Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wannenberg 1644m

My first tour of the season with ZSS took advantage of the low freezing levels and large amounts of snow to ski almost to "sea" level in the beautiful sub-alpine Toggenburg. We didn't need to get up very high to make it feel like a proper winter with loads of fresh snow and strong winds. Amazing powder and fun skiing in the safety of low-angle slopes and glades... 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


First day in Beijing. A lot of it feels strangely familiar, having spent half of my childhood in another sprawling metropolis of a similar size. Chaotic traffic, thick haze, people in the streets. So far, though, Beijing feels calmer somehow and less frantic. I'm staying in a hotel that is a converted courtyard house in a hutong (old-style alley) neighborhood of Dongcheng -- apparently the grid of these alleyways was initiated after the Mongols leveled the city. They have been bulldozed in recent years in lots of other parts of the city to make space for new developments, but particularly in this neighborhood they prevail. The hutong feel like real neighborhoods, densely packed with residential dwellings and businesses and people seem to spend a lot of time conversing outside, sitting  on make-shift stools. There is food everywhere. Sometimes small grills are installed on the sides of buildings. Many people eat on the street, bent over low tables, drinking beer. Mostly, I'm blown away by the complete lack of noise -- the hutong are narrow and although I would guess that occasionally driving a car through here is unavoidable (my taxi dropped me off in front of the hotel, but it would've been faster to walk from the main road), it seems that 90% of the traffic is either bicycles or some sort of electric bikes. In other words, all this adds up to basically zero noise apart from the occasional bell or horn, which is impressive given the density of the population. The low traffic also makes these alleys a nice place for a stroll...

taxi at the Bell Tower

peering through the fence at the Bell Tower

the variety of bikes is quite impressive -- these have some sort of attachement from the top of the headset to the axle whose function I don't understand... 

delicious cold yogurt drinks

finally got a picture of these two boys, when the ladies walking by decided to pose as well

entrance to the Nanluogu Xiang street -- note the squadron of 15-year-old policemen on the right

one of my favorite kinds of bikes so far, they're like a mini car

lots of vegetable sellers just off Nanluogu Xiang 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On top of the Jura (Chasseral ride)

Chasseral is the highest peak of the Jura mountains in Switzerland, towering above lake Biel... well it's really a long, rather beautiful ridge and less of a tower. But there is a tower on top and it's rather ugly. The roundtrip ride from Biel is a bit painful at over 50 km and somewhere between 1600-1800m of total ascent. The other unfortunate thing is that a large part of the ascent is on paved road with a fair number of cars because as it turns out the giant tower on top of Chasseral is something of a tourist attraction.

the road to Chasseral winds through a beautiful forest

But what makes the 30km of "approach" worth it is the more than 15 km of trail that takes you all the way to the end of the ridge. The beginning is rough and rocky with some fun and fast open sections, but all the while you pass through serene meadows full of wildflowers.

Descending from Chasseral -- yes, it was cold. Yes it was also late July. 

Passing through meadows below the top of Chasseral

Molly making friends

Molly after almost 40km of mountain biking

Molly insisted on taking some shots of me... 


There are lots of ups and downs until Le cabane du Jura hut -- but after that the trail weaves down a gentle gradient through the forest toward Frinvillier, turning into really tight singletrack in high grass at times. A really amazing treat after a day of hard work! We were running a bit late so we skipped the really steep last section down to Frinvillier proper and instead bailed down a road to Orvin and from there back to Biel. In Biel we found a lovely restaurant that served deliciously fresh food in the old part of town to finish off the day. A really memorable ride, highly recommended!

Molly lost in the wildflowers

Molly the wildflower

beautiful forest trail toward Frinvillier

ps: I took my 10-22 mm wide angle and a 50 mm prime with me on this trip -- first time I went into the mountains without my regular mid-range zoom. Even though the 50mm prime is the low-cost version (though it's amazing because it weighs nothing) I think the picture quality is far superior to my zoom. When shooting moving subjects the zoom tends to get in the way and I can't focus on composition as much so the prime was a nice relief. I think it'll definitely find its way to my pack again (thanks Axel for letting me borrow it!)