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“If you’re not moving, you’re standing  still.”


Steve Trafton

Walkers High Route: Chamonix to Zermatt

July 17 2006 Gruben-Meiden to St. Niklaus


The trail to the Augstbordpass started on the south side of the Hotel Schwarzhorn, where we spent the night. It led uphill over a grassy pasture and then through a wooded section of larch and pine. After about 35 minutes we came to a trail junction and Gruobualp (7:15; ca. 7055 feet). We stayed on the path going straight on uphill. After a few more minutes we emerged from the woods wound up to an open shelf of hillside occupied by two alp buildings at Ober Gruobustafel (7:50; ca. 7770 feet).

From here the path passed to the right side of the huts and headed uphill to the left of a stream in the hanging valley of Gruobtalli. The trail continued to rise to a lumpy inner region of the valley with scree slope lining the southern wall of peaks, and grassy hummocks elsewhere littered with grey-green lichened rocks.

Shortly before 8:30 we started up over a rocky step, then descended slightly to go around a small pond before rising again, this time at a steady incline on the final stretch to the Augstbordpass (9:00; ca. 9490 feet). We unshouldered our packs on this, the last pass, and had a victory cigar while we rested and enjoyed the view out over the Inners Talli valley and the Fletschhorn (ca. 12,854 feet).

A clear path led down from the pass in switch backs to a rocky bowl on the eastern side of the cirque that holds the Inners Talli. After the first step section, the path eases its descent and about twenty minutes from the pass we passed through a narrow rocky cleft and emerged into a rock and grass alp. In a few more minutes we came to a trail junction and took the Jungen/St. Niklaus option that sloped down and then hugged the right hand side of the valley, crossing over the Embdbach stream.

The route then started a gently rising traverse of the southern flank of the valley, heading east across a slope of boulders and rocks. We emerged from the traverse at a shoulder of mountain (8160 feet) where we could look down into the deep cut of the Mattertal. Continuing on round the shoulder the path narrowed and rose steadily, climbing several rocky steps and turned a ridge at Troura (11:05; ca. 8714 feet).

Here we were treated to one of the best views of the entire traverse. Across the Mattertal soared the Nadelhorn, Lenzspitze, and the Dom, with the Ried glacier pouring into a narrow trough above the village of Grachen. To the right, at the head of the Mattertal, Liskamm, Castor and Pollux and the long white block of the Breithorn, with the small pyramid of the Kleine Matterhorn completed the panorama. After just a few more paces the Weisshorn exploded into view.

In a short distance the path became a paved track which wound down, in wide loops until Untere Lager (ca. 7395 feet), a prominent trail junction was reached. We took the trail marked to Jungen Rundweg which wound down through boulder strewn forest eventually reaching Jungen (ca. 6410 feet), a pleasant alp hamlet perched, on the hillside, high above the Mattertal and the town of St. Niklaus.

Jungen provided not only a chance to rehydrate with the local beer but also to enjoy the great views up and down the Mattertal while sitting on the patio of the little family run restaurant trailside near the church.

The last bit of trail led below the restaurant and zigzagged into the forest below the village. After about a half an hour we came to a junction where we continued straight ahead a crossed a rocky cleft on a footbridge over a wild stream. The trail continued down through forest and pastureland and eventually emerged near the St. Niklaus train station (ca. 3695 feet), some 5800 feet below the Augstbordpass.

From St. Niklaus it was a short, but scenic train ride up the Mattertal to Zermatt where we spent several days hiking and exploring beneath the shadow of the Matterhorn.

This completed my High Route Across Switzerland and while I have undertaken more technically difficult routes in more remote mountain ranges I have seldom enjoyed the company of the mountains I visited as much as I did the Swiss Alps. This trip will always stand out in my mind as one of the most ‘user friendly’ yet challenging long distance hikes in my 50 years of experience in the mountains.

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