Stockholm for Radiohead

Earlier this month I was very lucky to be able to go to Stockholm for just a couple of days, and while there to see Radiohead play a concert. The concert was at the Ericsson Globe, which turns out to be the world’s largest spherical building. You see it from miles off and it’s further away than it looks. The show was just fantastic; Radiohead were flawless and although my seat was off to the side of the stage and precipitously high in the arena, the sound was excellent and I could see pretty well. Here are some photos from Stockholm, and also of some stellar alpine sunset views from landing in Geneva on the return flight.

Arriving in Stockholm.
The Ericsson Dome.
After the show.
Stockholm’s ubiquitous stone lions.
Gamla Stan.
Approaching the Alps.
Lac Léman (Vevey and Montreux), and looking into Valais.
Mont Blanc out the plane window.
Dents du Midi, Grand Combin, and Mont Blanc at sunset.
June 24, 2017
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Prealpine walks in Spring

This spring and early summer, Tanya and I headed to the Prealps to get some walking in while the snow melted up high. We first headed to Les Avants, famous for its narcisses flowers. From there we walked up a well-worn path to Sonloup, then up past the Goille aux Cerfs and across crests and valleys. A short steep climb got us to the Col de Lys, next to the similarly named Dent, from where we had wonderful views across a lot of the Alps. We headed down the other side of the Col to eventually end up at Les Sciernes d’Albeuve, where we cooled down in the shade before catching the train back to Montreux. Along the way we saw narcisses flowers, marmots, and a solitary ungulate (it was in the distance and we couldn’t quite decide whether it was a bouquetin or chamois, but it definitely had hooves).

Tanya pointing out Lac Léman.
Just above Sonloup.
View northwards from near the Col de Lys.
Narcisses and melting snow.

Another weekend we went walking near Les Plans sur Bex in the Alpes Vaudoises. The weather forecast was for storms in the late afternoon so it was with some trepidation that we set out from Le Pont de Nant. It was a hot day and we sweated our way up to La Vare and the valley behind the giant Argentine.

Tanya is quite the strider.
La Vare.
Tanya at the Col des Essets.

After a while we got to the Col des Essets (2029 m), where snow drifts were still hanging around. From here we could see clear across to Les Diablerets, which was rapidly being covered by cumulus clouds. We had a quick lunch then made a fast retreat back to the Pont de Nant, as the storms grew and rumbled in the distance.

Looking back from the Col des Essets.
Les Diablerets (3210 m).
La Vare again.
Almost down and still no storms too close.
Tanya feeling height limited at the Mobility Car station.

The last of our spring walks was in the Prealpes Fribourgoises, when we walked from Les Baudes, past the Cabane de Bounavaux, and up to the Col de Bounavalette (1996 m). It was a short walk but one that was exceptionally rich in both wildlife and precipitation. We saw two baby foxes, a giant snail, some salamanders, and a whole herd of chamoix. And it rained for the second half of the walk.

Fox!
Snail!
Bouquetin statue at the Cabane de Bounavaux.
More Narcisses, this time in the rain.
Salamander!
This waterfall was really quite big.

Biking around Lavaux

Tanya and I have been making a habit of riding from Lausanne to Vevey through the hilly paths of Lavaux. The roads are mostly car-free and weave steeply through the vineyards. The ride is roughly 20 km, with stunning views all the way. Here are some photos from this spring and early summer: some are from these rides, and some are from the shore of the lovely Lac Léman.

The classic Lavaux view that never gets old.
Sunset at Lutry.
View from a favourite bar, Jetée, on the lakeside.
Lutry Plage view.
June 11, 2017
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Spring skiing in Zermatt

On a clear day above Zermatt, like we had last Sunday, it is impossible to argue with the Matterhorn’s status as the iconic mountain. It’s very impressive. Just look at this thing!

On Sunday, although it was sunny on the Swiss side, on the Italian side the valley filled up with cloud that swirled and rolled over the col next to the mountain. I made a little timelapse to show the cloud movement and the Matterhorn’s nice plume.


Cloud on the Italian side of the Matterhorn.

It’s already May, but there has recently been quite a lot of snow falling high in the hills, so the skiing conditions were excellent.

Cervin (top), Tanya (bottom).

This is Pete’s Matterhorn Manual:



The conditions changed substantially overnight, and it snowed all of the next day. This meant that we had loads of incredible fresh powder to ski, but also that it was almost whiteout conditions. The snowboarders borrowed poles to get across some flat sections in the fresh snow.

Georgie and Pete enjoying the powder.

The Matterhorn’s status is strong and it remained just as iconic even when we couldn’t see it. Cheers, Zermatt!

