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Via Valais: All Sunshine after the Snow

Mark Brightwell
Guided by Mark Brightwell
The Via Valais is the most challenging trip offered by Run the Alps. The route travels through steep, rugged and remote mountain terrain, while climbing and descending over 2000m daily. As you can imagine, the views are outstanding.

An improbable scenario: after a significant August snowfall pre-tour, we enjoyed eight sun-drenched days for running the Via Valais from Arolla to Zermatt, Switzerland. 

This group was a beautifully balanced seven, spanning from age 31-64. To gather us all here, a few had read the Outside article, others had gotten a flier in a race pack or met the Run the Alps team at a race tent. We were all drawn to the call of a wilder run and the high mountain hut experience, and found the right fit on the Via Valais.


Highlight on the trail

The Europaweg that traverses high above Zermatt blew people’s minds. While it was generally agreed that every day had been amazing, this was somehow even better. “Best trail ever!” Annie exclaimed. It really is that good.

Another highlight was on the final day. Our group was reduced to a strong four plus guide, which meant that for the first time in guiding the Via Valais, I was able to take the full extent of the balcony route, no shortcuts, running for 6 glorious km towards the Matterhorn. Trying to keep up with Patrick on the final descent was especially fun. As well as watching Breann flourish, running faster and faster as the week went on. 


Most memorable non-trail moment

Seeing David’s response to finally seeing the Matterhorn was a personal highlight. Lovely to see someone so excited and responding spontaneously with a dropped jaw.


Unexpected moment

A dance party broke out to the Bee Gees (tragedy it had to be the Bee Gees) on the hot climb to Bec de Bossons. This was a good affirmation that we were here to have fun.

We shared our ‘‘rose, thorn, rosebud’ / high, low, new idea, daily among the group. For Breann, the ‘rose’ of the entire trip was the Bee Gees dance party and learning she isn’t the only one who likes to shake it in the mountains. This validated the extra effort to carry my speaker for the whole route just to use it for the two hardest days.


Funniest moment

We laughed so much our faces hurt during lunch at Täschalp. We had some apparent misunderstanding of the hard Swiss German “G,” meaning that we understood dessert to be a grape with ice cream. We all caught on at different speeds to the fact it might more likely be a crêpe with ice cream.


Best meal of the tour

Impossible to call. Täschalp is a cut above as lunch spots go. Or our five star picnic en route to Col de la Forcletta. Having gotten used to the quality and enjoyment of long lunch stops at cafés, the group decided that a day without a long lunch simply did not fly. So everyone took responsibility for a designated part of the picnic and we pulled together quite a feast.


If you’re also drawn to the call of a wilder run and the high mountain hut experience, join us on our next Via Valais.

Luckily for us, this pre-tour snowfall didn’t stick around. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Cue the sunshine and blue sky. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Sunset up high. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

We love waking up at Cabane des Becs de Bosson. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

How about that blue! (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Views keep getting better and better. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Celebrating the end of a great day. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Smooth cruising on the Europaweg. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Team picnic on the way to Col de la Forcletta. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Headed toward the Matterhorn. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Victory lap above Zermatt. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Cheers! The best lemonade at Trift Hotel. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Goodnight Matterhorn. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)