Home Sweet Home – Unknown Home: Flimser Mountains
During last year’s mountain bike season, we unfortunately saw far too little of our adopted home of Flims. Travelling from race to race meant that we were almost always on the move. And even after eight years of living in this paradise for mountain bikers, climbers and winter sport lovers, we still haven’t ticked off all the boxes.
Now it is autumn in Flims, and we have finally cut off the start numbers from our handlebars. With the last race behind us, the long Enduro season has left us physically exhausted but satisfied. The strenuous races of the Enduro World Series have taken their toll on our bodies and few options sound as appealing as an extended stay at home. But while our desire to race may have been satiated until further notice, our spirit of adventure is still keen for more and we decide to seek out a new challenge – but keeping it local. Before long, we hear about the mountain hut Camona Vorab and our new goal is suddenly glaringly obvious. The matter is settled: what could be cooler than spending a night in this hut surrounded by the stunning mountains of Flims?
However, it transpires that getting hold of the keys to this jewel isn’t that easy. You have to know someone who knows someone who is in the team that maintains the cabin. Rather complicated. In a roundabout manner, we eventually manage to get hold of the keys and head towards adventure. Our first goal is the Vorab glacier, one that we only know from snowboarding and not from mountain biking. Located 3,000 meters above sea level, we reach the glacier by muscle power alone, as by late October there are no more cable cars or shuttles to be seen.
Once we reach the glacier, a raw but impressively beautiful landscape awaits us, covered in ice and water-polished boulders known as the Flims Slick Rocks. The weather suits the landscape; an icy wind whistles around our ears while we enjoy the rocks and trails on our bikes. You have to find your own tracks here, and quite often you find yourself at a dead-end, confronted with icy glacier water.
You could stay forever on this glacial playground. But twilight soon begins to fall and a singletrail descent lies between us and the mountain hut. Following the red and white painted stones, which denote Switzerland’s hiking trails, we pass through fields of boulders, rocky outcrops formed by the glacier, and flowing mountain meadows. At last we spot our overnight resting place, with its red shutters gleaming from a distance.
Checking in at a mountain hut means fetching water, firing up the power generator and lighting the stove. In return, you’re rewarded with what are quite possibly the best views ever, as you drink your cup of self-made welcoming tea.
As dusk falls and the temperature plummets, there’s only one solution: a hot and reviving drink known as a Flämmli. A specialty from Graubünden, no evening in a mountain hut is complete without enjoying this typical beverage. After crushing two sugar cubes in a small coffee, you then drink the coffee, leaving the sugar behind, before filling the cups with a generous portion of pear brandy. The sugar-brandy mixture is then spooned out and set on fire. We play with the flame until the sugar caramelises, then blow it out and drink the hot Flämmli – Viva! Cheers!
Given the ambiance and the isolation of the hut, we’re lulled into reminiscing over the exhausting day we’ve had. After the Flämmli, we head to bed, soon sleeping like hibernating marmots. With no buzzing alarm clock to disturb the peace, it’s the first rays of sun that tickle us awake and tempt us out of bed, as if willing us to take in the splendour of the rising sun on the mountains.
After a mountain breakfast, we prepare to set off. Bidding farewell to the hut, we continue on our trail adventure, which takes a sinuous and challenging route over rocks that have been polished smooth by centuries of ice. The paths often seemingly disappear, leaving us to seek our own line through the sea of boulders. On reaching the valley below, we have descended 1,000 metres and passed through ever-changing layers of vegetation.
The exertion of yesterday’s ascent has been forgotten and our hands are not even cramped after the tricky ride downhill. Just our faces are tired, worn out from the broad grins. We look at each other, as if to silently confirm that it wasn’t our last trip to the Camona Vorab hut.
Words: Anita Gehrig
Photos: Philipp Ruggli