The Tour of Monte Rosa diaries


In September 2015 I hiked a variant of the Tour of Monte Rosa, a 100-mile circular backpacking route in the Western Alps. This is a superb but fairly tough route incorporating a wide variety of terrain: alpine forest, high mountain environments, fertile valleys, a glacier, and a 3,000m mountain peak (Testa Grigia, not on the main TMR circuit).

For the first time, I composed and broadcast blog posts while on the trail itself. Normally I keep notes in a paper notebooks and write up material for the blog after returning home, but I found the experience of ‘live’ blogging very rewarding and I have received a lot of great feedback from my readers. I think there’s something more immediate about the entries when they’re being posted in real time. Mobile blogging was made possible by a few lightweight items of technology (iPhone 6, folding Bluetooth keyboard, and 7W solar panel) plus the consistently excellent mobile broadband signal in the Alps.

Here are the individual entries from the Tour of Monte Rosa.

Preparations for the Tour of Monte Rosa

Day 1: Zermatt to Täschalp

Day 2: Europaweg stage 1

Day 3: Europaweg stage 2 and the Grächenwald

Day 4: the Balfrin Höhenweg

Day 5: the Monte Moro pass and the Vallee Quarazza

Day 6: Colle del Turlo and Alagna Valsesia

Day 7: the Alencoll and a night above 3,000m

Day 8: the ascent of Testa Grigia

Day 9: the Theodul Glacier and return to Zermatt

Final thoughts

The Alps are amazing; all outdoorsy people know that. But before hiking the TMR I didn’t appreciate the sheer value of this route. It packs in more moments of pure magic per day than I would have believed possible.

There’s a real sense of satisfaction and achievement in circumnavigating an entire mountain range. In hiking the TMR, you develop an intimate knowledge of the Monte Rosa chain: its wildlife and geology, its history, its people on both sides of the divide. Unbelievably spectacular views became so commonplace that, by the end of the trek, I think I’d started to become desensitised to them – it’s that good.

Before I started, I wrote in these pages that ‘this is not a wilderness route’. But, actually, it is. Human infrastructure is everywhere at low altitude, but up high the TMR forms a corridor through (in places) pristine wilderness – a paradise of wildlife and biodiversity unknown in 21st-century Britain. After a few days I started to ignore the towns and the roads, the ski lifts and the buildings. They were like litter on the pavement compared to the sublime natural jewels all around. And there’s so much more than I didn’t get to see: lynx, wild boar, even wolves which can rarely be seen in some parts of the region.

If you open your eyes and your mind to it, the TMR is splendidly, awesomely wild. And it’s been a great stepping stone to bigger and better things further afield.

Comments are closed.