Annual MIT Hike around Les Marécottes and Salvan in Wallis

29 Aug. 2014

Event report by Freddy Gardiol

Lac de Salanfe

Friday 29 August
With Irène, I drove up from Pully to Les Marécottes in the early afternoon, and encountered a large shower on the way, but later on the weather cleared up. We settled in our nice suite, and enjoyed swimming in the pool of the hotel. Just after 6 pm I drove to the station to meet Norman, Marion and Janet, who were coming by train (there is some distance on the way up from the station, at the bottom of the village, to the hotel, which is located at the top). We went for dinner to the nearby restaurant “Au Clair de Lune,” for “röstis” and cheese toasts. This is a nice place with quite a pleasant atmosphere. The house wine, actually produced near Martigny by the restaurant owners, was delicious. Michael and Jill arrived later on in the evening, driving from Geneva — they had started after the rush hour.

Group in forest

Saturday 30 August
Early morning, all the mountains around Les Marécottes were covered by mist, which extended almost to the village. At breakfast time we tried to determine which way to go for our hike. It appeared that the tour I had originally planned (Emaney Pass and Salanfe) would be rather doubtful, because we might remain all day within the clouds. It sounded better to stay below the mist, walking either to Les Granges and Vallon de Van, or towards Finhaut. Christian and Martine, who live near Sion, arrived then. They know well the area and, after looking over the various possibilities, Christian suggested that we go by car to the end of the road in “Van d’en Haut” and try our luck climbing up to the Salanfe Dam and Lake. We all agreed that this was the best proposal, and were soon on our way, up along on a winding road in the mist. We then started walking up on a mountain road in poor condition. Further along this “road” was even closed to pedestrians, and we chose to climb a steep path. The group kept pretty well together, with the faster members kindly stopping once in a while to wait for the slower ones. Further along we found again the mountain road, and the going got progressively easier, until we arrived to the dam, after a two hour walk. The mist had completely subsided while we were climbing, and we could see most of the mountains, while their tops were still in the clouds.

Rocky road

We stopped at the nice restaurant overlooking the lake, where we enjoyed a lunch on the sunny terrace (salads, “röstis,” cheese toasts, and a lot of beer). Around two pm, we wondered about what to do next. It would be a shame to go down already, as the weather had significantly improved, so we decided to walk around the lake. At first it was an easy walk on a good, even path, then we crossed sandy meadows with several small streams and a herd of cows. Further along we had to climb again, to get well above the very steep southern shore of the lake. The way to the dam thus turned out to be longer than expected, it took us some two and a half hours. And then we went down, this time all the way along the “road” — which turned out to be covered by a stony landslide in three places. So we were pleased to reach the cars and be on our way back to Les Marécottes. Altogether we had walked for about six hours!

Norm and Marion

Les Marecottes

Two members of the group enjoyed a swim in the pool and a short stay in the sauna. Neda and Rada joined us for the dinner — due to unfortunate ankle injuries, they had not been able to come for the hike. The dinner was quite tasty, and the hotel personnel most pleasant and accommodating. So we spent a nice evening discussing all kinds of items and getting better acquainted.

Sunday 31 August
After a hearty breakfast, the time had come to leave the hotel, walking down to Salvan — with the three drivers bringing down the cars with the luggage. Around ten thirty am we were welcomed at the Marconi Museum by professor Yves Fournier, President of the Salvan Marconi Foundation, who took us around the exhibits and told us about the history of Salvan, which was a highly fashionable tourist and “climacteric” health resort around the end of the 19th Century. According to the story told in the 60s by an old man, it is here that young Guglielmo Marconi carried out some of his most significant early experiments in wireless transmission, reaching close to one mile in 1895. We then walked up to the top of a hill, where Marconi had set his transmitter on a large monolith, while a ten year old boy was carrying the receiver in the surrounding area, moving further and further away as Marconi was adjusting his apparatus.

Group in village

Finally we enjoyed a light lunch — after a long wait — at the “Café de l’Union,” and all of us left to return home, at the end of a week-end with both physical and technical endeavors. We were all most pleased that the weather had proven quite favorable, despite somber predictions, and that participants could safely take part in the hike, or chose less strenuous walks in this picturesque area.

Freddy Gardiol