For our second hike in Switzerland, we were hoping to test out some snow shoes; kindly lent to us by Veronica and her son, Ilario. Fortunately, the evening before we made the trip there was heavy snowfall in the mountains so we would definitely be able to put our shoes to good use! We drove up to the very busy ski resort of Les Mosses around 10am and hunted for a parking spot. We were a little overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of cars, but we needn’t have worried, once up in the mountains we found our own little piece of solitude once again.
Snow shoes, or raquettes as the Swiss refer to them, are brilliant. Although they look big and clumsy, they’re actually very easy to use and make walking in the snow a lot more fun and easy. Veronica helped us to size them up before we left and gave us some simple instructions; ‘If walking up hill, flick up the extra height on the heel so that your ankles are less bent. When walking on relatively flat ground, leave it open so that you feet can move naturally and finally when walking downhill, attach your heel to the base of the snow shoe.’ Simple, kind of!
We departed from the centre of Les Mosses, armed with our maps and searching for the pink, trail signposts. For our first stop, we hiked route 9 (in reverse) and walked uphill towards Lioson d’en Bas. For most of this route, we were accompanied by cross country skiers who were also enjoying the fresh snow. As we reached the top, we sat beneath a small hut and drank our morning coffee. We weren’t expecting to reach our destination as quick as we did and so we decided that on our way back down to Les Mosses we would pick up another trail (route 8) and walk up to the view point of Pra Cornet. As we later discovered, we were a little optimistic doing two trails and on the final ascent to Pra Cornet, we were extremely fatigued and still had a long way to go. I would really not recommend trying to do two trails unless you have prior experience walking in snow at high altitude. Although exhilarating, walking through the snow, especially with the harsh sun beating down, it is also exhausting. Carefully choose one walk and stick to it people!
The hike itself up to Pra Cornet was magical. Nestled between mountains, the trail led us across a blanket of crisp, white snow; interrupted only by woodland and fellow adventurers. A steep ascent through said woodland led us high into the mountains and when we emerged Refuge de Pra Cornet was in sight. With a rucksack filled with coffee and food and a watch that said it was nearly 3pm, we walked onward, past the Refuge toward the highest point of the trail. We found a place to sit under a tree, one of the only places that wasn’t thick with snow and enjoyed a lunch of swiss bread, cheese and cured meat washed down with coffee and plenty of water.
After a short rest, we decided to descend. Already tired and with a touch of sunstroke, the journey down was a little difficult, especially for poor Conor who had huge blisters across his feet. Fortunately, the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the promise of an evening in the Lavey-Les-Bains spa (read more about this here) kept us going. Around 2 hours later, we returned triumphantly to Les Mosses.
Advice for those who like the idea of hiking through the mountains, but are a little uncertain…
- Rent some snow shoes and try a smaller walk. If you enjoy it, you can easily return another day and complete a slightly longer walk.
- Take plenty of liquids, it’s easy to become dehydrated and some trails may take longer than you expect, especially if you are new to this kind of walking. Also take food, there isn’t always places to stop to eat.
- Wear sunscreen! Despite it being winter, the sun is still strong. On the same subject, take your sunglasses. The reflection of the sun on the snow is super bright and can hurt your eyes.
- Bandage up any injuries and take care. Snow is slippy, even in snow shoes. As you may be able to see in some photos, I kept my knee bandaged at all times for extra support.
- Wear good footwear, this includes socks. Conor’s blisters are only just healing.
- Grab a trail map, but remember that there are also handy signposts so it’s difficult to get lost.
- Just go for it and enjoy yourself! The Swiss mountains really are some of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. We were so wary of walking and how we’d cope in the snow and at altitude and in reality, despite our second walk being a little too long ,we were absolutely fine.
If you have any further questions or need any tips message me or tweet me @_teachertravels I’d love to hear from you!