The holiday region Saas-Fee/Saastal in the Swiss Canton of Valaishas been described as a ‘high alpine outdoor paradise’. And with plenty of exciting activities available and a whole host of spellbinding viewpoints within easy reach, it’s easy to see why.
Sheltered under the spectacular 4,027m Allalinhorn, you’ll find the charming car-free village of Saas-Fee. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Alps’, Saas-Fee sits on a high mountain plateau at around 1,800m and is surrounded by thirteen impressive 4,000m peaks. These include the Dom, which at 4,545m is the highest summit lying entirely in Switzerland.
In the winter, the Saas Valley becomes a lively ski resort. But in the height of summer, it’s a gateway to some of the most extraordinary high-altitude adventures in the Valais Alps. Here are six of the best to get you started.
1. Gorge Alpine via ferrata
The Gorge Alpine via ferrata course can only be undertaken with a mountain guide and runs along the rugged Fee Gorge that connects the villages of Saas-Fee and Saas-Grund. Via ferrata are routes equipped with fixed ladders, cables, and bridges to help climbers and walkers. And the Gorge Alpine via ferrata takes you alongside a deep gorge carved in the rock by a gushing tributary of the Saaservispa River. It’s the ideal introduction to this thrilling adventure activity.
The first zip line is fairly sedate, whipping you across the canyon in a fairly tranquil fashion. But as you work your way along the route, the zip lines get faster and incorporate more stomach-churning mechanisms like suspension bridges, pulley systems, rope swings, rappelling, and free falling. The course then ends with an unnerving descent into an echoey cave.
2. Jegihorn Trail via ferrata
For those wanting to take the next step up the via ferrata ladder, the Jegihorn Trail is definitely one to try. This route is a more lofty one, taking any would-be alpinists up the highest via ferrata in the Western Alps (3,206m).
Lauded as one of the most beautiful courses in Switzerland, the Jegihorn Trail is a demanding course providing you with an exhilarating blend of climbing and scrambling over steep ladders and exposed aretes. Throughout your adventure, you’ll be accompanied by sensational views of soaring peaks all the way to the Jegihorn summit.
Mattmark Lake, Monte Moro (c) Saastal Tourismus AG
3. Hike the Golden Madonna Pass (Monte Moro)
The centuries-old traders’ alpine crossing that links Switzerland and Italy is one of the highest passes on the classic Monte Rosa Tour. Lying at the foot of the 2,985m Monte Moro peak, the hike is famous for the golden-gilded statue of Mary that stands over the travellers below. The 4.6-mile hike begins at the Mattmark Dam and can be completed in around five to six hours (both ways).
4. Bag your first 4,000m peak
If you fancy yourself as a bit of an alpinist but aren’t quite ready for the north face of the Eiger, then the 4,027m Allalinhorn is the one for you. Despite its height, the summit is perfectly attainable for anyone in reasonable shape and with an appetite for high-altitude adventure.
The ascent can be completed in a single day if you take the Metro Alpin (the world’s highest funicular) to the Mittelallalin station at 3,500m. From there, you’ll follow the Feejoch route past the world’s highest revolving restaurant and across snowfields, ice streams, and rocky outcrops, before finally scaling a short ladder onto the summit plateau.