The 2020 edition of the ESC « Effortless Valley » Ski Outing
by Maarten Wilbers
Despite my persistent lobbying of the Swiss Railways, the alarmingly early 06:30 hours departure to Brig continues to feature solidly in the train schedule, and so once again, Fearless Frerichs rallied his sleepy but faithful followers to a darkened Platform 6 rendezvous. A time at which on a Saturday, I may point out, all normal-minded people are happily at home, in bed. And if that wasn’t bad enough, to test our wakefulness, Frerichs had cooked up a cunning last-minute change of departure location, to Platform 4!
After all the drama of actually making it into the train, most of us didn’t dare doze off for a moment for fear of more Frerichs’ surprises. (Photo # 1 shows two of his innocent victims)
Of course, the alternative to sleep was constant consumption. So we ate our way across the Valais to the Vallée de Conches, some of us trying to outdo others on the intricacy and sumptuousness of our breakfast offerings.
Maritza and Cynthia were in a particularly heated competition over sandwiches verses colourful mixed culinary cubes. Of course, we only had a chance at ‘best breakfast’ accolade because Kristín and Arni, the hands down ‘best breakfast’ champions to date, were absent this time around. (Photo # 2 shows Maritza and her prize winning double-layered pre-lunch ‘gouter’)
As happens every year, our advance troops had staked out the trail and checked, and checked again, to make sure our 10:15 hours arrival was seamless. Tom joined the team in Betten (Talstation!) and Ralie and Myriam, who had gone up the night before as usual, welcomed us to a clean-swept Bahnsteig 4 at Oberwald. (Photo # 3, taken by someone called Toni “Sepp” Zumschmitten, shows the ESC team at the starting point of their cross country adventure, blissfully unaware of the challenges ahead)
The skiers put on their skis, the walkers readied their walking poles and off we went! For at least one of us, this was nothing short of a miracle: Adrainne Gray had moved to Geneva from the USA and joined our congregation, only the week before. The miracle? Adrainne had never been on cross-country skis before! Which is where Ralie, ever the obliging gentleman, came to the rescue, using his skills and patience as a ski teacher to very successfully take Adrainne in hand and get her across the Roestigraben in one piece. We were all rooting for Adrainne for her fun creds and her bravery – not at all because she was the only one in the group with a bottle of antiseptic gel!
Meanwhile, the rest of the skiers were pushing forward on the trail (with this view, Photo # 4, as their reward), while the small but very worthy walkers set off on foot.
True to tradition, the length of their coffee break at pit stop no. 3 (see Photo # 5) meant they had to rush to catch up with the ski crowd, making up ground through a bit of train-hopping on the charming Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn.
14:00 hours: The moment we had all been waiting for! Full disclosure: this is the real reason for our early morning start and almost 4 hour train journey: to partake of a very large, cheesy and bacony plate of roesti at the warm and friendly Restaurant Augenstern! (see Photo # 6) Well fortified after this ample platter, we got a much-needed boost in energy to help us face the final ski effort of the day, from Reckingen to the tiny station of Niederwald, where the walkers awaited.
The indomitable Frerichs shepherded us all back to Brig and onto the train for our long ride home, with a short stop to stock up on consumables at the ever-present ‘heisse Marroni’ man in front of Brig Hauptbahnhof. Once on board, some of us slumped into our seats and promptly gave in to that so-much-needed sleep (see Photo # 7), while others were treated to a spontaneous lecture on volcanoes by ESC’s resident geologist Corin.
Hugs and farewells at Cornavin as we all went our separate ways. “Same place, same time” next year! – wait, maybe “Same place , later time!” Can’t blame us for dreaming…