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A climb to the Gemmi

The history of the Gemmi is fascinating because, despite the various studies that have been carried out, there are a certain number of unknowns.

The Gemmi crossing is on the most direct line leading from Bern to the Po Plain. Of course, there is a passage via the Grimsel Pass and the Griess Pass, but this is not the most direct route from Bern. From this town, the most direct way is to cross the Bernese Alps chain via the Gemmi, or via the Lötschenpass, and continue crossing the Simplon Pass. Among the passes mentioned, the Lötschenpass is the one which has revealed the most archaeological remains, and we can assume that, despite its much higher altitude than the Gemmi (more than 350m), it must have been privileged. However, the Gemmi Pass offers an interesting variant, because it is much lower in altitude and easier to access. But, on the Leukerbad side, a high rock wall prohibits access.

This wall probably gave older generations a hard time and it is almost certain that the passage of the Alte Gemmi, much higher and circuitous, had been favored for a certain time. For those coming from Bern, it was certainly easier to cross the Lötschenpass, because it was lower in altitude.

When the great wall could be crossed by a path, habits began to change. But when did this change take place? We have very little information on this subject. What is certain is that documents from the 16th century mention a reconstruction of the path going up to the Gemmi. There is also mention of a bridge suspended by chains crossing a gorge. This suggests that a path already existed before the 16th century, but for how long? There is no more detailed information available currently.

The current path, which we follow up the Gemmi from Leukerbad, dates from the 18th century. It was designed so that it could drive livestock from Valais to the Gemmi mountain pastures.

When you look at the great wall from Leukerbad, it’s hard to believe that a path can cross it. We also cannot follow the possible path with our eyes. It is only when you start to climb that you understand that you can climb to the Gemmi without too many problems. By taking the cable car back down, you will then have a very detailed view of this spectacular route.

Route: Leukerbad – Gemmi
Distance: 4.8km
Altitude gain: 960m
Duration: 3h

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