Guidebooks for walkers, mountaineers, trekkers, climbers and cyclists

Explore the Swiss Alps with a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of The Swiss Alps
25 Jan 2012
23.4 x 15.6 x 2.7cm
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The Swiss Alps

by Kev Reynolds
Published by Cicerone Press

A comprehensive guidebook to every mountain area in the Swiss Alps. This handy resource includes information for walking, hiking, trekking, climbing and ski mountaineering. Access, accommodation and facilities in the valley bases and full information about Swiss mountain huts is included to help you make the most out of a trip there.

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The Swiss Alps are home to the highest and most spectacular mountains in Western Europe. This stunning guidebook describes each mountain area throughout Switzerland – the peaks, passes, valleys and bases – to help you identify the best destinations to plan your trip.

Questions such as ‘Where to walk, climb or ski?’, ‘What multi-day treks are available’ and ‘Where do they go?’, ‘Where are the mountain huts, what are their facilities, which peaks do they serve?’ And where are the most suitable valley bases?’ – all these and more are addressed in detail in this essential guidebook.

The Swiss Alps does not give detailed route directions but information is given about all the guides and maps available for every region.

The Swiss Alps by Kev Reynolds is the third book in Cicerone’s World Mountain Ranges series, which include The Pyrenees and Scotland.

  • descriptions of all the Swiss Alps, area-by-area from the Chablais Alps in the south west to the Silvretta in the north east
  • classic walks and climbs identified, alongside outlines of all the major hut-to-hut trekking routes
  • information on maps, guides and accommodation, pinpointing all the mountain huts in the area
  • Activities
    walking, trekking, climbing, ski mountaineering, ski touring
  • Seasons
    Information for the walker, trekker, climber and ski mountaineer to participate in their chosen activity in all seasons
  • Centres
    Arolla, Engleberg, Grindelwald, Kandersteg, Klosters, Lauterbrunnen, Les Haudered, Leysin, Maggia, Meiringen, Mürren, Pontresina, Promontogno, Sass Fee, St Moritz, Sonogno, Vicosoprano, Wengen, Zermatt, Zernez
  • Difficulty
    For outdoor enthusiasts of all standards. Climbing grades are quoted where applicable. Multi-day trekking routes are also outlined, suitable for the more experienced trekker
  • Must See
    The Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, Weisshorn, Dom, Finsteraarhorn, Schreckhorn and Westterhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungrau - all the major Swiss peaks, passes, valleys and centres.


Overview Map


About this Book
The Mountain Ranges


When to Go
Getting There
Getting Around
Mountain Huts
Maps and Guidebooks
Health Considerations

The Mountains

Mountain Activities
Safety Dos and Don’ts
Mountain Rescue
Plant and Animal Life
Environmental Ethics
Information at a Glance

Chapter 1: Chablais Alps

1:1 Val de Morgins
1:2 Val d’Illiez
1:3 Vallon de Susanfe
1:4 Rhône Valley Approaches
1:5 Vallée du Trient
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

Chapter 2: Pennine Alps

2:1 Val Ferret
2:2 Val d’Entremont
2:3 Val de Bagnes
2:4 Val de Nendaz
2:5 Val d’Hérémence
2:6 Val d’Hérens
2:7 Val de Moiry
2:8 Val d’Anniviers
2:9 Turtmanntal
2:10 Mattertal
2:11 Saastal
2:12 Simplon Pass
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

Chapter 3: Lepontine and Adula Alps

3:1 Simplon Pass East
3:2 Binntal
3:3 Val Bedretto
3:4 Valle Leventina
3:5 Val Verzasca
3:6 Valle Maggia and its Tributaries
3:7 Valle di Blenio
3:8 Vals Calanca and Mesolcina
3:9 The Northern Valleys
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

Chapter 4: Bernina, Bregaglia and Albula Alps

4:1 Val Madris and the Averstal
4:2 Engadine Valley: Left Bank
4:3 Val Bregaglia
4:4 The Bernina Alps
4:5 The Swiss National Park
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

