Via Alpina - Traverse of the Alps
1,000 km and +45,000 m, 7 countries
Via Alpina, Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Dolomites, Italy (© A. Gatta)
Via Alpina - Traverse of the Alps
The Via Alpina
is a network of five walking trails across eight European
These five trails cover a total of 5,000 km across the Alps
, offering stunning views and a large variety of landscape in a very rich cultural environment.
After their traverse of Nepal along the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT)
in 2013, Anna and Philippe were looking for a similar challenge.
Excited to discover seven European
countries, they made up their own connection of trails among hundreds of possibilities with a few priorities in mind: less than 30 days, around 1,000 km in distance and the discovery of some of the most beautiful parks of the Alps
Wishing to run across the Triglav, Dolomites, Tyrol, la Bavaria, Interlaken
..., they decided to follow a combination of the red and green Trail of the Via Alpina
To limit the overall distance to 1,000 km, they decided to start in the Triglav National Park (Slovenia)
and finish in Chamonix (France)
From the Triglav
, they followed the Red Trail across Italy, Austria, Germany to Lichtenstein
From there, they switched to the Green trail to Lenk in Switzerland
, they made their own trail to Chamonix, France
They decided to travel light, carrying only the minimum required to be self-sufficient for 5-6 days.
They carried their clothes, sleeping bag, ultra-light tent, stove and food.
They bought some food in the villages and sometimes in the hut and spent a few nights in camping where they shipped some supplies in advance.
Map of the Via Alpina
Overall the trails of Via Alpina
are very good and pretty well marked with signposts and painted marks.
The Via Alpina
web site has tons of information, detailed trail description and GPS tracks.
The map below shows the combination of trails they followed.
From the Trigalv to Chamonix in 25 days
Day 1-5: Triglav (Slovenia) - Filmoorhütte (Austria): 190 km and +11,400 m
We started our traverse at Koca Na Gozdu mountain hut
, below the Vrsic
pass in the Triglav National Park
The rugged peaks of Triglav
offers great scenery and we could have spent more time there, it is worth starting the journey further South to completely cross the park.
Anna in the Triglav National Park, Slovenia (© P. Gatta)
After the Triglav
, we went straight to Ratece
and the famous three borders point, where Slovenia, Austria and Italy borders meet.
From there, the descent and the crossing of Thörl-Maglern
is not so nice until we reach Goriacher Alm
We slept in the tent the first night, glad to not see any bears.
The trail continues along mountain pastures and forest up to the resort of Nassfeld
We slept a bit further in the Lomasti bivouac
Between Nassfeld and Zollnersee Hütte, Austria (© P. Gatta)
The following 3 days we remained on the ridge (border between Austria
The Trail is above the forest, offering 360 degrees view over the Alps
After Zollnersee Hütte, Austria (© P. Gatta)
The trail is sometimes technical and can be challenging and even dangerous if there is some snow.
Expect to be slower than usual and it's worth taking plenty of water as there are not many springs along the way.
Technical trail on the ridge after Filmoorhütte, Austria (© P. Gatta)
Day 6-8: Filmoorhütte (Austria) - Lago di Neves (Italy): 110 km and +5,700 m
Once again the trail after Filmoorhütte
is technical and it is possible to skip Sillianer Hütte
to take a trail more pleasant crossing the lovely mountain pastures and going straight to Moos
The village of Moos
(a few kilometers South of Sexten) marked the end of 4 days spent on the border ridge mainly above 2,000 m.
Lower trail between Filmoorhütte and Moos, Austria. The Dolomites in the background (© A. Gatta)
Entering in the Dolomites
(and South Tyrol
) was a big contrast: extremely hot, crowded but still absolutely beautiful.
The long climb to Refugio Locatelli
with the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
in the background is amazing.
Refugio Locatelli and Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy (© P. Gatta)
The descent on the West side on the rocky trail toward Höhlensteintal
was hot and a bit long.
