Eine Person steht vor einem Bergpanorama

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Snowshoe tour in the Upper Valais

  • #Snowshoeing
Portraitfoto von Torge
Torge
Guest author, 4-Seasons
© Fotos

Numerous four-thousand-metre peaks surround the Saas Valley in the Upper Valais. While the crowds bustle in Saas-Fee, the Furgg Valley entices outdoors enthusiasts with its solitude and tranquillity.

At Zermeiggern, in Upper Valais, we get off the Postauto bus which immediately disappears over a bridge and leaves us behind in the silence of the Saas Valley. The Furgg Valley opens up before us with its wooded slopes, and at the end lies the Cresta bivouac – our destination for today.

The yellow needles of the larches fall like snow and muffle our footsteps. The rays of sunshine keep bursting through the tree canopy in a blaze of colour – one last firework display of nature before the trees are bare and buried under a thick blanket of snow. Again and again, we pause in amazement and admire the play of colour. Despite the frequent and beautiful distractions, we quickly reach the Furggalp, nestled in a clearing and surrounded by dense trees. The cows have long since been driven back down into the valley. Only a sign with the words ‘Alpkäse’ (Alpine cheese) reveals what hikers will find here in summer.

Old smugglers’ trails – the Antrona Pass with snowshoes

On this late-autumn day, the valley is deserted – but it wasn’t always. The route over the Antrona Pass has always been used for travelling between Italy and the Saas Valley. Coins found in the area suggest that the route was used for trade in Roman times. The 2,837-metre-high pass was a lifeline for the exchange of jewellery and salt. Trade brought the Saas and Antrona valleys ever closer together, which only came to an abrupt end with the increase in trade over the Simplon Pass from 1805. At the end of the 19th century, the pass, which had slipped into obscurity, was used for smuggling before British mountaineers opened the region up to tourism.

  • Eine blechig Schutzhütte in den Bergen von aussen
    Photo © Torge Fahl
  • Eingang einer Biwakhütte im Oberwallis, fotografiert von innen nach aussen.
    Photo © Torge Fahl

We don’t meet anyone on the trail today as we leave the last trees behind us and continue on our way. The snow-covered pass comes into view for the first time and it’s another two hours before we finally reach it. An impressive panorama opens up over Piedmont. Barely 200 metres in altitude separate us from our destination: the Cresta bivouac at the foot of the Latelhorn.

The path to the hut leads us out over a wide expanse of scree, which demands a certain amount of surefootedness. Like a pair of chamois, we climb and hop from rock to rock and find our way through the stony maze. With the low sun already touching the summit of the Stellihorn, we finally reach the bivouac hut.

Romantic cosiness in the bivouac

Full of anticipation, we open the door and catch a glimpse of our accommodation for the night. It’s a functional space, reduced to the bare essentials – sleeping area, table, kitchenette – and yet it feels like a home. As there’s no running water, we quickly collect snow and melt it over the fire. The small windows barely let any light inside, but we make ourselves comfortable in the warm glow of a candle. Old photographs on the wall afford us a glimpse of the winter and summer adventures of previous guests. With a cup of tea in hand, we leaf through a book about the hut and lose ourselves in the history of the bivouac.

The hut was only built between the Antrona Pass and Latelhorn in 1997 thanks to the dedication of the SAC Saas. Previously, the small bivouac hut stood as a Mischabeljoch bivouac between Alphubel and Täschhorn. When the bivouac was due to be demolished to make way for a new building, it was quickly agreed that the hut could still serve as a refuge for guests elsewhere. Since then, the bivouac has been lovingly maintained and somewhat modernised, with the addition of crockery from the hut warden’s mother-in-law, for example. Today, the Cresta bivouac is an ideal start point for incredible tours, such as to the Stellihorn (3,436 metres above sea level) or for a high-altitude tour along the “Cresta di Saas” border ridge. It’s a practical solution since we don’t have to set up a bivouac ourselves.

High-altitude Alpine trail with snowshoes

After a warm night – thanks to our thick sleeping bags – we blink blearily through the small window and catch a glimpse of the Täschhorn (4,491 metres above sea level) and Dom (4,545 metres above sea level), which rise up against the dark sky, bathed in pink morning light. We quickly peel ourselves out of our sleeping bags to climb up to the border ridge. As we gain altitude, the snow becomes thicker – our snowshoes are worth their weight in gold from here on. After a little while, we’re standing on the ridge, squinting at the rising sun. In front of us, a sea of clouds extends to the horizon, broken up by isolated mountain peaks, like small islands in a churning sea. We admire this top-down view of the clouds with reverence and let the first rays of sunshine bathe us in their warm glow.

  • Nahaufnahme von einer Person, die Brot schneidet in der Cresta Hütte
    Photo © Torge Fahl
  • Alpine Berglandschaft im Vordergrund steinig und karg und im Hintergrund beschneite Bergen
    Photo © Torge Fahl
  • Schneeschuhwandererin zieht sich sitzend die Schneeschuhe an
    Photo © Torge Fahl

Back at the bivouac, we pack our things and bid the place farewell with a heavy heart. We’re particularly fond of the solitude and cosiness of the small Cresta bivouac. Full of gratitude for our time in the mountains, we nimbly hike back along the high-altitude Alpine hiking trail. Our steady pace is interrupted only by occasional breaks to savour the panorama a little longer. After barely three hours, we stand at the deserted Heidbodme ski lift, looking back down into the valley. With a little imagination, you can make out the Cresta bivouac at the foot of the Latelhorn in the distance – like a lonely pearl nestled in the remote Saas Valley.

Tour description snowshoe tour in the Upper Valais

Journey there/back: From Visp, take the Postauto bus and change in Saas-Grund to Zermeiggern, where the actual tour begins. The journey back is the same but in the opposite direction. Postauto.ch Sbb.ch

Booking: The bivouac is small and sleeps 6 to 8 people, so it’s a good idea to book in advance via the SAC booking system: sac-cas.ch

Note: The bivouac is not catered, you must provide your own food. Gas, candles, blankets and kitchen utensils are provided, but you have to bring your own sleeping bag. There is no access to running water, so you have to carry water up with you or melt snow. Water can be in short supply, especially in summer.

Tour recommendations: The “Cresta di Saas” ridge crossing is the longest and most spectacular high-altitude tour in the valley. The Antrona Pass, Jazzilücke, Latelhorn or Stellihorn are excellent alternative destinations.

  • #Snowshoeing

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