Crossing of the Alps on snowshoes – Oberstdorf to Sud Tirol

Having been on some superb snowshoeing treks (mostly in the Dolomites), as the aeroplane touched down in Munich, my feeling was that this trip would have to be a good one to live up to them!

Day One:

Arriving at Oberstdorf station and the OASE AlpinCenter base, we met up as a group and were introduced to Franz, our leader for the trip. Bags were weighed and I am pleased to say, we had all passed the test – being under the specified weight limit! The weather was promising and Franz lifted our mood even further by informing us that the weather for the rest of the week (the duration of the holiday) would be excellent. Already I had a good feeling about the trip that awaited us.

We caught the service bus for the short journey to Baad in the Kleinwalsertal valley. From here we walked along the icy track to Bargundhutte (1408m) where we put on our snowshoes for the first time. After a short break we began a lovely tree and rock lined ascent, eventually reaching Hochalppass (1938m). All the time the impressive dolomitic Grosser Widderstein (2533m) towered above us – (the highest peak of the Klein Walsertal) and our route enabled us to see it from a variety of angles.

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Climbing to Hochalppass 1938m – under the imposing Grosser Widderstein 2533m

Reaching the pass, we now faced south – the sun had heated up the snow and from here, walking conditions changed noticeably, as we quickly descended downhill to Hochtannbergpass and then on to our stop for the night – the well appointed, very welcoming Hotel Falk Korbersee.

Day Two:

Outside it was crisp and cold – with an almost unreal intense blue sky. The walk today would be a particularly fine one. From the hotel there was a fine traverse of the Auenfeld, taking in some truly magnificent mountain scenery. Walking here in this glorious setting; experiencing the solitude and the clarity of the air, reminded me of why there’s nothing quite like snowshoeing.

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Now, rather than descending directly into the valley towards Lech, Franz took us left onto a broad shoulder to avoid avalanche dangers and we approached the superbly situated resort of Lech.  

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Descending towards Lech

Our mini bus arrived promptly and we were driven to the Sonnenkopf cable car. If the day had ended here, it would have definitely been a day to remember, but there was a lot more stunning scenery to come, (although, obviously the proximity of the cable car, meant no more solitude). Our trek now took us, with little effort, to the summit of Muttjochle (2074m). On a map this looks pretty insignificant – in fact, apart from having a very impressive summit cross, it is a fantastic viewpoint – giving wide panoramic sweeps of the Rätikon, the Verwall and the Silvretta ranges. After taking in the views, our route now took us down through the really beautiful Muttwald forest. It was very warm here, a lot of snow had melted, birds were singing – and there was a real feeling of spring in the air. We arrived at our overnight stop at the Panoramagasthof Kristberg – for a well earned beer.

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Summit of Muttjochle

Day Three:

For some reason, I woke really early and glanced out of the window – just in time to catch the magnificent sight of the sun on the mountains.

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Sunrise view from the hotel window – Panoramagasthof Kristberg

The Kristberg really is a superb setting – as the cable car stops in the late afternoon and the sun sinks behind the mountains you really are alone in this little traffic free hamlet perched above Silbertal valley in Montafon. It was a shame to leave! Descending to the valley we took the over-crowded bus to Partenen (a bit of a culture shock after the last two peaceful days) – and from here, the Vermuntbahn to Silvretta-Bielerhöhe.  From here we ascended to the reservoir, past a farm with a fascinating array of tools adorning the outer walls, to the reservoir with its superb views of the Silvretta. 

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Ascending to the Vermunt reservoir

Now, an easy descent followed, down a prepared track to the village of Galtur – overall, this was a shorter day, but one full of variety and interest. Our overnight stay was in the comfortable Hotel Toni situated in the village.