Chapter 5: Bernese Alps

5:1 Alpes Vaudoises
5:2 Les Diablerets to the Rawil Pass
5:3 The Wildstrubel Massif
5:4 Kandersteg and the Gemmipass
5:5 Blu?emlisalp and the Gasterntal
5:6 The Kiental
5:7 Lauterbrunnen Valley
5:8 Grindelwald and the Lu?tschental
5:9 Haslital and Grimsel Pass
5:10 The Southern Valleys
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

Chapter 6: Central Swiss Alps

6:1 Uri Alps: Dammastock Group
6:2 North of the Sustenpass: Titlis Group
6:3 Glarner Alps
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

Chapter 7: Silvretta and Rätikon Alps

7:1 Silvretta Alps: Lower Engadine
7:2 Silvretta Alps: Prättigau
7:3 Rätikon Alps
7:4 The Alpstein Massif
Access, Bases, Maps and Guides

APPENDIX A Glossary of Alpine Terms
APPENDIX B Selective Bibliography
APPENDIX C Index of Maps
APPENDIX D The Swiss 4000m Peaks



Up there in the sky, to which only clouds belong and birds and the last trembling colours of pure light, they stood fast and hard; not moving as do the things of the sky … These, the great Alps, seen thus, link one in some way to one’s immortality.

Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome

After the Mont Blanc range the Swiss Alps contain the highest and most spectacular mountains in Western Europe, as well as the longest glacier, the greatest number of 4000m summits, and numerous other peaks on which the foundations of alpinism were forged. The 1786 ascent of Mont Blanc by Paccard and Balmat may have signalled the beginnings of alpine interest and activity under a veil of scientific enquiry, but in the same decade the Benedictine monk Father Placidus à Spescha was busy climbing and exploring the Glarner and Adula Alps with an undisguised passion for mountains and mountaineering that is now shared by tens of thousands of visitors who flock to Switzerland in summer and winter alike.

With their rich variety of massifs, their snowpeaks and immense rock faces, their glaciers, lakes and waterfalls, their forests, flower meadows and pastures, the Swiss Alps may justifiably claim to be the quintessential Alps, a love of which is not confined simply to those who walk, climb or ski among them, but also shared by the frail and elderly and those content simply to sit and gaze in wonder. Yet thanks to its mountains, more than a century after Leslie Stephen coined the phrase, Switzerland remains for many the playground of Europe.

The Alps are without question the best known of all the world’s mountains, and those that tower over the valleys of Switzerland count among the most easily recognised by both connoisseur and layman alike. The Matterhorn instantly comes to mind, but it is not the only one, for Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are symbolic of the Oberland, and the graceful buttresses of Piz Palu? in the Bernina range, for example, are depicted on calendar and chocolate box with as much frequency as the proverbial edelweiss and flower-hung chalet. Yet familiarity with such mountains should not breed contempt, for the beauty of the Swiss Alps remains a perennial gift for all to admire.

Mountains make up over 60 per cent of this small landlocked country. With an area of just 41,285 square kilometres, small it may be, but if it were rolled out flat it would be enormous! The landscape, being at once abrupt, dramatic and sublime, is what makes Switzerland so appealing,and while the Pennine and Bernese Alps remain the principal focus of attention for the general tourist as well as for climber, skier and hillwalker, elsewhere the Bernina, Uri and Glarner Alps, the Lepontines, Adula, Silvretta and Rätikon – to name but a few – host a great number of compelling summits that remain unknown to all but a relative handful of enthusiasts.

About this Book

This book sets out to redress the balance, to introduce those who have not yet found them to some of the unfamiliar and largely unsung mountains and valleys, while still giving due regard to the giants that dominate the landscape at Zermatt, Grindelwald or Pontresina. It’s a handy resource for the active hillwalker, trekker, climber and ski tourer; a guide and gazetteer to the peaks, passes and valleys, providing sufficient background information to help anyone planning a visit to make the most of their time there. Questions such as ‘Where to walk, climb or ski?’, ‘What multi-day treks are available and where do they go?’, ‘Where are the mountain huts, what are their facilities, which peaks do they serve?’, and ‘Where are the most suitable valley bases?’ – all these and more are addressed in detail.

