- Argovia (0)
- Basel (City and Country) (29)
- Basler Jura (368)
- Bernese Oberland (49)
- Fribourg (4)
- Glarus (2)
- Grisons (27)
- Jura (0)
- Luzern (2)
- Neuchatel (2)
- Ob- and Nidwalden (3)
- Rhodes (Inner and Outer) (19)
Welcome to this "Small, hilly country. Tiresomely neat."
by Douglas Adams in 'Mostly Harmless'.
Even if Europe's highest mountain is over the border, Switzerland does have the largest concentration of summits over 4,000 meters in Europe and a proliferation of climbs - rock, ice, mixed, bouldering or scrambling. A quarter of its territory is covered with forests, over 60% is mountainous. The country itself is as diverse as its climbing scene, with 4 official languages - predominant ones being German (North and Center) and French (West), the two others Italian (South) and Romansh (East). More than 20% of the population is made up of resident foreign workers. Switzerland is number 2 in the world in distance traveled by train per person in average. The public transport system is superb, whether you are going by train with SBB - CFF - FFS or with the Postauto. Consider buying a "Half Tax". This will get you 50% off on all trains, most buses, and some % off on some cablecars. The price is 165 CHF. So if you will spend more than 330 CHF, it is worth it. (If you stay for less than one month, there is a Half Fare for 99 CHF. It's called Swiss Half Fare Card.) If you are under 25, you can get "Half Tax" and "Gleis 7" for a total of 250 CHF (not sold separately). With Gleis 7, you travel for free from 7 pm till the end of service.
As all over Western Europe, it is 110 for police and 112 for emergency, although it is not consistent over all cantons. In some cantons 112 does everything, in others you need 144 for ambulance. REGA helicopter rescue is always 1414.
Routes are sorted by cantons. Use the map below to navigate.
The Bernese Oberland
The most famous mountaineering region is probably Bernese Oberland where Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch (btw in English: Eiger, Virgin and Monk) form the sacrosanct trio. Alpine routes abound, many on limestone, and not granite as in Chamonix. The outskirts of the range are pretty accessible, and the Jungfrau railway brings you in an hour from Grindelwald to 'Top of Europe' at 3 500 meters, passing through the famous Eiger tunnel. Don't forget your $$$ though as if you don't want to walk a lot, Switzerland is organized to get every penny out of your wallet. If you want a less touristy and more 'Himalayan' mountain experience, take your skis with you and go exploring the Aletsch glacier, the biggest in Europe. It is pretty popular with ski tourers from around the globe in spring, but during other seasons you might hardly see a shadow other than your own for many kilometers at a time. There are several huts around the Conkordia crossing but otherwise it is a rather wild and remote territory. The highest summit of the range, Finsteraarhorn, is accessible only after 2 days of glacier travel from whatever side you decide to start the approach.
Next region is the half French-speaking half German-speaking Valais where Cervin or Matterhorn (German pronunciation) can be at least seen if not climbed. Monte Rosa, and several other mountains provide for its awesome climbing scene. Also, there is a lot of sport climbing and bouldering in the Rhone valley.
Geneva and Vaud
Just nearby the Alps of Vaud, have some more to offer, like the slab climbing at Mirroir d'Argentine or excellent limestone cragging at Sanetsch.
Grisons, Glarus, St. Gall, Zurich, Schaffhausen, Thurgovia, Inner and Outer Rhodes
The Eastern part is covered by North and Eastern Switzerland on Austrian and Italian borders. Further diversity and superb climbing can be found there in the well-known Magic Wood bouldering area in the far-east.
Ticino is the most southern canton and mostly Italian-speaking. Here you will find for example the area Ponte Brolla, which offers a lot of 'pleasure - climbing" and is especially known for slab climbing.
Uri, Schwyz, Lucerne, Zug, Ob- and Nidwalden
Central Switzerland is famous for its numerous lakes and beautiful valleys. Maybe less known summits, such as Titlis, still attract hordes of tourists and would-be alpinists. For the die-hards there is Wendenstock, maybe one of the most beautiful limestone sport climbing areas in the country, but also one with the toughest grades and largest distances between bolts. If you don't feel at home with French 6b, the 2h hike-in might not be worth it. Here you will also find excellent-quality granite around Furka pass with routes from one pitch going up to 400-meter granite slab fests.
Neuchâtel, Fribourgh, Jura, Solothrun, Argovia, Basel City and Country
Another interesting region is in the West, formed by the strip going from Geneva to Jura. You can find lots of bouldering around Basel, or go to newly developed areas such as Gastlosen in the Fribourg pre-alps. And if the weather turns bad on you, go visit Gruyère, a fortress town à la Carcassonne in France, where the famous cheese has originated.
SEASON AND CLIMATE
As Switzerland is mainly covered by mountains, the best mountaineering and climbing season involving higher altitudes is in July-August. In the meantime ski-touring season covers the spring months and might help you get to some South-facing walls with good warm-ups. Ice-climbing goes through January until March (although global warming might soon delete ice from our vocabulary) and some routes i.e. Eiger North Face are probably best tried during the coldest times as well. South faces can usually be climbed late into autumn and early in spring - although that depends on the yearly snow inputs.
RATINGS AND GUIDEBOOKS
Ratings in guidebooks (best ones unfortunately in German or French) usually use the French letter grades for pitch difficulties and a meter length for multipitch climbs. For mountaineering, French PD-ED system is commonly used with roman grades for exposure/risk of a given climb.
A good start-off guidebook in English for mountaineers-rockclimbers is Bernese Oberland from Les Swindin - it actually covers some rock climbing areas outside of the Bernese Oberland range, such as Gastlosen, Mirroir d'Argentine, Sanetsch or Leysin.
More comprehensive guidebooks - in German/French/Italian are offered by Filidor.ch. They initially started by two guidebooks, one Schweiz Extreme covering climbs from 6b onwards and one Schweiz Plaisir, with climbs mainly under 6b (US 5.10). Jurg von Kanel, the author, regularly comes up with updated versions, for now two East/West versions for Schweiz Extreme and five regions for Schweiz Plaisir. These cover most of the well-known areas for rock climbing, although some important areas have even more comprehensive guidebooks, i.e. the Gastlosen.ch from Edigast for the Gastlosen area.
WHAT'S ON THE WEB
Swiss Alipine Club huts are listed here (German).
Swiss Avalanche institure gives you some idea about snow stability and avalanche risk.
RockAndIce website has some cool photography and more various route info from rc.com user fabe (English).
Credit for maintaining this description and the Switzerland routes goes to uasunflower, pro_alien, tisar, steple and others.