We bivouacked in a forest and continued our traverse of the Dolomites
the following day which is one the nicest place of the Via Alpina
Sunrise in the Dolomites, Italy (© P. Gatta)
There is no interest to run along the road between Lago Di Braies
and Anterselva di Mezzo
There is a nice Camping at Antholz
there is 1,530 meters non-stop climb to Rieserfernerhütte
, followed by a long descent to Sand in Taufer
Climbing toward Rieserfernerhütte, South Tyrol, Italy (© A. Gatta)
We had a storm after Sand in Taufer
so we avoided the exposed ridge of the Via Alpina
and followed a lower valley (South) through Mühlwald
We continued in really bad weather up to the Lago di Neves
where we found shelter in a barn (thanks to the owner).
Note that despite what is written on certain maps, there are no huts by the lake.
Looking at Lago di Neves from Edelrauthütte, South Tyrol, Italy (© P. Gatta)
Day 9-14: Lago di Neves (Italy) - Biberwier (Austria): 200 km and +9,000 m
After a night spent in a barn sleeping above the cows, we started our trail toward Pfitscherjoch Haus
under a cloudy sky.
The weather became worse and we crossed the Gliderscharte pass
(2,644m) in a storm with less than 50m visibility (thanks to the GPS).
We finally reached the Passo di Vizze hut
The following day the weather slightly improved and we could enjoy the scenery of the valley going to Mayrhofen
(back in Austria), completing the traverse of the Zillertal Alps
Zillertal Alps in the distance seen from above Rastkogelhütte, Austria (© A. Gatta)
we reached the city of Schwaz, Tyrol, Austria
where we enjoyed hot shower and good food.
We left Schwaz
and we crossed the Karwendel mountain range
, a Natural Park and one of our preferred place of the Via Alpina
Amazing scenery of the Karwendel mountain range, Austria (© P. Gatta)
is located North of Innsbruck
It is a relatively small mountain range with peaceful alpine pasture, meadow and steep vertical limestone walls.
Karwendel, Austria (© P. Gatta)
We spent the night in the Falkenhütte
(bivouacking is forbidden in the park) and continued our trail in the Karwerndel
the next day.
Falkenhütte and the Laliderer Spitze behind, Karwerndel, Austria (© P. Gatta)
We completed our traverse of the Karwendel
under a heavy thunderstorm, finding shelter in a café of Scharnitz
before continuing our day to the camping of Reindlau
We left Reindlau
early in the morning, crossing hundreds of Salamandras along the way.
After a 1,420 m non-stop climb in Wetterstein mountains
, we passed the Meilerhütte
, a quite unfriendly hut.
The hut is located on pass which marks the border with Germany
Breath taking descent toward the Reintal valley, Germany (© A. Gatta)
The 5 km with 1,500 meters drop to the Reintal valley
is tough for the knees but like the Karwendel
, it is another wonder of the Via Alpina
This beautiful valley, located less than 10 km South of Garmisch Partenkirchen
, progressively rises up toward the West, up to the top of the Zugspitze
, the highest mountain in Germany
You can expect a lot of people but it is a place not to be missed.
The Reintal valley and the Zugspitze in the background, Germany (© P. Gatta)
Before the top of the Zugspitze
, the Via Alpina
turns South to the Gatterl pass
and returns in Austria
We ultimately reached the camping in Biberwier
after 40km and +2,640m.
Day 15-18: Biberwier (Austria) - Gaflei (Liechtenstein) - Untersass (Switzerland): 140 km and +6,500 m
We took a bus from Biberwier
to Weißenbach am Lech
as we didn't find this part so interesting.
We resumed our trail at Weißenbach am Lech
but the following 18 km were not so nice neither (road and dirt track) and could have been skipped too.
Once again the rain came and we reached Prinz Luitpoldhaus
in pouring rain.
Between Prinz Luitpoldhaus and Oberstdorf, Germany (© P. Gatta)
The descent from Prinz Luitpoldhaus
was nice with plenty of waterfalls and a dramatic atmosphere.
it is better to take a bus to Birgsau
as walking along the road has no interest.
(Germany) up to Hotchtannberg
(Austria) the Via Alpina
is very scenic and pleasant again.
