Paula’s Story of The Heart of Switzerland

Heart of Switzerland

We walked across the heart of Switzerland from Sarnen to Grindelwald.

6 courageous women and our guide Claudia.

I would definitely do it all over again. It was a really magic week for me. I loved all the chats and laughs and the bond between the 6 of us that developed over the days was very special. The group dynamic which began on the first evening swimming in the lake in Sarnen just grew and grew into a camaraderie which was very special to be part of. This was partly due to Claudia’s handling of the group (telling us to shut up from time to time). It was an unforgettable experience. 


Sunday 19 June – getting to Switzerland from Strasbourg. An overland journey – all part of the adventure.

Up early 7.30am. Very hot already in Vendenheim. Bag weighs 7.5 without water!!!

(Bags are carried on this trip and we all travelled light) Collected Louise at 10am. Brian drove us to Offenburg where we found out that our direct train to Zurich had been cancelled. Louise gets her first bite!!! Unknown predator. We take a very crowded train to Singen – changed at Singen for Zurich. Passed the Rhine Falls, very spectacular. Arrived Zurich.

Met the others and boarded the train to Sarnen. Very hot in Sarnen so when we checked into the hotel we decided to go for a swim in the lake. Bras and knickers. Water silky and cool. Feeling a bond between us all already. Had a nice apero dinner. Met Claudia for the first time. She will be our guide for our adventure.

Monday 20th June

Up early and took the bus to Stockalp but our fellow Health and Safety officer discovered the route we wanted to hike was barred for forestry work. Claudia was able to reroute us and change the hike almost immediately. She really knows these mountains well. We took a cable car up to Melchsee-Frutt (1,920m). The Cable car and the start of our adventure made me very excited. From Melchsee we hiked up to Abgschutz.

Claudia explained that we should start at a slow pace and maintain the same pace for an hour and stop each hour for a drink and then press on. Good advice.

We saw Steinbock/Capricorn and met a man who had caught trout in a mountain lake and was now collecting wild chives to season it for his dinner. Carpets of multi-coloured wild flowers everywhere.

We hiked up to Hockstoller (2,481m). The views on the way and at the top were spectacular. Without Claudia there is no way I would have attempted that climb. She just inspires confidence. At the top we took photos and congratulated ourselves.

Next stop was our mountain accommodation for the night. It didn’t look that far and there was a small lake between us and it and the possibility of a cool swim! Our path down was very narrow and steep. We hung on to ropes and chains and used metal U brackets attached to the rock to help us make our way down. It was very challenging. The views were of course spectacular. There was an incredible sense of achievement.

We eventually made it to the lake where we all stripped off (except Louise) and dived in. It was magic and revived us all. We had another hour and a half of tough hiking before we made it to our Gasthaus.

Alggi (1,667m) is on a plateau and is the very centre of Switzerland.

The farmers bring their cattle up to this plateau in the summer where they graze on wild flowers. The farmers milk the cows morning and evening and make cheese. There are about 10 Swiss wooden chalets. It seemed that there was just us, the farmers and the cows up there. A wonderful calm spot with meadows of wild flowers surrounded by high Alps and the sound of cow bells.

We had dinner on the terrace of a small restaurant with a very irritating Austrian waiter (dressed in a ridiculous rig out) who attempted to entertain us. We slept in a lovely wooden house with red and white gingham duvets and pillows. Shared bathroom and loo but everything spotless.

Tuesday 21st June 

Slept like a log despite cramps in my feet.  Up at 6.45am to go to see the cheese makers.


Lovely young medical assistant working for the summer with the farmers. She explained all about how they make the cheese in a huge copper cauldron over a wood fire. Claudia is originally from this canton of Switzerland and speaks the dialect. This made our encounters with the locals a lot more interesting. We bought some cheese and then went for breakfast. No time for hanging around after breakfast we were up and out.

A beautiful hike through meadows of wild flower and forest into Kleines Melchtal. We hiked up through a meadow and there in the middle of it was a farm with 2 women and 3 very small happy children making cheese.

