Archive for October 2007

Three walks in Switzerland: 3. Furi / Schwarzsee Paradise / Furi

Schwarzsee paradise - view of Matterhorn

For this final walk we had travelled to Zermatt at the base of the Matterhorn and now a major ski resort. We were there in May, probably not the best time – quite a few places were closed as May is taken as a holiday month by some of the hotel/restaurant owners between the Winter and Summer seasons, and the whole place seemed to be a building site. It is billed as a “car free paradise” and indeed cars are not permitted, the locals getting around in electric golf-buggy like vehicles, but there were a huge number of diesel trucks and a helicopter feeding the building industry. Thankfully, this was all easy to escape by getting out of Zermatt proper.

We started the walk from Furi, having taken the cable car there from Zermatt (we had originally planned to walk from Trockener Steg, but there was still too much snow on the trails at this height – indeed there were still a few downhill skiers in the area). The walk (route 28 in the “Adventure in the Mountains” hiking guide) climbs the spur that ultimately leads to the base of the most popular route up the Matterhorn. Initially in a forested area, the trees soon disappear, providing stunning views in all directions including a particularly fine view of the Matterhorn. This section finishes at Schwarzsee Paradise – walk time is 1.5-2.0 hours with a 730m gain in elevation.

At this point you could get a cable car back down to Furi/Zermatt (we were again too early in the year and the system was not yet operating) but we chose to walk down via Stafelap (route 29 in the “Adventure in the Mountains” hiking guide). This proceeds north-westish, before curling around to the east and proceeding along a well formed track back into Furi. This section is about 7.5km / 2 hours or so.

Again, another A+ walk, and highly recommended.

Start of trail up to Schwarzsee paradise Looking down into Zermatt On the trail up to Schwarzsee paradise The Matterhorn from Schwarzsee paradise

Additional resources:
Visit www.zermatt.ch for further information on this region

We got around on Switzerland’s excellent train system. If you’re visiting it’s worth checking out the various passes that the railways offer before you arrive as some can only be purchased outside the country. I purchased a half-price travelcard (around 100 Australian dollars) which gave 50% off every trip I made (including the regional railways and cable cars). See Swiss Railways information for international visitors.

The Adventure in the Mountains guide (pdf) can be found here – note: 16 meg

Three walks in Switzerland: 2. Kleine Scheidegg / Mannlichen / Alpiglen

The Eiger viewed from the path to Mannlichen

We started this walk from Kleine Scheidegg having visited Jungfraujoch (“Top of Europe”) in the morning. The trip to Jungfraujoch, while certainly a bit of a tourist trap, is nevertheless well worth doing. You travel by train from Kleine Scheidegg, climbing steeply before entering the Eiger itself, where the tunnel carves through to reach Jungfraujoch, between Monch and Jungfrau, at some 3454m elevation. The tunnel is an engineering marvel having been built long before modern tunneling machinery was available. The views from the observation tower are magnificent, and you can leave the tower for a short walk out on the mountain range itself. The complex also features an ice gallery which is worth a visit along with the usual souvenir shops and even on our visit an Indian restaurant (“Bollywood”).

Observatory - Jungfraujoch A view from Jungfraujoch Train to Jungfraujoch

The walk follows a well made and flat path from Kleine Scheidegg to Mannlichen and provides excellent views of the impressive north face of the Eiger. From Kleine Scheidegg the path (no. 33 on the Jungfrau region hiking map – see note below) proceeds north-east, sidling around Tschuggen on the left and then curling northwards to reach Mannlichen. This part of the trail was very easy to follow with an excellent prepared path the whole way which was only occasionally obstructed with snow. Views across to the Eiger and down into the Grindelwald valley are superb. This section of the walk is officially timed at 1’20” but took us only an hour or so.

At Mannlichen you could take a cable car down to Grund in season (we were too early in the year and the cable car was closed), but a better option for walkers is to continue by foot. There are several possibilities; we chose to walk down to Alpiglen and then caught the train back to Grindelwald. This path (no. 35) descends over a grassed area and then passes through a very attractive wooded section before continuing on a well made path that turns east to cross over the rail line below the Eiger’s north face. The path continues following the line on the south side before reaching Alpiglen station (you could continue to walk from here down into Grund if you were feeling energetic). This section took us a couple of hours, with a brief storm blowing over during the descent and adding a bit more interest. Definitely another A+ walk.

All in all then, an excellent day, and I can recommend combining a visit to Jungfraujoch in the morning with a walk in the afternoon.

Looking down to Grindelwald The Eiger from the path to Mannlichen Descending to Alpiglen

The Jungfrau region hiking map is available free of charge from train and cable car stations in the area. I haven’t been able to find an online version, so have scanned the relevant part for this walk, click here for the pdf.