May 7, 2017
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The Alps from the air

Last week I was in Vienna for the excellent European Geosciences Union conference. I had a great time; it was scientifically inspiring and there were schnitzels. I flew from Geneva and was lucky to get amazing weather for both the way there and back, which meant the views over the Alps were extraordinary. I spent the flight glued to the window, trying to name the peaks I could see passing below. Quite soon we left the region that I know, and there were just mountains upon mountains stretching into the distance. There are a lot of alps in the Alps! Here are some photos from the plane window.

In a Fokker 100 you can be uncomfortably close to the engine.
Taking off from Geneva. Mont Blanc and the French shores of Lac Léman.
Lac Léman and Valais, Grand Combin and Mont Blanc.
Lausanne!
The Matterhorn in the distance.
Thunersee.
North face of the Eiger with Mönch and Jungfrau.
So many more mountains!
On the way home — Lausanne, Lac Léman, Grand Combin and Mont Blanc.
May 3, 2017
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Saas Fee time lapses

Last weekend in Saas Fee I had fun making time lapses with my phone. I particularly like how the skiers look like little dots zig-zagging down the mountain (turn on HD to see this properly). The first time lapse shows the Alpin Express cablecar coming and going from its top station at 2990 m.


The next one shows a hyperlapse of the Felskinn cableway. The windows of the Felskinn are blue, which left everything strangely tinted, so I made the video black and white.

Next is the view from (the bar at) Längflue, across the Feegletscher.

The last video shows the Allalinhorn (3027 m) and skiers on the easy slopes on the glacier below, as the clouds boil overhead.

April 22, 2017
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Col des Bastillon (ou Chevaux)

It’s definitely spring here, but there is still snow in the mountains, so a couple of weeks ago Tanya and I went for a ski tour. We started high, because the snow is rapidly melting, and set out from Bourg St Bernard at 1915 m, which is as close as you can drive to the Grand St Bernard pass in winter. We skied towards Monts Telliers, along the same route we took at about the same time last year.

Pre-tour-planning-with-beer is a crucial step.
Bluebird (read: hot) conditions.

There was still a lot of snow around up there, and we were able to ski directly from the car park. It was a stunner of a day, not a breath of wind and sunny, and it was hot and thirsty work climbing up the valley.

After a while we could see Monts Telliers up ahead. There was a giant cornice on top, and some other ski tourers were nearing the summit. While a few walked across the cornice, most stayed back on the ridge under the peak, from where you cannot easily see into the next valley. We made a strategic call to make our goal the Col des Bastillons (2754 m), which would guarantee us the well-known-to-be-awesome view across Val Ferret and onto the Mont Blanc Massif, instead of risking getting to the ridge, being turned around by the cornice, and missing out.

The view we wanted. On left Mont Blanc and Grandes Jorasses, on right Mont Dolent. Val Ferret in between.
Mont Blanc and Grandes Jorasses.
Looking the other way, to Mont Vélan.

Strangely, the Col des Bastillon is also referred to as the Col des Chevaux on maps. In person it was sign-posted only Bastillon, and there was a sign pointing to (another) Col des Chevaux across the way. Mysterious!

Looking across Val Ferret from Col des Bastillon.
Grand Golliat.

With the heat of the day we didn’t want to linger too long, so we fixed our heels and skied quickly down the valley. The snow was beautiful spring snow, super easy to ski, no crust and not too heavy.

Skiing down, with views across to Grand Combin and Mont Vélan.
Tanya skiing backwards while singing and using her ski poles as antlers. She is the best.
Did someone say it was spring?

We were back at the car nice and early, and on the way home we dropped in to Chamonix for lunch, and saw Mont Blanc from the other side. It was a fantastic relaxing Sunday.

April 22, 2017
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Skiing en piste 16/17

Although this winter has generally been considered to be on the low-snow side, Tanya and I have been very lucky and we have done quite a bit of skiing. First, we scored incredibly cheap season passes for Saas Fee, so we have been able to take full advantage of its high altitude, epic views, and amazing après ski vibe. On our first day there Tanya and Pete played snow-cricket:

A post shared by Tim Raupach (@cutflat) on

Dom, in centre, is the highest peak wholly within Switzerland.
Saas-Fee glaciers in December. The mountain behind is Weissmeiss (4017 m).
Lots of ice.
Dom again (centre, 4545 m).
Sunset from Saas-Fee village.

We took an off-piste ski course that was organised by the Swiss Alpine Club and ran through January and February. It was excellent; for four Sundays in a row we skied off-piste with an instructor, at Portes du Soleil, Leysin, and Ovronnaz. The day we went to Ovronnaz happened to include a huge dump of snow, so we skied powder all day, and it was fantastic.

Leysin with the valley filled with cloud. Dents du Midi behind.

It did also snow a bit in Lausanne — enough to fill my rain gauge.

Accuracy compromised.