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The descent from Vermunt to Galtur

Day Four:  

The day’s route started in Ischgl, close by to Galtur. What a shock – thousands of skiers milling around, waiting in queues (give me snowshoeing any day!) Franz told us the ski lifts were taking 96,000 people an hour up to the various pistes around the village. Looking back on the trip, this day was a kind of transit day between beautiful areas – (so if we had to have a day of bad weather, this was the day to choose). The weather was indifferent, rather than bad, as we trudged along, initially along a prepared piste – before the final stretch across the border between Austria and Switzerland – marked by two ornate iron signposts – to the Heidelberger Hutte (2264m), where we spent the night.

Day Five:

This was billed as a particularly scenic day into the Lower Engadine – so it was with great relief that the weather had returned to sunshine and blue skies – the very low temperatures resulted in superb visibility too. We set off accompanied by a large number of skiers – these quickly left us behind – which was great as it enabled us to enjoy the beautiful surroundings on our own. It is quite difficult to find adequate words to explain the glorious scenery of the day – initially the ascent to Fuorcla Davo Lais (2810m) after about two hours of walking,

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Approaching Fuorcla Davo Lais (2810m) – highest point of the tour

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Panorama from Fuorcla Davo Lais 2810m

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Val Laver

and the gradual descent across Val Laver –  with spectacular 360 degree views, to eventually reach Zuort (1711m) and our minibus. The final part of the route was very hard going – the route faced south and had been in the strong sun for hours. The route lay over unstable snow, covering rocks, tree stumps and streams. Franz steered as best a route as possible through and around the obstacles in our way – but I think we all sank into snowy holes many times. It’s often quite a feat trying to get out of a waist high hole on snow shoes – as we were all to discover!  Nevertheless, despite the difficult end, this was an amazing day – a day of superlatives – and a snowshoe walk I will be unlikely to forget.

The day hadn’t quite ended – as another mode of transport awaited us when the bus arrived at Scuol – a horse drawn carriage – to take us on a two hour journey to our overnight stop – the Gasthaus Mayor Val S-charl. By now the sun had left the valley, temperatures had plummeted – despite being wrapped in blankets and hot water bottles, we were all really chilled by the time we arrived.

Day Six:

We had arrived at S-Charl was it was getting dark – so we had not really seen the area at that time. Morning allowed us to properly see where we had been staying – a truly amazing spot – possibly one of the remotest places in Switzerland. The original village centre of S-charl is a group of 13 houses and 3 inns arranged around a church. The village is traffic-free and has a car park immediately before it.  Along the way, the enormous, canyon-like scree gorge that follows the boundary of the National Park is truly impressive. S-charl was inhabited throughout the year until 1920. In winter the access road is closed and the village can only be reached by horse-drawn sleigh, on touring skis or snowshoes. Franz told us that only one person, plus the hotel staff live in the village in the winter. 

We walked out of the village along a very icy track. The valley floor lies deep down and it must be quite late in the morning when the sunshine eventually arrives to warm it up. The whole area is part of a national park and the woods we walked through from the village were stunning.  I was really taken with the natural beauty of this area – clearly there are many opportunities for snowshoe walks here – it is definitely an place I would love to return to. 

Our trek took us steadily to Cruschetta (2251m) and the border between Switzerland and Italy. As we descended from here there was evidence of a number of avalanches and Franz took the time to explain a lot of the “science” regarding snow and the types of avalanches and the conditions where they are likely to occur – I learnt such a lot from him during the week!

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View south from Cruschetta (2251m)

Journey’s end was the village of Campo Tures – where we had time for coffee and cakes – before boarding the minibus to take us back to Oberstdorf.  Four countries in six days – by snowshoes!  Did the trip live up to my other snowshoe trips – it certainly did and exceeded my expectations in every way.  A fantastic route – obviously devised by real experts (OASE); great accommodation in really beautiful, interesting locations; superb guiding from Franz – and of course, the weather! I can only now throw down the challenge to OASE to come up with more trips of the same quality!

Photo-gallery of the trip – click here

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