Swiss wine leads to glaciers, Andermatt to the Sustenpass

Dave the motorhome is feeling a bit naughty. He passed several no overnight motorhome/camping signs on his way up the private road he is parked at the top of next to the Steingletucher Hotel – but hey, it’s out of season and we couldn’t leave this stunning location (N46.71368 E8.41629). Below is how we ended up here!

Our sleeping spot for tonight

Our sleeping spot for tonight

Just under 24 hours ago I was lighting one of the gas burners to make us something to eat at our overnight spot on the Oberalppass. Being pretty much in the middle of nowhere it was surprising when there was a knock at the door. Opening it I was greeted with the beaming smiles of our neighbouring Swiss motorhome owners asking what we were doing there, not in a nasty way, but they said they don’t see many British motorhomes here, especially not sitting on the top of an alpine pass for the night.

The sun was behind the mountain by now and the temperature was dropping so I invited them in. Joseph and Petra are from Zurich which is an hour and a half down the road from this stunning scenery, so they pop down for the weekend, how jealous were we? What started as a chat about our travels, turned into recommendations on where to visit. Joseph is passionate about mountain life and travelling (so much so that he drove to North Cape at the top of Norway in an old VW van – in the winter!!) and had loads of tips of places to see, including the parking we are at now. Petra nipped to get a book with GPS co-ordinates for us and came back with a bottle of Swiss wine. If, like me, you didn’t know they made wine in Switzerland, that’s because they drink it all themselves and none gets exported. After tasting it, I could see why – it went down very well.

Swiss wine - so good they don't export it!

Swiss wine – so good they don’t export it!

Crisps and peanuts held off the hunger while our five litre barrel of wine was finished. We could have talked for longer but none of us had eaten properly – and they had been on a four hour hike. Around 11pm we called it a night and then finished cooking our dinner before wobbling to bed a bit worse for wear.

The morning trains at Oberalppass Station

The morning trains at Oberalppass Station

This morning the sun beamed down on Dave and the ground was still muddy – no frost last night, which was a good job as we’d turned off the heating when we went to bed. After a spot of breakfast we nipped over to Joseph and Petra’s van to check the details of the places they’d recommended – hey after a fair bit of wine we couldn’t really be expected to remember! They were off on another hike today, so as we left we gave them a lift a short way down the road to the starting point. I like their kind of hiking. They have parked at the top of the mountain pass, hike down to a town, have a drink while waiting for the train which they catch back up to the top – sounds perfect.

Joseph and Petra ready to hit the hiking trails.

Joseph and Petra ready to hit the hiking trails.

The road and train track tangoed around each other as we slowly made our way down the mountain pass protecting Dave’s brakes as they would be needed a lot today. Joseph had pointed out the middle rail of the train line which is toothed to help the engines get up the hill – Swiss ingenuity will never cease to amaze me (or would that be British ingenuity as he also told us that the British built the line in the first place). Breathing a collective sigh of relief we reached Andermatt at the bottom of the pass, where we parked up Dave for a rest and went for a look around.

Andermatt

Andermatt

The place was getting ready for winter, as is everywhere around here. Huge hotels had signs outside saying Closed until December, shops full of ski wear were also closed and many buildings were having a quick facelift ahead of the season. One side of the town was a large building site which Petra had told us to look out for, an Egyptian millionaire is building an exclusive resort for the rich young people – err that won’t be us then!

Every direction from Andermatt is pretty much a mountain pass!

Every direction from Andermatt is pretty much a mountain pass!

As Jay nipped into the Co-op for some bread and Rosti (a favourite swiss dish of ours) I watched the Glacier express slowly make its way up the mountain we had just come down. I’ve put that down as one of my ‘must do’ holidays for when we’re back at work – the scenery around here is so stunning it would be great if Jay didn’t need to concentrate on the road!

Our winding road down from Andermatt

Our winding road down from Andermatt

Jay expertly manoeuvred Dave down the hairpin bends from Andermatt, pulling over to let others pass us when he could, but as soon as we reached a bit of flatness a left turn took us to the Sustenpass – no rest for Jay and Dave today! We’d been assured it was an easy pass to cross, but our new found confidence took a blow when we saw the sign at the bottom of the pass.

Trouble, we're heading for the top two!!

Trouble, we’re heading for the top two!!

Undeterred we carried on, the worst case being we’d have to turn back and find another route. It was a long drag of a climb and Dave’s engine started to heat up. We stopped a couple of times to let him cool and so we could jump out and admire our stunning surroundings. Dotted along the pass workmen were fixing poles and crash barriers to the posts which were permanently in place – it looks like these only come out in the winter when needed so they don’t spoil the view the rest of the year.

Looks like another winding one!

Looks like another winding one!

Near the top of the pass we got talking to a couple who were also looking at the view, they had come over the pass and told us it was all clear and OK – another collective sigh of relief! Through a tunnel and we were at the top, we pulled into the car park and climbed up to a viewpoint to take in the most amazing views. We thought the other roads we had driven on were stunning, but this one was even better!

Dave at the top of the Sustenpass - well done Dave!

Dave at the top of the Sustenpass – well done Dave!

Us on the top of the Sustenpass

Us on the top of the Sustenpass

We were just congratulating Dave and ourselves on getting up the pass when two rather large people putted past on mopeds followed by someone’s Granddad on a little scooter – back to reality with a bump we set off down tiptoeing down the pass until we reached the Steingletucher Hotel Joseph had told us to look out for. Next to it is a single track road with signs saying no overnight parking and a pay machine asking for 5 CHF for the private road. We would never have known that the road leads up to the bottom of the glaciers and a stunning place to sleep – Thank you Joseph and Petra.

The glaciers - we're at the top of the road to the right of the lake

The glaciers – we’re at the top of the road to the right of the lake

As the sun was going down behind the mountains we set off across the loose rocks to the nearest glacier – there are several surrounding us – it was dirty and grey at the bottom, but underneath the white ice shone. What do you do with an Alpine Glacier? Why you have to stand on it of course!

Me on the bottom of one of the glaciers

Me on the bottom of one of the glaciers

The bottom of the glaciers is like a lunar landscape

The bottom of the glaciers is like a lunar landscape

The mountain shadows are creeping their way across the valley in front of Dave’s windscreen and I’ve retreated inside for the night. Jay has headed off for a walk around the rocks, to take in more views – we’re all loving it here, it’s like being in the wilderness but without the days of hiking to get there. We’re the only ones up here now so it looks like we’re in for a quiet night.

Ju x

Gaping upwards, 3rd gear downwards and a left turn at Interlaken
Free camping on top of the world, the Oberalppass
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5 Comments on Swiss wine leads to glaciers, Andermatt to the Sustenpass

  1. Wow, that looks so stunning,puts wild camping into a different league! thank you so much for your blog, it makes the work days bearable thinking that we’ll be able to do something similar hopefully in the not too distant future. Enjoy!

    • Hi Marina, you’re welcome! Currently on a campsite but we’ve another Swiss freebie spot to try over the next day or two which sounded great when Joseph described it to us. Watch this space! Cheers, Jay

  2. Fantastic blog and an unbelievable trip! Hopefully we will get our camper to the top of the Sustenpass for a night this coming summer :-)

  3. Great blogging, as a geordie with wonderlust and now a resident of Switzerland it’s nice to read the comings and goings of fellow Brits. Seriously looking for a motorhome myself….watch this space! happy travels Bill ( alpinegeordie)

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