|1||Sat||Travel from home to Sargans, hike to Weisstannen||4 Hrs||Wildcamp|
|2||Sun||Weisstannen to Elm||7.5 Hrs||Basic Campsite|
|3||Mon||Elm to Linthal||9.5 Hrs||Hotel|
|4||Tues||Linthal to Urnerboden||5 Hrs||Guest Hotel|
|5||Weds||Urnerboden to Brusti (incl. Atterhausen cable car saving 2.5 hours of ascent)||9.5 Hrs||Wildcamp|
|6||Thurs||Brusti to Engelberg||5.5 Hrs||Campsite|
|7||Fri||Engelberg to Meiringen (inc. Trusbee cable car saving 2.5 hours of ascent)||9.5 Hrs||Campsite|
|8||Sat||Meiringen to Grindelwald||8 Hrs||Campsite|
|9||Sun||Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen (inc. 2 variants, the first via Schussellauenen, the second takes the Eiger trail to Kleinne Scheidegg)||10 Hrs||Campsite|
|10||Mon||Lauterbrunnen to Greisalp (inc. Grutschalp cable car saving about 1.5 hours of ascent)||8.5 Hrs||Guest Hotel|
|11||Tues||Greisalp to Kandesteg||7.5 Hrs||Campsite|
|12||Weds||Kandersteg to Lenk (inc. Allmenalp cable car saving 2 hours of ascent)||8.5 Hrs||Campsite|
|13||Thurs||Lenk to L’Etivaz (inc. Betelberg gondola saving about 2 hours of ascent)||10.5 Hrs||Hotel|
|14||Fri||L’Etivaz to just short of Rochers de Naye||8 Hrs||Wildcamp|
|15||Sat||Rochers de Naye to Montreax||3.5 Hrs||Hotel|
|16||Sun||Flight home from Zurich|
The trip to Wiesstannen was easy enough although the way through Mels isn’t obvious as signposts exist for the road route as well as the path. The weather was full cloud cover but quite warm and bright, the route climbs gently up a valley through trees and pastureland, on the approach to Weisstannen there are areas where wild camping is possible but I walked into the village and out the other side. There isn’t a campsite so this first night was always going to be a wild camp, 15 minutes beyond the village there’s an open area with a picnic table in trees, by the river. It was about 6.30pm and as the path seemed quiet I setup camp, a very productive travel/first day.
Today is Sunday and I left camp around 9am, early hikers were coming up the path and the weather was looking bright. The route comprises a steady climb to the Foopass followed by a steady descent to Elm, after Weisstannen you are shortly in open, high level alpine countryside with superb views of the surrounding mountains. I was enjoying clear blue skies and a good path and arrived at the pass just after 1pm, I had lunch and chatted to some fellow hikers before heading down the valley to Elm, while the route down was mainly on tracks rather than paths there are some great views with distant waterfalls cascading down vertical cliffs.
The campsite in Elm is basic, on the left as you enter the outskirts of the town it’s in a small wooded area with some picnic benches and rubbish bins. It appears to be a council provision and its free, but there are no showers, there’s a toilet block with a washbasin that is cleaned every day and the towel replaced.
It’s a bit gloomy to be honest, even on a bright day, but you can sit at its edge and look over the valley from an elevated position. Later that evening two young Swiss guys arrived, doing the Via Alpina in the other direction, I got some tips about campsites and the route ahead. The weather forecast for the next few days wasn’t too good
The following day was a Monday and the weather was forecast as ‘wet’, the day after (Tuesday) was going to be worse still. As I packed up it indeed was raining so I put my waterproofs on, after the first ascent to the cable car station above Elm, after an hour or so, it had stopped raining and I took them off, it was quite hot but the clouds were ominous, I got to the Richetlipass at around 1.30pm and had lunch before tackling the 3 and a half hour descent into Linthal.
