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Europe, Switzerland, The Road to Coire

The Road to Coire. This is the story of a pilgrimage which began in Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn and ended at Coire, the chief city of the canton of Grisons. The year was 1890, the time midsummer, the length of the trek some 138 miles. Four days seemed sufficient time to allow. While the rest of my party chose to take the long railroad journey by way of Lausanne, Berne and Zurich, the open road seemed preferable to me. Two passes had to be crossed, the Furka and the Oberalp, and the valley of the Vorder-Rhein, with its peculiar charm, explored.

It was Friday morning when I shouldered my knapsack and set out by way of St. Niklaus and Stalden for Visp in the Rhone Valley. After lunch I went on to Brig, five miles farther. Some 27 miles lay behind me. In order to be able to cross the Furka Pass on the second day out, I shortened my journey by taking the Swiss Postwagen that afternoon as far as Ulrichen, a distance of 80 miles. The inn was unpretentious but good and not expensive. To reach the head of the valley the next day was an easy walk of seven miles.

Thence the climb to the Furka Pass, an ascent of 2000 feet, was made interesting by the close-up views of the broad sweep of the Rhone Glacier and its crevasses. Soon after midday I arrived at Hospenthal, found a good hotel and decided to spend the night there rather than at Andermatt, which is usually crowded in the summer months. That afternoon I visited the Devil’s Bridge N. of Andermatt. The Reuss falls into a deep gorge here, and towering cliffs above make a most impressive spectacle. Workmen were busy blasting the cliffs to place artillery for the defence of the St. Gotthard Pass.

My second day out had added some 30 miles to my score. Where would my next night be spent? It was Sunday morning and the weather fine when I left Andermatt to cross the Oberalp Pass. Following the long turns of the winding road for six miles, I soon reached the summit of the pass. The ascent was about 2000 feet. From the scenic standpoint the view was disappointing. After a brief rest I pressed on to my goal, the ancient town of Disentis, where the Mittel-Rhein joins the Vorder-Rhein. Thirteen miles lay ahead of me before I could hope for rest and my Sunday dinner. The good folks in the villages through which I passed were attending mass. The churches were open, but the inns were closed until afternoon. I felt in my pockets for a chocolate bar or a crust of bread, all in vain. At long last the Kurhaus at Disentis appeared and, soon after, the table d’hôte dinner. It was followed by a complete rest that afternoon. While I had walked some 21 miles on my third day out, there remained still 36 miles to go if I was to reach Coire for my rendezvous on Monday. Could it be done without the help of the Swiss Postwagen? I hoped so.

As luck would have it, I had the company of a young German on Monday. He volunteered to join me as far as Ilanz, some 18 miles down the valley. The hours passed quickly and pleasantly as we sped on our way. At the picturesque town of Ilanz, high above the Rhine, we had a hearty lunch and enjoyed the good Valtelline wine. I could not persuade the German to go farther, and set forth alone on the last lap of my journey.

The highway led through Flims, Trins and Tamins to Reichenau. The day was well-nigh spent when I reached Reich- enau, where I encountered the railroad. I was weary, and finished the last five miles of my trek to Coire on the train. Except for conveyance by Postwagen and railroad for a matter of 30 miles, I had accomplished my pilgrimage on foot, as is the way of good pilgrims. My reward was a few weeks’ stay at Pontresina, in the heart of the beautiful Engadine, and some good climbing in the Bernina Range.

Charles F. Judson*

*Dr. Judson, a Philadelphia physician who had travelled widely in the Alps, died in 1948.—Ed.