Into the Swiss blue yonder - alpine ridge walk offers non-stop views
By Stephanie Guenzler Aug 30, 2011, 8:40 GMT
Stoos, Switzerland - One of Switzerland's most delightful alpine hikes gets off to a superlative start. The funicular railway which takes visitors to the car-free summer and winter resort of Stoos is billed as being the steepest of its kind worldwide.
Ivan Steiner of the local Morscach-Stoos tourist board is proud of the bright-red Stoos Express which whisks tourists via Schlattli to the Stoos plateau at around 1,300 metres and he sings its praises.
'I'm just glad I don't have to walk up that bit,' remarks a Swiss passenger perched on a wooden bench. His bulging calves confirm a wealth of trail-walking experience. He clambers out halfway to the top at Klingenstock - a pleasant spot amid picturesque alpine meadows at 635 metres. The only sound to be heard is that of chiming cow bells.
For visitors who prefer less exertion, a chair lift with comfortably upholstered seats travels on to the Klingenstock-Fronalpstock Ridge Walk. Five minutes into the ride, passengers are already enthusing about the fantastic views which take in Lake Lucerne, with its deep turquoise water, and the high Alps with their eternal covering of ice.
With the morning sun warming their backs, the hikers have between 90 minutes and three hours to reach the top of Fronalpstock peak which soars to 1,922 metres above sea level.
The time they take depends on their level of stamina and how often they stop to take photographs. Climbing experience is not necessary for this outing but the walk is intended for sure-footed hikers with a good head for heights. Families with children are not uncommon but they tend to be Swiss nationals.
The view ahead is reminiscent of the Great Wall of China, an endless trodden path weaving its way up and down and across the landscape to Furgelli via via Rot Turm and Huser Stock. Fixed chains help walkers to scramble up the steeper passages but there are only a few opportunities to catch one's breath along the way. According to Ivan Steiner, this is deliberate since the best viewing points are equipped with rustic tables and wooden benches.
It would be easy to spend hours gazing out over this imposing alpine landscape, with its sparkling lakes and majestic mountains. There is certainly time enough to ponder the odd, terrace-like furrows stamped into the green slopes by the livestock roaming these parts. Way below is also one of the most historically-revered places in the whole of Switzerland - the mountain meadow on Lake Lucerne known as the Ruetli.
It was here in the Swiss canton of Uri that the Old Swiss Confederacy came into being on August 1, 1291. According to legend, three brave envoys from the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden swore an oath here on a plan of common action which later spawned the Confoederatio Helvetica. These days the meadow is holy ground to the Swiss and it can only be approached on foot or by boat.
The same applies to the Schiller Stone, a rock shaped like a obelisk. Author Friedrich Schiller's drama Wilhelm Tell is dedicated to it. The play, which appeared in 1804, played a major role in popularising the Swiss struggle for independence.
The last section of the ridge walk calls for stamina but the reward is worth the effort. From the generous restaurant viewing platform ten lakes can be spotted, along with the Rigi and Pilatus peaks which tower above Lucerne.