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Hike Switzerland's Via Alpina: Kandersteg to Griesalp

The Editors' Choice testing crew tackles the highest passes in the Swiss Alps.
  • The Via Alpina rises sharply out of Kandersteg, a village of 1,200 at 3,858 feet, before leveling off at Oeschinensee, a glacial lake at the base of a cliff.
  • Our route snakes through the forest along the left bank of glass-calm Oeschinensee.
  • Just past the lake, the Via Alpina gains elevation as it tracks along the base of a cliffband.
  • Oeschinensee is too beautiful not to stop and admire from every viewpoint.
  • Steve Howe winds through a boulder field above Oeschinensee.
  • With dramatic elevation gains and losses, and rough terrain like this boulder field above Oeschinensee, trekking poles are a must for the Via Alpina.
  • Shannon Davis hikes beneath a hanging glacier toward 9,114-foot Hohturli, the highest pass on the Via Alpina.
  • Kelly Bastone hikes atop a lateral moraine.
  • Hanging glaciers across the valley.
  • After gaining 2,600 feet since leaving Kandersteg, and with nearly 3,000 left to climb, we pause for a look back toward Oeschinensee.
  • Switzerland's scenery is so freaking gorgeous that it'll make you forget any ill-fitting pack or nagging blister.
  • Trekking ever upward toward 9,114-foot Hohturli.
  • After crossing Hohturli, the highest pass on the Via Alpina, Kelly Bastone grabs a steel-cable handline for support as she descends toward the tiny village of Griesalp.
  • The day's last rays hit the near-vertical peaks across the valley.
  • A Via Alpina trail marker guides us through a clutch of farmhouses near Griesalp.
The Via Alpina rises sharply out of Kandersteg, a village of 1,200 at 3,858 feet, before leveling off at Oeschinensee, a glacial lake at the base of a cliff.
Image 1 of 15

The Via Alpina rises sharply out of Kandersteg, a village of 1,200 at 3,858 feet, before leveling off at Oeschinensee, a glacial lake at the base of a cliff.


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I am a sixty year old female, have walked quite a lot, Lakeland peaks etc, but not hiked in Switzerland before,and wondering whether I could do this walk happily this August. Any advice would be welcome!If I did it I would be with five other people who are more experienced in these hikes than I am.
— Sam

Hi Sam,

I run a similar tour I call the Bernese Oberland Traverse. One of my favorite hikes ever. I have hiked it twice each summer for the past four years. Please feel free to give me a call at 1-800-903-6987 if you would like to discuss the hike or feel free to email me at Matt
— Matt Brown

I've hiked in Switzerland any times. The trail markers are post in time increments of a "leisurely walking grandmother." There are picturesque views like this everywhere. The Junfrau valley is riddled with cable cars and trams to take you to higher trail heads. Don't miss it.
— Josh

I plan on hiking the 100 mile route in June. Is there anything I should bring aside from day-today hiking equipment (rope and harness, crampons, etc)?
— Mike


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