Where the two worlds meet: Hiking in Gastlosen


I've been an avid hiker most of my post-teenage life, and since the start of the global pandemic which-shall-not-be-named, my need to be in the great outdoors exponentially peaked. I've done a fair amount of hiking in Switzerland and neighbouring France in the last couple of years, so I was keen to explore new spots. Finding great hikes in Switzerland isn't difficult - open any Swiss Instagram account, tourism or hiking website, and you'll be faced with more crippling choice anxiety than in a hypercapitalist supermarket. 

However, finding the exact and clear instructions how to get there, and how to get around - that's a bit more of a conundrum. It seems like the Swiss prefer to keep the spots to themselves. And to be honest, I can relate. I prefer to have the mountains to myself. 👀 

But I suppose sharing is caring, and I'd want my friends to explore the same magical spots in Switzerland, hassle- and extensive research-free. So I decided to write up the tips on a few of my recent hikes to make it easier for everyone (also because I'm in a permanent state of nostalgia and like to reminisce). Just don't share further (said no blogger ever) (but I do mean it)!   

[Needless to say, but I feel responsible so here's a disclaimer: go to the mountains prepared - meaning wear the right gear and inform yourself of the weather conditions. There is nothing more infuriating - and dangerous - than hikers in Chuck Taylors (as much as I love those shoes) going out on a rocky mountain in the biggest storm.] 

[Also, I promise the intros to other hikes will be far shorter - I thought the first post merited a bit of a background, but I have no intentions to be like one of those cooking blogs where you have to scroll through half an hour of absolutely irrelevant stories before getting to the actual recipe.]

If I started with my absolute favourite hike of 2020 so far, it would have to be the Hörnlihütte (Matterhorn basecamp). But I'll keep the best for last to keep you coming back. So here comes the first one: the mighty Gastlosen

Having read references to it as the "Dolomites of Switzerland", my expectations were as high as the mountain we climbed up. Untypical for expectations, this time they were actually met! I absolutely loved the hike for its diversity - it starts through gorgeous autumnal woods (in October that is), passes by a lovely chalet restaurant, continues up a rocky and snowy north face of Gastlosen with open views of peaks near and far, until you cross over to the south face, and continue through soft green pastures, into the woods, back to the starting point. 

Without further ado, here are the technical details: 

HIKING THE GASTLOSEN CIRCULAR TOUR

  • Time of the year: I hiked in mid October; the chairlift closes in November and reopens for the skiing season, find more information at the Jaun Bergbahnen  
  • How to get there: By public transport from Geneva: take the train to Fribourg, where you hop on a bus to Jaun, Kappelboden (the bus station is just downstairs at the train station, and there are boards with bus times - easiest is if you plan your trip through the SBB mobile app, as the bus doesn't go very frequently, although there are also options to go through Bulle and Palezieux instead, but it prolongs the journey slightly). The bus takes around an hour. Once you reach Kappelboden, walk to the chairlift station (4-minute walk, from the bus stop walk behind the cheese shop through the village, until you reach the chairlift), and take the return ticket up to Musersbergli (18 CHF for return, no discounts for the half-fare cards). For those with a car, there is a carpark directly at the chairlift, and Musersbergli is also accessible by car, so you can avoid the chairlift cost, but it's a gravel road. 
  • Hike time: Around 4 hours of hiking time (excluding stops) 
  • Hike length & ascent: 11 km long, 780m elevation gain, highest point of the hike 1921m. Click here to see the elevation profile.
  • Hiking gear needed: Good hiking boots are essential, poles optional but very helpful, as it can get slippery at times. 
  • Difficulty: Medium - there's a few fairly steep ascents, and hiking up the north face of the mountain includes some slippery, snowy rocks, narrow paths, and using the chains and your hands every once in a while, but no real vertigo-inducing or dangerous points. 
  • Hike directions: Once you reach the Musersbergli restaurant by chairlift, turn right and follow the yellow signpost towards "Soldatenhaus / Chalet du Soldat". It takes about an hour and a bit of a steep hike in the second half to reach the Soldatenhaus, which is a great spot for a coffee/beer with a view (also really good in Covid-19 times as they have a lot of reassuring measures in place). From there, hike up the rocky mountain (follow "Musersbergli - 2h55min" at the yellow signpost). It looks scary and pathless from afar, but once you're on the trail, it's not a big deal. There are a few spots where you need your hands to climb up a rock, and there is a part where you can help yourself with metal chains. Once you reach the top, pass through the pine trees and turn left at the yellow signposts (following Musersbergli again) through the meadows and under the mighty Gastlosen peaks (making you feel tiny!). From there, the trail leads through some rocky woods and another pasture, then a part on the asphalt road, which brings you to another chalet (the name of which I cannot recall), and then through some more rocky woods back to Musersbergli, where you treat yourself to a beer and take the chairlift down to Jaun. 

Coming from the north side of the mountain to the south was literally like standing between two worlds - pine trees crumbling under the heavy snow against a foggy and cloudy backdrop on one side, silky green pastures with blinding blue skies on the other.






CONVERSATION

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