From the Grimsel Pass up to the Sidelhorn
Exhilarating hike along the continental divide at the heart of the Alps to a panoramic peak. High-altitude circuit with glorious views of glaciers, lakes, snowy peaks and the whole upper Rhône valley.
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The upper stretches of Valais and the Rhône valley reach to the heart of the Alps. The historical passes that have linked northern and southern Europe for centuries bridge the continental divide here. Tunnels under the Alps now carry the bulk of the traffic, but the historical villages of the region bear witness to its former importance for trade. The journey up to the starting point of this hike – the Grimsel Pass – is an adventure in itself. The road climbs from the village of Oberwald first to Gletsch – gateway to the Furka Pass – before tackling a spectacular sequence of hairpin bends up to the Grimsel Pass, at an altitude of 2,164 m. The pass was long the key trade route between central Switzerland and Lombardy: Swiss cheese and cattle travelled south, while mules carried wine, corn, rice and olive oil to the north. From the pass, the trail leads up the ridge to the west. The views are sensational. To the north lie the lakes, hydroelectric reservoirs and glaciers of the Bernese Oberland: a raindrop falling on this side joins the Aare – the longest river entirely in Switzerland – ultimately to flow into the North Sea. To the left of the path, walkers look out over the iconic 4,000-metre peaks of Valais, and down into the lush valley of the young Rhône, at the very start of its journey past the vineyards of Valais – the largest in Switzerland – to Lake Geneva and ultimately the Mediterranean Sea. This ridge hike between two worlds culminates at the highest point of the route, the Sidelhorn (2,764 m). Soon after, the trail leaves the ridge and drops down into the Rhône valley. At first the path leads downhill to the sparkling waters of the Jostsee, before turning north-east to return to the Grimsel Pass. Highlights Thrilling walk along a high ridge on the European continental divide Experience of the heart of the Swiss Alps: historical passes, powerhouse of green energy Glorious views of glaciers, lakes, snow-capped peaks and the villages of the lush Rhône valley