- Day 2: Daubensee
- Distance: 15km
- Refreshments: Bottom and top of the cable car, and at Hotel Schwarenbach on the route.
This walk is amongst the high peaks and takes you to Daubensee, a lovely lake amongst the mountains. We knew the weather was forecast to be good with no low cloud, and hence we would get great views. Also with the high point of the walk being at 2206m, we knew we needed good weather – otherwise it could be a very different walk being so exposed to the elements! It is not recommended to do this walk before mid-June, as deep pockets of snow tend to remain on parts of the path. If you are thinking of doing it before this date, I would advise you to ask a local what the conditions are like up there.
The track is good all the way along, so although we did it in hiking boots, walking trainers would be fine. You could also do this walk on a bike instead if you wanted!
Sunnbüel Cable Car
To start the route you need to take the Sunnbüel cable car up the mountain. It is possible to walk the 3km from the hotel to the cable car station (if you did the day 1 walk, you will have passed the cable car on the way back into Kandersteg). However, we decided to walk to the train station and get the bus, which leaves at 44 minutes past the hour.
As the whole of the bus descended onto the cable car, and the early morning bikers were going for a second run and therefore also hopping onto the cable car, there was a bit of a queue. However, it moves fairly quickly as they squeeze a lot of you in. As you ascend, look out for the road below chiselled out of the rock face. This leads into Gasterntal valley – so a road that we knew we would be going on later in the week! It really is an impressive road. To the right you will be able to see the Gallihorn (2284m) which separates the two valleys of Schwarenbach and Alpbach.
Start of the walk
Once at the top, you will see that there are some nice wooden seats so you can admire the view before you even start! As you start walking away up to your left are the Altels (3629m) and further ahead to the left the Rinderhorn (3453m). It is a very straightforward path. You are basically going straight on, however it is signposted ‘Spittelmatte / Schwarenbach / Gemmi Pass’. You will be able to hear the soothing sound of the cow bells as you walk this route.
We stayed on this winding path, stopping to take many photos of the incredible scenery. Make sure you know how to take a panoramic shot as you will definitely want to on this walk! There are numerous benches along the route (the Swiss are very good at placing lots of seating!) as it winds along, gently descending into the flat bottom of the Schwarenbach valley. We crossed over a lovely bubbling stream, which complemented the cow bells nicely.
After walking along the valley for a short distance we passed a little hut that sold some fresh farm produce. With it being warm, and not needing any supplies for the walk, we continued on our way. However, it seemed quite popular. Up to the left we could see a glacier in the distance, which was a stark reminder of how these alpine pastures were the site of a tragedy in 1895. The lower section of a glacier on the Altels suddenly collapsed into the valley, crushing farmers and their cattle. You will be able to see a plaque on the rock to the right commemorating and naming the victims. We stopped here to take a moment to think of the victims. We knew there was a memorial geocache near the plaque, so we decided to find it. Our first of three that day!
Continuing along the flat path we passed a marker stone ‘B+W+1957’ which is the cantonal boundary. We were now walking in the French speaking region of Valais. Just further up from the marker stone, on the left we passed a large stone with the two cantonal flags painted on it. This was much more impressive than the previous marker stone, so make sure you don’t miss it! You may also see some marmots around this area, so keep your eyes peeled.
The path then climbed steadily for about a kilometre, with the immediate landscape becoming more rocky and barren. However, the view into the valley below and where you have just walked, is spectacular, and a perfect excuse to stop and catch your breath halfway up! Do be aware of the crazy but impressive cyclists also cycling up the hill. There weren’t many, but they still were going slightly faster than us!
The track eventually levelled off, and shortly afterwards we arrived at the Schwarenbach Hotel. This is the former customs post on the old frontier that separated the once-independent Valais from the Swiss Confederation. It has previously had some famous customers including Lenin, Picasso, Mark Twain and Alexandre Dumas.
We decided we would have a break here, and thought an ice cream was a great reward for getting up the first hill. We looked at what ice cream they had, which was advertised on a little kiosk outside, and went in and ordered. Blimey, had we known how much confusion this would cause, we might not have bothered! Clearly most people don’t ask for ice cream – and they didn’t seem to know what they had! However, after they had finally found them and determined what they could offer us, we ordered two strawberry cornettos. It was a perfect place to have them – looking out over the beautiful valley floor, surrounded by mountains.
