If I’m ever going to use the term “fail”, or maybe even “fuck-up”, on a hiking trip, it’s going to be on this one. And it’s all my fault, I admit. I was so excited after covid isolation for some spectacular hiking trip to celebrate the fact that we’re finally out of the covid sh*t and can enjoy the beauty of Switzerland again, that I overlooked a few important little things in the planning. Or maybe I didn’t want to see them, truth to be told. And so our trip turned out the way it did…just wait for it!
Chemin des Narcisses
High above Lake Geneva in western Switzerland, near Montreux and Vevey, the wild narcissus season begins in May and June. Unlike the daffodils in Les Prés-d’Orvin, these are white and are therefore called ‘May snow’. There are several well-known routes on the Montreux Riviera website, and we chose the route in Les Avants above Montreux.
By car: from Bern, take the A12 motorway in the direction of Vevey. Take exit 15 Montreux. At the roundabout, take the exit in the direction of Les Avants. From here, you will climb about 7km to Les Avants.
By public transport: take the Golden pass train from Montreux to Les Avants and from there take the funicular to Sonloup. The funicular runs every quarter of an hour (.02, 17, 32, 47) in high season from April 1.
Funicular Les Avants – Sonloup
The funicular was built in 1910 and is only 500 meters long. Even though the line has been recently renovated, it still has carriages from that era – quite a rarity 🙂 A one-way ticket costs 5 francs (half with a Halb-fare card) and you can buy a ticket either via the SBB mobile app or from the vending machine at the station in Les Avants.
The narcissus trail
The Chemin des Narcisses route in Les Avants starts at the top station of the Sonloup funicular, it is 4.4 km long, and more or less downhill. This was our initial intention. However, when we got into the carriage, after a while a voice came over the loudspeaker saying that the cable car was broken down and that it was not running at the moment (thank goodness for my vestigial French, because the voice on the loudspeaker didn’t speak any other language). And so, with the mighty grumbling of the children, we decided to take the route in the opposite direction, i.e. uphill. Yeah, if the uphill was the only problem we had…
Before we saw the first meadows full of white daffodils on the trail, the road turned into a muddy highway. I write highway because there were plenty of hikers eager to see the blooming daffodils. I still managed to photograph two meadows with daffodils. Just be warned – the daffodil meadows are fenced off as private property (and to protect the flowers), so you don’t get to take any pretty pictures of you sitting in the middle of the blossoms.
We went a few dozen meters further in the mud, when my husband started to wonder if we should turn back, that it was no use in these conditions. In addition, we met other muddy hikers hiking in the opposite direction who ironically wished us “bonne chance” and now and then made a remark that it was even worse further on. The key moment and decision to return was when my husband slipped and slid on the mud for several meters, then he fell on his back so hard that I thought he would break it. Luckily he landed in the soft mud and was unharmed. So we turned around and slid back to Les Avants.
Here we discovered that the funicular was running again, so we decided to go up and see if we could walk a bit of the route in the other direction without making mudballs of ourselves again. You can see where we got to on the map above. Right at the funicular exit you turn left and head in the direction of the signpost: ‘Chemin des Narcisses’.
After about half a kilometre you come to a meadow where the narcissi do not bloom, but you have a beautiful view of the Dent de Jaman and Rochers de Naye.
We continued another half a kilometer further through the forest, but again we were met with nothing but mud, so we decided to return again. And what is the lesson from this trip?
3 mistakes to avoid when planning a hike in Les Avants
1. Avoid private transport and take the train instead
Already about 800 meters before the village of Les Avants there were cars parked on the side of the already narrow road. We found a free spot for a change about half a kilometer behind the village. So I definitely recommend (if you still have to drive) to park the car in Montreux and take the train. The journey doesn’t take that long (23 minutes) and the ticket doesn’t cost that much (3,70 CHF with Halb-fare card) and it’s definitely worth the nerves saved.
2. Avoid hiking on weekends or public holidays
Although holidays such as the Auffahrt (Ascension) and the Pfingsten (Whitsun) usually fall in May/June, when daffodils are in bloom, avoid these exposed days. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re on the hikers highway. I swear, I have never experienced that before.
3. Avoid hiking when it has rained for several days before
Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. We are laughing about it now and it will be one of the family stories we will tell our grandchildren, but at that moment we really didn’t feel like laughing.