Category Archives: Hiking

Bunkerwanderung, World War II Shelter Visit

Today’s walk is an unusual one. It takes place in the mountains surrounding Zurich but the main purpose of the visit is the Second World War shelters which are hidden in the middle of Uetliberg.

It was cold and foggy, probably like one of the days when Swiss soldiers had to dig holes into the icy grounds to build shelters some 70 years ago.

For today’s 4-hour tour, we were suitably equipped with heavy-duty winter hiking-shoes, warm underwear, thick gloves and even a thermos of hot chocolate! Our equipment turned out to be a bit exaggerated but the “freezing cold to the bones” bunker walk in the town of Zurich a few weeks ago left its mark.

Mr. Christian Egloff, Vice President of the Shelter Protection Association started the tour with a group of over 20 people of all ages and origins.

The shelters we visited were all built in 1943 by 10’100 Swiss soldiers to prepare for a likely German invasion during the Second World War. Following General Henri Guisan’s order, the soldiers were moved close to Uitikon and worked for 10 months, painfully, to build these commando posts, shelters defense points and hospitals.

Fortunately, the German did not pass the Swiss border and these shelters were not used and soon abandoned.

While walking in the forest and in the mountains, these shelters were visible and they remind us of the past of the war in Europe.

We get to the first shelter. Its entrance is next to the walking path and near houses in Uitikon. The inside was meticulously built with bricks and is still in surprisingly good condition.

This shelter was equipped with two bicycles so that one can pedal to create electricity!

Next we entered one of the unfinished shelters. The wall was sandstone and in the corner were unused bricks to furnish. This shelter was quite large with two exits and complex corridors. An ancient tortoise fossil was apparently found during the excavation.

At the end of the tour, we relaxed with a hot chocolate in front of the former ammunition storage building, which is now used as a storage for fireworks.

We were happy to understand another little piece of Swiss history and happy also, that these shelters were not used in the end!

Snowshoe hike to Alp Valpun

Alp Valpun (1’800 m); Distance: 10km; 400m ascent /descent; 3.5 hours of walking

Another sunny day with blue sky in pretty Prättigau.

Today we were ambitious and aimed at Philippe’s favorite mountain spot called Gafäll (2’000 m). The snow on the path to Boden was partially compressed and easy to walk, as it is classified as winter hiking path (“Winterwanderweg”), but after Boden it turned into just snow – no path. We put on our snowshoes,  getting ready for a 400m ascent in deep powder snow. Beautiful … and cardio!

After tramping on the snow for two hours, the majestic snow-capped Rätikon mountain range came into a view. We finally arrived at Alp Valpun, 1900m, just underneath Gafäll. Around the same time a group of snowshoe hikers came from the opposite direction,  St. Antönien.

The familiar Alp Valpun, where we come often in summer, was completely covered in snow, including our usual lunch spot.
Philippe’s favorite flying spot, Gafäll, was also in the deep sleep.
We had our sandwiches and a dearly needed cup of hot miso soup. But a light and very cold wind was blowing enough to make my hands and feet numb.

Soon it became too cold to keep standing and we decided to escape from this cold north slope as quickly as possible. To heat up our body we marched down at record speed!

On the way we stopped at the sunny Bodenhütte for a hot chocolate and enjoyed the warmth on our face, chatting away with friendly locals.

Pany in heavy snow

In Pany, we were welcomed by the blue sky and the heavy snow.  The record high snow – for early January – blocked the garage, entrance door and with it, the access to the snow shovel!

I volunteered to climb over more than 1-meter of snow to get into the house to get that shovel. No shovel, no access to the garage, no snow plowing machine… I am a lot lighter than Philippe, therefore flying over that snow, he thought. Well, I was sinking knee-deep into fairy-tale white snow.

After clearing the snow, successfully getting into the house and having a well-deserved break, we went out for a walk to Tratza. It was nice to see children enjoy skiing on close-to-perfect slopes.

The 2nd day: a snow-shoeing trip to Bova it should be. Our original plan was to go to Philippe’s favorite spot, Gafäll, but we had to start snow-shoeing right from the beginning and the usually paved winter walk path was not yet prepared. So we blazed into deep snow for a while and soon gave up the idea to go all the way.

Still, the sky was blue, the surroundings were covered by snow and except one lost soul on skis, no one was out there. We had our lunch picnic and a cup of hot miso soup to warm up and get ready for the trip back. Just happy!

