WALKING THE SWISS ALPINE PASS ROUTE

  By Stephen and Frances Rabone

  This web site is intended to complement the various published information about the APR (Alpine Pass Route) such as those published by:

Kummerley and Frey- Alpenpassroute (Swiss)

Cicerone Press –  Alpine Pass Route  by Kev Reynolds(UK)

Lonely Planet- Walking in Switzerland (UK)  

We used all of these books and found all of use, although the English language ones give the most detailed account. We photocopied the walks for each day so we didn’t have to take the heavier guidebooks with us. We also carried with us the 1:50000 Landeskarte der Schweiz (Offizielle Wanderkarte der SAW) although we could have dispensed with them as signposting in Switzerland is unbelievably good. Only once or twice were we in any doubt over the path to take or the timings. However, having the maps was useful to identify some of the mountains we passed.  

You can now see the Landeskarte maps on the Internet. They are available at various scales for the whole of Switzerland. The map area is only about 3 km square at 1:50,000 but is nevertheless very useful. Click here to another page which will show you how to use it.

Please note: the maps for each section of the route are my sketch maps. They are not to scale and are most definitely not to be used on the walk!!!!

A sample of the route near Engelberg

It might seem presumptuous to offer advice about walking the APR but before we undertook the walk both of us were uncertain of our ability to do so. Since this might be what you are thinking here is some background to our walking experience. Hopefully you will be able to judge from this whether you are up to the walk or need more experience or physical training!  

Weather

First of all the weather conditions vary tremendously in Switzerland. We were extremely fortunate for the vast majority of the walk. We had one absolutely appalling day at the beginning (and in hindsight probably should not have attempted to walk the Foopass in the conditions we did). Later in the walk we had one extremely humid morning with thunder threatening- it cleared before we reached any exposed sections, otherwise we would have turned back. There was one other day when we spent much of the day putting on and taking off our waterproofs. The rest of the walk was made on days where the sun shone and temperatures climbed into the upper twenties- ideal walking weather.

If the weather had been worse it is possible that we might not have been able to complete the walk; in early July 2000 heavy snow fell on much of the route and would have effectively closed the APR to walkers. Fortunately by August this had all but disappeared at the levels walked.

Experience

Both of us are in our late forties and have been walking seriously for only about ten years. We’ve done two long distance walks in the United Kingdom of about a week’s duration- the Dales Way and a circular walk around the passes and peaks of the Lake District. However, we have undertaken frequent multi-day walks from central bases. In Scotland we’ve climbed almost all the Munros in the Fort William area and some other Munros and Corbetts in the West Highlands. In Wales we’ve visited the summits of almost all the high peaks in Northern Snowdonia. In our favourite area, the Lake District, we’ve climbed the majority of the peaks over 800m. Our walking has taken us out in all weather conditions, including quite deep snow, although we’ve no experience of using crampons or ice axes. I don’t think you should need these on the APR unless you choose to walk early in the summer. Despite this we were unsure of our ability to complete the APR. Having now walked the vast majority of the route it is clear that our “training” helped us enormously.  

En route to the Rostockhutte, between Murren and Griesalp

What to carry

What you choose to take with you in your rucksack will be crucial to your enjoyment of the walk. We went unsupported by any group back up and had to carry everything ourselves. I carried a 45 litre rucksack by  Lowe Alpine and Fran carried a 35 litre one by the same make. The reason for the difference was mainly that my clothes are a little larger and I like to have spare room in my sack. The total weight of each of our packs was round about 20lbs.

We each carried the following, all of which we needed at some stage in the walk:

Clothing

  • Breathable tee-shirts/shirt/underclothes – 3 sets

  • Spare trousers/jumper/fleece jacket

  • Waterproof over-trousers and jacket

  • Lightweight towel

  • Sun hat and cream

  • Warm hat and gloves

Other equipment

  • A book to read

  • Plastic box for bread/fruit/tomatoes etc

  • Guide books(each day’s walk photocopied)/maps

  • Timetable details for the escape route bus/train routes we might wish to use. These are obtainable by looking at the SBB’s website on the Internet. (www.SBB.ch)                    

  • Telescopic walking poles; a pair of these is absolutely essential and most Swiss walkers use them. They will save you from falling, test the ground before walking on it, help you balance, frighten away dogs AND help you walk uphill faster as well as saving your knees on the way down from those high passes.

  • Toiletries/medication/clothes washing liquid/basic first aid kit

  • Two 600 ml SIGG metal water bottles

  We had a daily routine when arriving at our hotel of having a shower, then washing that day’s clothes and hanging them to dry in the shower or around the room. Most days they dried but if not they were put in a plastic bag and dried the next night.

  Accommodation  

The Klausenpass Hotel

We booked all our hotels in advance; a little risky if you are absolutely intent on walking every metre of the route. We took the attitude in Kev Reynold’s book that the walk was to be enjoyed and not endured. Therefore, we’d decided that if the weather was too bad, or we felt unable to tackle a day’s walk then we would simply use public transport to move on to our next hotel. Thankfully we only had to do this on one occasion and we still managed a good low level walk even then.

