The Swiss Alpine Pass Route - Via Alpina Route 1

Trekking East to West across Switzerland

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10 May 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm

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Guidebook to the Alpine Pass Route following the Swiss Via Alpina 1, a 360km trek east-west across Switzerland, from Sargans, on the border of Liechtenstein, to Montreux, including prologue from Liechtenstein. A demanding 3-week trek described in 18 stages, crossing 16 passes including the 2778m Hohtürli. Requires good fitness and experience.

Seasons Seasons
From the start of July through to September. August can be wet, and an early trek may find snow on the higher passes, so suitable additional equipment would be essential.
Centres Centres
Sargans, Elm, Linthal, Altdorf, Engelberg, Meiringen, Grindlewald, Lauterbrunnen, Kandersteg, Adelboden, Lenk, Gstaad, Col des Mosses, Montreux
Difficulty Difficulty
It's pretty tough: the route amasses over 20,000m of ascent and nearly every day involves a pass crossing. Some higher passes and ridges present occasional exposure and technical difficulty.
Must See Must See
The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau near Grindlewald, valley-pass landscapes every day, the Lauterbrunnen valley, the Oeschinensee above Kandersteg
10 May 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
  • Overview

    This guidebook presents the stunning Alpine Pass Route, now fully waymarked as Via Alpina 1. The 360km trail traverses Switzerland from east to west, from Sargans near the Liechtenstein border to Montreux on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Crossing sixteen Alpine passes, it showcases some of the country's most breathtaking mountain landscapes, boasting views of iconic peaks such as the Wetterhorn, Eiger, Jungfrau and Les Diablerets. The route is suitable for those with some experience of Alpine trekking: it amasses over 20,000m of ascent and involves some steep sections. It can be completed in 2–3 weeks, although it is also possible to walk shorter sections, or postbus, cable-car and rail connections could be used to allow for a tighter schedule.

    With a wealth of practical advice and information on local points of interest, the guide has all you need to plan a successful trip. The Via Alpina 1 is presented in 18 stages, each featuring step-by-step route description accompanied by 1:100,000 mapping, route profiles and notes on transport, accommodation and facilities. In addition, a 26km prologue in Liechtenstein and an alternative finish following the old course of the Alpine Pass Route via Gsteig are also described. Accommodation options range from mountain huts to hotels and inns, with camping available at a number of licensed sites along the route.

    Much of the scenery of the Alpine Pass Route is quintessentially Swiss: rocky peaks towering above flower-strewn meadows, traditional wooden chalets nestled in sweeping green valleys. Each pass has its own character – from the spectacular Hohtürli to bustling Kleine Scheidegg – opening onto new vistas and horizons. This is a journey to savour and one which will linger long in the heart and memory.

  • Contents

    The Swiss Alpine Pass Route
    Suggested itineraries
    When to go
    Getting there – and back again
    Notes for walkers
    Paths and waymarks
    Recommended maps
    Safety in the mountains
    Information at a glance
    Using this guide
    The Swiss Alpine Pass Route – Via Alpina Route 1
    Prologue – The Liechtenstein start
    Prologue A European Via Alpina Steg – Gaflei
    Prologue B Via Alpina Gaflei – Sargans
    The main route
    Stage 1 Sargans – Mels – Weisstannen
    Stage 2 Weisstannen – Foopass – Elm
    Stage 3 Elm – Richetlipass – Linthal
    Stage 4 Linthal – Braunwald – Urnerboden
    Stage 5 Urnerboden – Klausenpass – Altdorf
    Stage 6 Altdorf – Surenenpass – Engelberg
    Stage 7 Engelberg – Jochpass – Engstlenalp
    Stage 8 Engstlenalp – Planplatten – Meiringen
    Stage 9 Meiringen – Grosse Scheidegg – Grindelwald
    Stage 10 Grindelwald – Kleine Scheidegg – Lauterbrunnen
    Stage 11 Lauterbrunnen – Mürren – Sefinenfurke – Griesalp
    Stage 12 Griesalp – Hohtürli – Kandersteg
    Stage 13 Kandersteg – Bunderchrinde – Adelboden
    Stage 14 Adelboden – Hahnenmoospass – Lenk
    Stage 15 Lenk – Trüttlisbergpass – Gstaad
    Stage 16 Gstaad – Col de Jable – L’Etivaz
    Stage 17 L’Etivaz – Col de Chaude – Rochers de Naye
    Stage 18 Rochers de Naye – Sonchaux – Montreux
    Alternative finish
    Stage 15A Lenk – Lauenen – Gsteig
    Stage 16A Gsteig – Blattipass – Col des Andérets – Col des Mosses
    Stage 17A Col des Mosses – Col de Chaude – Montreux

    Appendix A Useful addresses
    Appendix B Bibliography
    Appendix C German–French–English glossary

  • Maps
    Recommended maps

    Swiss mapping is among the best in the world, not only in regard to accuracy, but also in artistic representation. The mapping authority, the Bundesamt für Landestopographie (Office Fédéral de Topographie), publishes three major series of sheets that cover the whole country at 1:100,000, 1:50,000, and 1:25,000, while the independent publisher Kümmerly & Frey has produced a series of walkers’ maps at 1:60,000. All are usually available in the UK from Edward Stanford Ltd or The Map Shop (addresses in


    Looking upvalley towards Rosenlaui and the Wetterhorn (Stage 9)

    Sheets recommended for the Alpine Pass Route – Via Alpina 1 are the 1:50,000 Wanderkarten which are distinguished from the ‘standard’ sheets published at the same scale by the official Swiss survey by their orange covers and the letter ‘T’ which accompanies their series number. Details are quoted at the head of each stage of the route described in this book thus: LS (Landeskarte der Schweiz) 247T Sardona.