The guys I met at Elm said you could camp in a place near the funicular in Linthal and there was a toilet block. By the time I arrived at about 5.30pm it had been raining for about an hour, I found the camp area but it was quite bleak, adjacent to a carpark which was being used constantly and with no toilet block in sight. I decided to seek accommodation, which I found at the Raban Hotel, a simple room with shared facilities, but I was able to get a shower and some food in the cosy restaurant.
Suitably refreshed and replenished I was ready for the thunderstorms promised for Tuesday and was keen to hike beyond the 5.5 hrs to Underboden and camp near the Klausenpass giving a head start on the following day. As I set off though the rain was heavy, and it would continue this way all day, with visibility down to a few tens of metres there was nothing to do but plod on. I felt strong and made short work of the initial ascent, but the rain was heavy and incessant, by the time I reached Urnerboden I was soaked and contemplating another room. Although the rain was heavy there was little wind and it was quite warm, so there was little danger, there were possible camp sites as I approached Urnerboden but that was around 2.30pm, a little early to sit in the tent out of the rain.
I was conflicted between going on to a wild camp, versus getting another room, eventually I chose the latter, this trip was never about roughing it and carrying on to the pass would have only gained a few hours. As I sat in comfort in the Gasthof Urnerboden restaurant I could see the whole of the valley through the picture windows, I watched the storm build, and felt vindicated. Around 6pm the rain became very heavy indeed and thunder rumbled round the peaks, I watched as the river visibly swelled, not quite bursting its banks, but the roads and paths had also become rivers, cars picked their way gingerly up the valley creating waves as they went.
Information from my phone showed that there were severe weather warnings for rain and flooding for this area overnight, peaking at around 3am the following morning.
With a much better forecast for the following day I was away early after breakfast and arrived at the Klausenpass in good time, it’s a disappointing road junction with a café, toilets and a chapel. Despite the development at the pass the view down the valley towards Altdorf is spectacular, today the valleys were blanketed with thick white cloud but the higher ground was in bright sunshine.
The guidebook describes a choice of routes from here to Altdorf, for me though the choice was a simple one, only one stayed above the clouds for the most part, so it made sense to stick with this, which happened to be the main route.
Shortly before midday I reached Alpbeizli, a group of farm buildings on a bluff with stunning views across the valley, they’ve rightly created an outdoor refreshments area which is typically alpine and very tempting, but I pressed on.
The route contours on good tracks before descending on a mix of path and track to the village of Springen. Here you can get a bus into Altdorf but I decided to walk in, the path criss crosses the road, more or less following the same line. Altdorf is quite a big town so you reach the outskirts well before you reach the centre and the walking becomes decidedly urban.
I headed for the town centre to see the William Tell statue! It’s a picturesque town but it doesn’t have a campsite, if I wanted to camp, and I did, I needed to get further along the route. Threading my way out past the railway station I reached the cable car station in Atterhausen, this would be my first ‘assist’, it would save a couple of hours of ascent and get me into a tent after two nights accommodation.
The top station is at Brusti, a collection of small houses about half way to the next pass, according to the guide there sounded like a pasture about 45 minutes away but after about 15 minutes I came to a camping area with toilets, picnic benches and an honesty box, it straddled the path, I gratefully stopped and pitched my tent at about 5pm, due to the mist and low visibility it’s was impossible to see more than a few yards, so finding a wild camp would have been tricky, and finding water much harder.
It had been a long day, over nine hours trekking. The next morning though the weather was bright, although at lower altitudes there was still 100% cloud cover, I could see miles in the distance but beyond the peaks it was just a fluffy carpet of cloud.
I reached Alpiglen after about half an hour this is where I’d intended to look for a camping spot, with the clarity of a fine morning I could see that it would be easy to find a good spot though you would have to ask permission at the farm house, if I had been looking the previous night however, in poor visibility, I’d have struggled to find water, the only source was a trough fed from the hillside – but you have to be able to see it!
