Switzerland Zernez 2000.08.11 - 08.13

Hikes Around Zernez

Areas north of (and not including) St. Moritz in the Graubüden Region are our favorite in Switzerland. People are friendlier, food is better, and the mountain hikes are prettier because of fewer tourists and gondolas. The small town of Zernez, smack in the middle of Graubüden, is a gem for hiking enthusiasts. Hiking trails lead up peaks running north-south on the east and west sides of Zernez. The edge of Switzerland's one and only national park is within walking distance of town center.

From Zernez, we hiked up the 2906 M / 9534 ft peak called Piz d'Urezza to the east on day 1 and over the 2945 M / 9662 ft peak to reach the Macun Lakes to the west on day 2. Both hikes were strenuous 7 hour climbs gaining about 1500 M / 5000 ft in elevation.

Our 2 day stay in Zernez was too short to complete all the hiking we hoped for. A schedule to meet friends from California and London in Küblis on Aug 15, and painful signals from our knees and shoulders, urged us to stop hiking. We found an Internet cafe in Davos through directory service and decided it would be a good place to rest and catch up on email.

Unrelated to Zernez other than the timing, we read a comical, bicultural, and disturbingly informative novel by Ruth L. Ozeki titled "My Year of Meat". It contains facts about hormone use in US cowsheds and the heath impacts those hormones have on humans. As we wander the hills of Switzerland, we're happy to see cows grazing in the open, and we shudder at the thought of beef production methods widely used in the US.

Piz d'Urezza

A topographical map showed a trail from Zernez to a point at 2300 M / 7545 ft. We navigated from there to the 2906 M / 9534 ft peak based on the steepness deduced from the contours on the map and the surface rock. Fortunately, the improvised route wasn't hindered by vegetation, limited to low lying shrubs and lichen. As we progressed upward, we found ground wear left by previous hikers vying for the same peak. When we reached 2640 M / 8861 ft, we could faintly see an object on the peak that was still another 266 M / 873 ft higher and 1.6 km / 1 mile far. The object turned out to be a wooden cross anchored in a 1.5 M / 5 ft high base of stacked stones.

Cows are free to roam the grassy mountain plains all around Switzerland. The higher they walk, the fewer pesky flies there are to distract from a warm afternoon of delicious grazing. When we saw these cows, we mentally compared their happy existence to the horrors of cowsheds in "My Year of Meat".

A cross, engraved with the name of the peak and its elevation, is anchored into a 1.5 M / 5 ft high mass of stacked stones.

The Lakes of Macun

On our second day in Zernez, we chose a hike from the Lonely Planet "Walking in Switzerland" guide book called The Lakes of Macun. Far above Zernez and its neighboring towns in the valley, the lakes of Macun lie in a crater at 2616 M / 8583 ft. Snowcapped mountains reaching 3050 M / 10,000 ft encircle the lakes continually feeding them thawing snow. On August 1, 2000, this crater was added to the Swiss National Park.

The hiking trail starts in Lavin, a town 3 train stops from Zernez. From the Lavin train station, walking signs point the way to Macun. The full hike from Lavin to Zernez via Macun is about 7-8 hours. Because of the altitude gain, its one of the most difficult day hikes in the "Walking in Switzerland" guide. The benefits of hiking to Macun are numerous. The lakes are clam, pure, and clear. The surrounding mountains shield the wind keeping the crater warm. Finally, probably because of the effort required to reach the lakes, few people disturb the serenity. We reached Macun, found a lunch spot, and took a comfortable nap (more comfortable for Wes who snored and kept Masami awake).

A 2945 M / 9662 ft peak lies between Macun and Zernez. After our nap, we made it to the top for a short panoramic view before descending 3 hours to Zernez. It's a gorgeous hike, and maybe the best so far in Switzerland.

Masami walks past the second of the Macun lakes, Lais d'Immex. The mountain pass to Zernez reflects in the calm wind-protected water.

Our lunch spot overlooked two of the Macun lakes, Lai da la Mexxa Glüna and Lai dal Dragun. What a perfect place to nap.

Wes and Masami at 2945 M / 9662 ft aren't looking forward to the long steep descent to Zernez.

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