This book does not give detailed route directions but information is given about all the guides and maps available for every region under review. The aim of this volume is not to lead step by step, but to inspire, to entertain and to inform; to show the first-time visitor – and those who have already discovered one or two of its districts – what the Swiss Alps have to offer. The emphasis is on activity; the intention to help the reader gain a quality experience with every visit. In truth the outdoor enthusiast is spoilt for choice, but armed with this guide, it should be possible to make that choice a better informed one.

Dozens of individual valleys are described, together with the mountains that wall them, with recommendations given for their finest walks, treks and climbs. Such recommendations are purely subjective readers may well take issue with some of the suggestions. That is just how it should be.


Äsch and its thunderous waterfall Cabane de Panossière, base for climbs in the Combin massif The Matterhorn, with the Hörnli Ridge facing The Göscheneralpsee and the Dammastock group Tiny pool below Col du Tsaté The Dammastock group

Swiss cartography is world class, with national survey maps published by the Federal Office of Topography ( covering the whole country with sheets of several different scales: 1:25,000, 1:50,000, 1:100,000 and 1:200,000.

The 1:50,000 series, which is perfectly adequate for the majority of walkers, mountaineers and ski tourers, includes a set of maps with major walking routes marked. These Wanderkarten are distinguished by the letter T given after the individual sheet number, while sheets marked with ski touring routes (Skitourenkarten) are distinguished by the letter S. National survey maps detailed at the end of each chapter in this book are listed with the prefix LS (Landeskarten der Schweiz).

The complete 1:25,000 series (more than 230 separate sheets) is also available on eight CD-ROM discs under the heading Swiss Map 25.

Independent publisher Ku?mmerly & Frey ( also produces a series of maps for walkers at a scale of 1:60,000. As with LS maps, these Wanderkarten have major walking routes and mountain huts prominently marked, and the clearly defined contours and artistic use of shading produce an instant representation of ridge, spur and valley. Again, details of relevant sheets are given at the end of each chapter.

Ku?mmerly & Frey also has a limited series of 1:120,000 sheets which provide a useful overview of regions such as Graubu?nden, Valais (Wallis) and the Bernese Oberland, and a separate sheet (Wanderland) at 1:301,000 showing all the main long-distance walking routes in Switzerland, with a comprehensive index on the reverse.

Further Reading

Note Guidebooks for walkers, trekkers, climbers and ski tourers are listed in the Introduction.

General tourist guides

Blue Guide to Switzerland by Ian Robertson (A&C Black, 1989)
Green Guide to Switzerland (Michelin Travel Publications, 2000)
Switzerland by Damien Simonis et al (Lonely Planet, 4th edition 2003)
The Rough Guide to Switzerland by Matthew Teller (Rough Guides, 4th edition 2010)


Alpine Climbing (Crowood Press, 1995) by John Barry
Mountaineering: from Hill Walking to Alpine Climbing by Alan Blackshaw (Penguin, 1970)
On Snow and Rock by Gaston Rébuffet (Kaye & Ward, 1971)