The trek to the Surenenpass is quite rugged and I really enjoyed it, I spotted one or two wild camp spots, one in particular had space for about three tents, plenty of water, though it was a bit boggy.
The view from the pass is pretty amazing and I exchanged photo-shoots with another hiker. Beyond the pass the path is a great trek but all too soon becomes a track which intersects with metalled single-track road. Underfoot the terrain varies and I arrived at the Alpen Rosti restaurant around noon, I debated for ages whether to grab lunch here as there was another 2 hours to Engelberg, I finally decided to go in.
While it was quite nice and the waitress was chatty, mainly about Brexit, it came to £9 for three pieces of dry bread, some soup and a diet coke! The soup was rubbish, boullion, with bits of fried egg chopped up and added to it.
When finally you enter the outskirts of Engelberg you pass a waterfall and golf course, less urban than the walk into Altdorf but it’s a fair walk into the centre of town. When you do reach the centre though the Monastery is magnificent, it dominates the town and is immaculate. I arrived at 2pm.
If you are contemplating a backpack in the Alps and you only have a week then this is the place to start – the next six days is without doubt the highlight of the trip, and it can be done using good quality campsites virtually every night.
Let’s start with Engelberg, which you can get to by train or bus, and to which I arrived on foot at 2pm and walked straight into the tourist information office. The campsite for the town is located near the Hotel Einwaldi which is on a free tourist bus route which links the towns highlights. I made it to the bus stop with minutes to spare, though the campsite is not very far and could be walked easily.
This could be the best campsite I’ve ever stayed at. It has every facility imaginable, including a small swimming pool, bar area and supermarket. There’s a comprehensive laundry room which I used to get my washing up to date and a fantastic shower worthy of any hotel room. £22 a night though, for me and my miniscule tent.
I recommend taking the Trusbee cable car for the main ascent out of Engelberg, here’s why; the climb to Trusbee takes two and a half hours and involves steep ascent criss-crossing the path of the cable car, while there are good views back there is little to appreciate in the direction of the climb, and the development at Trusbee itself is quite intensive. If you use your first 2-3 hours to climb this then you are limited in where you will finish that night – almost certainly you will need to find accommodation in Engstlenalp, which is a nice village but the walk to it is just a precursor to the main event, a walk along the Erzegg ridge which can be seen in the distance.
By choosing the cable-car to reach Trusbee you can pass through Engstlenalp and continue all the way to Meiringen which is a fantastic days trekking with a choice of campsites at the end of it.
I left the campsite at Hotel Einwaldi at 8am and walked the 30minutes to the cable car station, the weather was good and I reached Trusbee in a few minutes from where I could see the peak Titlis with its cable car options. I hurried on through the development works and on to the Jochpass in excellent weather, arriving an hour later.
There’s a magnificent view ahead from the pass, overlooking a lake and with today’s route stretched out in the far distance, you can see all the way to the last high level section before the final descent into Meiringen. In about six hours I’d be looking back to where I was standing.
I descended above the lake along its right hand edge and arrived at Englstlenalp which marks the beginning of the next section of ascent, a spectacular path beneath grey cliffs that was a joy to walk, it skirts round a rocky nose to the right and descends slightly to another hamlet and a lake at Tannensee, I ate lunch here.
It’s a short ascent onto the Erzegg ridge from the lakeside and one of the best sections of the whole route, the ridge is narrow and opens up fantastic views on either side with splendid views back to the Jochpass. There are some cable cars that come close to the ridge but it remains a rugged path, as the ridge fades the route ascends again along the side of Talistock to a dip at Planplatten and a short ascent to the final cable car station which marks the start of the descent into Meiringen.
The descent is on a mixture of tracks through pastureland and wooded areas eventually becoming built up as you get closer to the town. There’s a cable car option at Routy but by then you are almost there. I arrived in the town at 6pm.
