Haute Route Day 9 – Col de Sorebois to above Zinal – Cow Pride Rock Camp to Cushy Cozy Camp
Kilometers hiked: 9.5-ish
Total Kilometers: 256.5
Haute Kilometers: 115
Crepes consumed: 4
Bread babies rejected: 1
Belgians spotted: 1
Although the rain stopped soon after setting up the tarp, last night was far from relaxed. Weeelll, it was actually pretty close to relaxed, but between sliding down the slope from time to time and almost being overrun by cowbells, there were ample reasons to wake up, stare into the darkness looking for cows, and shimmy back into place before drifting off once more. It was windy. Maybe the cows just wanted to cuddle.
But hey, what do you know, we made it to the clear and beautiful morning. I couldn’t help thinking that we were lucky to see this same view in such contrasting conditions. Stormy sunsets like last night feel like living in a piece of art, which is totally rad, but a totally clear vista is so optimistic and provides such a sense of place that I will never regret a boring blue sky. Gryllz and Alamo tore down their tent and we all lined up next to one another on their groundsheet to enjoy the view, slam calories, and wait for the sun to peak over the ridge behind us.
We started hiking around 9:30am, immediately regretting waiting for the sun. Actually, that gives us more credit than we deserve. We didn’t plan to wait for the sun, we just get such late starts that it’s always bright and warm when we get moving. Probably Alamo’s fault, but I don’t want to point fingers. In any case, the sun was nearly all the way across Lac de Moiry, fully in our faces, and the temps climbing when we rolled out to hit the last few hundred feet of long switchbacks to the pass. About 20 minutes later, 30 minutes after Alamo, I pulled up to Col de Sorebois(2847m), followed by Spice and Gryllz a couple minutes later. The guidebook was pretty hot on the view from up here so I was surprised at my surprise. The guidebook was right. The big, icy peaks across the valley ahead were pretty stunning. The biggest and best looking of the bunch was the Weisshorn, but it was supported by multiple other fins of broken rock and ice. The humid air silhouetted these far jags just enough to buff out the details and make them seem mystical and distant.
Views miraculously improved as we descended under a spider web of ski lifts and gondolas. Big earth-movers did as they do, scratching to contain the powerful forces of erosion on the manicured ski slopes. My knees ached and I wished for snow and skis. Gryllz wished for one of the paragliders that were launching nearby. We made a quick stop at the resort toilet, then pushed through an active cow orgy before resuming our ridiculous plunge down to Zinal.
It was hot down low, even in the shady trees. Pushing 85F as indicated by the thermometer on my pack. Gryllz and Alamo cruised ahead while Spice and I discussed our greatest life failures (damn you, pumpkin!). You know, usual lighthearted trail conversation. We all took a moment at the final stream before town to wash socks and cool our feet before hitting pavement. Alamo and I hung our shoes from our packs, opting to town* in style with flip-flops and crocs, respectively. Great decision.
The clock had just struck noon, meaning that everything important in Zinal was closed for at least two hours. This was our last chance to resupply for a few days so we had no choice but to leave our packs outside the grocery store and stumble to the reasonably priced Creperie. The service was extremely friendly and we were quickly shoveling down plates of savory crepes, a large platter of fries, and ice cream. A quick war council left me feeling much better about the coming days. All on the same page as far as route variants and days until our next resupply. I’m not a huge fan of running the show entirely by myself, so I was happy to hear the others give me confirmation that I am the best trip leader ever, with the perfect plan. Their words, not mine.
Having lingered long enough for the town to reawaken, we moseyed back to the supermarket for groceries. Even though we decided not to adopt the local bread baby, we ended up with waaaay too much food. Again, lots of cheese, bread, chips, pesto in glass jars, peanut butter Oreos, peanut butter, and Toblerone. I also added some guac to surprise the others with later on. Beets and yogurt too for immediate consumption. After getting shooed away from the hotel entrance, we bagged our packs against the intensifying rain and headed out of Zinal. 5:15pm. Damn, how did we managed to spend so much time in town?
The rain varied from steady to hard. The trail up a dirt road did not vary and remained steep. I was happy to have my umbrella as it was still quite warm in the low Swiss valley despite the storm. The others sweated it out in their rain jackets. Alamo eventually took his off, opting instead to get totally rain-soaked. Such is life with rain gear. You are soaked one way or the other. We told stories until we reached a three way junction where we hung a left onto some cruiser belvedere trail that stopped climbing and just contoured along at about the treeline. A Belgian dude caught up with us here, and it was interesting to hear about how the route in his French guidebook differed from ours. His sounded way harder, and he was doing it way faster. Spice hit her PCT stride and disappeared while I spoke with him about his 4am starts and 10-day itinerary. When a waiting Spice finally pulled the group over to camp, I wasn’t surprised to hear him say farewell before continuing on. Goodbye, 15-minute friend. Bon jovi!
Up a small hill above the trail to a cushy flat spot to camp. The rain had lightened to almost nothing over the past hour, but Spice and I were each relieved when we told each other that we didn’t want to risk the cowboy. We had had enough eating dinner in the rain yesterday to last us for a while. We set up the tarp while Gryllz and Alamo set up the tent, then retreated to our respective shelters for dinner. We shared another tasty one featuring half the guacamole, then killed the remaining hours before bedtime by plunging the spoon into the peanut butter to style hairdos. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds! Lick clean, repeat. Hours. Yum.
Rain continues. Lighter, harder. Sun sets. Grayer, darker. Hikers sleep. Deeper, log-ier. A cushy, cozy camp.
*v. town – to keep it real in a town.