Category Archives: Switzerland

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.

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 

Pontresina

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:

https://www.outdooractive.com/de/wanderung/pontresina/von-der-alp-languard-ueber-die-chamanna-segantini-nach-muottas-muragl/25408392/

https://www.pontresina.ch/sommer/mountainbike/biketouren/detail/von-der-alp-languard-ueber-die-chamanna-segantini-nach-muottas-muragl/

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.

Sfazu

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:
https://wegwandern.ch/listing/sfazu-rif-saoseo-lagh-da-saoseo-sfazu/

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:
https://wegwandern.ch/listing/6-etappe-sardona-welterbe-weg-elm-martinsloch-segnespass-flims-wanderung-wandern/

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…

Hörnlihütte (3260m)

Convinced that Matterhorn is the most beautiful mountain in the world, Yasuko’s birthday wish was to spend a few days in Zermatt. Our friend Patrick was so kind to let us stay at his studio with a fantastic view of that magnificent mountain. We could have sat in the studio just watching that magnificent mountain from the window, but not with Yasuko, of course.

For non-climbers, the closest you can get to the Matterhorn, is the Hörnlihütte, the base camp for the Matterhorn peak ascent. That’s not something one needs to tell my darling twice. So the  birthday wish became a hike, as the weather forecast promised a sunny day. We packed the sandwiches and off we went…

The Hörnlihütte has been renovated a few years ago, is very modern and serves nice and simple Swiss food (Rösti and similar stuff, that is). Every hiker takes that same picture on the terrace with the Matterhorn in the background. Except us, we took many 😁.

We were a bit worried about the descent, as there are some really steep and scary parts, with a ladder, ropes and almost vertical drops of a few hundred meters right next to the secured path. But it all turned out to be quite manageable. We just avoided looking down for too long.

On the way down, Yasuko expressed a wish for her next birthday. The guess is yours…