We walked on and up a slow incline again through meadows of wild flowers. Steeper and steeper and overlooking a very blue lake (Lungerer See). The sun was very hot. We reached Gibel (2,035m after a tough climb but well worth it for the views of Susten, the Eiger, Wetterhorn and more. I have never seen a view like it. We could see right over to Hockstoller where we had hiked to yesterday and remarked on the very steep descent we had achieved and which we could clearly see. We were all very proud of ourselves.

We walked on a relatively level path to Kaserstatt (1,840m) where we took the cable car to Hasilberg Twing. This is a village that Claudia used to live in and she brought us to a small swimming hole where we once again cooled off in the water. Then we took the bus down the valley a bit to Golden. We have 3 huge apartments for the night  all brand new.

We went for dinner in a lovely restaurant (Der Post).As it was the Fete de la Musique Louise, Elspeth and I sang The Skye Boat song and Mor sang a song in Hebrew.

Wednesday 22nd June 


Walked down to Meringen in the rain. Much comparing of rain panchos. A nice small town with good shops and not many tourists. Famous for the world’s biggest meringue and funny worm cake! Also, Reichenbach falls not far from where Sherlock Holmes met his demise! We walked to the Aare gorge. A magnificent gorge carved out of the limestone by the Aare river which is icy blue and sometimes only a couple of metres wide. Wooden walkway throughout. From Meringen we took the Postbus to Swartzwald Alp. The bus sounds its horn (several long notes) at every corner. Lovely restaurant and accommodation at Swartzwald Alp.

Thursday 23rd June 

We hiked up to First (2,168m). We saw marmot and chamois. We stopped by a mountain stream and cooled off our feet in the cold water and ate some fruit and nuts and took photos. Then we arrived at First. This is a ski station in winter and it was very strange to be around a lot of people especially tourists who had not been hiking. Our first 3 days had been in quite remote and unspoilt Swiss mountains with few tourists. We walked on the suspended (Tissot) walkway and drank Hugos on the terrace overlooking the Eiger, Wetterhorn and Monch. We could clearly see the glaciers and how much they have receded.

At 17.30 the last cable car left and so did all the tourists. Then it was lovely and quiet and we could really appreciate the grandeur of the Alps. A rainbow appeared like magic just for us.

Friday 24th June 

It was lovely being in First early in the morning. High in the Alps.

The eiger

Our walk was to Bachsee (2,265m) a lake a bit above First. The lake was very calm and remote. We decided to walk back down to First because the weather was closing in over Faulhorn where we had wanted to walk to. The walk back was lovely, different again to where we had already been. Sometimes it was like being in Mayo or the Scottish Highlands. Very wet and boggy and green with a river meandering through and meadows full of very colourful wild flowers.

Claudia asked one of the farmers (a beautiful young woman) if we could see inside her house. She and her brother come up to this high pasture land in May/June and prepare the house which has been empty all winter. They even bring hay in case it snows over the summer. The house was huge with the cows stall downstairs and the farmers 3 bedrooms upstairs. Also, a huge big old kitchen/dairy where the cheese is made complete with copper cauldron. The whole house including the cows stalls was very clean and dry. Once again without Claudia we would never have been able to visit this place. The farmer told us that he finds it difficult to find hired help to stay up there all summer to help with the milking and cheese making.

Check out Farm work in Switzerland to look for a summer job. You’d have to stay from April to September and get up at 5am every day and go to bed at 9pm.

Next we took the cable car down to Grindelwald in the valley – the end of our very special  trip.

Paula’s tips for women wanting to join this trek – all actioned by WalkingWomen for future trips!

Keep Claudia (our brilliant Swiss partner and guide) who adapted to suit us and adjusted the itinerary to our capabilities.

Keep to maximum two per room. We all  had to all share one room one night.

Bring a day bag for when we leave bigger bags at our accommodation.

Bring separate water bottles (for those with bladder packs).

Give a rough budget of cable cars and public transport costs to guests in pre travel information – or include in the total price to make easier.

Don’t bring Towels and sleeping bags – they are provided. Maybe a swim travel one for spontaneous swimming!

Prepare for tough walks, out of my comfort zone, but it was really gratifying to know that I can push myself further.

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