Mountains and mountaineering

Adventures of an Alpine Guide by Christian Klucker (John Murray, 1932)
Alpine Points of View by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone, 2004)
Alps 4000 by Martin Moran (David & Charles, 1994)
Collins Guide to Mountains and Mountaineering by John Cleare (Collins, 1979)
Early Travellers in the Alps by Gavin de Beer (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1930)
Fifty Years of Alpinism by Riccardo Cassin (Diadem, 1981)
Hold the Heights: the Foundations of Mountaineering by Walt Unsworth (Hodder & Stoughton, 1993)
How the English Made the Alps by Jim Ring (John Murray, 2000)
I Chose to Climb by Chris Bonington (Victor Gollancz, 1966)
In Monte Viso’s Horizon by Will McLewin (Ernest Press, 1992)
Killing Dragons: the Conquest of the Alps by Fergus Fleming (Granta Books, 2000)
Matterhorn Centenary by Arnold Lunn (Allen & Unwin, 1965)
Men and the Matterhorn by Gaston Rébuffet (Kaye & Ward, 1973)
Men, Myths and Mountains by Ronald W Clark (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1976)
Mountaineering in the Alps by Claire Elaine Engel (Allen & Unwin, 1971)
On High Hills by Geoffrey Winthrop Young (Methuen, 1927)
Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the years 1860–69 by Edward Whymper (John Murray, 1871, and numerous editions since)
Starlight and Storm by Gaston Rébuffet (Kaye & Ward, 1968)
Summits and Secrets by Kurt Diemburger (Allen & Unwin, 1971)
The Alpine Journal (Alpine Club, 1864 to present date)
The Alps by R L G Irving (Batsford, 1939)
The Alps by Ronald W Clark (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973)
The Alps from End to End by Martin Conway (Constable, 1905)
The Alps in 1864 by A W Moore (Blackwell, 1939)
The Early Alpine Guides by Ronald W Clark (Phoenix, 1949)
The Eiger by Dougal Haston (Cassell, 1974)
The High Mountains of the Alps by Helmut Dumler and Willi P Burkhardt (Diadem, 1993)
The Mountains of Europe by Kev Reynolds (Oxford Illustrated Press, 1990)
The Mountains of Switzerland by Herbert Maeder (Allen & Unwin, 1968)
The Playground of Europe by Leslie Stephen (Longmans, 1871/Blackwell, 1936)
The Swiss and their Mountains by Arnold Lunn (Allen & Unwin, 1963)
The Victorian Mountaineers by Ronald W Clark (Batsford, 1953)
The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer (Hart-Davis, 1959)
Unjustifiable Risk? by Simon Thompson (Cicerone, 2010)
Wanderings Among the High Alps by Alfred Wills (Blackwell, 1939)
When the Alps Cast their Spell by Trevor Braham (The In Pinn, 2004)
World Atlas of Mountaineering by Wilfrid Noyce and Ian McMorrin (Thomas Nelson, 1969)

Mountain walking

Trekking in the Alps by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone, 2011)
Walking in the Alps by J Hubert Walker (Oliver & Boyd, 1951)
Walking in the Alps by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone, 2nd edition 2005)

Dawn over the Swiss Alps (photo by dianne stanford) Swiss Alps - Barrage des Gloriettes to Cabane d Estaube Swiss Alps - Barrage des Gloriettes to Cabane d Estaube Sunrise over Les Contamines Valley above Refuge Tre la Tete (photo by John Southcombe) Matterhorn (photo by John Millen) The Schreckhorn pokes through the clouds. (photo by Lorraine Metcalfe) Early morning in Wilderswil. (photo by Lorraine Metcalfe) The Eiger & Birg Cable Car Station from the Schilthorn. (photo by Peter Keeble) North Face of the Eiger from First. (photo by Lorraine Metcalfe) The Jungfrau appearing through mists. (photo by Peter Keeble) The Lauterbrunnen Valley (photo by Peter Keeble) North Face of the Eiger (Lorraine Metcalfe) Early morning in Wilderswil (Lorraine Metcalfe) The Eiger & Birg Cable Car Station (Peter Keeble) The Lauterbrunnen Valley (Peter Keeble) The Jungfrau surrounded by evening mists (Peter Keeble) Hikers on the Riffelberg Across Val Rosegg to Piz Bernina (photo by Stephen Hasell) A train carries tourists towards the Jungfraujoch (photo by Jesslyn Truter) The Gornergrat railway crosses a high bridge beneath the Matterhorn (photo by Scott Williams)

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