It was quite late and I had to find a campsite, eventually I located the tourist information centre at the railway station and was directed to one of the two campsites available, Alpencamping, about 15 minutes walk and £15 a night. The site is a good one, although its open so it doesn’t have a ‘cosy’ feel to it, however it has good facilities including a restaurant. They sell some items from the site office but even though I was looking for food I couldn’t find anything to buy, perhaps they see that as promoting their restaurant!
There was a great supermarket I passed on the way from the station, I walked back to it but it was closed – I ended up with a traditional meal at the campsite restaurant – which was excellent.
From Meiringen the route to the Grosse Scheidegg pass is through classic alpine scenery, though the route is a mix of path, track and metalled road, the view is dominated by the Wetterhorn. About half way to the pass you reach the Hotel Rosenlaui, a magnificent Victorian hotel.
Beyond the hotel the way criss-crosses the road eventually topping out at Grosse Scheidegg. To the left majestic mountains, including the Eiger, frame the Grindelwald basin, and after a few minutes descent from the pass the valley floor can be seen sprinkled with chalets, with the Kleine Scheidegg pass on the far side of the ‘bowl’.
The descent to Grindelwald is a couple of hours mixed walking mainly on tracks but some metalled road. On reaching the town the campsite is signposted to the left and is downhill from the mainstreet – its about a fifteen minute walk to the shops and restaurants from the campsite.
The site is called Gletscherdorf, its mainly for motorhomes but there’s a grassed area reserved for tents, I can imagine this filling up at the height of the season. There’s a small marquee with tables for cooking and the showers are good – but only two for the whole site. No shop.
There’s a choice of route the following day and I highly recommend two variants, it takes quite a bit longer but is much more rewarding, the first is the route to Alpiglen via Schussellauenen, a fabulous route that starts with a steep climb through forest with a rocky breakout before turning right and skirting the slopes below the Eiger’s Mittellegi Ridge.
After two and a half hours on this route there’s an opportunity to join the Eiger trail at a fork in the paths about 20 minutes before you reach Alpiglen. Again, I highly recommend this variant which certainly adds a lot to the route but is a magnificent walk and one of the best sections of the whole route. After 3 hours from the path junction you will reach Kleine Scheidegg with its magnificent view of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, I arrived at 13.20, it was blisteringly hot and I sat on the public benches outside the Hotel Bellvue and ate my lunch.
The descent to Lauterbrunnen takes another 3 hours, the lower sections through forests on paths and ends up at the railway station, if you exit left there’s a tourist information office on the right hand side of the road. They recommended the excellent Jungfrau campsite which was in walking distance and is a little oasis below the very impressive Staubbach falls. Again, one of the best sites I’ve used, with excellent kitchen facilities, showers, supermarket and restaurant, though the area reserved for tents isn’t exactly flat and difficult to sink your pegs.
The supermarket is very well stocked so you could rely on it for topping up your food for the following few days without having to go into town. I ate in the restaurant, a traditional Rosti – I can highly recommend it.
The following day was my third cable car assist, from Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp, which should save about an hour and a quarter out of a nine hour day. The weather was great and the path from the Cable car station to Murren is a gentle stroll with spectacular views across the valley to the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger. The path more or less follows the railway line (which is another option of course), and enters Murren by the station.
All manner of delights can be had in Murren but it was early so I simply hiked through to the other side and on to a steepish climb which levelled out as I approached the Rostock Hut. Another opportunity for refreshments but it was busy and therefore off-putting. I hiked on to the Sefinenfurke pass on a great path through great scenery. The approach to the pass itself is very steep and a rope handrail edges much of the path with wooden steps helping to prevent land slippage.
On the other side the view of the Kiental valley is spectacular and the way down even steeper than the climb up, a wooden staircase snakes down the right hand side of the valley below rocky cliffs and on extremely fragile looking shale. Eventually the gradient eases and I followed the path towards the tree-line.