Three walks in Switzerland: 1. First / Bussalp / Grindelwald

On the path from First to Bussalp

I visited Switzerland for the first time this year, meeting my Dad there for a few days walking (this was his first visit since 1967, when he and a few of his mates made an attempt on the Matterhorn). We did three great walks; the scenery was stunning and the weather helped by being superb for most of the time we were there. Suffice to say, I’ll definitely be back at some point.

The first walk we did was from First to Bussalp and then down to Grindelwald. We started at Grindelwald, and took the cable car to First. Emerging from the cable car station we took the path (route no. 3 on the Jungfrau Region Hiking map – see note below) that heads north away from First until it arrives at Bachalpsee. Here it turns westwards towards Bussalp, at one point following a rather narrow ridge past Rotihorn and Simelihorn before descending into Bussalp.

After lunch at Bussalp, we followed route no. 22 southwards down into Grindelwald. Total walking time was about 5 hours or so; the track in places still had a fair amount of snow (we were there in late May, still a bit early for the summer hiking trails) making negotiation of the track occasionally tricky – I was wearing my normal hiking boots and sunk down to my knees in the snow a few times. The trail was generally well marked with a white/red/white flag type symbol (denoting a mountain walk) painted onto rocks, and yellow signs at strategic points.

An excellent introduction to the Swiss Alps and a definite A+ walk.

On the path from First to Bussalp 2 On the path from First to Bussalp 3 Descending to Grindelwald 1 Descending to Grindelwald 2

The Jungfrau region hiking map is available free of charge from train and cable car stations in the area. I haven’t been able to find an online version, so have scanned the relevant part for this walk, click here for the pdf.

Fellwalking – Grasmoor

Walkers on Lad Hows

“The Culminating point of the North Western Fells occurs overlooking Crummock Water, where the massive bulk of Grasmoor towers above the threshold of the Buttermere valley”

A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: Book six – The North Western Fells

I parked at the parking area just north of Rannerdale bridge and decided I would attack the summit by going straight up Red Gill, the route described on page Grasmoor 7 of Wainwright’s guide and quite an obvious route from the road (the photo on the left below has pretty much the same perspective as the drawing in Wainwright’s guide), a decision I started to regret about two thirds of the way up, when the scrambling up the loose screes had started to make my calf muscles feel like they were burning up. At this point I didn’t have much choice though so it was onwards and upwards and eventually the steep ascent came to a finish and a short stroll west along the grassy tops took me to Grasmoor End and a fine view over Crummock Water.

From here it was a straightforward walk east to the summit of Grasmoor for a quick break and admiration of the superb views in all directions, following which I descended via Lad Hows back to my car.

One of the delights of walking in the Lake District (apart from a nice pint of real ale at the end of a walk) is the great variety of landscape within such a small region. I think the part covered by Wainwright’s “The North Western Fells” may be my current favourite area.

My rating: A.
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Red Gill View from Grasmoor End Grasmoor Summit Shelter Grasmoor - looking towards Grisedale Pike

UPDATE: I climbed Grasmoor in 2014 via Rannerdale Knotts, Whiteless Pike and Wandope, a delightful ramble that I describe here.

Fellwalking – Glaramara

On the path down from Glaramara

“Glaramara is more than a pretty name. It is a mountain of distinction, not amongst the highest or more exciting in Lakeland and lacking a shapely outline, yet having so many features of interest that fellwalkers always look forward to a visit with anticipation. There is never a dull moment on Glaramara.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

There certainly weren’t any dull moments on this walk, the weather gods had decided to produce one of those days that tests the willpower of even the most determined fellwalker, with a strong wind and pelting rain that barely let up for the whole day. Of course you musn’t grumble (too much). I met an older chap coming down the path as I was on my way up; he remarked that it was “a bit damp”.

I started the walk at Seathwaite, parking at the end of the road close to the barns, there being no competition for parking slots on this day. I followed the bridleway south to Stockley Bridge, crossed over and then immediately continued south along the footpath by the side of Grains Gill. This climbs consistently and eventually reaches a bridleway. Turning south-east I continued on the bridleway for a kilometre or so before turning NNE onto the path that traverses the Glaramara ridge, passing over Allen Crags and by High House Tarn before reaching the summit of Glaramara. After a quick tea break at the summit, I continued along the ridge past Thorneythwaite Fell (the initial descent from Glaramara summit requires negotiation of a rather steep rock section) before descending to a farm track just south of Mountain View and turning south west onto this track, which eventually becomes a path (all part of what is called the “Allerdale Ramble”) that leads back to Seathwaite.

My rating: B+
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000); the route as described also requires a very small section of OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Four (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)