Trekking the Swiss Alps

The Berghaus
By Karen Walker, Ryder Walker Alpine Adventures

Of course there are point to point trips that utilize huts and berghauses and require you to carry your clothing (but never sleeping or cooking supplies), away from the intrusions of transport systems, towns or villages. One such excursion can be completed in three to five hiking days-- the circuit of the Alpstein range near Appenzell. These limestone mountains on the Swiss borders of Austria and Liechtenstein are like a miniature version of the Alps; with hikes radiating all directions and berghauses spaced an easy two to three hours apart, and exciting and airy hiking amidst precipitous limestone cliffs and ridges. The berghauses offer simple lodging, often in bunk rooms, in spectacular settings. The berghaus at Ascher, for example, is set right into the living rock of a cliff and a huge boulder protrudes into the upstairs water closet. I once spent an evening there watching the proprietor's small children playing atop the cliff while their father hiked off to the lift station at Ebenalp (a half hour or more away) to retrieve a can of milk. Ascher is a must see in the Alpstein, as is the delightful little herder's settlement at Meglisalp, where you can spend a sleepy time watching the cows come in to be milked over a beer at the hotel. The summit of the Santis, a day's walk from almost anywhere in the range, is the region's highest peak, and should also be included in a trek through the Alpstein.

For the super ambitious, it is possible to cross the entire country of Switzerland on foot. Most trekkers start at Sargans and cross through Ostschweiz, the Berner Oberland, the Saanenland and the Pays D'Enhaut on way to the shores of Lac Leman. It is also possible to start in the southern Engadine, cross the Ticino into the Valais and finish an east to west traverse of the classic Haute Route to the border of France. These long distance treks take two to three weeks to complete along a diverse array of popular and little used mountain paths.

The Swiss Alps offer treks of all varieties: from moderate tours linking ancient villages; to strenuous tours crossing high mountain passes underneath tumbling glaciers; from meadow rambles to airy ridge walking and scrambling. There's something for every budget and taste in accommodations, too, from simple berghauses, to charming country inns, to elegant, mountain retreats. So, if the idea of another night huddled under a dripping fly while munching on soggy gorp has lost its appeal, perhaps it is time to head for the Alps, where the Swiss dedication to hiking, combined with their legendary inn keeping and rail system, make hiking a pleasure all over again.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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