After a few months backpacking through European cities, my boyfriend and I headed to Chamonix, France, to begin a 10-day hike through the Swiss Alps. Armed with a guidebook and a few extra layers, this hike was definitely a highlight of our time in Europe. Photos can only begin to show the scenery, because even my wide-angle lens wasn’t enough to capture the epic vistas of Switzerland. Check out Jake’s day-by-day account of the hike on his blog, The Traveling Geiger.
We started with a day to relax in Chamonix, France. It was a gorgeous little ski town, where we picked up some extra gear for our expedition. The view from our hostel was spectacular (when the clouds cleared up), and we regretted not fitting in a few more days to soak in the hot tub and hike the nearby ski trails.
Starting out in Chamonix!
Our first day was a walk through the valley, and a steep pass. We found the border between France and Switzerland, although it was a bit too foggy to see both countries…
It rained for a few hours towards the end of the day, and we had to dry out our gear by the fire.You can’t see it, but hidden behind those clouds off in the distance is a glacier. We woke up to ice on the outside of our tent!
However, our second day more than made up for it, with views of that same massive glacier motivating us up our first major pass.
We basked in the sun after freezing up on top of the pass, and made our way to our first mountain hut. In the Alps, people generally hike hut to hut, only carrying clothing and water. We brought a tent, but this day it was a bit too cold and windy for our liking. We spent 3 of our 10 days in huts, which provided a warm bed and the option of food. I was a bit appalled to find that all of the huts were placed atop hills, which is very frustrating after you’ve already spent a full day hiking up and down mountains!
We had a lot of cow crossings… We could hear them for miles, since they all had bells, sized accordingly.
The next few days led to even more stunning vistas of glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains. At this point we were getting more used to the long days and tight muscles, but the elevation change each day was still a bit daunting.
Check out this hut! It reminded us a bit of Harry Potter… We didn’t stay the night here, but took a lunch break before crossing a glacier!
Next was the most challenging climb of all. At the end of a very long day, we had to climb waaaaaaay up high to our hut. It was tough, but the view was worth it. The hut was perched over an enormous glacier, and a string of bright blue glacial lakes. The hut’s dining area had a panel of glass windows, so we could appreciate the view from the inside.
It snowed on the way down the next morning. Not ideal.
For the next few days we hiked up over a single pass, and took our lunch break at the top.
I’m not at all ashamed to say that I ate a lot of chocolate on this hike. Jake’s favorite was the deer sausage!
We got water from these troughs, which were located in or near all of the tiny towns up in the mountains, as well as down in the valleys.
Can you see the paraglider?
Our routine continued. Hike down into the next valley, load up on groceries, make dinner, and tent somewhere off the trail.
It was all fine and dandy, until one night we were awoken by a TERRIBLE animal sound. BAAAAAHHHHHPP! Is all I can think of to describe it… Jake can do a pretty good impression if you want to hear it. We pictured it as a huge mutant goat with crazy eyes and its tongue sticking out. Our imaginations went a bit wild, as we had no idea what was making the sound, and we had no bear spray or other way of defending ourselves. We were mere yards away from an apartment building, so we assumed we were safe. We were told the next day that it was a Chamois, a goat-like animal local to the region. Luckily it went away, whatever it was.
Reenacting the animal attack…
We met a lot of cool people on the hike, from all over. There were a pair of friends from Israel, a couple from Canada, a family from Scotland, and a couple from Wales who had hiked the PCT. We haven’t even done that one yet!
The hike continued to be epic, although on our second-to-last day, on our way up the pass, it rained, and then snowed. Nearby rockfalls started echoing during our ascent, and we were afraid that we’d lost the trail after the pass. About two hours past the pass, we came to a ski lift, which we paid an exorbitant price to ride down. After freezing for hours, all we wanted was a hot shower. After some searching, we found a hotel and proceeded to stand in it until the hot water ran out. We munched on snacks and enjoyed the view, knowing that we only had one day to go.
The next day was a bit drizzly as well, so we just wanted to GET THERE! It cleared up a bit as we finally walked into Zermatt, our final destination.
10 days, 104 miles, and 38,245 feet in elevation gain later, we’d finally made it! Of course it poured while we trying to find our hostel, but we got warm showers and solid meal. Despite our love of hiking, we were both happy that we didn’t have to hit the trail again for a little while. We snapped some shots of the Matterhorn before leaving town.
Because Switzerland was so expensive ($19 for a hamburger!), we decided to head straight to Austria. We’ll be back someday, perhaps for the Tour du Mont Blanc! And next time, Jake, you won’t have to carry the big pack most of the way…