Another weekend is upon us, but I haven’t told you about the last one. My friend Timothée came to visit from Zurich and I planned a trip for us. Well, planned would be too strong a word. He arrived on the train on Saturday morning and I had breakfast waiting (from a nice bakery) and a bus for us to catch. Once we got to the top of Flüelapass we broke out the maps, which I had managed to borrow from another masters student, and went over our options. We knew we wanted to get into the mountains and stay there for the night. I had a few ideas of nice places to go, but what did I know? I had only lived in Davos for a week.
So we set off towards Joriseen, a collection of lakes on the other side of a big mountain. When we got to the top of the pass and looked down, they were beautiful, strung out like frozen jewels in the basin below. But in between us and them was a lot of snow. We watched as an elderly Swiss woman tried to navigate her way across a small patch of snow towards the top where we were standing; she was unstable and nervous, slipping with every step. I was certain we were going to see her fall and tumble down the mountain. Eventually she made it, much to our relief. I wasn’t really sure what Timothée had in mind or whether he was secretly thinking “oh my God, this girl has led me on a death march.” But he was game so we bounded and slid down the slopes to the lakes. It was pretty fun.
And every time we came to a patch of scree where we could stop for a few moments on solid ground, we looked up to see a vista even more perfect than the last.
Finally, it was lunchtime. We had reached the farthest of the lakes and plopped down to eat some strange-looking mini quiches I had made. I didn’t want to eat boring hiking food and had thought about hand pies. I was very tired and irrationally decided to fill them with some sort of egg mixture. Then I realized that you can’t fill a freeform turnover with egg, because it will all run out! Duh. So I made them in a muffin tin. They were tall and funny-looking, but tasted good and Timothée didn’t seem to judge me for feeding a French guy completely inauthentic quiche.
Here’s the thing about the trip: Timothée and I don’t know each other that well. We met at the workshop in Guarda and went on this amazing hike with some other friends. I mentioned that I was moving to Davos, and we decided we should do more adventures together. But as we ate lunch, it was a chance to get to know each other better. I was nervous: here we were on a two-day trip. What if we didn’t actually get along? But of course, it turned out that we did. I was happy and relieved to find another mountain buddy after a year in which outdoorsy friends have been distinctly lacking.
Plus, Timothée is an amazing naturalist who knows basically all the birds, a lot of plants, and many other animals. I did impress him when I identified some Didymosphenia algae on the rocks of the outlet of one of the lakes.
So, onward after lunch. We wanted make a loop and it turned out that the other pass was completely snow-covered. We had a few hundred meters of elevation to climb, just chipping our shoes into the snow to make steps and trying not to slide down in the slush. It was a little tiring, but once again a very pretty hike. I seemed to have not messed up our itinerary despite having no clue about where we were going or how much snow we were going to encounter. Timothée said he thought he could trust me, based on results so far. That made me nervous.
Once we got back down, the next hour indeed made me wonder if I had made a mistake. We walked on the path along the road, first up to the top of the pass, then far down the other side. I was looking for a trail that led into a big, flat valley, but it wasn’t appearing. And hiking along the road was so much less fun and picturesque than where we had been before. We had the noise of cars; we were no longer quite so joyful. We were also a little tired.
Finally, I saw the valley, although not the trail. So we headed off towards it, eventually coming across a much less well-defined path than the previous ones. At first I was dismayed, like, I’ve picked out this next part and it’s not even a real trail. But of course, it turned out to be nice. There were no tourists with their day-packs, and we didn’t see a single other person. The valley was huge and the road was soon out of sight. Mountains rose up on either side, marmots played and alarm-called in the fields, the river gurgled and gushed below us. We saw an amazing snowbridge covering the river at one narrow point in the valley. When we reached a spot across from a beautiful waterfall, we decided that we’d had enough hiking for the night and set down our packs.
You aren’t really supposed to camp here. In fact, it’s forbidden. But oh well! We slept out anyway. No tent needed, and since we hadn’t seen a single person in the valley I wasn’t worried. We cooked up some dinner, ate some good Swiss chocolate, and spotted some ibex on the ridge. I fell asleep to the stars above me (all right, I couldn’t see them very well because I took my contacts out…) and the sound of the waterfall across the valley. It only got cold when the dew fell on the outside of my sleeping bag early the next morning.
After tea and biscuits for breakfast, we set out to go the rest of the way up the valley to the Grialetsch hut. From there, we took a spur trail up towards “Vadret de Grialetsch”, the real-deal, giant, year-round glacier that sits on the flanks of Piz Vadret and Piz Grialetsch. We dropped our packs behind a boulder and climbed up through the snow again to an even more magical sunny winter wonderland.
Besides the snow, the rocky scree ridges were also amazing for their diversity of alpine plants. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, spotting one then another, another, another.
We sort of wanted to stay up there forever. So we sat for a while and ate more chocolate and snacks, and gazed at the glacier, and decided it was indeed a bad idea to try to hike over the ridge between the two mountains. Instead, finally, we had to descend back to the hut (which was fun, more sliding down snowfields) and eventually to the Dischma valley, where we caught a bus back into town.
My friend headed back to Zurich after a late lunch, and I headed back to Julia’s house to clean up and recover. In many ways it was a strange weekend, but mostly it was glorious. I hiked and laughed and explored with a new friend, in a beautiful new place that I’m so happy to call home for the next few months. I had randomly picked some places on a map to go check out – and they had been perfect. It gave me a taste of what will be possible every single weekend I’m here, since this was just a sampling of the vast Alpine terrain that surrounds Davos on all sides. I have my bearings a little more now, and can’t wait to go on more adventures.
And finally, Timothée said that I proved myself to be trustworthy. In an unfamiliar place, that means a lot. I have the confidence to keep exploring, to make it up as I go along, and to believe that it will be amazing.