Alpine landscapes of the Pizol – the 5-lake walk

Above the treeline, where bald rock takes over the surface and the air slowly gets thinner, our planet often looks otherworldy. One of my favourite kinds of landscape, alpine highlands are an environment of their own. The Swiss alps feature an abundance of beautiful alpine landscapes and panoramas, and one of the most easily-accessible while absolutely gorgeous ones is the one surrounding the mountain of Pizol. Emerald-coloured glacial meltwater, serrated peaks, and huge boulders tell stories of massive forces, while the humane figures in the distance appear antlike. It is in this kind of environment where man feels most insignificant.

Easily reachable via a cable car ride and later a chairlift, one can slowly watch the environment transform from dense, green forests into a bald, chilling and almost monochromatic sea of rocks. Distant bells of cattle or sheep herds ring through the air, soon replaced by gusts of wind hitting the ears. Were it not for other walkers in this area, the only sound you would hear would be the sound of wind. Eventually arriving at the busy Pizol cabin, where families and pensioners enjoy their lunch overviewing a gorgeous panorama of the surrounding peaks and valleys below.

Here, a walk passing by five alpine lakes takes off. Immediately, the path splits in two. A short hike beyond a small hill takes you to the first lake, a mere pond, currently disturbed by diggers trying to re-shape the landscape. A seemingly unnecessary, and highly disturbing action.

Passing by the Pizol cabin again, the path continues uphill, and as the climb gets higher, the boulders become larger than man. During small breaks to catch my breath, I keep turning back in awe, as a gorgeous, perfectly V-shaped valley now lies below me, looking like it’s been cut in two by a planetary axe. The zenith of the path is reached at almost 2500m, where the air gets noticeably thinner. The reward is immediate, though, as a beautiful, gemlike meltwater lake is revealed, guarded by a menacing, sawtooth-like mountain ridge, the horns of Latvina. To their left end lies the peak of the Pizol, itself carrying a smaller glacier below.
















It is already a vista to make this walk worthwhile, however, as the path carries on, another lake is soon revealed a couple of hundred meters below, the dark waters of the Schottensee. A nervous descent along rubble, the waters invite several hikers to rid their clothes for a daring swim, while others attempt to catch some fish. As proper food must be rare at these heights, it takes mere seconds for them to bite. Still today, it is unclear to me how fish got into this isolated drop of water in the first place.
The beauty of this place invites for a small rest, before the road continues uphill for another 300m. After the ascent, the fourth lake, the Schwarzsee is revealed. It appears like it was shaped by drops of a paintbrush, the striking contrast of colour surrounded by bleak grey is remarkable. Foggy clouds are blown across the mountain tops here, and people appear as tiny dots in the distance. Patches of surviving snow lie in the shade. The wind is strong and cold here, so I move on switfly.






















Further, past another smaller hill covered in a sea of man-made stone towers, the final descent begins. Halfway interrupted by the last, fifth lake, the Baschalva, smaller than its brethren, and yet refreshing. As the descent carries on for another 400m, knees start to ache while the road winds along the mountain slopes and past fenced cattle, before it finally reaches the chairlift station Gaffia, ready to take me back into civilisation. Within minutes, the mesmerizing and idyllic alpine world is left behind, as the smell of exhaust from passing cars and loud groups of school children take over the senses once again.The 5-lake-walk covers a distance of 10.7 km, an ascent for something over 600m and a descent of over 900m. The highest point of the route lies at 2504m. Apart from a few moments with rubble slipping away under your feet, this path is of lighter difficulty, therefore accessible for anyone and completed within 3 – 4 hours.

Photos taken on a Mamiya 645 using Kodak Portra and Ilford FP4 film. Colour film developed & scanned at, B&W film in my own basement.

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