VerticAlp & Barrage d'Émosson (VS)
Updated: Sep 7, 2018
We’ve taken it easy the last few weeks but were feeling in the mood for adventure last weekend so after some hunting around we decided to try VerticAlp in Valais on Sunday.
In case like us, you haven’t heard of it, VerticAlp is an experience of three different railways to take you to a beautiful lake area at the top in Emosson.
We were a bit unsure about the weather so we packed everything from sunblock and hats to waterproof jackets and sweaters and in fact we needed all of it! We set off early and it took about 1.5hours of driving from our house around Nyon to the starting point in Le Châtelard. When we arrived at the car park just before 10am, it was already starting to fill up so we were glad we didn't arrive much later. We bought our tickets and waited in line for the first funicular train. It’s quite large and can fit 60 people but there wasn’t much space inside so it would be a bit tight with a pushchair. We took the children out of the carriers to make a bit more space and squeezed ourselves in for the short ride. We were standing in the middle carriages so, since I am not very tall, it wasn’t very easy to see the scenery that lay ahead apart from the odd glimpse of a very steep assent beyond the glass (try and get to the front of one of the cars for the best view) . Looking back at where we started was impressive as we watched the starting point disappear (87% maximum slope).
When we arrived at the next point in Les Montuires (1825m), there is a pleasant area with a cafe and toilets on the way to the panoramic train. This was my favourite part of the journey and Jude loved it too (mainly I suspect, because it was red). Again, we had to reorganize ourselves a bit to get the children and baby carriers in the train seats but that done, we set off. It was a really charming experience as the train chugged through the mountain path, tooted as we entered tunnels and enabled us incredible access to the most spectacular views.
The temperature was noticeably cooler when we arrived at the next check-point so we all added an extra layer of clothing as we waited for the mini funicular which would take us to the summit. We were last off the train and therefore at the back of the queue for the car, (each of which carries 8 people) but they arrived every couple of minutes so we didn't have to wait too long. This last part of the journey was steep and it was impressive to see this little car climbing so high up the mountain face (73% maximum slope).
We arrived at the top at an altitude of 1,965m and were greeted by an breathtaking view out over the lake which is formed by an enormous dam flanked by mountains including Mont Blanc.
We went in search of the toilets which we found following the steps to an open area above, where there was also another cafe and a place selling ice creams etc which would be a brilliant place to enjoy a bite to eat with magnificent views. The public toilets were just okay - unisex with overflowing bins, but I’ve seen worse. We noted that there were no baby change facilities (we didn't use the toilets at the departure for the panoramic train however so not sure if there were baby change facilities there). There is also a huge dinosaur at the top which Jude thought was brilliant. He was convinced T-Rex had just come back from skiing ;-).
We followed the sound of music to a jazz festival which was happening on the same day and stood to enjoy the band for a few minutes before setting off in search of a picnic spot.
We found a grassy area overlooking the lake and enjoyed our lunch before setting off to walk over the dam. This was a unique experience and offered us incredible views out over the heights of the dam and the scenery beyond including some snow and a glacier on one one of the mountains. Unsurprisingly, this area is completely exposed so we were glad of our hats and suncream.
After that we made our way down again and the return journey was equally impressive, although we noticed the steepness of the mountains more this time and our tummies churned a bit when the small cable car lurched out onto a near vertical drop.
All in all, we had a really great day. The children very much enjoyed the trains and it was great to do something a bit different in our hunt for adventures around Switzerland. Parts of it would be complicated with a pushchair as there were a couple of places with steps/small steep hills to climb and there wasn’t much space on any of the trains.
Also a good idea to take extra layers of clothing to add and remove as necessary as it was definitely cooler at the top of the mountain. There are lots of walking trails and canyoning options around the area too.
When we got back down to the car park it was full and we saw that cars had started parking on the road further away from the ticket office so it definitely seems sensible to arrive early in busy periods.
A great day out, brilliant memories and unforgettable views (mostly captured by Jean and the drone :-)).
Parking : Yes
Toilets : Yes
Baby Change Facilities : None that we saw
Accessibility : Not really suitable for pushchairs
Website : http://verticalp-emosson.ch/