Don’t hike downhill for two hours when …

Don’t hike downhill for two hours when … you are the kind of shape that I am in. Our first day in Leysin we did an easy walk around town. It is about 15 minutes from our chalet to the center of town. The second day we did a lovely hike where we drove to the southern edge of town (above Feyday), parked and walked to the Prafandaz view point, then walked down the ridge to another viewpoint and cut back across the hillside to where we parked. Just under two hours and pretty easy.

The third day, that was where we went wrong. We had pictured a lovely two hours hiking down a nice hillside to the town of Aigle, on the valley floor below Leysin. Then exploring the town, maybe getting a bite in a cafe, and taking the cog train back.

“Cog train” should have been the first clue. You only need a cog train on a very steep hill.

Checking the map should have been the second clue. Leysin is 1253 meters, Aigle 405. The hike time is two hours. You do the math – or more appropriately, I should have done the math – before the hike! That is 848 meters – or about 2600 feet – in two hours. Add my age, 52, divide by my current physical condition and you get – – – don’t do this hike you silly nit!

Leysin to Aigle
The downhill path from Leysin to Aigle (Vaud)

We started out at the crack of noon, after a leisurely morning of sleeping in, then trying to wake myself up, having coffee and toast on the balcony looking out at the mountains, and doing some email. I figured a late lunch in Aigle, but packed some apples and granola bars just in case (plus water – always bring water). We took a footpath from the chalet, instead of walking in on the road and got to the starting point for the hike around 12:30. The hike started from the center of the old part of the village (the lower part) and there was a bakery right at the start – so we added a cheese sandwich and two rolls to our lunch.

The hike was pleasant enough for the first five minutes, then started into a 90 degree downhill that did not let up for two and a half hours (sign posted time was two hours – I wasted some time complaining). Beautiful scenery …

Interuption: A fox just looked in the balcony window at Steve who is on his computer, sitting at the dining table. A fox!! I am sitting in the bedroom typing at a makeup table, so I have a mirror where I can see that I am pretty sunburned. I missed the fox. I never see the fox. When we hike in England, Steve sees about one fox per day – always when I am messing with my jacket zipper or reading the map, and when I look up, he is gone.

Beautiful scenery – sloping grassy hillsides, lovely pine forests, then deciduous forests, views to the valley below and Lake Geneva – but all while going downhill. I won’t bore you with the details, but about half way down I thought I was losing my ability to walk. Knees and thighs aching, feet pushed forward in my boots and aching. We stopped a couple of times and had our lunch, drank lots of water, Steve tried to teach me how to go with the flow of the hill (he was not hurting – turns out he is very good at going downhill). I never figured out his technique.

Finally we broke out of the forest and started walking along terraces of grapes (this is a wine area) and came to a hamlet called Fontanney. Like in most of the villages here, there was a wonderful fountain with ice cold water running and big stone basins to catch it. We soaked ourselves in cold, cold water.

Fontanney
Looking down the path at Fontanney towards Aigle

Interuption: A BIG THANK YOU to Marta! When she was reading my blog in 2003 from Gstaad, talking about getting caught in the rain and how wet our jeans got, she emailed me and said “don’t hike in jeans – get some hiking pants”. I ignored her advice for the next few years, but for this trip I got us both lightweight nylon hiking pants and they saved the day today. They are light and cool. When they get wet from dumping water over yourself, they dry in a second.

downhill_3055.jpg
Fountain in Aigle

The weather was wonderful. Bright and sunny, warm (maybe in the 70s) but not too hot, a bit humid when we got down to Aigle, but not up in Leysin.

We could have got on the cog train at Fontanney, or so it seemed – we saw steps up to the train line – but we did not want to give up. I figured it could not be so steep the rest of the way because this is a well used path from Fontanney to Aigle. Of course it was steep the rest of the way, but we made it. We gave up on wandering around Aigle and looking for a cafe and instead found the train station and rode the cog train back to Leysin. They run every hour and you pay on the train. We got the 4pm train back and then had the 15 minute walk back to the chalet which, thank goodness, is uphill!! Different muscles. We picked up some groceries (easy to cook things) at the Coop in town.

downhill_3062.jpg
Cog train at the Aigle depot

I love Saturday late afternoon at the Coop in a Swiss village. It is full of vacationers arriving for their vacation rental week (rentals are usually Saturday to Saturday) and getting groceries. This one was no different. There are a lot of young Americans in town, probably attending the American College here. You hear American English being spoken all the time.

We got back to the chalet, and I drank three glasses of orange juice mixed with fizzy water and felt much better. My legs hurt – but I think I will survive.

I would like to point out that I wanted to do the uphill hike today and Steve voted for the easier downhill hike.

But, having a wonderful time and still LOVING Switzerland!!

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

9 thoughts on “Don’t hike downhill for two hours when …”

  1. Do you travel to have fun or do you travel to bitch??? Seems with all of your travels you just complain, complain and complain some more!

  2. Are those my only two options? Travel for fun or travel to bitch? Or is your idea that once on vacation, someone should never have one bad second? And if they do, they should not talk about it? Interesting theory.

  3. Oh I think you are brave! And I admire you!
    I never see the fox either. We have them here and when we were driving aorund looking at Christmas lights this year, did I get to see the fox? No! I did see all the kangaroo and wallabies though.
    I love your hiking stories. 🙂

  4. All right, you finally got some lightweight water-resistant hiking pants. But did you bring your hiking poles?

    The village and Switzerland sounds lovely. Are you seeing much wildflowers?

  5. We have our poles but did not bring them on this walk, thinking it would be easy. We could have used them. I ended up grabbing a stick and using it. Lots of wildflowers! I will post some photos!

  6. We have fox that live in the woods behind our house; have seen them a lot this year.

    But you reminded me, we having hiking pants (and shorts), boots but Chris still needs to get a pole before our trip.

  7. In Cape Town we opted for the downhill hike of Table Mountain and paid for it for days!!! It was worth it though. Art and I sat and watched a fox on the side of the road near our property up north for about half and hour, til we got bored and left, they are quite beautiful, don’t give up one day you may come across one playing and you too may be the first one to leave.

  8. Anonymous, what makes you think I am not grateful? Of course I am profoundly grateful for being able to travel, being able to hike downhill and for many other things. That doesn’t mean I can’t complain about a poorly chosen hike or something else that happens to me. Being grateful does not mean you have to describe the world as if seen through rose colored glasses.

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