Back in Aletsch… to walk across the suspension bridge over the Massa…

So on the same afternoon that we arrived, after putting our stuff in our room, we quickly went back out to make our trek towards the suspension bridge across the gorge of Massa. We had wanted to go there on our first visit but did not have the time to do so as we had arrived at Riederfurka a little too late to be able to go and see both the bridge and the glacier (as to do both would have required more than half a day’s walk from Riederfurka). So the main purpose of our second trip to the same place in the Aletsch region was to visit this bridge lah! In addition to being able to admire the glacier again … as well as any lakes en route, of course. 🙂

I did not expect the bridge to be as far … so that when I saw the time on the sign post indicating how long it would take to reach the bridge, I was a bit worried whether or not we could make it back to Villa Cassel  on time for dinner at 6.30pm given that we had started our trek at around 3.20pm. Since we did not want to walk to the bridge the next day as we had already registered for another activity with Pro Natura very early in the morning, we decided to go ahead with our plan and trek to the suspension bridge … but we were aware that we would not have a lot of time to stay in the area before having to make our way back to the villa.

Anyway, I was eager to check out the suspension bridge … after seeing a photo of the bridge on a promotion poster of the CFF (Chemins de Fer Fédéraux, i.e. the Swiss railways), which was how I got to know about the bridge in the area 

… as well as this poster at the halfway-point station as we made our way up to Riederalp from Mörel by cable car!

Well … I was really happy when we finally reached the suspension bridge after almost 2 hours of walking (… which included short stops along the way to take some photos, of course!). Although a bit frightened (because believe it or not … I am actually quite afraid of height!) … I made my way across the bridge to and fro … and even found the courage to stop in the middle to take some snapshots of the gorge of Massa. We stayed in the area for about 25 minutes before making our way back to the villa … and this was when our mountain adventure really started!!

The route (in red) we took to go down to the suspension bridge from Villa Cassel  (credits: illustration Pro Natura; topographical data: Swisstopo).

Unfortunately, we did not follow the same route back to the villa … but tried to take a shortcut by following a less popular path (the line in light green cutting across) after leaving Grünsee … and ended up losing our way when the signs that we had been following suddenly disappeared! Oh no!!

And so for the next 2 hours or so we tried hard to find our way back to the villa … by walking towards what the hubby believed to be the direction to Villa Cassel! Even though the hubby has a good sense of orientation (unlike me), I must say that it was really tough because … it was mostly uphill and through thick forest … and our journey was hampered by the disappearing day light as the evening started to give way to night! In trying to cut across the slope of the mountain to reach the top quickly, we had to climb steep slopes using our bare hands several times … which was not very pleasant at all! But not much choice if we did not want to be stranded … and end up spending the night in the forest … in autumn!!

It became harder to find the trail sign when it became totally dark! Thank God we had brought with us two mini pocket torch lights and a headlampI can only urge anybody who is reading this blog and who is thinking of going on a walk in the mountains or through deep forest after 3 pm to do so only with a torch and a headlamp in their rucksack (plus some food and a jacket/fleece jumper). Without them, it would have been not only very difficult to find our way through the dark, but very dangerous, too. After having walked what seemed to me hours without having managed to get back on the trail to Villa Cassel, Riederfurka … I have to admit that I was very dejected and even felt like crying … as I most certainly did not want to spend the night in the forest, high up in the mountain when the temperature was about to drop significantly! But the hubby kept on providing me support and saying that it was only a question of time before we would get back on the path.

We were lucky that the weather had been very nice that day and so the evening temperature was still pleasantly warm in the mountain (or maybe it was my fear that made me feel warm that evening!) … but I knew that the temperature would definitely drop as the night came down. But to get hysterical and break down would not help given the situation we were in … so I tried to calm my wrought nerves … so that I would remain alert and be able to help the hubby find the trail back to the villa as much as possible.

Because of the darkness … we lost the trail signs twice … after finding them! Thankfully after the third time, we managed to find and follow the trail and signs all the way back to Riederfurka and then to the villa … phewwww…!! We left the bridge at 5.40pm and did not reach the villa until after 9.00pm … that was how long we were out there in the forest …  trying to make our way back!!! Incidentally, the last part of the forest is called ‘Teiffe Wald‘, i.e. very close to the German expression that means ‘thick forest’.

