Stories

 

Switzerland


From the 15th to the 25th of August, 2012

We left Geneva in direction of the Valais, accompanied by my brother Alain, who would experience three days aboard Zorro.

With its 285 meters high wall, the Grande Dixence dam is the highest gravity dam in the world. From the parking lot, we walked to the dam, then followed the lake and ascended through the alpine flowered meadows to the Col des Roux at 2811 meters. From there we could admire the beautiful view of the snowy mountains bordering the lake of Dix. Despite the missing ibex and chamois, we had the surprising visit of a groundhog who unfortunately didn't bother taking the pause for a shot.

    

The following day, the weather was rather doubtful. At the dam of lake Emosson, we couldn't see further than ten meters away. The two dams were under construction. An underground turbine between the lake Vieux Emosson and the lake Emosson will generate electricity during peak consumption. Overnight or on weekends, when the price of electricity will be at the lowest, they will pump the water back from the lake Emosson to the lake Vieux Emosson, 300 meters above. This ingenious technique will secures the quantity of energy needed by the CFF (Swiss train company) and the population by reusing the lake water several times. For more information on the project, http://www.nant-de-drance.ch/nant_de_drance_sa.htm. On this purpose, lake Vieux Emosson was dried up completely. As the hiking trail around the lake was closed, we took another path leading to the dinosaur tracks. Lost in the depths of the valley, a geologist from the Natural History Museum of Geneva explained the history of dinosaurs and the Alps formation. To the delight of our eyes, the fog dissipated, giving way to a beautiful view of the lake Emosson. After a few hours walk, we found Zorro looking at the Mont-Blanc, which was previously hidden by the fog.

    

The day ended by a relaxing evening in the thermal bath of Saillon.

For a change, we rented the necessary equipment for a via ferrata. Always secured by hooks, we climbed to the first monkey bridge, where the challenge started. We had to walk on a steel cable which connected the two cliffs, while holding onto another two side cables. Under my feet was the river, on my right a splashing waterfall and on my left was a beautiful view of the Rhone Valley. Despite the sixty meters drop below our feet, focused, we reached the opposite side. Slowly, we climbed the wall, trying not to pay too much attention to the height. The second part was even more difficult with a big rock to skirt and a long breathtaking and acrobatics climb. Once completed, we crossed the suspension bridge before discovering the wall we did just climbed. Ah, if I had seen that before, I'm not sure if I would have dared... We descended through the peaceful vineyards before driving Alain to the train station from where he would return to Geneva.

    

In the middle of the night, as we slept, a strange noise came out suddenly. Who says lawn says watering. We were literally sprayed by sprinklers and had just enough time to close the windows before the flood...

The Aletsch Glacier was huge. With its 23 kilometers long, it is the largest in the Alps. To admire the spectacle from our own eyes, we left the van and caught the cable car from Fiesch to Fischeralp, where we began our hiking day. Through meadows, surrounded by cows and paragliders, we climbed to the Col deTälligrat at 2610 meters. From there, we had a nice view of the Gletscherstube hut, the Vordersee, the Fiescher glacier and we could already have a glimpse of the Aletsch Glacier. After another half an hour's walk, we reached the observation point called Platta. The panoramic view of the glacier from the source at the foot of the Jungfrau was absolutely breathtaking. In front on us, some of the most famous snowy picks of Switzerland, the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger. A little further down, we had a closer look at the cracks and walked on the glacier. It was so surprising to see no signs prohibiting access to the glacier. Everyone was responsible of its limitations and knowledge. We followed the Aletsch Arena path while contemplating the glacier landscape until Moosfluh, where we had a clear view over the Alps of Valais and the famous Matterhorn. In Bettmeralp, during sunset, we had a refreshing swim in the lake before the descent by cable car. The cable car ticked counter was already closed and the controller informed us that we had to pay on arrival at Betten Tal. The time of arrival of the cable car coincided with the arrival of the train which passed once per hour. Once down, the controller understood we had to catch the only train to Fiesch and exempted us for the payment of the cable to prevent us from missing our train. For once that someone from the authorities had common sense. Thanks to the Valais which also gave us the best sleeping spots without any sign prohibiting camping.

  

We left the Valais canton and crossed the Röstigraben, the linguistic border between the French and Swiss-German speaking area. On the Grimsel Pass, on a sunny Sunday was the output of bikes. Behind us, fifty Harleys were losing patience… Relaaaaaaaax, we are in Swiiiiiitzeeeeerlannnnnd...

Just after the pass was the steepest funicular in Europe, giving access to lake Gelmer. It was noon at the ticket office and the following available departure was scheduled for 2 PM, providing a return ticket for 5:30 PM. Ah, just the type of thing we like! We turn back to the starting point of the hike, made the ascent by foot and reached the lake before our presumed funicular. The color of the water and mountain scenery was truly amazing. We hiked around the lake and had a breathtaking swim for lunchtime.

  

After 5 walking days, we had a more relaxing day with a visit of the Aare Gorge and its potholes; and walked along the Giessbach waterfalls before returning to civilization in Interlaken. From the second we reached the lake Brienz, nothing was left to improvisation. All swimming areas indicated the prohibition of camping and all parking were strictly reserved to commercial customer or were paid parking. Despite prohibitions, we took the risk of being thrown out in the middle of the night and passed between drops.

