La Couronne de Zinal

Last weekend, Tanya’s sister Andy was in Switzerland to visit. We took advantage of outrageously good weather to head into the mountains, and we walked from Zinal to the Cabane du Grand Mountet and stayed there for the night. The walk in climbs about 1200 m and takes between four and five hours to complete, depending on how long you stop to look at the incredible views.

The track to the cabin winds along the steep side of the valley. Gradually, we moved towards the end of the great Val d’Anniviers. Next to us was the Besso, a very beautiful mountain that we had to walk right around to get to the hut. As we got higher, patches of early Autumn snow started to appear on the ground, and we started noticing icicles where there was all-day shade.

At the end of the valley lies the Couronne de Zinal (Zinal’s Crown), a glacial bowl surrounded by 4000 m peaks. It is just spectacular. There is a semi-circle of mountains that includes Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, and Zinalrothorn, with glaciers running in between. Interestingly, the language barrier between French and Swiss-German lies along this valley – on one side you have “dents”, “pointes”, and “cols”, and on the other side you have “grats” and “horns”.

Ober Gabelhorn (4063 m).
L-R: Mont Durand (3713 m), Pointe de Zinal (3789 m), Dent Blanche (4357 m).

The hut was mostly empty and we enjoyed the quiet evening, watching the sun set over the giant mountains. There was not a breath of wind. Occasionally, a sharp crack came from the glaciers, sometimes followed by the sound of falling ice or rock. The setting sun turned the mountains pink and then disappeared.

Last light on Ober Gabelhorn.

The next day was equally stunning, and we headed higher from the hut, getting to about 3100 m and close to the summit of Le Mammouth, a rocky peak right above the cabin. For the first time in a while, I had my SLR with me, and I enjoyed using it immensely. You can see a selection of the resulting pictures on my photoblog.

Walking out, we watched as the crown of big summits hid once again behind smaller hills. The Couronne de Zinal is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen: a constantly evolving universe of rock and ice that lies at the end of Val d’Anniviers.

Ice and rock.
September 13, 2015

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