Alpenwild Guests Complete the Entire Via Alpina

Alpenwild guests Kevin and Monique Damuth love taking on a challenging adventure. They’ve been Alpenwild Self-guided guests previously on the Haute Route, the Bernese Oberland Traverse, and two cross-country ski vacations in the Swiss Alps.

Then in 2020 their heroic adventure was bicycling 4200 miles across the US from Anacortes WA to Bar Harbor Maine. They enjoyed that trip so much they decided to do it again in 2022, but on a different route.

While they were pedaling across the US on their 2022 cycling adventure, they were also putting the finishing touches on their plans to hike the entire Via Alpina across Switzerland in the summer of 2023. The Via Alpina is the classic mountain trek across Switzerland, starting in Vaduz Liechtenstein and concluding in Montreux. It crosses 14 Alpine passes over the course of 230 miles (370km).

All that planning and preparation became a reality and fulfilled a dream last week as they completed the final stage of the Via Alpina in Montreux Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva.

As you can imagine, keeping up with Kevin and Monique is tough, but we were able to schedule a quick call with them so they could share some of their thoughts and memories about the journey 

What made you both want to take on the Via Alpina through the Swiss Alps?

Mo: It all started when we did our first cross country skiing trip in Goms Valley through Alpenwild, and we had so much fun cross country skiing in the valley that we thought well we would love to hike in Switzerland so that’s how it started. And we did the self guided Haute Route which was fantastic so it kind of went on from there.

Kevin: And after that we did the self guided Bernese Oberland Traverse and then that is when we learned of the Via Alpina and decided we would like to do a long distance trek through Switzerland. So it was really from those prior experiences here that we grew fond of Switzerland and we thought we would enjoy because since both of us are now retired that we would have the time to do a long distance trek and what a trek it was.

We both really enjoy the challenge of these types of adventures because you know they are not made for everybody—But you don’t have to be some super-human to do it.

Did you have any pushback mentally? If so, how did you overcome it?

Mo: I would say I did not. Two days where there was quite a bit of rain, we worried about slipping. It wasn’t about if we could do it, it was more worrying about getting hurt

Kevin: I would say we were most concerned about our wellbeing, because you know, we’re in the mountains and the weather is very unpredictable. [One of those days was from Gstaad to L’Etivaz. It was challenging because once we got to the pass, a major storm rolled in. We couldn’t see … the visibility was maybe a hundred yards ahead of us. It was driving rain, the winds were blowing, the temperatures were well below 40°F and the wind was blowing hard. My fingers were totally numb and I had gloves on! I was a little concerned, if one of us got injured now, we could have an issue. We do carry an emergency device [calling device], never felt like I had to use it.

You obviously have to be physically fit, but there is a mental component to it with any kind of long distance adventure and I say that because we’ve ridden across the US twice on our bicycles. You have to have the mental capacity day after day just like this to get up, put your pack on, go hike, and climb thousands of vertical feet of ascent. To me it’s more mental than it is physical.

What was your most memorable moment on the trail?

Mo: Faulhorn. Our hike to Faulhorn (above Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland). It was probably our highlight. The weather was gorgeous, looking at the mountains on one side and Lake Brienz on the other.

Kevin: It was like being on top of the world! And we had such a memorable experience at this classic mountaintop hotel which was built almost 200 years ago. There’s no running water. They collect water profusely. No showers. You have a water basin in the room. We love stuff like that cause we’re big backpackers so we’re not really needing showers and get all dressed up. The rooms were literally colder inside than what was on the outside. We slept with hand gloves on that night in the room because it was so cold. Everybody did!

Mo: It was 42°F degrees in the room. And we looked at the beds! The room is slanted and they had to make the beds level, so they had to add wood underneath the legs! People were playing cards, games, and nobody left the dining room until it was almost time for bed because nobody wanted to be in their cold room.

What were some things you liked about the trek through Switzerland?

Kevin: Overall it was a great trek! We tend to favor the remote, quaint mountain villages more than the bigger cities. We’re not big city people so hence why we stayed just outside of Montreux in a town called Caux. I can’t say enough good things. We’re big believers and you know being over in Switzerland is just another confirmation of God’s wonderful creations, His magnificent creations.

Kevin and Monique Damuth are the first Alpenwild guests to hike the entire Via Alpina, and on a self-guided basis. Switzerland has a hiking passport where hikers put a stamp in their booklet after completing each stage. For their effort they receive a certificate recognizing their accomplishment. We’ll check with the Switzerland hiking authorities, but we believe Kevin and Monique Damuth will be among only a handful of North Americans who have completed the entire Via Alpina. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up for Our Email Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest Alpenwild news. You're free to opt out at any time.