When we reached the villa, one of the guests, Tania, came down to greet us … to find out whether we were the people she had seen from her window out there in the dark with torch lights. She seemed bewildered that anybody could be out there at this time and expressed her sympathy for our ordeal, telling us how horrid it must have been to find ourselves lost in the dark with the bellowing of the stags in rut echoing around us!

Thankfully, although dinner time was over … the staff at the villa kindly kept our dinner and even reheated it for us when we arrived … after they had been told that we were lost in the forest. In fact, one of them had even called us on my handphone after we had failed to show up for dinner and enquired what had happened. Both she and a colleague later came down when she heard that we had finally arrived safely to make sure that we had indeed made our way back. Now you know why we liked staying at Villa Cassel! 🙂 Thanks to everybody at Pro Natura Villa Cassel!

Anyway … here are the photos (which are clickable) of our hike to the suspension bridge on an afternoon/evening we shall not be forgetting any time soon …

Making our way from Villa Cassel  to the start point at Riederfurka … to the glacier, to the suspension bridge across the gorge of Massa, to the lake in the area as well as to other trails in the region. There are so many of these trails that it would probably take more than a week to do them all!

About to enter the forest of Aletsch … with a beautiful view of a snow-covered mountain top in the background.

Heading downwards across the forest of Aletsch. It was really a lovely sunny autumn day … thank God! Imagine if that day had been a chilly one … it would have been worst at night!! Urghh …

Making our way deeper through the forest of Aletsch.

The sign post at a place called Silbersand (this one is not too difficult to guess what it means in English lah … altitude: 1,920 metres) … showing the time needed to walk back to Riederfurka or, among the many other destinations, to the suspension bridge (called Hängebrücke in German, i.e. hanging bridge).

The stretch of path from Silbersand  was quite different from earlier paths… it was full of small stones … and before that there was a large slope of grey sand, after which the area takes its name.

And at one stretch of the trail … we actually had to walk over rocks that were quite slippery, having been polished by the glacier’s movements for more than 10,000 years … hence the warning sign (red and white diamond-shaped sign).

An interesting experience, I have to admit … and part of the fun of doing the hike to the gorge, for sure! 😉

We also get to see a different view of the glacier of Aletsch from here. As we were walking away from the glacier … we got to see the tongue of the glacier (the greyish area). I could not help but feel quite sad when I realised by how much the glacier had retreated from where it was 150 years ago, as can be seen by looking at the ‘scraped’ parts on the right flank of the mountain — the hubby points out that there is still ice under the grey sand, which protrudes a bit like a gigantic ‘tongue’. 😦

So … better take photos with the tongue of the glacier in the background … while one can still do so!!

Continuing with our walk … across more stones and large rocks!

Okay … another 15 minutes more to the bridge … after walking for more than 1.5 hours to be precise!

But before that … another stop at this small lake at a place called Grünsee, which was created when the glacier retreated from this area (i.e. as it melted) about 80 years ago (which also explains why the trees are still so small and frail looking). It is a picnic area for those who wish to rest and enjoy the view of the lake and the mountains surrounding it.

From this point, there were basically two routes back to Riederfurka: one going up, the other one down (almost straight ahead in a direct line from the signpost). Thinking that it would take less time to reach Riederfurka by going down first and then up (basically, by following the light green route on the map on the second photo from the top) … we unwisely decided to do so … with almost dire consequences, I must say!

Leaving the lake at Grünsee behind … and making our way onward to the gorge and Hängebrücke.

Finally, we saw the gorge, just ahead.

But first … there was a wooden bridge to cross! A steel rope had been put in place to aid visitors to the gorge to cross a section of the path. Naturally, I held on to the steel rope as I made my way across the narrow wooden bridge.

But not the hubby! Showing off as usual … by walking across, unaided! This Ta … *shake head!!*

I would suspect that originally a small narrow path was to be found around this bend … and that it must have given way … which is why a narrow wooden bridge was put in place together with a steel rope for holding on to … pure hypothesis lah (but not that far-fetched if you see the heap of stones that came down on the next picture)! And if you wonder why is the hubby t-shirtless … well no, he was not trying to be sexy (or is it seksa?! ;)) … but as the day was quite warm (even though we were already in autumn), the hubby decided to remove his t-shirt along the way, especially since we had come across nobody else on our way to the gorge of Massa!

