Day One - Simplon Pass | Day Two - Planetenweg - Zinal | Day Three - Illsee-Parilet | Day Four & Five - Becs de Besson/Val d'Herens | Day Six & Seven - Crans Montana
Off to Switzerland again for Sharon and I. Our last trips to Switzerland in 2010 (Graubunden)
and 2012 (Grindelwald and the eastern Valais)
had shown us the complexity and diversity of this amazing country and its wonderfully welcoming people. This time we elected to use the same tried and true technique of focusing on a small region (Central and western Valais) and trying to find the good stuff in that region.
Our Sunday flight from Vancouver BC via Edelweiss Air
means we arrive on a Monday afternoon and are efficiently transported via SBB
from Zurich Airport and then to Brig 125kms south where we meet Martin of Alpine Trails
and check into the Hotel Victoria
. We were travelling with just luggage as we were provided with bikes/helmets by Alpine-Trails. For more on the logistics of getting around in Switzerland via its amazing public transportation system and the lack of need of a car rental see this other Pinkbike article
After a bit of time settling in and having a good nights sleep to get over jetlag we meet Martin at our hotel and we start our trip by getting on the Post-bus to Simplon Pass
. For those who aren't familiar with Switzerland, their transportation system is beyond description. It's entirely possible to take a bus or train to many hiking or biking trailheads. Moreover transportation is exceptionally bike friendly and you can take your bikes on many modes of public transport although be aware that in busy summer months sometimes you must make arrangements in advance (informative post by Swiss Alpine Adventure about the logistics
here). Fall months are not so busy so we never had issues getting a spot for us or our bikes. While it's possible to get around on your own particularly on a relatively uncomplicated trip like today's it's never a bad idea to have a local show you around. Alpine-trails
is the consummate local and it was always a pleasure to have him not just show us the right directions but also the right time and the right combination of trails.
Postbus to Simplon PassClimbing up from Simplon Pass
A bit of background here;Simplon
was an old trail from Brig to Italy apparently used as early as the Stone Age and since the 1700's by smugglers and mercenaries (the Swiss had a reputation as superbly disciplined soldiers for the rest of Europe). The first road through the pass was built in Napoleon's time when Canada was still a young country. The first railway was punched through in the 1900's and the railway tunnel here is still (at 19km) the longest tunnel in the world taking users from Switzerland to Italy safely.
The Post Auto bus takes us from Brig at 670m to Simplon Pass 2005m. We then climb to Bischtinupass which is another 350m or so.up from Simplon Pass. We are fortunate with weather and the views are stunning. Hikers join us on the trails and we co-exist splendidly as they cheer us on the climb.
Descending from Bischtinu PassSenggchuppa glacier views
It was nice to get the Postbus assist as our jet-lagged legs protested a bit getting in to the rhythm of trail riding. Although the first few climbing bits were tough especially at altitude, Martin proved to be patient and in no time we were on an alpine trail which basically held its elevation contouring this historic valley. We ride along the Nanztal valley towards the view of the Senggchuppa glacial moraine then back along multi-hundred year irrigation ditches/Suone/bisse.
The valley is a farming valley with benches built mainly to service the irrigation ditches. Place names are hardcore Swiss (Nidäralpa, Chluismatta, Sirvoltusattul, Visperterminen, Wyssboduhooru, Rossbodu, Egga - your challenge is to memorize the names then pronounce all of them!). Once you descend from the alpine there are many ways to get down through a healthy larch forest, some steep trails and some more gentle meanders. We passed up one alternative that allows you to drop down one side of the valley towards Visp and instead elected to descend quicker on trails and roads directly to Brig via a purpose built bike-trail by the side of the highway. Some trail options are at the Simplon Tourism website
There is a trail along the Suone on the other side of the valleyAnother Senggchuppa viewTrail along the Suone with some exposureOne techy section with a bit of left over snowThe Suone was built for the town water supply centuries ago. They are still used for water and irrigation purposes and also have an added tourism attraction aspect.Lower trails have these elaborate covers to protect from rock and rainfallMap of the route that we took
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Victoria in Brig. This hotel is right across from the train station which makes for exceptional convenience. With the windows closed it was quiet at night despite the central location. We had the half board which included food which was very good and varied (ignore older TripAdvisor Reviews
which are now obsolete). It was nice to be able to wander around Brig's small but interesting down town by foot, hang around the town square drinking beer and eating Wernli. Also all the buses and trains one might want to use for biking-assist leave from this location. We found the staff to be helpful and the food to be also good.Hotel Victoria foodHotel Victoria and our rooms.
33km, 6hrs, 790m climbing, 2090m
powered by Trailforks.comWe wish to thank Tourism Switzerland, Valais Tourism, Brig Simplon Tourism, Sierre Anniviers, and Crans Montana for their support.
Mountain Biking Switzerland - Graubunden and Zermatt (5 parts on pinkbike)
Mountain Biking Switzerland - Grindlewald/Jungfrau and the Eastern Valais (4 parts on Pinkbike)
SBB - Swiss Transit System
Alpine-Trails - Recommended guides
Swiss topo maps
General tips and tricks
Edelweiss Air - (direct from Vancouver and many other west coast cities to Zurich)Keep a look out for part two, coming next Sunday.
MENTIONS: @leelau @Alpine-Trails-Switzerland