About 30 minutes before Griesalp there’s a picnic site with places for bonfires near to the river, and a couple of places to pitch a tent, I was sorely tempted but it was only 4pm and the path was busy and there was no-where to get out of sight. I was also keen to stay at the Berggasthaus Golderli which is a traditional alpine chalet/guesthouse and having read that there was no campsite in the vicinity I’d set my sights on a night in comfort and a typical alpine meal.
The Golderli didn’t disappoint. The room I was given was charmingly alpine. There are no en-suite rooms and the showers are down two flights of stairs from my room, I washed myself and did the laundry which could be hung on a south facing veranda to catch the late afternoon sun. I sat out on the restaurant deck with a bottle of beer and all was well with my world.
The meal was traditional and very good, all cooked well. The whole experience cost me 140 euros but I was glad to pay it, the owners were the cooks, cleaners and entertainers and they also lived in the chalet in a tiny room at the back, they must love it when the chalet’s empty.
After a good breakfast and some great coffee I set off for the Hortlu pass, initially through pastureland but quite quickly getting above any vegetation onto a rocky bluff. The final sections, like the pass yesterday, were on gritty unstable shale and a wooden staircase is the only way of getting up to the pass. It was busy, but when I reached the top, at 10.45am, the views made the ascent worth while, the path falls away sharply from the saddle before levelling off for a balcony traverse.
The weather was holding and after a few further hours I reached a small collection of huts named Ober Bargli, not far beyond this the path leads to the edge of a precipice and the Oeschinensee lake appears below. Is a famously beautiful spot frequented by many visitors many of whom use the cable-car to reach its shores, but the walk down is deceptively long and steep and I was happy to reach the water’s edge. I skirted the lake to the business end, with lots of visitors, a restaurant and the gondola station off to the right.
The walk down to Kandesteg felt longer than it should and I arrived at 2.45 and replenished my food stocks as well as buying something for the evening. There’s an excellent campsite at the foot of the Gondola station and it feels right in the mountains, despite it being quite early I booked in. There were some clouds in the sky but I busied myself getting a shower and making a meal. The following day I went to the cable car station on the other side of Kandersteg, the one that goes to Allmenalp, it’s a very small car that takes you above a sheer cliff wall on the edge of Kandesteig and saves about 2 hours out of a six and a half hour day, leaving enough time to reach Lenk.
The path beyond the top station is through rough pastureland and as you get higher you can see the Oeschinensee lake behind you and across the valley, its an impressive view. At the head of the valley the path sweeps off to the left, still gaining height, I was noting possible wild campsites but there was no water. As the path crosses a ridge it turns right and joins the path for those who hadn’t taken the cable car option, and the Bunderschrinde pass comes into view but is still about an hour away, I arrived at 11.30am.
There’s a good wild camping spot just the other side of the Bunderschrinde, there’s not a lot of water around but there is some, you would need a filter but if you have one then camping is possible. I carried on down through farms and pastures eventually reaching a roundabout below the charming town of Adelboden, it was 2.15pm.
There’s a steep walk into town but plenty of refreshment options along the main street, which is coincident with the onward route, I didn’t partake as it was still 4 hours to Lenk. The route follows a cable-car route for a couple of hours before reaching high ground and the approach to the Hahnenmoospass. Beyond this a comfortable walk down a long valley on a mixture of paths, tracks and roads, I reached Lenk at 6.30pm just as it was starting to rain, the campsite is a few minutes walk from the town centre, its open but the views are good and the facilities are excellent, there’s a two storey block with toilets and showers on the ground floor and an excellent massive kitchen/eating place on the first floor.
I also washed some clothes and sat on the benches at the back of a veranda looking out at the torrential rain that was battering the tent, waiting for the cycle to finish. This is where I would finish my ‘Golden Route’, six days of the best backpacking in Switzerland.