Making my way down towards the gorge of Massa … and finally …

our first view of the suspension bridge (Hängebrücke) across the gorge! We were so excited when we saw it. 🙂

Walking the last few metres to the bridge. For safety reasons, ropes have been put in place to prevent unwanted accidents … probably to make sure eager visitors do not accidentally slip and fall down the ravine as they hurry across a particularly treacherous stretch along the final metres towards the bridge! Well … that is just my assumption lah!

The suspension bridge … as it looks just before stepping on it. Seems quite far, no? Actually it is only 124 metres long. It was built and completed in July 2008 … so still quite new lah! But already a major attraction, it seems, probably because it allows hikers the thrill of experiencing the sensation of dangling in the air some 80 metres above the river Massa … 🙂

Me, making my way across the bridge … as captured by the hubby who was waiting on one side so as to be able to get a good shot of yours truly making my maiden walk across the bridge! 🙂

Me again … having walked a little beyond midpoint … as seen from another angle.

And me again … as I was about to reach the other end of the bridge. It felt as if it took ages for me to walk from one end to the other end of the 124 metres long bridge. But when I timed myself on my way back across the bridge, actually it took me only 4 minutes! Without doubt it was one of the longest 4 minutes I have ever had to go through … but still … quite thrilling also lah!! 🙂

Views of the gorge of Massa on both sides of the Hängebrücke … as seen more or less from the middle of the bridge …

…  and when looking down below the bridge.

As I stopped to take photos of the gorge and the surrounding area, I felt quite chilly and could also feel the bridge swaying slightly as a result of the wind blowing through the gorge. Needless to say … I did not stop for too long and made my way across … with my right hand on the rail as I did so. I knew the bridge was strong enough to take my weight … as I am not really very big or very heavy either… but better be safe than sorry lah! hehehe …

The hubby’s turn … making his way across as I stood waiting on the other side of the gorge. Of course unlike me, the hubby had no qualms making his way across the gorge … and taking his time to take several photos while he was on the bridge. In fact … as usual …

he tried to clown around …

Yes Ta, I know that you have the head for heights … unlike me … but errr … no need to show off lah! 😉

A close-up shot of the tongue of the glacier of Aletsch … taken by the hubby from the middle of the Hängebrücke.

And a shot of the surroundings near the gorge … taken when I was safely on the other side of the bridge.

On the other side of the bridge, there was a panel which provided details about the suspension bridge and its construction, a map of Alestch (see second picture from the top) … as well as information about the Aletsch region, including these photos which show how much the area changed within a span of 30 years. In 1978,  you could still see the tongue of the glacier from the vantage point from where the photo was taken. But the tongue has totally retreated within 30 years, leaving a gorge instead. So you can imagine how different the area will look 30 years from now … at the rate of present day global warming!! Not a pleasant thought.

An old open air stove that we came across in the forest while making our way back via a different route … one which we had thought would bring us back to Villa Cassel in less time …

with a panel to explain how it worked (people think it was last used to build Villa Cassel). Quite interesting … unfortunately, it was not long after we saw this open air stove that we lost the trail and the trail sign … and ended up trying to make our way back on our own!!

It was not easy trying to look for these familiar signs in the dark because … besides the single headlamp that I was wearing (which was not very powerful) … we had … only two mini pocket torch lights to provide the necessary illumination!!

It was quite scary … for me … to be in the forest when it was dark!! Especially hearing the loud noises made by the red deers which were busy trying to mate!! Fortunately, we had been briefed by the staff at Villa Cassel about this noise before we left … so that we knew which animals were making that noise! Otherwise, I might have thought some dangerous wild beasts were with us in that forest, that night!! Urghhh …

Now that I am back in the comfort of our home … I can look back at our little adventure in the forest of Aletsch as quite an exciting experience … but this was most certainly not the case when we were in the midst of it! However, we learned that we must be even better prepared (food, warm cloths, survival blanket and Swiss penknife in our rucksacks) the next time we are out hiking in the mountains or forest!

Related entries on Aletsch…

4 thoughts on “Back in Aletsch… to walk across the suspension bridge over the Massa…

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