Snowshoeing in the Beverin Nature Park

The beautiful Beverin Nature Park was our snowshoeing destination for the first part of the Easter weekend.

The centrepiece of the park is Piz Beverin (2998m). Home to large herds of ibex (or capricorns in the local Romansh vernacular), Piz Beverin is surrounded by imposing rock faces and flanked by deep gorges. One of which is the gorgeous Ruinaulta – the Rhine Gorge – also known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the alps’.

On its flanks we find remote and sparsely populated villages. The approximately 3000 inhabitants of this region, living on with little change in their daily habits, as they did a hundred years ago. They work the land. They meet informally in the streets and chat. And they still raise a hand to the bus driver, and to each other, as they pass each other by.

We found accommodation in the rather luxurious ‘Pensiun Laresch‘. Recently built, using local eco-friendly materials such as stone, wood and plastering with clay. Pensiun Laresch is located in Mathon, looking towards the Grisons mountains. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, the hosts were all away. One of the guests suggested they were resting. Fortunately, Barbara remembered which room we were allocated. We dumped our gear in it, and got ready for a short two or three-hour hike. Snowshoes strapped onto our packs, gaiters on, and cold weather gear in the pack we went downstairs for a quick coffee. While we were drinking our coffees, Lukas, one of our hosts, arrived. He helped us choose a route, warning that the descent will be on soft snow. But should be okay with snowshoes on.

Snowshoeing – day 1

We set off on our first snowshoeing experience in the Beverin Nature Park. In places the snow is hard and frozen. Slippery. We’re amply rewarded when we reach the contour: Spectacular mountainscapes in all directions! The Grisons and of course the magnificent Piz Beverin, and deep valleys below!

After about an hour’s walking, we reach the point where we have to start our descent. We decide now would be a good time to put our snowshoes on…

As predicted, the snow is soft. I don’t think our host realised just how soft… Even with snowshoes on we’re sinking up to our knees in places. Then you have to extract your foot, with the snowshoe on, while trying to stop yourself going through the snow with hands and other body parts and sinking even deeper.

The snow is also unstable, and at one point, I step and my snowshoe sinks into the snow, throwing me off-balance. I fall, and my arm goes right through the snow, sinking in almost to my arm pits, before my fingers hit something hard. The result a couple of very sore fingers – at least one of which was super blue the next morning. Nothing that arnica and massaging couldn’t fix, though.

The last kilometre or so, we’re on a path where there is very little to no snow, so we remove the snowshoes and walk on a muddy, slushy snow path for the rest of the way down.

Map: snowshoeing in Beverin Nature Park – circular route from Mathon

Total distance: 6.32 km
Max elevation: 1930 m
Min elevation: 1548 m
Total climbing: 394 m
Total descent: -391 m
Download file: circular-route-from-mathon.gpx

Back at the guest house, we get ourselves ready for dinner, and join other guests in the dining room for the superb meal – cordon bleu in the mountains. Made with local ingredients (as far as possible), washed down with a locally brewed Radler, and finished off with a local whiskey. Spicy and 60% proof, it nearly knocked the breath out of me…

Snowshoeing – day 2

We weren’t in a rush to start our second day’s snowshoeing in the Beverin Nature Park. We had the whole day, and breakfast did not start until 08h00. So, we started our day in a relaxed and unhurried fashion. Judith looked after us at breakfast and made sure we had enough local bread, cheese, scrambled eggs, coffee, etc…

Sunrise seen from our hotel room
Sunrise seen from our hotel room

We left a small bag with toiletry kit and some spare bits of clothing in the boot room, and then set off for Zwölfihorn, nearly 800 vertical metres higher. We started off on the same path as we followed yesterday. After about two or so kilometres we diverted onto an unmarked trail. We donned snowshoes as soon as we got to the snow-ice path of yesterday. Expecting it to be even more frozen and slippery than yesterday. Especially after a night where temperatures dipped well below zero.

Soon we emerged above the treeline and started climbing the ridge we were planning on following to the summit of Zwölfihorn. The going was hard. Snow was soft. We ground our way uphill. Our snowshoes alternating between sinking in and sliding off. Sometimes it felt like we were going two steps forward and three steps back. Up ahead of me, I could hear muttering coming from Barbara… When I heard words that sounded distinctly like bucket, I knew we were in trouble. Then the cloud dropped even lower. Zwölfihorn was covered in a veil of mist. We decided there’s no sense going where we would have zero view and zero visibility. So, we consulted our map and looked for an alternative route. Along the 2000m contour there seemed to be quite a wide shoulder which we could follow to Libisee.

After a few kilometres we saw a tiny mountain hut, decided to shelter in its lee and have some coffee and make sandwiches. Turned out to be a perfect little oasis in the middle of the snow-covered desert-like terrain. Then we continued, making our way through snow that wanted to swallow us in places. The views across the Grisons and Piz Beverin above us remained spell-binding. Libisee was covered under snow. We could distinguish the outflow, by comparing the terrain with the map, but other than that, we had no idea if were walking on the edge or in the middle of this little lake.

For our descent, we decided to follow a track that would eventually join up with our ascent trail from the previous day. This turned out to be a lot easier than going down through the thick soft snow.

Map: attempt on Zwölfihorn – divert to Libisee

Total distance: 9.12 km
Max elevation: 2051 m
Min elevation: 1547 m
Total climbing: 539 m
Total descent: -539 m
Download file: mathon-libisee-mathon.gpx

Back at the hotel, we grabbed the stuff we had left behind, said good-bye to Lukas and headed across the road to a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the valley. A couple of cold drinks later we boarded the bus to make our way back home.

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