King of the moun­tain: Via Capri­corn/Via Spluga/Walser­weg Graubün­den

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Destination | Switzerland -

Dis­tance: 48km/65km/300km Days: 3/4-6/mul­ti­ple Dif­fi­culty: Hard

THIS CHAL­LENG­ING CIR­CU­LAR route, which skirts close to the Swiss-Ital­ian border, runs through some of the most dra­matic land­scape of Switzer­land’s sen­sa­tional Graubün­den re­gion, home to pic­turesque Parc Ela and the re­sort of St Moritz. The track tra­verses the stomp­ing ground of the Safien-Rhein­wald ibex colony.

Capri­corn is the Latin/Rhaeto-Ro­manic name for ibex, the heraldic an­i­mal of Graubün­den and the undis­puted king of the moun­tains. About 380 of these ma­jes­tic alpine an­i­mals pop­u­late the hill­sides be­tween the peaks of Piz Bev­erin and Alper­schäl­li­horn, and sight­ing them non­cha­lantly nib­bling moun­tain green­ery on the edge of pre­cip­i­tous cliffs can be the high­light of a hike.

There are three main stages to this 48km loop, and most fit walk­ers will com­plete each day on the trails in 6-8 hours. With 3440m of climb­ing it’s not for the faint of heart or weak of leg, but ef­forts are well re­warded with won­der­ful wildlife view­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, ter­rific trails and mind­bend­ing moun­tain views amid the Adula and Le­pon­tine Alps.

The trail be­gins in Wer­gen­stein, deep within beau­ti­ful Bev­erin Na­ture Park, a 412km2 re­serve that sprawls around the feet of 2998m Piz Bev­erin. The route rises around Alp Tumpriv, passes the pur­ple wa­ters of the Schot­tensee and crosses Car­nusapass to ar­rive at Glas Pass, a much-sto­ried segue be­tween the Dom­leschg and Safien val­leys, where a beer (best sipped on the bal­cony) and a bed awaits at the Moun­tain Ho­tel Bev­erin.

Stage two takes trekkers through high ham­lets heav­ily ac­cented by the Walser cul­ture, which is strong in this area of the Alps. After vis­it­ing the vil­lage of Safien Platz, walk­ers con­tinue via Bäch to Tur­rahus, where moun­tain hos- pital­ity can be found at Berggasthaus Tur­rahus.

Day three de­liv­ers deep, gin-clear moun­tain lakes and views over Schams, as the trail as­cends abruptly into Alper­schälli – the real hang­out of the capri­corn – be­fore loop­ing through Höll­graben­bach and For­cletta digl Lai Grand to ar­rive back in Wer­gen­stein.

For hik­ers who fancy bit­ing off an even big­ger chal­lenge, the Via Spluga is a long-dis­tance, border-cross­ing trail that fol­lows an old mule track to link Thu­sis in Switzer­land and Chi­avenna in Italy via the Hin­ter­rhein­tal (Up­per Rhine Val­ley). The 65km route passes through Bev­erin na­ture park, threads the in­fa­mous Via Mala (Bad Path) Gorge, vis­its Splü­gen, tops out on 2115m Spluga Pass and then de­scends into Italy along Val San Gi­a­como.

Or have a crack at the Walser­weg Graubün­den, an epic 300km trail that traces the tracks of the Walser folk through the high val­leys of Graubün­den in 19 stages, start­ing in San Bernardino and fin­ish­ing in Brand.

Bev­erin Na­tional Park is a multi-day hiker’s dream come true – on an im­mense scale.

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