Jonathan gladly escaped the post-referendum chaos for a few days walking to check out the changes to the Alpine Pass Route. Here he summarises some of the changes to the startpoint in the east and Lenk, Gstaad and LâEtivaz in Switzerland.
One of the great things about being Cicerone’s publisher is that I have to go trekking. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.— Jonathan Williams
Happily, Kev Reynolds’ Alpine Pass Route (APR) trekking guide has run out this summer and Lesley and I “volunteered” to walk it for the new edition next spring. Just to help out, you understand. OK, we didn’t volunteer, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands, it has been on our list for a while.
Where is the Alpine Pass Route?
As I delved into the route, it became a bit more complicated. The APR is a long standing, traditional idea: a cross-Switzerland trek, from Sargans in the east, along the face of the central Alps and then the Bernese chain, before the lower hills of Gruyère and dropping down to Lac Léman at Montreux.
What about the Via Alpina? The new Alpine Pass Route
Just to complicate things the Swiss have superimposed their own Via Alpina Route 1 over the traditional idea. There are some solid gains in this as it is well waymarked now, whereas it was not waymarked at all when Kev did the last edition. Route finding should be much easier due to these changes. On the other hand, the APR was previously more of a concept than a definite route so there is less apparent flexibility to explore and take the option you need. But who says you have to do exactly what it says in the guide? Certainly not me - apart from, of course, the bits about staying safe and having fun.
But the VA1 goes a different way in several places and in particular has a totally new routing after Lenk. The new route goes Lenk/Gstaad/L’Etivaz/Rochers de Naye whilst the traditional APR goes Lenk/Lauenen/Gsteig/col des Mosses/Rochers de Naye. In practice it is only a couple of days different, so easily handled – we will use the new route as the main route and keep the traditional route as an alternative.
Wait, why are we in Liechtenstein?
The route has also been extended to the east so that the Swiss VA1 now starts at the hamlet of Gaflei, high above Vaduz in Liechtenstein. So the first stage of the APR now starts in another country (OK, principality) and then doesn’t go anywhere near a pass until it gets into Switzerland. It descends 1000m into Vaduz, capital of Liechtenstein, crosses the Rhine by an ancient wooden covered bridge and makes its way through bucolic pasture and woodland before dropping down to Sargans. A whole extra day and a good one apart from a 4-5km stretch of hot roadside track after the Rhine crossing.
And just to confuse things further, the Swiss VA1 route has been integrated into the European Via Alpina system as its Green Route. This provides an alternative to the big daddy Red Route – from Liechtenstein through to Lenk it joins with the Swiss route before heading off to Gsteig then turning away to Martigny and all points south (or vice versa if you are walking the other way). This effectively cuts off an enormous loop through the Silvretta, the Swiss National Park, the Bernina, the Ticino and the Valais.
Three routes in one trekking guide?
This sort of makes the entire APR a 15-day variant on the 161 stage via Alpina Red Route. For the guidebook's sake we had better ignore this thought, but we will connect the Red, Green and Swiss routes through a 5km extension to the hamlet of Steg and nearby Sücka so they can be linked together for those so minded. Including this bit makes the updated APR guidebook a complete description of the Green Via Alpina route as well! Is this three routes in one book?
The continuation from Lenk to the Mediterranean will have to wait for a new project, I just can’t fit it in the book this time! However, it does make me want to do the Red Route as a guide, or even a walk. Why anyone should want to shortcut the Valais, Ticino, Bernina, National Park and Silvretta Alps I am hard pushed to say. Excepting only for the APR.
The Swiss Alpine Pass Route - Via Alpina Route 1
Trekking East to West across Switzerland
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.More information
Any comments on the APR, do let me have them through firstname.lastname@example.org.