It seems a topic which is impossible to avoid, the weather, no matter how hard I try so to do. It has snowed in Wengen, on and off, over the last few days and at the moment it seems like winter. Today, the sun has shone but it has been cold all day. However, that harbinger of doom, otherwise known as Meteo Swiss, predicts the foehn wind will blow over the next twelve hours or so, which could wreak enormous damage to the still fragile snow conditions.
It didn’t seem likely in the morning sun. The anvil shaped cloud which sits above the Eiger normally when the wind is on its way was missing and all was calm. However, the bird life knows a thing or two about the local conditions and comes down to the village from the mountain when the wind threatens. This afternoon, the coughs were lined up on our balcony railing like bit part actors from The Birds.
Fingers crossed that the weathermen and the wildlife have both got it wrong.
I have tried before to avoid talking about the weather, but at a time when the Idle Skiers are hoping for a bit (hopefully a great deal) of snow, it is a difficult subject to avoid.
So here we go. After a week of seemingly uninterrupted sunshine, we woke to a hard frost and heavy cloud. Wengen was a colder place than it has been for a while. A quick check of the webcams showed clear skies higher up the mountain, but Mrs IS decided pretty quickly on a day at home.
Cloud without snowfall has little to recommend it and so I went in search of the sunshine. The quickest route seemed to be to repeat our walk of a few days ago to the Leiterhorn. Just above the last farms on the steep path, the cloud finished. People were thin on the ground, but the local wildlife was out and about and enjoying the Sunday morning. About the only sound on the climb out of the village was the slightly mournful peal of church bells from Lauterbrunnen.
It has been warm around here this last couple of days and sunny. The cold weather in the forecast has disappeared without trace. All of which makes the days very pleasant, but it is not really what is needed.
There is still snow on the the mountain, but it is wafer thin now and there is little prospect of it being put to good use for a while. In most years, our walking boots would be packed away, but at the moment they are essential kit. With one thing and another, it is really not the best of times for this little village, despite the sunshine. In weather terms, it has all happened before of course, so we hope winter gets a grip soon.
The morning dawned bright and very cold. We decided to walk to Scheidegg to see how things stood after the snow over the last couple of days. We didn’t have the best of starts; on the steep hill which links the Hotel Baren with the old Hirschen hotel we skittered around like novice ice skaters on the frozen tarmac.
In the end, we took the long way round and once on to the snow proper, all was well. The snow guns were working on the pistes almost to the village and even the long, fairly tedious path to Scheidegg seemed pretty special in the sun. Despite the cold, it is not really winter yet around here, but at least it looked a little bit like the ski resort it is meant to be.
There is not much snow in the weather forecast for what seems like an eternity, but it looks set to stay fairly cold, so with any luck modern technology will produce some skiable pistes. We hope for the best.
The weather forecasts, all of the apparently boundless number which cover Wengen, suggest rain tomorrow and maybe some snow, at least higher up the mountain. We will see. Over the years, we have realised that the local weather makes its own decisions and those decisions do not always (maybe rarely) match what is expected. It is not that I am worried about this at all, of course, but some snow would be good to see.
Today was sunny yet again, though cold in the shadow of the mountains. At the local farms, the animals are making the most of their time under blue skies. The goats at Innerwengen in particular seemed to be enjoying the day.
For the last week or so, we have enjoyed a late summer here in Wengen. Our routine has not been that different from August, with long walks interspersed by a chance to catch up on our reading in the afternoon sun. The only thing missing has been tennis, with the courts being closed for a while now.
That is all well and good, but the ski season should be kicking off soon (events in the wider world permitting) and just at the moment, there does not seem much chance of that happening on time. Last night, things changed a little. It rained in the village and higher up, it snowed. The forecast shows the weather becoming colder, with a little more snowfall. Fingers crossed for that.
Today, Mrs IS had some Pilates commitments, so I had a solo yomp around the valley. I walked down to Lauterbrunnen, up to Winteregg, on to Murren, down to Stechelberg, back to Lauterbrunnen and up to the village.
Hopefully, that is about the last long distance hike this year. It really is time to dust down the skis and get on with the real business of the mountains in winter.
We have been here for nearly a week now and have managed a few walks in the sun, the days being alternately bright but cold and pretty miserable.
Today, we walked towards Mettenalp, but at the turning where we often head for the Trummelbach falls, we turned back instead towards Innerwengen. It was early in the day and the walk was mainly in the shadow of the mountains. A hard frost covered the hillside from just above Allmend.
The snow cannon are in place now on the pistes. It looks like it might be a warm few days ahead though, so the snow making (and real snowfall) are still a while off yet.
On the lower pastures, sheep are still grazing. Like the cows, they wear bells, but unlike the cows, their bells ring more or less constantly as they munch the grass. The sound from a small flock is random of course, but seems to be a series of atonal compositions, in the tradition of Schoenberg and others. The village only celebrates Mendelssohn’s time here. That needs to change, clearly.
I have mentioned before, I think, that Harold Macmillan, U.K. prime minister in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when asked about the biggest hindrance to good government, responded “events”.
Well “events” are upon us now, wholesale, and on Thursday, England disappears into a further period of lockdown until 2 December. We had planned to return to Wengen during that time and rather than sit at home in London, doing not very much at all for a second period of this troubled year, we brought our trip forward and flew into Zurich this morning. We are now ensconced above the Lauterbrunnen valley.
From Wengen this afternoon
Is a further lockdown the right course of action? You have to hope that the government is better informed than the general public, and that there is a plan, but it does seem to be a case of kicking the can down the road a little further. At some point, if the miracle of an effective vaccine does not occur, our current prime minister will have to decide whether he wants to be Winston Churchill or Eric Honecker.
Twenty years ago, Polzeath had a hippy feel to it. All was peace and tranquillity. Similar to California, I expect, but with more pasties. Today, smart houses, which cost well in to seven figures, line the bay and the place has been spruced up enormously. The reasons for going there remain the same though; a fantastic beach and great waves.
The coastal weather has beaten the forecast again. After the rain at the weekend, it has been fine and today, the sun shone. We went to Polzeath and hired some body boards. We were not alone. It is a working day and not yet the half term holidays (if they are allowed to happen), but the beach car park was packed and the sea equally busy. We seemed to be the youngest people in the water; the “grey” surfing market has taken off enormously in the last decade.
In the afternoon, the tide receded, the clouds rolled in and it rained eventually, but by then, it didn’t matter much. Tomorrow is the Idle Skier’s birthday and accordingly, through force of habit of many years, it is back to the Polzeath waves.
The western tip of the British Isles is a land apart. Gentle rolling hills in Devon give way to a wild landscape on the north coast of Cornwall, where the North Atlantic breakers have come all the way from the Americas.
Early in 1998, when our Westie joined the payroll, Mrs IS decided that on no account were we spending our summer holiday abroad. Instead, we spent a fortnight on the beaches of the West Country. We have been returning pretty much every year since, latterly for this week in early October.
A regular haunt is Summerleaze beach in Bude, on the north Cornish coast. We have been lucky with the weather over the years. Often, when the cloud hangs low over Bodmin Moor and characters from Jamaica Inn might be about their business happily, the sun manages to show its face on the coast.
Bude sea pool and Summerleaze beach
Today, however, Storm Alex, which yesterday had made our journey to Cornwall extremely wet, continued to blow strongly. Walking on the beach this morning, we were soaked in next to no time. In the afternoon, we went on to Widemouth Bay, where the car rocked in the wind when we parked.
Our luck with the weather may be finished for the time being. Rain is forecast for the week. Luckily, we packed some books.