Unexpectedly awesome snowshoe outing

It was a beautiful mild day for February in Switzerland with temperatures near 14 degrees celcius at the lower elevations. We decided to take advantage of the recent fresh snow and abundant sunshine to head up to the hills near our house (20 minute drive) to do an afternoon snowshoe walk.

We got a late start at 2pm because we love to sleep in on Sunday mornings and have our traditional two cups of coffee in bed while we peruse the internet to entertain ourselves. Arrived to Les Paccots near Chatel St. Denis where we saw the full parking lot of cars with only one spot left for us. I had done this snowshoe trail (called Rathvel) last year by myself and remembered what a great view there was from the top, a 360 degree vista of mountains and lake. I was eager to show it to my boyfriend, Mike, and see him impressed as I was the first time. I opted to do the route in the reverse order however to mix it up a bit. I also wanted to arrive at the restaurant next to the ski slope first so we could have a late lunch and then head up to the top for the late afternoon lighting and a possible sunset view.

Before reaching the restaurant — this was the flat easy part after initial climb from the parking lot

At 3:30pm we ate a delicious ‘croûte au fromage’ for the energy we would need to get up the steep hill to the top. We left the restaurant and headed up at 4pm just as all the skiers and everyone else was coming down and ending their day.

Path to the top… step by step we got there!

After one hour of constant uphill, we arrived to the flat wide open space where we could see in the distance Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), and the silhouette of the French Alps. We could see for miles and miles in every direction as it was a clear, crisp day — a rarity in the Swiss winter months.

All bundled up for the windy section of the walk

We made our way to the landmark cross and took tons of photos of the views in every direction. Oddly enough, we arrived to the cross at the same time as one other guy did (and we thought we would be the only brave souls to be out there so late in the day). He didn’t stay long and then we were all alone to soak in the beauty surrounding us.

Eastern view behind me where we saw the Zermatt Matterhorn far off in the distance

We discovered that the sun was setting quickly and we needed to head down the mountain to not risk it being too dark to see (we failed to bring our headlamps with us, a mistake we won’t make again). But we were so in awe of the beauty up there and the changing sky colors, we would walk a few steps and then reach for our cameras to not miss the moment or perfect photo op.

Two other snowshoers in the distance as we headed back — this is the view looking south near France
We were amazed with this view of the setting sun

As we walked along, we kept looking to our right to not miss the sunset. Then suddenly Mike said, ‘look left!’. I thought he may have seen an animal but what he saw was the huge bright one-day-away-from-being-full MOON. I couldn’t believe how pretty it was and so clear. Now we were really in awe of both the sunset and the moon rise at the same time! We didn’t know which way to look and which scene to photograph first.

We couldn’t bear to leave this magical spot but knew that once the sun went down, we had another one hour downhill walk to get back to our car.

We were the only ones out there at this time and it felt wonderful

The bright moon light helped shine the way down the tree-lined path and when it was blocked by the trees, I used the spotlight on my iPhone to see where I was walking. Headlamps next time!

After our 5 hours of being out in nature, we safely made it back to the parking lot at 7pm with a huge smile on our faces to have witnessed the most amazing snowshoe walk we’ve ever done. Unexpectedly awesome!

Link to the snowshoe route: http://www.les-paccots.ch/fr/raquettes-randonnees/parcours-balises/parcours-raquettes-rathvel.html

8.5km, 400m climb, approx 3 hours

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