Ken Baldry's Alpine Pages

Correspondence on general matters

Many people e-mail me with questions about the Alps. Please feel free to ask anything you want to know.
Below are some e-mail exchanges I have had with people interested in having Alpine adventures of their own.
Earliest at the top, latest at the bottom, links to them below.


This correspondence has been rearranged by topic on a number of pages, as it was getting out-of-hand. I have edited my replies to take account of later information as well.

Links on this page

Swiss Pass Route
High Pass Route
Swiss Alpine Club Membership
Potential hazards
Wild Swiss campsites

Other pages

Zermatt questions
Monte Rosa Tour questions
Bernese Oberland questions
Questions about other places

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General enquiries

Swiss Alpine Pass route

From: Paul Nickodem, e-mail Subject: Big plod
>Howdy Ken I'm an Alaskan climber and long distance hiker and I was surfing for information on the Swiss Alpine Pass route. I read your account over all the years and found it quite fascinating. I love long distance hiking and I have completed many hikes both here in Alaska and overseas. The big one for Europe was the Alpine Pass route and I've only heard bits and pieces over here about it, and I would love to know more. Can you direct me to a good source of information as far as maps and places to resupply and so on? I want to thank you for sharing your experiences with us all online it has been a valuable resource. Peace on your path. Paul Nickodem Anchorage, Alaska

To: Paul Nickodem Subject: Big plod
Hello Paul, I'm glad my site is of use to you. The scene in Europe is different from the USA because of millennia of development, which means that you can stay or camp in the alpine villages between stages, something which I did not mention, as Yerpeens take it for granted. There is also the Alpine Club hut system. I am a member of the Swiss AC & can use any Austrian or German huts at a discount as a result. The only stage which demands hut use or mountain camping is the Rhaetikon (described on XSwiss/alpine11.htm) where I used two huts. Thus, resupply is no problem but you don't need to do it. Swiss village grocers tend to stay open until 1830, by which time, you should be down.
Source books: I never set out to do this tour originally & resolved to complete it after my Father's early death in 1993. (He was only 77 & we were planning an Austrian Trip that year). However, there is a book by Kev Reynolds for a largely similar trip called, 'The Swiss Passes Tour', Cicerone Press. His objective was dissimilar, as I wanted to walk every inch from Austria to France. The Swiss maps are the Landeskarte (National Survey) available from big city map shops, in my case, Stanfords in Long Acre, London. They are very good & I use the 1:50,000 which are quite adequate. I have been 'improving' the route since finishing in 1995 & next year, will do the Chinzig Pass. In 2001, I did the Surenen (which is the toughest) in the 'right' direction.
If you decide to do this tour & pass through London, drop in for the night & we can go through the maps etc. It would take you 28 days sensibly to do it all. Best wishes, Ken

Hint for all readers of this page:-

E-mail Paul & ask to be put on his mailing list. He goes to interesting places.

High Pass Route

From: Paul Nickodem Subject: Alp questions
Hey Ken Thanks for being "nice" about the Brit jibes in my article! I love the interplay of words when I go traveling and thats just one among manyinstances. Hey I'm going to go on the High Pass Route next year and I was wondering ... can you connect that trail into the French Alps to make it a multi-month trip? Is there a defined route going around all the Alps? I want to go as far as I can go in about two-three months of high pass hiking and I'd love to hear your input with all you experience out there.
Talk to you real soon. Thanks again See you on the trails.. Paul

To: Paul Nickodem Subject: Re: Alp questions
Hello Paul, As well as extending my tour into the French Alps, which won't take you far, as they soon run out, you can start a lot further east in Austria in, say, Innsbruck. With all that time available, you could start with my Round Stubai Tour, which gets you back to Innsbruck. Then, set out west along the Karwendel Gebirge north of the town (Berghotel Seegrube - Neue Magdeburger Hut - Seefeld). It is very easy to travel from hut to hut in Austria & much more sensible than trying to camp. At Landeck, go up the Inn Valley to the Swiss border & stay in Samnuan. Then more huts (Heidelberger Hut - Jamtal Hut - Piz Buin Hotel at Bielerhohe) to Gargellen. (This is on my schedule for another year). Then, follow my Rhaetikon alternative start to Steg in Liechtenstein (hotel closed on Tuesdays). A boring day down to the Rhine & up to Weisstannen. Then the Foo & Richetli Passes to Linthal. These last two are in the Appendices on my web site. I intend to do the Chinzig Pass from Durrenboden to Altdorf this year to fill in that gap in Appendix One. At the other end of my Cross Swiss tour, you need to head further south & go to Chamonix. I have no information on the passes down there & no maps but, time permitting, you might like to head south into Italy, which is always delightful & go to the Gran Paradiso National Park. It will pay you to join a European Alpine Club, Swiss, Austrian or German, as you get a discount in the huts which soon exceeds the subscription. Try the Austrian. I am in the Swiss, which is the dearest but it is a tax-deductible business expense, as membership opens doors at our banking clients. Any more info, just ask. Best wishes, Ken

From: Paul Nickodem Subject: More Everest
Hey Ken Heres a few more shots of Everest. Hope you like them. Also one more question; Is it possible to do a trek around all of the Alps kind of a circumnavigation so to speak? Thinking about that. Cheers Paul