A bit later we went to Grindelwald, and skied in perfect weather under the mighty Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

Eiger (3970 m) at sunset, from Grindelwald.
Peering into the Lauterbrunnen valley.
Skiing with the north wall of the Eiger as the intimidating backdrop.
Mönch (4107 m) and Jungfrau (4158 m).
Lauberhorn and Tschuggen, and the Grindelwald ski area.
Sunset light on Wetterhorn (3692 m) from Grindelwald.

Portes du Soleil is a favourite place to go. It’s close to Lausanne, is huge and has excellent terrain, and you can ski into France where they make tartiflette.

Dents du Midi from near Champéry on my work lab’s yearly ski day.
Later in the season, rain left runnels in the snow.

More recently we spent a day at Verbier, and ventured up to Mont Fort to ski some steeper moguls. From the top of the station you could see so many of Switzerland’s great peaks — from Weisshorn, Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc de Cheilon, across to the Grand Combin and Mont Blanc Massif.

Weisshorn, Dent Blanche, Matterhorn, Dent d’Hérens, and on the far right, Pigne d’Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon, from Mont Fort.
Grand Combin.
Mont Blanch Massif, and the ski slope off Mont Fort.
Atmospheric ski café at Verbier.

Our most recent piste ski was at Zinal/Grimentz, a little station in the wonderful Val d’Anniviers. Here we skied spring snow, which is super fun because heavy snow will forgive you for almost any mistake. At the end of our first day there I discovered that I had ripped an edge out from one of my skis, presumably through hitting a rock. I took the skis to the nearest ski shop, where the staff laughed while telling me the ski could not be fixed. Later, I took it to a shop in Lausanne where they told me it could definitely be fixed and then fixed it. What a rollercoaster ride!

Great views from Zinal station.
Barrage and Lac de Moiry.
From Grimentz, the Barrage de Moiry and behind it Grand Cornier with Pointes de Mourti on its right.
Spring means walking more.
Zinal town has the best gate in the valley.
The Becs de Bosson, a peak we climbed last summer.
Whiteout at Grimentz.
Left: ouch! Right: the ski rides again!

We are very fortunate to have been able to get into the mountains so much this winter, and I am grateful. Now it’s undeniably springtime, and it has to be said that the warm weather is really rather nice: the fields are turning green and there is blossom everywhere. And we’re still eking out days on the skis, you just have to go higher to find it!

Saas Fee on a recent day when it had dumped snow and nearly all the pistes were shut for avalanche control.
A spring train view on the way back to Lausanne. On this train a man talked loudly about attaques de blaireaux (badger attacks!).
Spring at my work at EPFL.
April 13, 2017
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Painted doors in Funchal

The old part of Funchal, the main town in Madeira, has lots of beautiful paintings in the streets. Most often they are on the doors of the houses and restaurants. Here are a few photos of these paintings that I took while there over Christmas.

February 19, 2017
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Avalanche course and ski tour

Last weekend I went on an avalanche safety course organised by the EPFL Mountain Club. The course was in La Fouly in Val Ferret, where there was a strong foehn wind blowing up from Italy (side note: in Swiss french, the verb foehner means to blow-dry one’s hair, because the foehn wind is the warm, dry wind). On the first day of the course we did activities in a field: we practiced finding avalanche beacons, looked at layers in the snow, and dug. Even with a team digging in an efficient configuration, digging through snow is really hard work. We also talked a lot about how to reduce avalanche risk.

Pointes des Six Niers (2939 m).
Conditions in the Combe des Fonds.

That evening we went through trip planning and planned a ski course for the next day. Our group set out to ski to the top of Crêta de Vella (2519 m). We approached from Drance, which is in Val d’Entrement and was therefore more sheltered from the wind. Nevertheless, when we got out of the forest the wind was strong enough to be impressive.

Exiting the forest on the way to Crêta de Vella (behind).

I have twice before skied this route, but each time the conditions meant that we could not go to the summit and we turned around at the top of the forest. This time the conditions were better and we were able to continue, so we cut across the Plan Devant and around to the east side of the mountain, where we could get to the summit without being on any steep slopes.

The eastern side of the mountain had been heavily blasted by the foehn, and the snow cover is quite light this year in any case. This meant we were skiing on hard snow with various almost-bare patches. We pushed on and were rewarded with amazing views from the top.

Almost there.
Cornices on the ridge, with blowing snow forming trails over the top.
The summit of Crêta de Vella (2519 m).
Le Catogne (nicknamed the “Swiss volcano” for its conical form).
Looking south towards Italy.
Floor on the summit.
It’s hard to see here, but the black smear down this mountain is an enormous avalanche trace on its north face.
Looking across the Combe de l’A and Val Ferret.
Petit (left) and Grand (right, in cloud) Combins.
So much wind!

We didn’t linger on the summit, but instead we took photos, took the skins off our skis, and headed down. The snow at the top was crusty but had nice stashes of wind-blown powder that you could follow for a few easier turns. Down lower in the forest the snow was good but the turns were tight. A great day in the backcountry!

February 18, 2017
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