The third day: A snowshoe round trip to Tratza and above. A fresh layer of snow from last night made the trip a very romantic one. Walking in the deep snow forest created an almost mystical atmosphere. We have been here many times but each time is special. The beauty of the nature surprises us again and again.

The Kyoto Trail Hike: Day 2

Kyoto Trail – Kitayama-East Day 2
Ohara to Kurama

After a delicious and substantial Japanese breakfast at our B&B and a pleasant chat with a friendly owner couple, we headed for Sanzen-In, another magnificent temple in Ohara.

Apparently Sano-san had soar muscles from the previous’ day 10km hike and may be due to his general lack of training : -( Of course, he had no other choice than to tag along with me on this 2nd day.

The path went through a peaceful mountain village and along vegetable fields, finally leading to the temple.  The Sanzen-in temple is famous for its rustic moss garden and its adorable mossed stone Jizo. The temple has a huge compound and so we wandered around the garden for almost an hour.

It is a wonderful place where I could linger longer, but Sano-san reminded me that we have quite some distance to cover!


We left the temple, walked to the south end of the village and stood at today’s trailhead.  The first part of the trail was an asphalted road, but the area still had a tranquil country feeling.

After a narrow tunnel we came to another village and saw a small shrine, the Shizuhara Shrine. The shrine was in preparation for its New Year decoration. I prayed for our safe hike today.


Soon we entered into the rather dense forest with fallen trees everywhere. The recent typhoon made a significant impact here and made the place look quite ominous.  A part of yesterday’s path was however similar, so we did not worry too much.  We kept going, amazed by the disastrous power of mother nature, and suddenly the forest path came to a dead-end, completely blocked by fallen trees.

We knew that the pass was not far and we tried to brave through, making our way under and above the fallen trees.  After one hour of struggle the situation did not improve.  The path was invisible and utterly unpassable. We could not advance, it was too risky. We gave up and turned back.


Backtracking our path for 20 min or so, we came to the fork and we realised that we missed the Kyoto Trail signage earlier to turn sharp left!  We did not see it at all and just followed the forest path straight… Later, after consulting our map again, we figured that the wrong path we have taken was indeed a dead-end.

By this time we were full of mud and sweat. But our final destination Kurama was only 2km away and we just needed to go over one more pass.

The idea of taking a bus back to Kyoto came to our mind,  but I did want to reach Kurama.  We agreed to make an attempt for the last stretch.

The path toward the Yakkozaka Pass (薬王坂) was steep, but the trail was solid and good.  At the beginning of the slope several abandoned log cabins were scattered around in the dense and humid forest. It was rather spooky and I was happy not to be there alone.

In half an hour we reached the Yakkozaka Pass (375m) from where it went down straight to Kurama. It was a relief to see the village of Kurama full of tourists!


Luckily Kurama had a hot spring. By the time we got out of our well-deserved bath, clean and refreshed, we could laugh about our little adventure and mishap.

The Kyoto Trail Hike: Day 1

A two-day hike on the Kyoto Trail (the Kitayama East section) with my mountain buddy Sano-san.

Since I have heard of this trail in Fushimi Inari a couple of years ago, the Kyoto Trail was on my hiking to do list.

I love Kyoto and I have visited it more than 20 times, but walking on the trail will be a different approach to understand this culturally and historically rich region.

The first day: the Kyoto Hitayama-East Trail from Hiei-zan (Hiei Mountain), 690m to Ohara, 215m, Around 10 km

After a one-hour bus and mountain rail ride from the Kyoto central train station, we arrived at the Hiei-zan Ropeway in the north-east of Kyoto. We were the only two passengers on the Hiei Mountain Rail. I felt very far away from the bustling Kyoto, deep in the mountains.

The sky was grey, but I was happy to stand on the trailhead with a good friend of mine. After enjoying a sweeping view of the Kyoto city from the Ropeway station, we started on the mountain path and followed well-marked Kyoto Trail signposts. No other hikers were in sight, probably due to the not-so-great weather.


Several temples were scattered along the path and we made a short visit to two peaceful temples.


The most part of the trail was well-maintained but we could see significant damage on the trail, caused by last year’s typhoon.  The steep uphill path to Mt.  Yokotaka (767m) was particularly damaged and zigzagging through the fallen trees and the landslide was not an easy task.  We then missed the turn to Mt. Mizui (794m) and instead ended up walking on a completely muddy forest path 😦


Finally getting out of the sludge with our heavily soiled shoes, we came to the fork and there left the Kyoto Trail for today’s destination, Ohara.

