Finding my Yodel in Switzerland

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” Preach it, JM.

beauty rejuvenation regimen: a solo hike into Zinal valley

Hi friends, I decided to go with a Cliff Notes format for this trip post, so here goes. The two goals for my 12d trip to Switzerland were to spend as much time as possible in the mountains and eat really good dark chocolate. I left without making any plans and prearranged only my first night’s stay in Zurich. Beyond that it was a blank slate. Those who know me well might be shocked by that, but my last three trips have been a slow evolution to a zero-itinerary travel style. Of course I had read a ton before leaving, mainly Kev Reynolds’ Cicerone books on hiking in the Alps 🙂 At the very bottom is a map with waypoints where I ended up going.image

Best Decisions:

  • Winging it day by day with no set plans. Where will I be tomorrow?? Only the wind knows.
  • Taking the iPad mini, item of business#1 after landing was getting a SIM card. The Internet is indispensable, except when you don’t have service. Somehow life still works though.
  • Leaving the Bernese Circus-land (think busloads of tourists, i.e. definition of torture for me) for tranquil Zinal and staying at Hotel de la Poste.image
  • Visiting my friends Jim & Camille near Innsbruck in Austria. We also went to Italy and to Germany for a few hours, where once again my german heritage was confirmed.
  • Escaping the Zermatt (tourist)Zoo for a Saas Fee daytrip onto the Fee glacier at Mittelallalin which, at 11,482 ft, is ringed by glittering 14,000 ft alpine peaks.image
  • Using AirBnB for the first time. Genius app.
  • Buying the Swiss railpass + half-price card. Their train system left me drooling, as did their SBB app which basically planned my life. It also included buses & mountain lifts.

Favorite Moments:

  • Train talk with strangers. Met Trudy on the train to Bernese Oberland, a 85yo Swiss German woman whose sharp eyes and strong spirit vividly reminded me of my Grandma Kay. Trudy’s most important advice when I said I aspired to be like her one day was “move as much and for as long as you can.”
  • Escaping to tiny Zinal (pop 381), a hidden gem type of place that even the majority of Swiss people I spoke with had never heard of. French-Swiss Zinal is situated at the base of the Val d’Anniviers and surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Alps. I think I may have been the only tourist in town and felt warmly welcomed despite not speaking a lick of French. On top of that, I basically had the entire take-your-breath away mountains to myself. Yah, you’re probably jealous right now, but definitely go there if you get the chance.image
  • Watching the moon rise on the Matterhorn from my hotel balcony. Talk about a room with a view! I didn’t expect to be so smitten with this mountain but it has an allure and magnetic façade that I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

    beholding nature’s beauty
  • Taking off for Italy on a whim with Jim & Camille without a plan or place to stay for the night. And then totally scoring on our airbnb with a patio view of the Dolomites. Two words: nutella gelatto. Seeing the Dolomites were a nice add-on bonus too.
  • Going to the Zurich Opera the night prior to flying back at the invite of my airbnb host, Anna, who plays violin in the Orchestra. A perfect topping to a wonderful trip!


Most Missed Things:

  • Heidi chocolate and strawberry flavored milks, and all dairy things. Happiness quotient of Swiss cows >> Cali cows.
  • Sprungli dark chocolate. My tastebuds want to marry you.
  • The Alps. Seriously, it’s just like the storybooks. Cows with jingling bells, green meadows filled with fragrant alpine flowers, and snow capped peaks. I didn’t get to sleep in a hayloft but not kidding, I thought about it.

    posing with a cairn (not a dog, or Gonzo the muppet)
  • Efficient, clean & safe public transportation. Precise to the minute. Not cheap though.
  • Freedom to move and go wherever my heart pleased without concerns for my safety other than using my outdoors common sense.
  • Did I mention THE ALPS. I didn’t get to do the Walker’s Haute Route, which is what initially inspired the trip, due to a late snow. So I must return – who wants to go with? Be forewarned, I did actually break into a yodel a few times.image

Craziest Moments:

  • Speed hiking 10+ miles through snowy trail with all my gear, < 24hrs after landing, in 4.5hrs in order to catch the last tram down to Grindelwald at 5PM. And then figuring out where to stay for the night. My heart rate was pretty much redlined that whole day.
  • Stuck in a bus mobius strip in Grindelwald trying to get to the train station when I could have just walked 10 mins down the road, which is what I ended up doing after waiting for 30 mins.
  • Being tailed most of the way up the Matterhorn by a guy having a loud cell phone conversation, and being told he couldn’t take my picture and talk on the phone and hike all at the same time. Problem solved dude, don’t talk on the phone while hiking to the Matterhorn.
  • Having a google translate convo with a group of ten Japanese tourists on the lift up to the base of the Matterhorn. I am welcome to visit them in Tokoyo anytime, errr at least I *think* I am.
  • Meeting an ultrarunner and his wife along the trail from Cabane Bella Tolla to Hotel Weisshorn. I was a little lost, asked for confirmation of the trail direction, and we ended up talking for 15mins about trail running, gear, race distances we’ve done, etc etc. Random convos with strangers are my favorite thing!

    just a scenic mountaintop bench to kick back & enjoy the view

Wrap up: I’d love to live in Switzerland if I were a Suisse banker and I didn’t have to work like crazy and instead could spend most of my time eating chocolate and cheese while hiking in the Alps and listening to the sweet harmonies of the cow’s bells while I nap in a meadow of edelweiss. The conclusion is I need MORE COWBELL in my life! CH


4 thoughts on “Finding my Yodel in Switzerland

  1. You could become a Swiss milkmaid and live off the fat of the land. Just a thought. Thanks for the awesome and inspiring trip report – and I will hike the Haute Route with you!


  2. Thank you very much to mention our hotel and for the website link. Your blog is very interesting specially the part in Iceland, it’s my dream to visit this country. If you come back in Zinal, of course you are welcome.


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