Zermatt’s mighty Matterhorn,
seen over the Riffel Lake
at sunset © Switzerland
HAVE PRAM, WILL HIKE
Dreaming of Alpine adventures with a baby in tow, this
first-time mother takes to the scenic trails of Switzerland.
WORDS Flip Byrnes
What’s an adventurous new mother to do? Having been pregnant in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France, dreams persisted of taking my five-month old daughter back to the mountains to soak up sunrays on endless summer days. Easier said than done. Most mountain areas sport single-track goat paths that are less than ideal for prams.
Fortunately, Switzerland is another story. Not only does this chocolate box of a country boast 60,000 kilometres of hiking trails, but 67 are officially accessible by wheelchair – and thus perfect for prams toting bubs too young for backpacks. We point our wheels in the direction of Zermatt , the St Tropez of the European Alps. Yes, we’re going hiking… with a pram.
DAY ONE Sunnegga-Findeln-Zermatt (5 hours)
In the shadows of Zermatt’s ancient chalets, the air is thrillingly crisp and I’m eager to set off on a new adventure. After a three-minute funicular ride from Zermatt to Sunnegga, past restaurants dribbling down the mountainside like tumbling crumbs from a Michelin table, the scenery gives way to sun-blackened larch buildings amid flowering pastures.
Unlike the hikes to come, this one is not listed as an Obstacle-Free, wheelchair accessible route. That’s because it is ‘Obstacle Full’. Today, we put the ‘E’ in Extreme Pram Hiking and five hours later arrive in Zermatt for a recovery rosé, calf muscles aching from anchoring a downhill pram. But if it was adventure we wanted, it
was adventure we had.
DAY TWO Furi–Zermatt, via Zmutt (2 hours)
Today we prudently stick to an official Obstacle-Free route. The route is so sedate, it’s been renamed ‘Handbag Hiking’. The people ahead actually have handbags, the
path is asphalt, and there’s a high incidence of inappropriate footwear.
The path is so smooth that Lotte slumbers on, missing the shimmering view of Zermatt below and our arrival in the picturesque hamlet of Zmutt. Threading through a tiny cluster of 500-year-old weatherbeaten buildings nestled into a valley surrounded by towering peaks, we find today’s only ‘obstacle’, the higly regarded restaurant, Z’Mutt. Lotte wakes and, against the background clink of ice cubes on crystal, we watch wind ripple across the fields and clouds circle like hawks.
It’s a heady mix of mountain purity and
gourmet dining, a fairly addictive mélange.
The handbag hiking route? It gets a big
thumbs up from me.
DAY THREE Zermatt–Stellisee Lake (2.5 hours)
Although it’s warm in Zermatt, I pack the pram for the Arctic – we’re ascending almost 1000 metres to an elevation of 2537 metres. Upon exiting the cable car, cool wind nips at our heels, we’re utterly alone and it’s slightly eerie. We are walking on a lovely, flat gravelled fire track that’s so far above the world, it seems parallel with heaven.
A short 20 minutes later, the lake reveals itself; a sapphire surrounded by cotton grass growing along the shore, providing splashes of white among green-brown meadow
hues. A fisherman raises his eyebrows. “Une poussette (a pram)?” he queries. I grin inwardly, remembering the hard hike through Findeln. Lake Stellisee, Monsieur? Piece
We sit quietly by the water, my daughter and I, playing with edelweiss, rugged up against the breeze. To be among mountains with my new bundle has brought me the
epitome of contentment, and I know this moment of new motherhood will be memorable for many years to come.
As the first big adventure with a baby, experiencing the world in a new way is exciting. It has also become an assurance that with some logistics and inspiration, travel
with a small one is more than possible. In Zermatt, the sky is literally the limit.
This article appeared in volume 8 of Five Star Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.