The path (Tokai Nature Path) to Ohara was also destroyed by the typhoon. So we had to dodge fallen trees and were relieved to finally get out of this forest to the village of Ohara.


Ohara is a quiet rural village with several well-known temples, such as Jakko-in and Sanzen-in. These temples are nestled in the mountains and have an isolated and spiritual feeling, very different from the ones in the Kyoto city.  This is my favorite area in Kyoto.

Checking in a friendly Minshuku (Japanese B&B) and putting our backpack down, we made a visit to Jakko-in.  As it was Tooji (the special winter day), we were treated with a bowl of cooked pumpkin in a beautiful room!

After this nice surprise, we walked around the wonderful garden and the temple compound and listened to a part of the epic tale of Heike which belongs to this temple.

We both enjoyed our first-day walk combined with history!


More on the Kyoto Trail:

Autumn hike in Prättigau: Bergstation Fanas to Schuders

A forlorn yet fantastic 6-hour trail from the foot of Sassauna to Fadurer Fürggli to Schuders.  In mid-November we enjoyed the unusual sunny weather, witnessing the dramatic fog streaming into the Prättigau Valley like a waterfall.  Amazing natural phenomenon!

Eggli Bergstation 1700m – Stelli 1978m – Fadurer Mittelsäss 1839m  – Fadur Obersäss 2020m – Fadurer Fürggli 2188m – Maiensäss – Schuders1272m

Distance: 17.2km // Ascent: 820m, Descent: 1270m // 6 hrs walking; 7hrs on the trail

The 8:30 am bus from Schiers and then a small mountain cablecar from Fanas (only two of us were in it) takes us to Eggli at 1700m, today’s trail head.  The air is crisp at 9 am, but the sun is out and heating.  A cute mountain hut which is usually a popular hangout place for paragliders was unfortunately closed due to the autumn break – no coffee for Philippe :- (


We start hiking up towards Sassauna, which we are rather familiar with. Skirting around the steep mountain flank of Sassauna for an hour, we arrive at Stelli (1978m),  the mountain ridge with a fantastic view of our house mountain Chrüz, the soaring Rätikon mountain range and today’s entire trail to Schuders Maiensäss.  We sit on the bench and admire a sweeping view during a short snack break.  It is Philippe’s first time to be here (the second time for me) and he loves the new perspective of the Chrüz and his favorite model airplane flying spot Gafäll.  The mountain slopes are brown and look deserted yet, a different beauty.


From here we start the half circle around the steep valley.  On the way we see three chamois, so jumpy that at the sight of us they dash down the slope towards the relative safety of the forest (it’s hunting season).


We make a wrong turn and walk uphill, mistaking a cow path for our trail, then after coming down to the correct path, continue to a rather large farmhouse at Fadurer Mittelsäss (1839m) which is closed for the season.  We wonder how a farmers get here, there seems to be no road and the place is roughly 2 to 3 hours away on foot from any side….

Tasty sandwiches in front of this farmhouse, the sun and the view refill our batteries.


Behind this farmhouse the path goes up steeply in the direction of Fadurer Fürggli.  200m higher up there is another small and cute farmhouse at Obersäss and we have another short break on the bench in the sun. We like breaks : )

Now, in mid November the sun on this south-oriented slope keeps us warm – even at around 2000m. At this time there may have been tons of snow by now.

Finally we reach today’s highest point, the Fadurer Fürggli pass (2188m). The north side of the pass is covered with snow and a very cold wind is blowing!  So cold that we only have a quick glimpse of the Schasaplana peak, the Schweizer Tor and the Carschina hut, before happily returning on the sunny south side of the pass for our second sandwich and miso soup.


Around this pass there are several gates of Swiss army border defense shelter from the Second World War. This might be due to the Austrian border close by …

From there it is a 1000m-altitude downhill to Schuders…


On the way down we see thick fog streaming from the Rhein Valley over the mountains into the Prätigau Valley. It looks like big fog wave overflowing and pouring to our side. It’s a dramatic nature spectacle! We can’t keep our eyes from it and stop many times to take photos.


After a long hilly downhill stretch we arrive at the quaint  hemlet of Maiensäss. It is lined with a row of old charming farmhouses, most of which are closed and awaiting winter.


At the end of the hike, the fog moves up higher and higher to reach the level of Schuders village (1272m) and soon we are in the cold fog! The white sun looks mystical in the thick fog. Our body is getting cold fast while waiting for the 4:30pm bus, but we can’t complain after 7 hours of sun!