On the way to Hotchtannberg, Germany / Austria border (© P. Gatta)
The Trail continues across mountain pastures all the way to Buchboden
There is a nice camping further down, just before Raggal
the Via Alpina
follows the road for 35 km so it's highly recommended to hitchhike or take a bus.
Mountain pastures on the way to Buchboden, Austria (© P. Gatta)
we left Austria
to enter in Liechtenstein
The climb from Feldkirch
is long, +1,900m for 13km.
Close to the top of Gafleispitz, Liechtenstein (© A. Gatta)
The trail below Alpspitz
is very technical, sometimes dangerous and exposed (especially during thunderstorm).
The exposed trail below Alpspitz, Liechtenstein (© P. Gatta)
We left the Red Trail of the Via Alpina
(stage R57) at Gaflei
and switched to the Green Trail (C1).
The section from Gaflei
(Liechtenstein) to Schwendi im Weisstannental
(Switzerland) is mainly along big road, train and cities.
Fortunately, there are plenty of buses to escape and get back to the mountains.
We bivouacked in a nice place not far from Untersass
Above Untersass, Switzerland (© P. Gatta)
Day 19-25: Untersass (Switzerland) - Chamonix (France): 280 km and +12,700 m
We left Untersass
early in the morning in a typical Swiss
pasture landscape: perfect green grass, colorful flowers, happy cows, waterfall and perfectly well marked trail.
Peaceful scenery after Richetlipass, Switzerland (© A. Gatta)
The Trail crosses several nice passes and villages, the only "so-so" section is around Linthal
is not so nice, the valley of Urnerboden
, just after, is beautiful.
Perfect meadow surrounded by step limestone cliffs, waterfalls and dominated by Clariden
, a 3,267 m peak.
Beautiful valley of Urnerboden, Switzerland (© A. Gatta)
The valley ends by the Klausenpass
and the trail continues along the road for 22+ km to Altdorf
After a nice bivouac close to the Surenenpass
, we continued the trail to Engelberg
Close to Surenenpass, Switzerland (© A. Gatta)
, the Trail goes up straight under the ski lift which is not so exciting.
Fortunately, the scenery is amazing again, especially after the Jochpass
Close to Jochpass, Switzerland (© A. Gatta)
We passed the Tannensee
lake and continued on a scenic trail to Meiringen
Tannensee, Switzerland (© P. Gatta)
is another highlight of this traverse with breathtaking views over the Eiger
... on the flip side, it's crowded, noisy and horribly expensive.
We were finally happy to escape the crowd and discover the lovely village of Mürren
After Mürren, Switzerland (© P. Gatta)
The section from Mürren
is really nice and is a perfect representation of the Swiss Alps: green pasture, snowy peaks, pretty, clean and quiet villages.
The Via Alpina
is perfectly marked and it is easy to find the trail.
Close to Rotstockhütte, Switzerland (© P. Gatta)
We spent a fortune in a bakery at Adelboden
, trying to get some energy to reach Lenk
, the end of the Green Via Alpina
The climb to the Hahnenmoospass
has no interest; the trail follows the road and goes under the ski lifts.
We were one of the few going up, crossing scootering descending full speed on the road...
The descent from Hahnenmoospass
is not exciting either, especially under the rain, fortunately there was a bus...
Lenk seen from the trail to Rawilpass, Switzerland (© P. Gatta)
we planned to make our own connection of Trail to join Chamonix
Unfortunately the weather changed for the worse and it snowed above 2,000m, so we had to change our plans.
We finally decided to go South, cross the Rawilpass
to join Sion – Matigny
We crossed the pass in the storm with less than 50 meters visibility (thanks to the GPS again).
We reached Sion
The final stage to Chamonix, France (© P. Gatta)
We continued our journey in poor weather and finally reached Chamonix
after 25 days, exhausted but happy.
Crossing a mountain range is always a great experience with plenty of up’s and down’s. This one is no exception.
If we were do it again, we would completely skip some sections and spend more time in the nicest places.
Chamonix, France (© A. Gatta)