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A walk across Switzerland

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78 posts
active member
Feb 24, 2014 - 7:18 PM

I left Chamonix in Sept 2013 heading for Austria meaning to continue from the high Route to the Via Alpina. From Gruben I crossed the Rhone (that would be the Rotten in German ya?) via Oberems and Leuk and on over Gemmi pass to Kandersteg, Kiental and Lobhornhütte. Quite lost track of time in the Jungfrau area before picking up the VA at Grosse Scheidegg.
Early snow in October effectively closed last 4 passes of the Via Alpina. I spent 7 weeks from plane to plane but could easily have gotten to Austria in 4 or 5. If I hadn't gotten sidetracked so often I would have been through before the snow. With another week to spare and perhaps it would have melted. From Engelberg I trundled down to Lucerne and loitered around there a few daze (Hotel Alpha is homey) waiting for the snow to melt, took the boat to Flüelen and puffed up to Eggbergen hoping Klausenpass would prove passable.
From Flüelen I followed the trail by the Urnersee and took Jacob's Weg to Busskirch intending to get to Liechtenstein along the north side of Obersee and Walensee but couldn't sort out the stays along the way. Being off season, things were closed or closing. The sites I was referencing kept showing me places on the the south side of the lakes. I guess they figured a person could swim the last mile or so to the hotel and back to the trail in the morning. Finally gave up the campaign and went back to Mürren for a few days to wait for my flight. Voila. Life and other plans.
The most difficult day for me was the climb to Col de Balme only because of the sun. Between Mont Fort and Prafleuri you have a sporting chance of twisting an ankle if you don't pay attention. Everyone at Prafleuri was visibly relieved to be there. Of 8 hikers crossing that section that day 2 left the HR with injuries. We had perfect weather. Otherwise the trails were easy going. I intended to walk every step of the way but some issues of time and weather got in the way. I had a lot of cloud but little rain or snow. Ideal weather for me as I don't do well in heat.
I ballpark the cost of the adventure at about $100 US / day. I think the Baron in Kiental came close to $200. Demi pension at SAC huts helps average down. To me it seems like a good deal to be able to walk for weeks with a 20 lb pack, hot showers, clean sheets and good food.
I've put some pictures up at - flickr.com/photos/jack debear There are 'sets' from 2012 and 2013. I'm attaching one image here. If anyone knows the name of this flower I'd be pleased to know too.

My recommendations:

• Side trips to FXB and Lac Louvie. The warden at Marcel Brunet will call ahead to FXB if you can't get a signal. (best cafe noir ever at FXB) Lac Louvie called Prafleuri for me. I didn't like to impose but I couldn't get a signal and they offered.
• A stop at Des Dix will save you climbing Col de Riedmatten with the afternoon sun on your back. And it's worth getting up for dawn at Dix. The warden at Prafleuri called ahead for me - no signal. Make sure that's done the night before as Dix does NOT answer phones in the morning. If a night at Dix puts you off schedule you can get an early start and make La Sage the next day.
• A stop at Leukstadt if only for the church. Schlosshotel was charming w/o being outrageous. Some (busy) road hiking going up to Leukerbad. Perhaps I missed the trail at times.
• Staying at the top of Gemmi Pass rather than in Leukerbad will save you climbing with the morning sun on your back and the view to the south should be worth seeing at first light. There is a hotel at the top of the lift - Berghotel Wildstrubel. I didn't check it out when there and couldn't find out much on line. The walk from there to Sunnbuel was about the only UN-scenic day I remember. Drab landscape, power lines. Also the busiest section I crossed. I think because it's an very wide easy trail with cable cars at both ends. Intended to stay a night at Schwarenbach but continued on to Balmhornhütte.
• Staying at Schilthornhütte makes it an hour walk +- from Piz Gloria and easy to stay up top until dark if you like. The last ride down leaves before magic hour.
• The best vantage for alpen glow panorama of the JungFrau peaks I found was on the hillside around Schiltalp. Better than Piz Gloria. Staying at Suppenboden makes a short walk home in the dark if you stay for magic hour. Nice picnic spot.
• Between Engstlenalp and Meiringen take the high trail through Reuti. The route down the valley is a waste of boot leather.
• Water tabs can save you a lot of money. Big bucks for bottles along the way.
• There is a great map store in Chamonix next to the Channel store. Great is an understatement. Astounding really. I found a 1/200,000 that covered almost my entire trek. No detail but there's so many trail markers and maps in stays along the way detailed maps are not worth the bread or bother, to me. Get the app from Switzerlandmobility.

Watch out for:

• The trail from Mont Fort to Prafleuri. If there is an inch of snow or a low cloud most of your blazes will be obscured. W/o blazes the trail will not be visible. I wouldn't want to map and compass my way through blind.
• Best I could tell there was only one place to stay in Kiental and 'tain't cheap. Maybe there more choices in high season. It's a full day from there to Lobhornhütte. Take the trail to the left of Lobhorner viewed from Schwalmere. I took the right - it's a bit hairy and longer.
• As mentioned in the TJR the trail from Saxeten to Lobhornhütte is indeed a marvel of mud and manure. Enjoy. You gotta laugh when you're that deep in it.

I hope there's some useful info in there. Forgive us our typos.
Happy trails

7201 posts
expert &
Feb 24, 2014 - 8:12 PM in reply to jackdebear

Many thanks for your very useful and detailed trip report! I am sure other people who plan to hike off the beaten track will appreciate this.

Good to see that you were flexible in your planning. Planning everything in advance would not work for such adventures. Would you agree that September is, on average, the best month to hike the higher Alpine regions?

I don't know the name of that flower. I think I've seen it too along the way, but hopefully someone else knows what it's called.

78 posts
active member
Feb 24, 2014 - 8:22 PM
I really don't have wide enough experience to answer that. I choose fall because that's the time of year I have most liberty. I expect winter and spring have some special considerations. Summer probably offers better weather, clearer skies. The heat would knock me down and I'm afraid the trails and stays would seem crowded compared to fall. I think I've found my niche.
585 posts
top member
Feb 25, 2014 - 4:54 PM

Fabulous post, thank so much jackdebear!

We think September is the best time for ambitious hiking. Typically the weather is the best of the year, with cooler temps (highs in low 70s F) and very little rain. We did the Via Alpina from Sargans to Montreux a couple years ago. Took a leisurely 3 weeks with a 3-4 day on, one day off algorithm. Last week August, first two of September. Only one day did it mist, not rain really, and was cool. That was Klausenpasshöhe day so for sure we had all our gear on by the time we got up top. But perfect, really. And all the inns/huts are still open then.

302 posts
top member
Feb 27, 2014 - 2:07 PM

Hi jackdebear,

Thank you for your very informative post!
Regarding "what's my name": over the years I have collected quite a few photos and names of alpine flowers. Nevertheless I'm far from an expert! Your photo might be of the fruit of an alpine anemone. The hairy structure reminds me of this flower and I know these fibers sometimes have a reddish glow, although in your photo this color seems rather strong. I hope I'm pointing you in the right direction.


78 posts
active member
Feb 28, 2014 - 7:51 PM in reply to Wandermann
I'm thinking maybe this topic has gone pretty far off piste for a 'trip report'. Sorry. I should have started a new 'miscellaneous' topic to ask about the flower. I have looked into alpine anemone images. Probably some sub variety in that image. I was fascinated with them and wonder what they might look like in bloom. Thanks for the info. I'm pleased you found the report informative. I hope my contribution encourages folks to get out there.


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