I’m spending a week in Kandersteg on Headwater’s Classic Swiss Alps package and the weather forecast is good. Normally, I prefer to hike from place to place and have my bags transported so staying in the same for a week is something new.
I’ve got a list of walks a few more than the days I will be here so I’m slightly spoilt for choice. Cable car passes are included as well as local buses and a large scale map.
The only problem with being in one place is that you always go up and down in the same day and there are only a few circular walks.
Still the food in the Alfa Soleil is brilliant every night a four course menu artfully displayed and beautifully cooked so I can’t complain. In addition at breakfast they have a separate table laid out with ingredients for you to make a packed lunch an excellent innovation. Here’s a selection of my favourite walks.
Gasterntal and the Kanderfirn Glacier
13.1km / 6 hours
For my first walk, I choose what I realise later is one of the hardest of the week. It starts off well with a minibus ride part way up the Gasterntal, a narrow gorge with sheer rock faces. I get off at Selden and follow the River Kander uphill, the mountain tops ahead of me still covered in snow. In fact there’s even some in the valley still covering the path, which I cross with caution.
Narrow waterfalls tumble down the surrounding cliffs and the path steepens. I cross a narrow ridge, actually glacial moraine, and then zig zag uphill. It’s a tough climb but eventually.
I reach the Kanderfirn Glacier at 2400m, still covered in snow. I can make out sections of blue ice and its much colder here.
The views are tremendous but there’s no time to linger. I retrace my steps and catch the minibus back to Kandersteg.
Daubensee and the Gemmi Pass 19.7km / 5hr 45 minutes
Today I take the cable car up to the Sunnbüel station getting glorious views of the Gasterntal where I walked yesterday. There are glorious spring flowers lining the green valley and as I climb gradually the landscape becomes more barren. In the middle of nowhere is the Schwarenbach, originally a customs post but I don’t stop and finally reach the Daubensee at 2200m.
The lake is still partially frozen and I see my path following its shores before climbing steadily up to the Gemmi Pass.
This is a pleasant stroll in spite of a scattering of snow fields and at the pass I can see the village of Leukerbad below me. In the distance is the Matterhorn, standing proud in the middle of a row of glittering white peaks. It’s an easy return to the cable car station.
The Südrampe 16 km 5hr 25min
It’s not all tough hiking here and this hike is reserved for days of inclement weather or for those faint of heart. Itake the train towards Brig through the 14km tunnel and get off at Hohtenn. From here it’s a gentle downhill all the way, mainly following the railway tracks. This means there are always options to shorten the walk by taking the train back.
Around a kilometre from the station is the impressive five arch Luogelkin Viaduct and to the right the River Rhone runs through the valley below. After passing through a series of short tunnels in the rock, I join the railway again and take the pedestrian foot way over the 136m long Bietschtal viaduct. Here I leave the railway and follow a narrow channel of flowing water, known as a bisse, designed to irrigate the fields.
This leads to the village of Ausserberg, full of old style Swiss chalets constructed out of larch. There’s an option to finish the walk but I carry on. This is a delightful section, sometimes following other bisse and crossing a narrow suspension bridge by the Baltschieder Viaduct, 130m long, before reaching Eggerberg. I make for the station and catch the train back to Kandersteg.