Click here for the tour details 


A fantastic hike in the Engadin with a sweeping view of the Silsee and Silvaplana. My first sighting of Piz Bernina (4049m), the highest peak in the Graubünden!

This tour details:

Val da Camp and Lagh da Saoseo

Sfazù (1622m) – Rifugio Saoseo – Camp – Lagh da Val Viola (2159m) – Val Viola (2258m) – Lagh da Saoseo (2028m) – Terzana – Sfazù (1622m)

Length: 15km / Ascent & descent: 773m / walking time: 5 hours

Arrived at Sfazù (1622m), today’s trailhead, by bus from Pontresina. The scenery to get there was already impressive. We passed by the glacier and went through the isolated, lonesome area of the very eastern corner of Switzerland.


Mini-buses run to Camp Alp but it was booked out so I walked this one-hour stretch. The sunny weather lured many hikers in the same direction.

Soon two Swiss women joined me. We started talking while walking and I found out that one of the women from St. Gallen has a 28-year-old godchild who is a big Japan fan and lives in Nagasaki for 3 years!

In our last three hikes my hiking buddy Rieko-san and I met Swiss hikers whose adult children love Japan and learn Japanese. It is an amazing coincidence and I am happy to know that there are so many Japan fans in Switzerland!

After passing by Rifugio Saoseo, relatively easily I arrived at the beautiful green lake, Lagh da Val Viola. A great place for picnic lunch and I lazed around for one hour at the lakeside.

Today, the Val da Viola circles around the lake in a very autumn colors atmosphere. From the highest point of today’s trail (2258m) I see the snow-capped Piz Palù (but not Piz Bernina!) and the Morteratsch Glacier.  The main purpose of this hike was to see the Lake Saoseo, but this part of the trail on this valley was another highlight!

After a quite steep and slippery descent, the famous Lagh da Saoseo appeared. I saw a breath-taking photo of this lake two years ago and since then wanted to see it with my own eyes. Apparently, Saoseo is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in Graubünden. Painfully cold it was as well, when I put my feet in!

Hanging out a long time here enjoying the sun, I left the lake and headed down another route to Sfazu. This route along the stream was beautiful, with small bridges and some isolated typical stone farm houses.

As I stayed too long at the lakeside, I just made it to the bus five minutes before it arrived!

The trail details:

Martinsloch & Segnespass

Tschinglen (Elm), 1394 m – Segnespass 2625 m – Naraus (Flims) , 1838m
1200m ascent / 800m descent
Total hiking time: 6 hours (excluding lunch & snack breaks)
Total km: 12km – Average speed: Very, very slow…

A physically strenuous but spectacular hike over the famous Segnespass between Elm and Flims. The highlight is the gigantic rock window Martin’s Hole (22m x 19m) up close, created by two rock layers pushed above one another.  Pure power of nature!

More on this hike route:

Edelweissweg & Wisshornweg (Trift)

Zermatt (1620m) – Alterhaupt Edelweiss (1961m) –  Trift (2337m) – Schweifinen (2503m) – Zermatt
900m ascent / 900m descent
13 km / 6 hrs

After going through beautiful houses with balcony full of cheerful flowers in the east side of Zermatt, we found a path, leading steep uphill to the restaurant Alterhaupt Edelweiss. It perches on the rock above Zermatt, its white building visible from anywhere.

After a refreshing home-made ice tea, the path follows the narrow gorge and its serene stream. Here, there is no gondola nor mountain trains, nothing but quiet nature. That is not so easy to find in an area as developed as Zermatt.

The higher we go, the valley opens up and we see several impressive peaks and glaciers.

After some serious uphill, we arrived at the pink Trift Mountain Hut. I realised that I had been here more than 10 years ago.

We hang out in the wide basin near the hut for a long time, basking ourselves in the warm sun, having our delicious self-made sandwiches (away from the crowded mountain hut restaurant), taking many photos, listening to the hut owner playing the alphorn.

We changed our original plan which was to head back down the same way we came up and continued up a bit to walk a loop.

Above at Schweifinen (2503m), we have a phenomenal view of the entire east valley: Matterhorn, Klein Matterhorn, Riffelberg, all the way down to Winkelmatten where we stay. I was very happy that Philippe suggested this little scenic detour.

From there the path was steeeep downhill!  With Zermatt visible 900m below, we started that long zig-zagging down the mountain. While descending the narrow path I slipped on a tree root and got a mountain gift in form of a blue ankle for weeks…

We were relieved to be back in town to put our feet up…