Mauvoisin Dam in Val de Bagne

Association of Former WMO Staff, Bulletin No. 5, November 2006


8 August 2006

By Jean Hume
(Organized by Naginder Sehmi)

Our party built up gradually: Samuel and Helena Mbele-Mbong took the train at Cointrin, joined shortly by Arthur and Janet Askew, Ilse Bourgain and our doughty leader Naginder Sehmi at Cornavin.  Robin Perry joined at Morges, and John and Sue Miller at Montreux.  Finally, Margaret Glavin plus David and Jean Hume were waiting at Le Châble when the main party arrived, by bus instead of train as the line between Martigny and Sembrancher had been destroyed a week or so earlier by a flash flood.  Now complete, our intrepid band took the Postbus from Le Châble to Mauvoisin; more than one of us was glad that it was the Postbus driver who was negotiating the narrow road!

At the dam, we were met by Monsieur Paul Fellay, who took us through a tunnel to the walkway on top of the dam.  He was a most informative guide, and answered all our questions with a cheerful good humour.  Among other things, we learned that the train line from Martigny to Le Châble was built to facilitate construction of the dam.  In fact, we had so many questions that Naginder was beginning to worry about the timing of the afternoon’s activities.  We descended into the interior of the dam where we were able to visit the machine room, and step out onto a viewing platform in the main wall of the dam.

Our hydrologists are given a technical briefing by M. Fellay

After saying goodbye to M. Fellay, we took a fairly steep path down towards Fionnay, stopping after a short distance for a very pleasant picnic, which was, unfortunately, somewhat spoiled by Robin discovering that he no longer had his wallet (fear not, all turned out well, as you will hear soon).  The picnic over, we resumed our pleasant descent towards Fionnay, and came across a most unusual sight – two men were «dismantling» the walls of a building and loading them into the back of a van.  They explained that scenes from a film (La grosse peur de la montagne) had been shot there recently, and that an existing rather utilitarian building had not been considered picturesque enough; hence it had been temporarily masked over as a polystyrene chapel!

Before reaching Fionnay, we lost two of our party—Ilse had suffered a slight sprain to her ankle, and felt it would be wiser to take the Postbus the rest of the way.  Margaret offered to accompany her, as they were both staying

The group on a bridge spanning a gorge below the dam


at Verbier that night.  However, this meant that Ilse and Margaret missed the crowning moment of the trip.  At Fionnay, Naginder led us to his son-in-law’s chalet, where we were treated to delicious tea and cakes.  Naginder had carried the cakes the whole day in his backpack—what a devoted leader!  After helping to clear up after tea, we strolled back to the «main» road to await the Postbus which was to take us back to Le Châble.  When it arrived, Robin was delighted to find his wallet wedged in the same seat he had occupied on the upward journey!  All is well that ends well!

Back at Le Châble, the main party took leave of David and Jean who, as is their habit, were profiting from the outing to spend a few days in the area to do some more hiking.  As all returned to their various bases for the night, Iam sure we all were feeling most grateful to Naginder for organising such a wonderful day.


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