy either. It does require some physical preconditions which you aren’t gaining on your sofa watching Netflix. Though that’s more than recommended after the hut tour; add some beer and popcorn and chilly lake or river for tired muscles (or even better: sauna) and you recover like champion Tiina.

    PS. Only later I realised I was so close to Verbier, where I did another kind of cabing trip. Mountains with their neverending possibilities and various realities simply are the best.


    Cabin: Cabane Des Dix

    SAC: Swiss Alpine Club

    Other cabins in Switzerland: Alpine Huts in Switzerland

     



    Photos of me (edit by me): © Maarten Camerlynck

  • Bern
  • Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

    Tiina Kivelä

    This Swiss life. It’s soon been almost a year already. And still going strong.

    Spring has arrived, but as sometimes it snows in April, the cold winds and snow came back during Easter, and this weekend warrior doesn’t put the skis away yet. Or maybe I did last weekend, after a sunny day skiing down Schilthorn with the best people. Nevertheless, the running shoes and bike are already out for the spring, and evenings are spent running along rivers and to the lakes, and biking to nearby villages like Lauterbrunnen (have I already said how awesome it’s that this fairy village is less than an hour bike ride away?).

    At this point, it’quite pointless to point out (not many posts the past months…) that the official winter season (it’s called spring skiing now) was an intensive rollercoaster of feelings and work and weekend adventures. Eat, drink, sleep, work, ski, repeat. Days, weeks and months passed, and mostly it was the simple survival mode which kept me going. And even though many stories were born, only a few of them were written down, and some never realised; because I always thought (wrongly) that I’d have time later on…

    DREAM TOUR OF THE SEASON

    I’ve even forgotten to publish these pics from an awesome trip in February; from a tour which I thought was just the beginning. But then the life and incredibly warm spring happened and this might have been the last big tour of the season. Nevertheless, it was awesome and something to tell to the future grandchildren (disclaimer: these winter trips weren’t “how I met your father”, but quite close still...)

    That day, we stayed up until the lifts closed, and boot packed the extra meters to get the best seats for sunset. After some tea and chocolate and hesitation, we skied down in the dark, only light coming from our headlamps and stars. Then down in the valley, we were the last customers at Busstop, and had the most chilled after ski ever, just two skiers, a beer, a silhouette of the magnificent Eiger, a fire and the stars above. A dream tour, definitely.

    And yes I know how romantic this sounds. I don’t normally do cute, but oh boy Switzerland, mountains and some people have made me quite a romantic this past year.

    Tiina Kivelä

    LIFE IS LIKE A ROLLERCOASTER

    After that weekend, weeks went like a roller coaster ride though. But finally the storm has calmed and there’s even time for free writing and reflecting on what has really happened and what have I learned. In an example, I’ve realised that it’s better to feel the fear and do it anyway, rather than settle on something which does not feel good enough.

    The days like this have felt good. I’ve been scared. My heart has been beating. But I’ve felt good, especially afterwards. It’s like with travelling and running; you think you can’t make it until you make it, and many times you even realise that you can go even further. Maybe one day I climb that Eiger even. Or Mönch. Or at least Jungfrau, which I see from my window (lucky girl). After all, I’ve also been to Verbier (about which and other trips some other time).

    You may fall, but you may also fly. As you never know what would have really happened, if you’d chosen differently.

    2017 Tiina Kivelä

    * Where: semi-secret spot above the Oberjoch lift, Skigebiet Grindelwald-First 

  • Bern
  • Hundshorn 2928 m.ü.M

    Hundshorn Swiss Alps Tiina Kivelä

    Good days like last Saturday start with a message in the middle of the night: remember the ice axe! And then they continue with the following recipe:

    Where: Hundshorn 2928 m.ü.M.

    First, take the train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and change there to the Grütschalpbahn cableway. Then at Grütschalp change to the train to Mürren, from where you should take the cable car up to Schilthorn and follow the ridge to Hundshorn. On your way, you get a nice alpine panorama from the train, and you may also spot Mont Blanc when up if and when the weather is as good as it was for us.

    But remember the ice axe, when December. Crampons are also good idea. And the most important ingredience: good compay.

    Allons!