In order to achieve my 2 week timetable I had to get close to L’Etivaz today, I intended to wild camp some where around the Col de Jable but needed to save some time, so I took the Betelberg gondola to Leiterli before walking onward to the Truttlisberg pass, this saved a couple of hours ascent from Lenk.
The route to the pass and then further on to Turli is along a rocky ridge with expansive views and is a great route, from Turli though it descends into the Turbach valley for a long two and a half hour stretch to Gstaad, I arrived in the town centre at 1pm. Gstaad is decidedly up market and I hurried through it stopping for lunch half way up the initial steep ascent out of the town, which takes you through forest on zig zag tracks and eventually comes to the ski station at Eggli.
The views ahead are fabulous and dominated by the Gummfluh which is a conical peak on the horizon with a shoulder on its left hand side, the Via Alpina looses an annoying amount of height before ascending again and crossing the shoulder at its lowest point. From here the way to the Col de Jable is clear on an easy descending path, and L’Etivaz is sign posted as a further 1hr 45 minutes, I left the pass at 17.40pm and headed down through alpine pasture.
My plan to find a wild campsite fell apart on the descent, there was perhaps one place just over the col but the only water was from a trough and there was a lot of cattle around and not much choice in where to pitch, I passed it hoping for something better but encountered steep sided pasture and then woodland all the way to the outskirts of the village. Nor was it possible to camp near the village, there were ‘No Camping’ signs and nowhere to hide.
I booked into the Hotel du Chamois, a charming traditional hotel dating back to 1888, it was 7.35pm, I was very tired having left Lenk at 8.30 that morning. I gratefully showered and headed for the restaurant. My room had a balcony, which was the perfect place to unwind, I was pleased that I’d been forced into the hotel, it was a grand old building.
My penultimate day would take me to Rochers de Naye, a hotel and cog railway station complex high above Lake Geneva and Montreux although I intended to wild camp if possible just before reaching the hotel area itself.
I left the Hotel du Chamois not knowing just how frustrating this day would be! The guide describes the route with a marker at the Col de Sonlomont after three hours, I wouldn’t get there until 13.45, 5 and a half hours after leaving L’Etivaz, the reason being that the route has been substantially changed.
I realised the signposted route was diverging from the guidebook and had a decision to make, fearing that there may be a problem with guidebook version making the route impassable or dangerous I decided to follow the signposted route which brought me to the small town of Chateau-d’Oex where there’s a tourist information office. I was appraised of the changes, which aren’t temporary, and add about 2.5 hours to the journey to Rochers de Naye, turning an eight hour day into a 10.5 hour day.
What’s more is that the route is disappointing as well, the initial sections are between villages followed by an appalling section through woodland rising steeply uphill from Rossiniere, the path is badly constructed leaving it in a dangerous condition, especially after rain, eventually I reached the Col de Sonlomont.
From here the way is on farm tracks then paths with great views over Lac de l’Hongrin, then rising to cross a shoulder of Planachaux at a place called Linderrey. It continues down from here until all the height is lost since L’Etivaz and you arrive at the farm at Vuichoude d’en Bas.
The route then climbs again through woodland and eventually to the Col de Chaude, don’t be tempted to take the track directly down to Montreux because the traverse across a narrow ridge from here to Rochers de Naye is well worth the effort. The ridge ends at a mostly flat area where a track carries on past a building and to the left, you can’t see Rochers de Naye yet as there’s still a small crest to get over but I decided to camp here, there was some water in a trough which needed filtering but that was ok, it was 6.30pm when I pitched the tent.
On the final day I was away early, about 7am, and reached Rochers de Naye half an hour later. The weather was good but the hotel and station were deserted. I immediately followed the path down, it’s a great path with great views but when you eventually reach the outskirts of Montreux it threads between houses and along streets, then unexpectedly it enters a wooded gully with an impressive set of waterfalls, and a delightful path down. I emerged from the gully and reached the shore of the lake just before 11.00am, the sun was shining.