After finishing our ice cream, we continued onwards and upwards! The path continued to climb steadily for another 2km, until it once again levelled out. It was here we found our second cache, and I dropped off my trackable. We met a French walker who was also looking for the cache…and found it easily with us there signing the book!
Upon going over a final ridge we suddenly saw the spectacular Daubensee. This can still be frozen in late May – which highlights the altitude you are now at. The lake fills a long, undrained basin at 2206m and is the highest of the natural lakes in this area. In late July each year the traditional Schäferfest takes place on the Gemmi Pass. Originally a festive meeting of shepherds from the cantons, today crowds of visitors and flocks of sheep gather around the lake shore to eat raclette and grass (and drink beer and water!).
The lake makes a great picnic spot. So, we found a bench and had a lovely peaceful picnic on the edge of the shore overlooking the lake. An extra bonus was that we had a chocolate bar with our lunch today!! After soaking in the view and enjoying our picnic, we headed back down.
If you want, you could continue on to the Gemmi Pass. The Gemmi is a very old pass which is said to have been used as early as the Bronze Age. As late as the end of the 19th century many tourists used donkey carts to cross the pass. To reach the pass you need to walk for about 2.5km along the eastern shore of the lake, towards a cable car on the skyline. You will then reach the Gemmi Pass (2322m). Here there is the opportunity for another pit stop at the Hotel Wildstrubel. The fantastic views from the pass southwards overlook the Rhône valley towards the snow-capped mountains of the Matterhorn and Weisshorn region.
We decided not to do this, as my knee had been playing up the day before, and we also didn’t want to have to rush our walk to catch the last gondola back down. I firmly believe you should enjoy the walk, as in the journey itself, and appreciate what is around, rather than just rushing and not paying attention to what you are passing.
We retraced our steps downhill to the Schwarenbach Hotel. After going past the hotel, we continued to retrace our steps, and found our third geocache, where Catherine placed her minion trackable. Then instead of going down the winding wide path we came up, we noticed a smaller path to the right just before the downhill sections that still curved downwards. We decided to take this path, and we were glad we did. It was actually much more peaceful, amongst greener scenery, and less steep. So I would even recommend taking this one up as well as down. We came out to rejoin the main path just before the stone with the cantonal flags on it (so on the way up, it would be just after that stone on the left).
We continued to retrace our steps until we shortly afterwards arrived at the Arvenseeli signpost at a height of 1889m (this was just before the hut that was selling farm produce on the left). Turning left here across the smooth grass, we wound our way amongst boulders, heather and conifers. It was lovely to have a complete change of scenery, and to be walking off the main path. We passed a herd of goats, one of which was very friendly, and seemed to prefer the grass I gave him, rather than the grass he already had – well as they say, the grass is always greener….!
We then arrived at the first of the Arvenseeli lakes, nestling amongst the rocks and trees. There were a few people paddling in the lake on the other side….so if you fancy freshening your feet up, then this is the place. We continued round the left of the lake, and were meant to come across a second lake. However, we didn’t. We are assuming it was dried up when we passed it. Nevertheless we carried on, and continued to walk through lots of lovely alpine flowers – we even came across a beautiful oak spider nestling in a flower.
The final section
Carrying on ahead on a narrow path, we crossed another grassy area, and then climbed up a slight slope to meet a wider track at a signpost. Turning right, signed ‘Sunnbüel’, we passed the towering cliffs of the Ueschinengrat ridge. They really did look quite impressive but intimidating. Staying on the track, we went through further open grass land, and eventually came back to the cable car. We timed it well, so that we got the cable car back down, and could shortly get on the bus back to the train station. Again you could walk back to the hotel from here, it’s the same walk as you did at the end of day 1.
So if you are looking for a walk in the high peaks, that leads to Daubensee (a spectacular lake), you don’t mind a few ascents and descents, and also want somewhere that has refreshments along the way – then this walk is an absolute must! We definitely don’t regret doing it!
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