COVID- SPECIAL – Travel local! – 12 September 2020

Two close up ‘rolling’ encounters with Engadins (not so) eternal ice – and a UNESCO Heritage Train Ride

As I trekked around the Bernina Mountain this summer (I´m an able bodied person) I was blown away by vistas so stunning yet humbling – ‘how small we are, and what a brief glimpse of time we spent among these glaciers, that have shaped the landscape, so majestic, but at the same time, now so vulnerable they are in parts being covered to protect them from the sun & heat.’ With wheelchair travellers decision to feature also local accessible travelling destinations in mind, I kept my eyes open for accessible paths into these beautiful realms – and (backed up by a bit of additional resources) I found that two of my favourite spots, Roseg and Morteratsch Glacier, turned out to be just that: an escape into the rugged beauty of the mountains, yet easily accessible (- if you are willing & able to deal with the Swiss currency and the unfortunately higher prices, one must add – but the mountainviews are free, and with a little preparation its also possible to keep a travelling budget in check.)

And while you`re there or if you do not want to roll too far – don’t miss a ride on Räthische Bahn

For a lazy day after the mountain escape or a scenic alternative for those who don’t feel comfortable with ascents, a day on the Railway (Räthische Bahn) is highly recommended. Two stretches of its overall 384 kilometers of rails, the Bernina and the Albula line, have been declared Unesco World Heritage and take you through stunning vistas, gravity defying bridges and tunnel systems that can make you confused which way is up. Not all stations can be used independently, but if you give note at least 24 hours beforehand, assistance is available.

© Flavio Karrer

Julia Reichert, (abled), knows Tobias and Verena (founders of Wheelchairtravellers) longer than she can think. She assists whelechairtraveller in Marketing and Communication. Since 2019, she shares the dramaturg role with Hayat Erdogan und Tine Milz at the Theater Neumarkt in Zurich, Switzerland.

Location

For some it’s considered the most beautiful part of Switzerland – way down south, in the Canton Grisons, Engadin has been luring visitors from all over the world for a long time. Where other countries have castles, some abandoned huge hotels built in a similarly monarchical fashion remind you of the long touristic history of the region. (And if money is not of the essence, mundane St. Moritz still invites travel kings and queens). Even more majestic, though, are the various peeks, many of them over 4000 meters high, surrounded by glaciers. Film history fans might know Piz Palü.

Language

It’s easy to forget: Switzerland has four official languages: Italian, French, Swiss German and Romansch. Neither English nor German being one of them, though theyre widely spoken. Trails and Paths: Usually, Swiss Trails are very well marked. An additional app that’s recommendable is Outdooractive, which gives you a free overview of distances and routes. It does not offer a filter for accessible paths, though.

Weather

None of the paths take you to high alpine or to exposed terrain. But you’re starting high, well over 1500 meters. Since the trips are a bit longer and the weather can change quickly in the mountains, it´s highly recommended to go prepared and check the weather beforehand. (Best App: MeteoSwiss). If there are heavy rains & thunderstorms in the forecast, think twice – it’s Alpine territory, after all. Temperatures can drop even on a nice day, quicker than you`d think.

Useful Links

There is also a very nice campground in Morteratsch, their bathrooms and showers are accessible, too. (More info: https://www.camping-morteratsch.ch/)

More tips for accessible trails in the region, including these two tours with Maps (in German language):
https://www.engadin.stmoritz.ch/_objects/file/?id=124878

Still haven’t gotten enough of glaciers? Check this: https://www.aletscharena.ch/destination/barrierefrei/

ROUTE 1 – Roseg Glacier

The more lovely-and-quaint choice of the two options – Val Roseg – offers a descent up from Pontresina Station (Parking available). You start at 1800 meters, crossing the rails toward Hotel Restaurant Roseg Gletscher (1990 meters) – it’s a 7 kilometer way. The Naturweg (nature path) is well taken care of and doesn’t have any significant obstacles. There are some water-gutters of about 8 cm, and there are some more medium ascents in the first third of the way. There are also horse carriages that go along this path (Reservation necessary T +41 78 944 75 55). The restaurant is a little crowded, at least in high season, and a little touristic, but the views make it well worth it. (Unfortunately their restrooms are not accessible, T +41 81 842 64 45).

ROUTE No. 2 – Morteratsch Glacier

For those wanting to get more of mountain feeling, closer to the ice and are interested in learning more about the glaciers, their history and shrinking presence, Morteratsch is the place to go. A bit more remote at the end of the valley (still easily accessible by both car and train) it features not only glimpses of Piz Palü & Bernina, but also a glacier trail, that takes you through the history of the glacier… I was pretty touched sitting on a bench exactly at the point the glacier ended the year I was born. I still had quite a way to go to reach todays end of it. There is also a cute offer for kids (and those with a childlike humour, such as me) to get a playful understanding of what happened to the ice over the last couple hundred years.
Pro infirmis recommends a tour departing not at Morteratsch train station, but at the train station Surovas (there is a parking garage named Mulin). On the right, above the train station, you follow the hiking trail, via Alp Veglia, to Hotel Restaurant Morteratsch. From there you can follow the hiking path to up to the rim of the glacier. From Pontresina its 5.5.km to Morteratsch, to the glacier it´s 8 km. The restaurant in Morteratsch has a nice sun terrace, and acccessible bathrooms. (T +41 81 842 63 13). Recommended traveling time is June to October.

Once you reach Morteratsch, the path gets a little more rugged, as you see in the picture. You may have to move around some medium sized rocks, but it is a broad and mostly flat, only in some parts moderately steep path. It is considered accessible by wheelchair all the way, but depending on your fitness and your wheelchair, some assistance may be advisable.
The path ascents all the way into the valley, ending only a stone`s throw away from the ice.

Tables of information tell hikers about the history of the Morteratsch glacier and its descent in the last decades by climate change