My September 2017 adventure to the Swiss Alps was absolutely epic. It turned out to be one of my most memorable mountain experiences, I mean who doesn’t love hiking and wild camping in a beautiful part of the world, sharing it with 3 other great people and basking in sunshine the whole 4 days we were there?!
For those who prefer video format, check out Austin’s video of our first day in the Swiss Alps – it’s awesome!
It wasn’t my planning that started the trip, Scott (who’s a filmmaker) had this on his mind for quite some time and so, he messaged Austin, Lucy (both also create awesome videos on YouTube) and me back in July. It took us literally less than an hour to book the flights, we were all 100% on board. It is amazing how cheap the flights are; only £60 return from Bristol to Geneva, I don’t think I could get to London for that much on a train!
Getting on the airplane and *trying* to find gas
The day had come to get to the airport, I had already packed about a week prior as the thought of forgetting something was lingering. The pack was a “light” 16kg in total with all my camera, hiking and camping equipment. I set off at 4.30am to meet Scott at the airport, Austin and Lucy were going to Gatwick. We quickly made it through all the customs, and just had enough time for a cheeky Burger King – man was that a mistake! £7 for basically what I can only describe as a tasteless lump of lard… think I’d rather stick with our 4 days of freeze-dried meals! Thankfully we were getting on the plane not too long after.
We were coming in to land at Geneva and as we descended, the true scale of the Alps came into view. The excitement of seeing those mountains was unreal and it was crazy to think that in less than 3 hours we would be hiking in those mountains. Well, so I thought!
Once off the plane and having met up with Austin and Lucy, our next challenge was to find gas for our stoves. You’d think this would be easy right, especially considering you’re in a country that lives for the outdoors? Nope… We quickly got into our rental car and made for a Migros which apparently sold gas. It did, not the type of gas we were looking for though. After another 2 attempts and over an hour driving around Lake Geneva, we found the right gas at an Athleticum, thank god for that!
Our attempts to start the trail
Now it was time to head into the mountains – hooray! Our initial start destination was Mex, and so we tried to make our way up the long, hairpin-ridden road and unfortunately, as we reached close to our destination…. we found that the road was closed– damn it! It was getting late, probably about 3pm, so we desperately needed to make some progress on the trail and to find camp for the night. We decided to instead start at Van d’en Haut which meant driving right down to 400m and back up to 1,400m. To be honest, in hindsight, this was probably a good thing as if we were to start at Mex, then we would have had to climb the equivalent of Snowdon (right from the bottom) and then hike down 300m to Lac Salanfe with our full heavy packs on. Although, this does mean we’ll need to face it later on in the trail! The start at Van d’en Haut was much more relaxed, with only a 500m climb straight up to the lake. Ironically, I had actually been to the Lake last year in September 2016, who’d have thought I would then be doing a 4-day hike a year later! Amazing how things progress in a year.
We’re in the mountains!
The trail up to the lake was pretty simple and enjoys a beautiful view looking down the valley and at the huge mountains on the other side. You do have two options with trails though, the first is slightly simpler where you stick to the gravel road, presumably made for supplying the cabin at the lake, or the off-road trail which requires a bit of scrambling to make progress. We chose the latter to make things a bit more interesting!
Once at the lake, the sun had set and darkness was soon upon us. Thankfully, the clear evening allowed twilight to light our path down to camp where we set up for the night. Perfectly flat albeit plenty of cow pats, water source and an incredible view of the lake. Just look at this.
Now you might be wondering, why didn’t we just stay at the cabin (there is one conveniently placed right next to the lake)? But where’s the fun in that?! Plus that’s expensive and we brits like being stingy with our money! But in all seriousness, we wanted to get the ‘full experience’ by sleeping in the outdoors. Although, for those wanting to enjoy this trail without ‘roughing’ it, there are cabins at almost perfect 10-mile intervals which sell food and a bed for the night, plus they’ll do you a packed lunch for your hiking day ahead!
Anyway, after a decent meal of 1,000 calorie freeze-dried Pasta Bolognese plus a load of chocolate, it was time to get the camera out before bed – the stars were out! And what made things even better, the constellation positioned itself perfectly behind the mountains. It would be rude not to photograph this composition!
It’s astonishing to think, just 12 hours before this image was taken, we were in Bristol – what a contrast, it’s amazing the modern world we live in 🙂
Part 2 is coming soon where we scramble up in knee-deep snow, reach a breathtaking view of the Alps, meet some great people and a load more.