Last week I flew to Switzerland with the intention of doing a lot of running on the trails and mountains. My first day consisted of running up one of the “smaller” peaks that’s surrounds Mendrisio the town where I was staying for this trip. I found out very quickly that you are spoilt for choice with endless trails and peaks to explore.
With these little yellow signs everywhere detailing how long the hike will be, what amenities there will be and connecting routes all with great Swiss precision.
I am a massive fan of the mountains and love the great outdoors, I have lived in London for the last 10 years and have always made a conscious effort to get out of the big city and explore the country. The Lake District, Snowdonia, the highlands have all been a few amazing places where I have done races and spent some great time adventuring around. Its only when I get back to London that I realise I enjoy the simple things in life. Give me a mountain and some running shoes and I will be happy. It was this simple uncomplicated life that I have always been searching for and Switzerland seemed to deliver this. Talking with my girlfriend about how in London we are just spoilt, with everything we need at hands reach. It almost makes life too confusing, not being able to decided on what to do or where to go as there is just too many options.
On the Friday night whilst planning our adventure for the weekend we were slapped in the face with the same London predicament. Too many options of MOUNTAINS and HIKES! It was crazy, 600+ peaks all walk able and all well connected. I was like a kid in a sweet shop; we didn’t know what peak we wanted to hike up as they all looked amazing. We decided to do three different routes, on the first day we would head to a Tibetan Bridge (696m) near Sementina, then head over to Valle Verzasca. Then the second day we planned a much longer hike up to a peak called Cardada which looked incredible.
Tibetan bridge and Valle Verzasca
We jumped in the car early and headed north on highway 2 to Sementina, where we would park up and begin our hike to the Tibetan Bridge. The hike started off working its way through vine fields then up onto a track which winded its way up into a forest of chestnut trees – all signposted with the little yellow signs and red and white stripes where the path would send you towards a mountain.
In an hour we had made it to the Tibetan Bridge, dropping down through the forest the bridge almost appears out of nowhere and it is spectacular.
The bridge being one of the longest bridges in Switzerland at 230 meters long – if you suffer from vertigo I wouldn’t recommend this walk. After what seemed like an age to cross the bridge, we then came across more yellow signs offering walks of all levels from 45 minutes to 4 hours.
We would later discover that the trail network is endless, follow one path to a destination then be offered a smorgasbord of other routes. We then headed back to down to the car, chatting non stop about what adventure to go on next. These small yellow signs that I keep talking about seem slightly confusing when you first come across them but what we figured is that you just have to trust them even if you don’t have a map. We wondered down the mountain dropping off into small towns and exploring old buildings.
They all interconnect in some way shape or form and take you in the direction you need to go.
Next stop for the day was to head over to Valle Verzasca a short drive from where we were. Snaking our way up the alpine pass, switchback after switchback I felt a little envious of the cyclist working their way up this long up hill. The views again were incredible and it was impossible not to question whether the views were real. We had a quick pit stop at the Contra dam which was used in the opening scene of the 1995 film GoldenEye. Now with a permanent structure where you can do a bungee jump down the face off the dam wall.
We then continued our drive up the valley and again my breath was taken away when we reached Lavertezzo. All the way along the drive up here you was offered small glimpses of the river through the trees lining the road. As we entered Lavertezzo everything seemed to enter slow motion. Crystal clear mountain water worked its way through rock pools of smooth rocks. A Charlie an the chocolate factory moment where it felt like the Swiss government was employing oompa loompa’s to sand down the rocks and filter the water it is that incredible.
Spending some time there to explore the pools and take in the views. I couldn’t resist but to have a bit of a fresh recovery session in the water. Yes it was bloody freezing!!
There was a route I had previously seen which follows the river all the way along the valley floor, a not so hilly walk but definitely beautiful. Again there was too much to take in for the short period we was there and we will definitely be back to explore. It was then time to head back home and prepare lunch for our next days adventure.
Sunday was our big hike day; the weather was looking pretty miserable so we had a slow start a big breakfast then decided to make our way to Orselina. We drove around the town looking for those delicious yellow signs that send you off on a wild goose chase around the mountains. We couldn’t find any, so parked up and headed to the funicular in town, which lead us to some stairs that headed up. We couldn’t go to wrong heading up, so we continued up lots of stairs until we reached the top of the town and those delicious yellow signs. The yellow signs took us onto a road where the real trail started. The hike takes you through some beautiful remote villages and woodland areas. I couldn’t understand how they managed to get their grocery shopping to the house. After a good hour and a half the yellow signs were bang on and we had made it to a well-earned picnic spot which I can only make out to be San Bernardo.
We both inhaled our mini cheese sandwiches, topped up with some BetterYou body lotion which came in handy as the muscles were pretty sore from the day before and also as a moisturizer as the weather was pretty hot.
We continued on up the mountain, the yellow signs said an hour and half to the summit. The woods we walked through constantly changed, it went from feeling like some backcountry trails in America to blossom trees in Japan. It was nothing but spectacular. Being hidden from the views in the woodland as we snaked our way up the mountain you would get brief glimpses of lake Maggiore bellow.
Reaching the summit of Cordada (1340m) we were slightly confused as there was a chair lift going to another peak. One thing I recommend when anywhere in Switzerland is always carry cash! At the top of the chair lift was what we later found out to be Cimetta (1670m) a panoramic view point of the mountains. We tried to get the lift up there as we were running out of time but they only took cash! Onwards and upwards we went along another trail to Lo Stallone (1492m). An absolutely stunning view was delivered as we made our way up to the edge. A few jump shots on the mountain and a short time to reflect on how beautiful Switzerland and what a far cry this was my life in London.
It was time to head down as the weather was coming in. It was a good choice we made coming down, within an hour of setting off, half way down the mountain the weather was horrendous. Torrential tropical rain and thunder storms had taken over the beautiful sunny weather. Soaked and exhausted we made it back to the car in the village.
It was a proper hike today but again all we could say to each other was lets go on a longer one and stay somewhere over night. Taking some time out in the car on the way home, it made us respect the mountains so much more. I have always been a bit gun ho when talking about running up mountains and not focusing on the weather too much. It wasn’t extreme when we was up the top, but can only imagine if the weather really came in one day on a remote longer hike. Food for thought – but cant wait to get out there again and really explore.
When we got home and looked at the strava route we could see where we had gone slightly wrong on the way up, but as I said previously they all end up pointing you in the right direction. We had made it to the top and could of followed the ridge along for miles if we had decided to stay over. I will definitely be back to see what more Switzerland has to offer.
A friends link to his project ‘summit hunt’. LINK HERE