While in Saas-Fee I had the chance to get out for a couple of trail runs in the valleys near by. This particular run was a great way to see more of the Saas Valley and a large reservoir.
Getting up early I headed to the local gare in Saas-Fee and caught the #511 bus down the valley to Saas-Grund. While I waited around in Saas-Grund for the next bus that would take me up the valley to the reservoir and the start of my run. While waiting for the #513 bus, I started to get the feeling that I was in the right spot. As time went by, more and more people showed up with packs, trekking poles, hiking boots, and even a few classic Alpine felt hats, called the Tyrolean hat. Clearly this was a well-known trail and destination.
A 30 min bus ride through the winding valley and up to the top of the dam the bus unloaded its now sizable group of people. At the dam there is a nice looking restaurant and small historical museum about the valley, the dam, and a place to fill up water bottles and use the WC. Double check the route on my phone and off I went.
At the top of the dam, an old service road clearly traversed the contour line of the valley on the right side of the reservoir, this was also the route I had decided to take. A mix of old pavement, gravel road, and even a couple of cool tunnels blasted through the rock. The route headed out along the side of the mat blue water. Colored because of the glacier run off from the mountains surrounding it. As the glaciers churn and grind the local stone to fine particles of dust, the melting snow then carries it into the streams, rivers and lakes, imparting a color seen in varying shades around the Valais area.
Following the trail along the contour of the water, about 1/3 of the way making sure to take the fork in the trail to the left to continue to head toward the inlet of the reservoir. Once at the end of the valley you have the option of continuing around the other side for a full loop of the reservoir, or heading up the valley to the ridgeline. As with all well-traveled trails in Switzerland this trail junction was marked with a sign post with the classic yellow arrows pointing in the direction of my destination. Following the sign for monte Moropass, I headed away from the reservoir and onto the single-track trail that snaked its way to the top of the pass.
At this time of year in August it is not uncommon to run/walk past cattle with large bells around their necks grazing on the lush mountain grasses. These bells, called a Treichel are a way to keep tabs on these simi free roaming cattle. Its also a good indicator for any trail runner that the cattle are out and about. On occasion the trail passes right through their grazing area, today was just such an occasion. Since they are very close, some with large horns, I chose to walk past, rather than running. Really the cows could care less about people walking by, I just don’t want to give the wrong impression that there is something to be running away from… if you get my meaning.
A steady climb up the dirt and rock trail, glacier springs seeping out of the cracks in the rocks, merging to make streams that flow down into the reservoir. A great option to refill a water bottle if you have tabs or a water filter. With the ascending path and gaining elevation the trail slowly transitions to a mix of large rock slabs, partially stacked rocks to form steps, and rock outcroppings of metamorphic rock such as granite and gneisses. With the trail becoming less and less a dirt path it is important to follow the nicely painted marks on the stone.
The White/Red/White markers are painted along at consistent enough intervals that they are easy to follow, even when a 90deg turn in the path is indicated. That being said, when I was moving along, breathing hard, with my head down I did miss a few turns here and there. It only took a few minutes of looking around to find the path again. If it feels like the path has become overly difficult, you have probably lost the trail. In Switzerland, even the hard trails are well maintained.
AT the ridge:
I was not expecting much at the top of the ridge, but too my surprise at the very top of the ridge there is a golden statue of the Madonna delle Nevi. She stands there looking out over the amazing view of Italy. After taking in the view, and a few pictures it was time to pop over into Italy for a mid-run coffee from the only place around.
Taking the newly installed metal steps that had been drilled into the rock face I headed over the ridge and down to the Italian restaurant called Lago Smeraldo. Supplied by a gondola from the small town of Staffa. Finding a seat overlooking the valley. Unfortunately there was a cloud layer covering the Italian side so it was difficult to really know what the valley below looked like. Regardless I enjoyed the view as it were, and the much-needed espresso and chocolate polenta tart. Once I had finished my mid run snack I headed back the way I had come to the dam.
The way down was fast and fun. Jumping and hopping from rocks to boulders to trail. After reaching the mouth of the reservoir I decided to continue my loop around so that I could enjoy a different perspective of the valley. Staying to the right, It was a relatively flat wide gravel trail/former service road that was easy to run along for the remaining miles.
Back at the dam that the starting point of the run I stopped my watch, stretched, and waited for the return bus to take me back to Saas-Fee. Overall, the run took me 2:29 min of moving time, and about 3:30 min of total time counting the detour for my Italian coffee break.
If you’re in the area I highly recommend this run. With its varied terrain, solid uphill section and amazing views all around. The mid run stop was a novelty for me and definitely worth adding it into your route planning.
Gear I ran with:
Breakdown of the rest:
Eleveation gain: 2,546 ft
Distance: 9.82 miles
Watch: COROS Apex
Gear: Saloman S Labs 12 L suffer vest, with a Katadyn in line water filter bottle, collapsible trekking poles.