    Clearly the 1:25,000 maps provide greater detail and clarity, but the number of sheets at this scale needed for this particular route would make a bulky load. Given the excellent waymarking on the ground, and detailed route descriptions in this guide, the 1:50,000 sheets should be perfectly adequate for most needs.

    Nine LS 1:50,000 sheets (including two double sheets) are required to cover the full route: 237T Walenstadt and 238T Montafon (VA1 Prologue and Stage 1); 247T Sardona (Stages 2–3); 246T Klausenpass (Stages 3–5); 245T Stans (Stages 5–6); 255T Sustenpass (Stage 6); 5004 Berner Oberland (Stages 7–10); 5009 Gstaad-Adelboden (Stages 11–14); and 262T Rochers de Naye (Stage 15–18).

    The following Kummerley & Frey maps cover the whole route at 1:60,000: 30 Sarganserland (prologue and Stages 1–2); 12 Glarnerland (Stages 3–5); 11 Vierwaldsättersee (Stages 5–6); 19 Gotthard (Stages 7–8); 18 Jungfrau (Stages 9–13); 32 Crans-Montana (Stages 13–15); and 16 Gruyère (Stages 16–18).

    Perhaps the most valuable mobile mapping source is the Swiss Maps App for iPhone and Android. For an annual subscription, this gives complete coverage of Switzerland and all scales. GPS files can be uploaded. Tiles need to be downloaded in advance in view of the scale of territory covered. As a mobile App your position is shown on the screen – this is achieved with data functions turned off, so is gentle on batteries.

    Most Swiss LS maps can be downloaded free from the


    Surrounded by mountains and cliffs, the Oeschinensee is a place to relax after the col (Stage 12)

  • Updates
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    Sept 2017

    The following information has been received regarding accommodation and route changes to the Swiss Alpine Pass Route:

    Stage 12: The route described in paragraph 2 on p145, as descending ‘a well-made stairway with fixed cables’ has changed. The way now descends a stony farm lane slanting down a cliff, at the foot of which you reach the alp of Unter Bärgli.

    Stage 14: Restaurant Geilsbrüggli in Geils (p158) no longer provides accommodation.

    Stage 16: With accommodation in L’Etivaz (p174) being limited to Hotel du Chamois, should this be full (or closed), please note that buses run to Château d’Oex (last bus 19:04 in summer 2017) where one-star Buffet de la Gare has been recommended by a reader.

    Stage 17: We have been informed that the route from L’Etivaz to Rochers de Naye has been altered. Instead of going directly to Sonlomont, it now goes from L’Etivaz to Rossiniere, then to Sonlomont to join the original route as described in the guidebook– see map on 176.



    GPX files for this title will not be available to download from the Cicerone website. Instead, files can be downloaded from the official Via Alpina website ( Select the stage you require from the drop-down menu above the map on this page and click 'OK'. GPX files can be accessed under 'Download track' at the top of the menu on the left.

    Many thanks to author Gillian Proce for these comments from their September 2017 walk through the cetral part of the APR. Posted 20 September 2017.


    As promised, here are my update notes for the APR route Altsdorf-Kendersteg stretch that I did in August.

    Stage 6: an alternate descent is feasible (we didn't do it but others did) from the  junction above Stabele p91 at the bridge. Take R fork (says 1hr 10) for Furenalp then cablecar down. NB A bus runs from the lower Furenalp station (very handy for the main route!) into Engelberg.

    Stage 8: p101 and start p102. If you're on the ridge (via Balmeregghorn) you detour the junction mentioned with the blue route so suggest remove as it could be confusing.

    Stage 9: p114 margin comment about path closure - still closed.

    Stage 11: p134 line 2 - ... after about 400m uphill, the Via Alpina leaves the tarmac as a path into the woods, contouring. It crosses the Schiltbach to Pension Spielbodenalp. (Suggest remove the rest as it's clearly signposted)

    p136 last para - a cable accompanying the steps was lying on the ground loose and many walkers found this stretch tricky (me included).

    Stage 12: p145 para 2 - Instead of 'The path now descends with cables' the situation has changed to 'You now descend a stony farm lane slanting down a cliff. At the foot you reach the alp of Unter Bargl...'

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Kev Reynolds

Kev Reynolds is a freelance writer, photojournalist and lecturer. A prolific compiler of guidebooks, his first title for Cicerone Press (Walks & Climbs in the Pyrenees) appeared in 1978; he has since produced many more titles for the same publisher, with others in the pipeline. A member of the Outdoor Writers' Guild, the Alpine Club and Austrian Alpine Club, his passion for mountains and the countryside remains undiminished after a lifetime's activity, and he regularly travels throughout Britain to share that enthusiasm through his lectures.

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