Category Archives: Switzerland

The last three stages of the Via Alpina: mountains and more mountains

I haven’t posted over the past few days. My mind, as well as the whole TASIS family, has been with Elizabeth, a counselor for the TASIS middle school program, whom I was deeply saddened to hear lost her life this past week. Thoughts and prayers go out to her sister Sarah, who has also been an MSP counselor for the past three years, and the rest of her family. Elizabeth had only been at TASIS for one summer, but she was an amazing presence both professionally and personally. Words cannot express how much she will be missed by all of us at TASIS who knew and loved her.

Lenk to Gsteig – Stage 13

Friday – After mailing off some postcards in Lenk, I set off for the day. The morning’s climb surprised me with an amazing set of waterfalls, and I had to manuver up many sets of ladders to get to the top of these cascades. Ascending through a high meadow, I looked to the east towards yesterday’s pass. Then shortly afer, gained the Truttlisberg Pass. I was suprised to find that the guidebook parts with the national Route 1 hiking trail here, but not unhappy to head downwards.

The afternoon sun was delighful and after a quick looksy through the hamlet of Lauenen, I dropped below a bridge to join the waters of the Louisbach stream with my bare toes and enjoyed a nice respit before tackling the Krinnen Pass. I made good time on the way up, but the front part of my inner left foot was giving me some trouble with the downhills. After over a seven and a half hour day, I checked into my hotel in Gsteig and enjoyed the beautiful sounds of the river flowing through the town as I drifted off to sleep. I felt less sore through the night than the night before, perhaps due to a little more post day’s hike stretching.

Gsteig to Les Mosses – Stage 14

Saturday – After a good breakfast at the hotel, I headed up once again, hoping that this would be the biggest climb left in my journey. I neglected to get a picture of a pefect Alice in Wonderland-like red mushroom and that bothered me for a good half an hour. It’s the competitive side in me that made me pass up this photo opp. I was rushing to stay ahead of an older couple that had caught up to me while I was releaving myself in the nearby woods. Oh well, the image of that perfect mushroom will stay mine and mine only, as I presume the image of me “making” in the woods will stay with you, oh fine reader for the getting this far.

I made good time up the steep meadows which leveled off and followed a dirt road. I succeeded in successfully dodging the many cows who had decided that the middle of the path was their best bet for a break from eating grass all day. I wasn’t taking any chances. (Hey, they have horns and I don’t!)

Blattipass at 1900m was simply amazing, affording me a view of the past 8 stages! The trail stays above treeline for the next four hours and I worked on a pretty good sunburn throughout the day. Downhills were slow with my aching foot, but I took out my foot supporters and that helped. There were lots of hikers out on this fine Saturday. It seems that many of them had trickled down from Col des Vore and the border of the Swiss-German speaking canton of Berne and the French speaking caton of Vaud, because most hikers greeted me with “bonjour” now, even though we were still in Berne. I got well behind the guidebook’s estimated times, aided also by some poor guidebook directions. The day’s journey continued to offer pleasant surprises however. Just past the little farm of Marnex, I saw a paraglider take off right in front of my eyes and I couldn’t have timed it any better. Later at La Dix, after I washed down some of the three liters of water I consumed today in the apline sun, I looked up and saw Mount Blanc peaking out of the dip between two mountain ranges. I thought the white mass was cloud cover at first and I may have just shouted an expletive when I realized what I was actually looking at. The rest of the way to Les Mosses was on an easy grade, and I relished anytime the trail dipped into the trees and I got a break from the bright sun.

After eight and half hours of walking, I splurged on some strawberries at the market in Les Mosses that I was going to save until tomorrow, but that plan didn’t last. Oh so good! And a spaghetti dinner at the hotel tonight. I am not going to make budget.

Les Mosses to Montreux – Stage 15 (The final one!)

Sunday – It was hard to sleep last night. I was missing out on a big wedding back home of a good friend, but more, I was in shock by the news yesterday of Elizabeth’s passing. After breakfast nevertheless, I made my way through the morning dew of an alpine meadow, but not before perusing through a Sunday morning rumage sale on the main street in Col de Mosses. Tents were lined up for a good 300 yards and folks from all over the area had come to sell their junk.

It started to rain about an hour into the hike and I scrambled to get out my rain jacekt and poncho. The rain stopped after a little bit, but most of the day remained gloomy. After walking around  a major resevoir that quenches the thirst of Montreux, I headed down into a remote valley, feeling lost, but every once in a while seeing a yellow marker to aleviate my worry. The afternoon included a climb up to Col de Chaude at 1641m, the last pass of the trip (but not quite the last uphill as I would later find out.) Here I glimsed my first view of Lac Leman and the end of the journey. From there it was down (mostly) almost 4,000 feet via a mix of gravel roads and several darts down pathways through steep woods.

At 4:10 PM, over eight hours after departing in the morning, I arrived at the Montreax train station on the lake. I didn’t want to walk anymore and I paid the three francs to take the one train stop to the youth hostel.

Youth hostels seem to be lonely places these days. There are lots of people here, but many of them are staring at their phones or ipads, including me. (Hey, at least I’m doing something active by typing! ) At the very least, it’s very very quiet. There are five us sitting in the same room not saying a word. It’s like I am in a library.

I started the Via Alpina in the summer of 2011 and have done a few sections every summer since then. And today I finished. It feels good, but all in all with the weather and recent events, it was a rather solemn end to a long journey.

Tomorrow I head to Waldshut, Germany to visit Fee and Klaus.

Just past Truttlisberg Pass (2038m) and viewing the glaciers of the Wildhorn (3247m) – Stage 13

Sore feet, but still smiling at Blattipass (1900m) – Stage 14

Col des Anderets (2034) – Top of Stage 14. In the distance you can make out some snow-capped peaks. This is the Oberland region. I could see all the way back to stage 6 (8 full days ago). This is where I miss my good Canon camera. The ipad mini doesn’t quite caputre it.

See the lowest lying clouds in the distance in the dip between the two mountain ranges? Look middle! Those aren’t clouds! That’s the snow-capped peak of Mount Blanc, the highest peak in non-Russia Europe. (Sorry Mt. Elbrus in Russia.)

The view from my hotel balcony in Les Mosses. The next morning the biggest rumage sale in Western Switzerland would line up along the side of the road.

The first view of Lac Leman on the final day

Getting closer!

The Montreux train station and the end of the Via Alpina

Lac Leman on a misty evening

Montreux on the lake