A walk amongst alpine flowers

Alpine flowers

Jungfrau

A walk in late June through the Lauterbrunnen valley offers a spectacular journey through a deeply incised glaciated valley with towering ice-capped summits above. With richly carpeted alpine meadows in between, awash with fresh snowmelt and awakening flowers, the scene was set for an overwhelming hut-to-hut excursion.

I chose to go to the Lauterbrunnen after meeting a friend and hearing stories of mountaineering and adventure combined with an overwhelming passion for the natural history. It sounded a perfect location to indulge oneself in nature and immerse in a world free from the shackles of work. There are several mountain huts and bivouacs in the area and pouring over maps I found an interesting hut-to-hut walk. Late snows having just cleared the huts were finally opened for the season and were peaceful and quiet.

Alpine flowers

Lauterbrunnen valley

The Lauretbrunnen valley, set in the heart of the Swiss Bernese Oberland, is easily reached by road and rail yet you can very quickly feel like it’s a long way from civilisation. Paths lead up through the coniferous forests of Norway spruce and Silver fir which fringe the valley floor. The sense of being surrounded by nature is immediate and the noise of town and road are left behind. Columbine, Aconite-leaved buttercup and Yellow wood violet are among the many plants which cover the dark and damp woodland floor, specialists in living in poor light conditions. Bird’s nest orchid are dotted around wholly reliant upon fungi in the soil for their food and nutrition, are well adapted here, their faint, musty smell attracting delicate flies to aid pollination.

Alpine flowers

Dwarf snowbells

 

It’s not long until we reach the upper limit where trees lose their vigor and allow the smaller alpine vegetation to take over. The well-established treeline signifies a change of climate. The trees ability to grow and reproduce no longer outweighs its ability to repair and survive in the harsher environment. Thin skeletal soils offer a meagre nutrition and house the sprawling roots of the low-lying vegetation. Despite this the beguiling diversity of grasses and flowers begin to come into their own. Free from the shade of the tall canopy trees many flowers possess an ability to track the suns path as it traverses the sky, others have flower shapes that help to concentrate and harness this energy into developing their seeds. Whatever the mechanisms adopted these hardy plants seem to thrive in the extreme yet fleeting alpine summer.

Alpine flowers

Spring Pasqueflowers

Alpine flowers

Lady’s slipper orchid

Coming down from the higher reaches of the valley, in the shadow of the impressive north face of the Breithorn, we head north towards Stechelberg leaving the meadows of Pasque-flowers, Gentians and Mountain avens and travel through small, active farm dwellings whose occupants are busying themselves with the chores of the day. We come finally through the improved pastures of tall herb grasslands with the nodding heads of Bellflower, Yellow rattle and forget-me-not. Shortly beyond this we cross the now much larger river and follow a gravel road towards habitation where, with Swiss precision, the bus arrives to take us to our final destination.

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