Overnight hide and seek in the Kanton Graubünden.
The original plan was to go into the Jura mountains chasing wildlife. After consulting the forecast though, I opted to fchase the good weather – and more snow. The destination was Graubünden. Given that I haven’t used my winter sleeping bag as much as I liked yet, this was a wonderful opportunity. Hence, I packed camping and photography gear and left early. The train ride took several hours, but it was scenic to say the least. Most fellow travellers were clearly going to the slopes, but for me it was all about the wilderness experience. As usual, I planned on buying food on the go, but unfortunately all shops including the ones at railway stations were closed on Sundays, due to the pandemic. Therefore I had to resort to the old trusted Selecta vending machine.
Arriving at a remote village, I was surprised about how much snow they had. There must have fallen about 1 meter of fresh powder recently. Apart from a few foggy clouds, the weather was very bright. Even so bright that my eyes had difficulty to adapt and forced me to get out sunglasses. Walking through the little old village, I was impressed by the wooden cottages. Wondering what it’d be like to live here, I imagined a solitary, quiet life in harmony with nature. On the other side, it’s tough to make a living out here and be at the mercy of the environment.
Snowshoe Trek Without Snowshoes
Proceeding to the start of the snowshoe track, I began questioning my decision to go without any snowshoes. At least, I carried proper gaiters to prevent snow from entering my boots. On my last unforeseen solo snow adventure, I had sworn to organise them. Although, I didn’t have to overcome much altitude, the track was strenuous to say the least. Frequently sinking into the snow up to my waist, I was glad that some people had walked the trail before. Furthermore, my heavy backpack with winter camping gear didn’t help much.
The scenery made up for the hassle. The snowy forest was silent except for a few small birds. Among them were some coal tits and crested tits. Fresh tracks of snow hare and fox indicated their presence, though there were no animals to be seen. I arrived exhausted at a forest clearing, where I was glad to find a running fountain. Subsequently, I wouldn’t have to melt snow for drinking water, which is fuel and time consuming. The scenery was magnificent with the sugar-coated peaks and a few wooden cottages.
Hide and Seek One
I set up my tent in the woods sheltered from the wind. Flattening the snow was easy, but I didn’t bring any snow pegs. Therefore, I secured the wings with snow. Scouting the area, I settled for an observation spot where I was able to overlook the clearing was well as the mountain face. Putting on the snow camo, I took my foam mattress to have an insulated seat. There, I was waiting for the sun to set.
Apart from a few birds in the distance, there was nothing at all. So, I began taking pictures of my surrounding. Recently, I began taking panoramas with my tele-lens while hiding. Stitching several dozen images creates an extremely high-resolution picture. The sunset offered a stunning display of colours.
Sleeping Below Zero
As the sun set and the light conditions became to dark, I returned to the tent. Despite the foam mattress my feet and my back felt cold. So might need to figure out a better solution. Preparing dinner was easy, due to only snack available, but I treated myself to some hot tea before hitting the feathers. The temperatures were expected to drop to about -5°C which is within the range of my winter sleeping bag. Using an inflatable sleeping pad in addition with the foam one is a great way to increase insulation. Listening for any sounds, I continued reading for a while before falling asleep.
Hide and Seek Two
Half an hour before sunrise, I was back at my observation place. Scanning the environment, animal tracks caught my attention. I followed them by camera, but couldn’t make out any wildlife. However, by comparison with a shot from the day before, it assured me that they were new.
On later inspection, it proved to be a fox trail, perhaps looking for some snow hare. Other than that, there wasn’t much happening except for the gorgeous light.
Although the photographic results of this adventure didn’t live up to my expectation, I still enjoyed it very much. The solitude in the snowy forest is second to none and allows for peaceful contemplation unless one gets cold. The hide and seek approach was something new for me. I believe it to be usually very productive, provided one knows the area. For future trips, snowshoes wouldn’t be the worst idea as well as proper food. Moreover, I suspect that animals retreat to lower altitudes during the colder months and thus could have been found much closer to civilization.