5 Seen Wanderung - Switzerland's Five Lake Hike

Five crystal clear alpine lakes along Switzerland’s 5 Seen Wanderung, or Five Lake Hike - a classic mountain hike with stunning views over the Swiss Alps.

9th July 2016 | Words by HB Mertz

Before I had even made plans to visit Switzerland during my time spent in Europe, I knew that if I was ever fortunate enough to travel there, there was one place in particular I had to see in person no matter what it took. After a friend texted me a photo of a stunningly blue, glacier-fed lake called Wildsee, located over 2.5 km high in the Swiss Alps, I instantly put it on my bucket list.

5 Seen Wanderung - Five Lake Hike

However, the quest to see and visit this spot was one of the most challenging feats that I have ever accomplished, and it was worth it in every way.

Baschalvasee, 5 Lake-Hike, Pizol

After realizing I would have a few days in Switzerland, I did my research and figured out where Wildsee was located, which is in the small town of Pizol, tucked at the base of the Swiss Alps. The hike begins high up in the mountains - you have to take a chair lift to reach the trailhead.

Schwarzsee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

The hike itself - 5 Seen Wanderung, or the Five Lake Hike - is an 18 km loop which takes you past five stunning lakes high in the mountains. Over the course of the hike, you experience a climb of 750 m and a descent of 1100 m. The lakes have names pertaining to their nature, and Wildsee is appropriately named after being called the “wild lake”.

Schwarzsee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

As I finished my climb into the mountains and got off the chair lift, I saw the trail before me. I instantly noticed that it went pretty much straight up and around a mountain peak, which would give even an experienced hiker a good challenge. What I didn’t immediately realize, however, was how much of a challenge it would be for me, as I had to carry my backpack and duffle bag with me, weighing over 45 kg.

5 Lake Hike, Swiss Alps

Halfway through the first hill, I had doubts about even being able to complete the hike. I was already exhausted from a grueling day of travel the previous day, and the extra weight on my back and the ridiculously steep incline of the hill were not doing me any favors. I thought several times about turning around and calling it quits, but I knew it was something I had to do - and something I would remember as a moment of strength and perseverance.

Schwarzsee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

Slowly, I made it up the first mountain, which turned out to be the hardest of the hike. Those who know me know that I hike fast, and it takes a lot for me to have to slow it down. Once I saw the sprawling mountains around me, and Baschalvasee, the first of the five lakes below me, I was floored. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing - it was just as epic as I had imagined it would be.

Schottensee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

I came down Baschalvasee, and kept moving forward. I somehow found the energy to make it up the incredibly steep hills, using the lakes as landmarks for how close I was to seeing Wildsee, the very last, and the most impressive, lake on the hike. The stunning landscapes all around me helped to provide a much needed distraction from the aches and pains.

Schottensee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

The weather on the hike was extremely volatile - it was sunny as I began hiking, but later clouds moved in, causing some light precipitation to occur. It is incredibly important to be prepared in situations like these, as you never know how serious of a storm could move in and leave you stranded. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I happened to have two weeks’ worth of clothes and provisions with me. The weather did not prove to be a serious threat, however, but was just another factor at play on this amazing hike.

Schottensee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

Eventually, I grew so tired and exhausted that the only thing keeping me going was the mental image of what Wildsee would look like when I finally saw it. As I passed Schottensee, I knew what was ahead. I looked up at the steep climb, the last one on the hike, knowing that I was so close. I knew that what I had come so far from home to see was finally in reach. As I willed myself up the last peak, I was not prepared for what I saw before me.

Wildsee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

I’ve seen Moraine Lake in Alberta. I’ve been to Diablo Lake in the North Cascades. I’ve hiked (and fallen in) Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. With all these epic lakes under my belt, it’s a wonder how I could be this excited to see Wildsee. Not only was I excited, but it was one of those times where you can’t believe how incredible what you are seeing truly is.

Wildsee, 5 Lake Hike, Pizol, Switzerland

As I came around the last bend, I laid my eyes upon Wildsee, one of the deepest, bluest lakes I have ever seen. The lake was surrounded by incredible snow-covered crags, making the lake that much more impressive. I was in awe.

It was worth it. It was worth the ridiculous train rides. It was worth almost sleeping on the streets the night before. And it was certainly worth the hike that I willed my body against all odds to do.

HB Mertz is a freelance photographer and adventurer. He enjoys solo road trips, hiking mountains, and doing anything to get the shot. He’s probably thinking about where his next adventure will lead him right now.

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Images: 1, 5, 9: vogelsp/Adobe; 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11: HB Mertz; 3: Michael Szönyi/Alamy; 12: lehvis/Adobe

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