The Schilthorn, also known as Piz Gloria in one of the James Bond movie, was accessible by cable car from Mürren for 94.50 CHF per person for a return ticket... To immerse ourselves into the landscape, to exercise a little and do not empty our economies, we avoided lifts and opted for walking shoes. In three hours walk through pastures and steep slopes we reached the summit at 3000 meters. The view was absolutely breathtaking. They built a rotating restaurant on the top of a mountain, giving a 360 degree view of the imposing snowy peaks of the Jungfrau (4158m), Mönch, Eiger and the Alps. Some paragliders were enjoying the show from the air.

    

Kandersteg was not only the point of departure or arrival of the Lötschberg tunnel connecting the Valais to the Berner Oberland. It was also a nice little tourist town, offering hiking in summer and skiing in winter. It was so quiet that the supermarket left the outdoor shelves full of items during the night. From the village, we reached the lake Oeschinen by foot. Because of the possible access by cable car and the various restaurants, the lake was a popular excursion. Nevertheless, the lake and its waterfall were worth a postcard. Like all mountain lakes in which we swam, the water was freezing cold.

To complete the day, we headed to Adelboden, in the next valley, where was the Engstligen fall. With its 600 meters fall (in two sections), it was the second highest in Switzerland. In order to catch the sun which was about to disappear into the valley, we climbed along the winding path of the waterfall, hoping to enjoy the sunset on the meadow of Engstligenalp. Back down, dark clouds approached, the wind rose and hail started hitting our poor fiberglass roof. With relief, it did not last too long and didn't do any damage.

    

We left the Berner Oberland by Zweisimmen and the bourgeois village of Gstaad where we did some shopping (at coop, of course) before reaching La Gruyère. Between showers, we wandered in the medieval village and around the castle. There was even a parking for campers and caravans without any apparent prohibition to spend the night. We stopped at a meringue factory, then to the local dairy factory to get some double cream and cheese and ended our journey at the Caillers chocolate factory. After the visit and the tasting at will, you can guess that we couldn't swallow anymore !


From the 15th to the 17th of September, 2012

Despite the sudden departure of Aless to Italy, my desire to discover Switzerland remained. This was alone with Zorro that I left Geneva for the Bernese Oberland.

A few kilometers away from Lenk, was the starting point of my hike (1102m). I followed the Simmenfälle for about an hour and reached the Rezliberg pastures (1410m). On the cliff, I could admire several beautiful waterfalls, but especially the lovely Siebenbrunnen where seven springs gushed from the rock cracks with a width of 30 meters. The trail leading to the Flüeseeli hut was less crowded. During the climb, I didn't meet anyone. The path was sometimes slippery and I had to jump across a stream which was turning into fall a few meters away from my feet. On this north face, the snow was getting more present and I was getting afraid of being caught by the night. I finally met two men who informed me that I was almost there. Indeed, after a quarter of an hour, I was rewarded with a spectacular lake. At 2045 meters above sea level, Lake Flueseeli reflected mountains and sky like a mirror. The calm and serenity of this place really made me want to linger. Back to van shortly before dusk, I decided to spend the night on a small car park in the woods. I wasn't very reassured to sleep alone in the middle of nowhere.

    

The following morning, I took the road to Meiringen in order to reach the lake and glacier of Trift. While the first part of the walk (until the upper cable car station) was deserted by tourists as well as those involved in the maintenance of footpaths, the second part was better maintained and more interesting. After a little less than three hours walk, I discovered the focal point of the day. At 1750 meters above sea level I admired one of the longest and highest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps. 100 meters high and 170 meters long, the Triftbrücke overlooked Lake Trift formed about ten years earlier, by the accelerated melting of the glacier. I turned back down following another path which was in worse condition than the one I borrowed for my ascent. After reaching the parking, I found a quiet corner for the night near a hangar which seemed to belong to the municipality.

    

At 5 o'clock in the morning, in the dark, vehicles began their journeys collecting milk. At 6 hours, the first workers of the village opened the hangar. At 7 am, it was time to run away before getting to much attention... After a short stop at Interlaken to find some documentation, I drove to Grindelwald. Japanese indications showed the popularity of this tourist village which is located near the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe at 3,450 meters above sea level. I started my hike at the foot of the First cable car. It was a little disheartening to climb underneath a cable car but after the intermediate station of Bort, paths separated and gave place to a more diverse landscape. While walking through a forest, I got surprised by a woodpecker at work, not intimidated by my presence. During the last hour of ascent, I was surrounded by a beautiful green meadow, crossed by streams and waterfalls. I was finally glad to reach Bachalpsee, although discouraged by the amount of tourists who made the trip by cable car. I hiked another 15 minutes to the Spitzen pass where I could admire the magnificent panorama of the north face of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The descent was a bit long, but cows, goats and marmots were there to distract me.

    

After 6 hours of hike, I found some more energy to visit the falls of Staubbach, but especially the Trümmelbachfälle in the Lauterbrunnen valley. Located inside the mountain, galleries allow people to admire the spectacular waterfalls, draining alone the glacial water of the Eiger, Mönch and the Jungfrau.

    

Unfortunately an autumnal weather had begun already and it was time for me and Zorro to find a shelter for the winter.

Click here to read the following story in Tulum, Mexico.

See the album "Switzerland - August-September 2012"