On the glacier one day and among his vines the next. Patrick Z’Brun is a mountain guide and winegrower to his fingertips. What connects the two worlds is their dependence on nature – and a fascination with its power.
Valais – a region of superlatives
Switzerland has 48 peaks that rise above the 4,000m mark. 45 of these are in Valais. As well as the country’s highest mountains, the canton is also home to the Great Aletsch Glacier – the longest outlet glacier in the Alps. And that’s not all: Valais is also the largest winegrowing region in Switzerland.
The call of the mountains
“I have been fascinated by these magnificent mountains ever since childhood,” enthuses Patrick Z‘Brun from Valais. “I also feel a deep sense of respect for the elemental forces of nature.” Patrick was eleven years old when he first stood on the summit of one of these 4,000-metre mountains. At the age of 20, he became the youngest person to qualify as a trained mountain guide, and at 45 he climbed the highest mountain in the world.
Patrick Z’Brun has been a mountain guide for almost 40 years. He gains a real sense of joy and satisfaction from taking people out of their comfort zone and into the wilds of nature. “Those who have never been to this majestic landscape of mountains and glaciers before are quite simply overwhelmed by what they find here.”
Embark on an icy adventure
The edge of the glacier below the Märjelensee lakes is a world away from the hot summer temperatures in the Rhône Valley. An icy wind is blowing from the Jungfraujoch across the mighty outlet glacier. Patrick Z‘Brun explains to his guests how to put on the climbing harnesses and spikes. One by one, they are all attached to the rope. The excitement is slowly mounting. The glacier novices listen carefully to Patrick’s instructions. Then it’s finally time to set out onto the mighty ice.
Trekking across the mighty giant
The Great Aletsch Glacier snakes majestically downwards between steep cliff faces towards the valley. On either side, lofty peaks reach proudly for the sky. At 23 kilometres in length, it is the longest and largest outlet glacier in the Alps. “Looking across from the Eggishorn (2,927 metres above sea level), you would never guess that it contains such deep fissures,” says one of his guests in amazement. Even Patrick never ceases to be amazed by the sheer magnitude of the glacier.
Contrary to expectations, things are anything but silent on the glacier – gurgling and rushing noises aplenty can be heard beneath your feet. Meltwater collects in rivulets that carve out miniature canyons in the ice. Signs of fragility. Over the last 40 years, the Great Aletsch Glacier has shrunk back by 1,300 metres and has become 200 metres thinner. “I am passionate about caring for our natural world,” says Patrick. “We must be aware of our responsibility towards future generations.”
A traditional glass of wine at the summit
Unique mountain experiences offer moments of true exhilaration. Valais residents like to toast such moments with a glass of local wine. Patrick upholds this tradition by taking a bottle of wine in his rucksack with him on each mountain tour. And not just any wine – but his own.
Mountain guide, manager, winegrower.
On the glacier in the morning and among his vines in the evening. Patrick Z‘Brun loves the many different faces of nature – and he enjoys a challenge. Eleven years ago, the mountain guide and business administration graduate took over the historical “Vins des Chevaliers” vineyard in Salgesch. Before starting out as a winegrower, he was a successful manager in the automotive and medical sectors. He has now dedicated himself wholeheartedly to wine.
It’s not just in climbing terms that Patrick aims high. Since entering the wine business, he and his team have chalked up over 150 awards for their viticultural creations. “We are lucky that the local terroir is perfect for pinot noir grapes,” explains Z’Brun. The soil in the region contains lime and magnesium, making it ideal for this grape variety. 15,000 years ago, the Rhône Glacier covered the valley floor here. Today, the diversity of the soil and the sunny, dry climate provide favourable conditions for first-class wines.
A place for wine lovers and sun worshippers
The sunniest village in Switzerland, Salgesch is situated in the middle of the country’s largest winegrowing region. With around 25 wine cellars for a population of 1,400 residents, the former farming village is now known as the wine village. “I am proud to be able to help preserve this valuable cultural heritage,” explains Z‘Brun.
For those who want to dive in, the Domaines Chevaliers vineyard offers guided cellar tours and tasting sessions, along with a range of outdoor and wine activities. Why not combine a cellar tour with a glacier trek?
Published : May 2020
Source : myswitzerland.com