Walker’s Haute Route – Stages 11 & 12 Cabane Bella Tola to St Niklaus

My seventh day on the Haute Route, not the most enjoyable but the scenery still continued to surprise and impress. It was also the last of my double stage days. Most people walk a stage a day, the Haute Route has 14. Each stage involves around 5-6 hours walking, which for me would mean finishing by lunchtime, too early. Instead for six days I did two stages a day, which was just about doable, but made for some long days. This day for example was 29km, with ~1,500m up and ~2,000m down.

An early start at Cabane Bella Tola was rewarded by seeing the sunrise over the 270 degree mountain panorama, including the distinctive Matterhorn.

Some of my favourite photos of the day were of the nearby Lac de la Bella Tola, which was like a natural infinity pool, stunningly still and deep in colour.

I got a little distracted taking photos though and missed the turn in the track, spending the next 45 minutes slightly lost. I was in the right area and came across a couple more lakes offering wonderful reflections but it wasn’t the best start to the day.

I finally rejoined the track at another spot, the rather lovely and again reflective Lac de L’Armina.

From here it was a relatively short climb to Meidpass, after which I passed by yet another lovely alpine lake.

It was then a long descent down into the valley, passing a small collection of buildings at Ober Stafel, including these sizeable wigwams.

Having come all the way down the side of the valley I then started a >1,000m ascent up the other side, stopping briefly in Gruben to check out the church.

As I headed up the hill I passed by the flash looking Hotel Schwarz.

Ober Grüobu Stafel had a couple of typical Swiss farm buildings.

To reach the 2,894m Augstbordpass was a two and a half hour slog from Gruben. It wasn’t particularly steep, apart from at the end, but felt long with relatively unchanging views.

I got to the top of the pass anticipating a different landscape on the other side, based on most of the passes on the Haute Route so far. Sadly the views were pretty much the same in both directions…

It was steep and slippery on the way down, followed by lots of boulder fields to cross and narrow ledges to navigate, not the most enjoyable walking.

Thankfully after an hour and a half the effort was rewarded by one of the most stunning viewpoints of the whole Haute Route. From Twära the valley felt endless, with snow capped mountains and a huge glacier opposite. Photos can’t really capture the sense of scale and awe.

A steep descent brought me down to the traditional Swiss village of Jungen, a rather pleasant place, particularly the church.

It was also home to a cable car, a wonderfully Swiss way of exploring the mountains. Normally I’d walk everywhere but when faced with a steep 800m descent or a ten minute ride in a cable car I took the later. Much easier on the knees and gave me a little more time in St Nicklaus.

St Nicklaus was one of the largest towns on the Haute Route, home to three restaurants! The church was sizeable, with a modern hall attached to an old looking tower, by a varied cemetery.

After a long day it was easy to justify a sizeable dinner…

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