Ruhetag

This is a German word, which you will become familiar with should you walk the APR. It means, literally, rest day and can be found outside almost every hotel, restaurant and most shops on one day a week. Sometimes shops close for half days in the afternoon once a week. Virtually all shops close on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. As a rule different hotels and restaurants stagger their Ruhetag so that you should be able to find somewhere to stay or eat in every village. However, we did run into problems at Linthal and later at Gsteig with hotel Ruhetags so if you’re booking accommodation in advance do ask when the hotel has its Ruhetag, especially if you want to eat at the hotel.  

Hotel List

Below  are the hotels we stayed in. We found all of them satisfactory and reasonably priced, but please don't complain if you don't like them! Many of these hotels can now be booked over the Internet. 

Weisstannen 

 Hotel Gemse

http://www.heidiland.com/en/reservations_5.cfm

Elm

 Hotel Elmer

Hotel Elmer

Linthal 

Don’t recommend you stay here. Take the funicular up to Braunwald from near Linthal railway station.

Braunwald

Klausenpass

The Klausenpass Hotel  - an absolute must!!!

The Klausenpass Hotel,

Attinghausen

Hotel  Krone

Brusti

Engelberg 

Sport Hotel Alpin

Hotel Alpina

Meiringen

Café Brunner

http://www.alpenregion.ch/

Grindelwald

Chalet Hotel Oberland

Chalet Hotel Oberland

Lauterbrunen

Hotel Sternen

Hotel Sternen

Griesalp

Berghaus Griesalp

Berghaus Griesalp (reports suggest this has closed but that Berghaus Golderli is still open)

Kandersteg

Hotel zur Post

Hotel zur Post

Adelboden

Hotel Bodenhuttli

http://www.adelboden.ch/

Lenk

Alpenruh Garni

Alpenruh Garni, Lenk, 

Tel. 033  733 10 64

Gsteig 

Hotel Baren

Hotel Bären

Col des Mosses 

Hotel Relais Alpin

Hotel Relais Alpin

Montreux 

Hotel Elite 

Hotel Elite,

Camping Sites

Several potential A.P.R. walkers have contacted me for information about campsites along the walk. Sharon Everitt has, very kindly, supplied me with details of  a Website which lists campsites in Switzerland.  I have now compiled a separate page for campers. Please remember that carrying your tent and camping gear  over many of the passes will require considerable fitness. It may be the difference between succeeding and failing. Also please remember that the weather in Switzerland can be VERY wet, often for days on end, as well as beautifully sunny. You may prefer the comfort of a hotel room on some nights!

Click on this link to go to the campsite page or click on the button on the left of each page.

 

Transport

Postbus at La Lecherette near Col des Mosses

The great thing about the APR is the transport options that are available. At virtually every stage on the route there are buses, trains or cable cars that allow you to shorten or omit a stage of the route. We used these to shorten very long days, as suggested by Kev Reynolds in his book. For instance the Attinghausen to Engelberg day is long enough without having to climb out of the Reuss valley so we used the cable car to Brusti. Similarly between Engelberg and Meiringen we used the cable car up to Trubsee and down into Meiringen from Reuti. The most boring and unpleasant section of the route, which involves a lot of road walking from Unterschachen to Altdorf and Attinghausen, is best shortened by using the Post bus. It simply isn’t worth walking along miles of busy and largely urban roads. Use your time more productively in the mountains.

  General Points

Signposting is excellent over the entire length of the route. The standard yellow signs are everywhere. Sometimes they can be a little confusing with alternative routes to the same place given but the guidebook notes will help you here. Occasionally there may just be signposts saying Wanderweg or Bergweg . Usually there will be the white and red flashes of paint on stones or trees to reassure you that you’re still on the right path. Route finding, unlike in the British mountains, will rarely be a problem unless it has snowed heavily.

One less pleasant side of Swiss walking , especially once you are west of Kandersteg, is the Swiss farmer’s love affair with barbed wire. It is used everywhere. Crossing stiles you will have to step over unprotected barbed wire. Always take your rucksack off when crossing these stiles as we know, from personal experience, that it is easy to overbalance and hurt yourself. The farmers also use three strands of barbed wire and three pieces of wood to make gates with! These require care when opening but you soon learn how to deal with them.

Another feature of fencing is the widespread use of nylon tape with metal strips in to make electrified fences to keep in animals. You can’t always tell whether they are live or not. The shock won’t harm you but it’s still not pleasant, so regard all such fences suspiciously. Usually they have a plastic sprung loaded hook to grasp where they cross the path.  

Rest Days  

"Lotschberg" paddle steamer on Lake Brienz on one of our "days off"

We programmed into our walk rest days every 3 days or so. The first involved taking the bus from Klausenpass to Fluelen and then a boat trip on the Vierwaldstattersee. On another rest day we took a train to Brienz from Grindelwald and then another boat trip (by paddle steamer).  Our third rest day was yet another boat trip on Lake Thun to Spiez after taking the train from Kandersteg to Thun. As you may gather we find boat trips a good way to rest. A mistake we did make was to walk the last five days without a break; although the walks are relatively easy, by this stage in the walk feet are tending to become a little sore or achey.

If you wish to contact us for any further information my email address is;

 

steverabone@hotmail.com

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