To: Paul Nickodem Subject: Re: More Alps
Hello Paul, Photos much appreciated. As for a circular tour of the Alps, they are the result of the Italian Plate crashing into Europe, so they are linear. (Italian bad driving Again). However, if you follow the itinerary I gave you to France & turn left (as it were) at the end, you can do a pass tour which picks up my last summer tour (No. 5 on the Alpine web site) to Breuil and then the Round Monte Rosa Tour as far as Saas Grund (No. 3 on the web) in the opposite direction from my way. There, you can take a high-level path to Gspon & go over the Gebidem & Bistinen Passes to the top of the Simplon. (I've done this - it takes a day). Now it gets a bit speculative. Head for Ernen village - I will have to look it up. Then, cross the Rhone Valley & go up to Riederalp. (The Swiss Auto Club map, which is 1-250,000, is good for overall planning & probably available in the US). Along to Bettmeralp & the Fiescher Glacier, then back into the valley. There are further obvious routes that get you back to Innsbruck eventually but I have to dash & will look into it later. (This is all off the top of my head). Best wishes, Ken

Swiss Alpine Club membership

From: dstormoe Subject: Re: swiss alpine club membership
Hi Ken: Thank you for your prompt reply. I live in the US (the Midwest, specifically) and am wondering if I should simply write a note to Dr. M Eddowes about a Swiss Alpine Club membership or is there a short-cut, such as a phone number or e-mail address? I would also welcome your opinion regarding trekking poles - would you recommend them for the Monte Rosa tour and, if so, a single pole or two poles? Again, thanks for allowing others, like myself, to benefit from your experience. Doris

To: dstormoe Subject: Re: swiss alpine club membership
Hi Doris, Writing to Mark Eddowes or
e-mailing him is the short-cut! but you can mention my name. There is quite a rigmarole about joining, which he will protect you from. I don't use trekking poles but many people use two, I have noticed. My friend Michey swears by them.

Potential hazards

From: Darlene Hughes, e-mail Subject: Re: Potential hazards
Hi Ken, Thanks for the quick response and for the suggestions. I have one last question for you, which is probably more in line with your expertise. Because I'm totally unfamiliar with that region of the world, I'm wondering what the so-called "uncontrollable hazards" are of trekking in the Alps, assuming one is properly prepared and experienced. (i.e., I'm accustomed to hyper-vigilant travel through grizz and polar bear populated areas. Are there any animals of that nature, such as venomous snakes or large cats? Are people ever a problem?) Thanks again, Darlene

To: Darlene Hughes Subject: Re: Potential hazards
Hello Darlene, The "uncontrollable hazards" are glaciers & stonefall. The latter can usually be avoided by sense. There are no dodgy animals but some have rabies, although I have never come across this, either personally or by report. People have never been a problem. The 'natives are friendly'. After all, their livelihood in many cases depends on travellers. Perhaps you should go to stay in a base, like Zermatt or Grindelwald & walk the surrounding area to get a feel for the general environment. There are always cheap hotels & good food in the Alps. The Swiss Alpine Club huts are arranged for climbing mountains, not conveniently for touring but the Austrian huts are.

Swiss "Wild" Campsights

From: Gregg Bergae Subject: Swiss "Wild” Swiss Campsights
Ken, I haven’t browsed you web-site in depth as yet, but could you possibly tell me if the Swiss allow any wild campsites, or if it’s restricted to formal sites only?
Being an experienced American backpacker, the idea of staying in a hotel, other than for acclimating, a bit of a cop out!
Some sites I’ve visited say it’s acceptable, others that it’s verbotten! Please clear this up for me!
Regards, Gregg Bergae

To: Gregg Bergae Subject: Re: Swiss "Wild” Campsites
Hi Gregg, There’s nothing very wild in Europe - it has all been worked over for millennia. In Switzerland, it is up to the local authority where you can camp but it is usually ok above the snowline. I have seen people camp well off the beaten track & nobody seems to mind but all land is owned, sometimes by the village commune, so you could be turfed off. To climb Swiss mountains, nearly everybody uses the club huts, which are by no means hotels! One sleeps on a long wide bunk with everyone else & the hut guardian obligingly wakes you up between 0200 & 0400, depending which hill you are going up. Almost every village has a formal camp-site with loos & sometimes, even showers.


From: J.W.LEYLAND, e-mail Subject: Alpine Weather

Hello, I'm planning to head out to the Chamonix area this summer for both climbing and mountaineering and was just wondering when you advised going to take advantage of the most stable weather. As last year I went out in july and it rained all month. Cheers John

To: J.W.LEYLAND Subject: Re: Alpine Weather

Hello John, It's a brave man who predicts the weather in the Alps. On 9/9/1976, it was hot in the Stubaital & girls were out mowing in their bikinis, together with everyone else. The next day, there was an inch of snow on the ground. Nevertheless, I used to find early September usually the best time. I am going on 21/6/2001 but with ice axe & crampons, to be on the safe side. Keep an eye on:- for the web-cams. I don't know which web-cams they have in France, though.

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Contact: Ken Baldry, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him URL:
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