europe, switzerland

Leysin: Winter hiking for beginners

By the time we arrived in Switzerland in February half term, we were a little tired of grey skies and jaded with everyday city life.When we’re at home in Liverpool, we try to ensure that we get as much fresh air into our lungs as possible but we often find it difficult. Working full time, often with extra things to do in the evenings and weekends, means that in winter  we barely see any daylight, never mind get any fresh air. Miserable, wet weekends combined with early sunsets do not make a happy Em!

We knew that one of the things we really wanted to do over our 5 days in Switzerland was hike in the mountains, get our hearts racing, fill our lungs with fresh air and take some photos from high altitudes. Despite our best attempts to become super fit over the past few months, we still aren’t quite as fit as we would like to think and for this reason we were a little concerned about how difficult hiking through snowy mountains would be. Hopefully this post may provide some inspiration for hiking novices like us in snowy Switzerland.

We spent two days hiking, one day starting from Leysin and the other from Les Mosses. On the day we went up to Leysin, there had been a lot of sunshine and little snow fall over the few days previous so it wasn’t necessary for us to wear snow shoes (read here if you’re interested in snow shoe walking). We did however have walking boots which were waterproof and although we didn’t have walking poles they probably would have been quite useful. We had previously looked on the excellent My Switzerland website and discovered lots of winter friendly walks starting in Leysin. The tourist information centres in Switzerland also have handy maps, as shown below, which were so helpful. Each walk is numbered and as you are walking, signposts are clearly labelled so that you can follow them.

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Map of trails around Leysin

We drove slightly beyond Leysin village and parked on La carriere des Chamois car park. From here we followed trail 2 and followed the slight ascent to the view point of Prafandaz, where we were greeted by beautiful views of the snow-capped forest below. It was here that we started our real climb, up to Solacyre which stands at a staggering 1827m. It’s worth noting here that our starting altitude was 1473m! We opted to steer away from path 2 and onto path 3, purely due to the beautiful sunshine that we didn’t want to miss by walking through the forest. Path 3 is also more winding and a more gradual climb, perfect for beginners yet still challenging.

Around an hour after leaving Prafandaz we arrived at our destination, the beautiful Refuge de Solacyre. We sat in this lovely little chalet, soaking up the sunshine, the views and delicious cups of coffee; both achievement and relief pumping simultaneously through our veins. Surprisingly, a young Canadian girl, of around 6 years old served us and after speaking to her family we learned that this refuge was a community project and volunteers stayed here for around a week at a time, living here and running the cafe. These particular volunteers worked at the American School in Leysin and as it was half term, they had decided to spend the week volunteering here.

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The view from Refuge de Solacyre
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Enjoying our coffee!

With 2 espresso’s down and caffeine fuelling us on, we began to make our descent, this time favouring path 2. Surrounded by forest, path 2 was very steep and, as previously mentioned, we didn’t have walking shoes nor poles. So, naturally, we did what any big kids would think to do, we descended the peak by sliding the majority of the way on our bums…

I’m not entirely sure whether I should recommend this or not. On the one hand, we struggled to stop on various occasions, we definitely had to continue our hike with soggy behinds and I’m not convinced that serious hikers or health and safety activists would recommend it. On the other hand, it was very, very fun and we had a great laugh. It also saved my dodgy knee from hurting too much and from us slipping over! Rather quickly, we were back at Prafandaz where we were able to eat our picnic before returning back to the car. As I’m sure you can see from the photos, a beautiful hike.

 A few days later we went on to hike near Les Mosses, read more about that adventure here.

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