Winter walk: Melchsee-Frutt to Tannalp

Melchsee-Frutt, a high plateau in Central Switzerland, looks like a corner of Antarctica with its smooth frozen lakes and colours as if from an artist's palette.

The queue was like one to get into a pop concert, and I found myself wondering why we had chosen such a crowded destination for today's hike. But escaping Zurich's amnesiotic mist of misery was necessary and we had been tempted by beautiful advertising imagery of Melchsee-Frutt in the canton of Obwalden.

An hour of queuing later (thank goodness for my daily mindfulness practices to help me cope), we were on our way up to the plateau at around 2,200 metres above sea level - and it quickly became clear that, like for most of the best things in life, the wait had been worth it. Summits unfolded around us, their flanks as if dusted in icing sugar; icicles dangled from rock faces; the sun painted the low-lying thin mist golden. At the top awaited a wide white expanse suspended between the mountains of Central Switzerland - frozen lakes hidden deep under a marzipan layer; tumbling folds of snow; jagged summits poking up around the lot.

We set off along the pisted walking trail towards Tannalp, around 4km along the plateau, beyond the frozen Melchsee, twinkling as if studded with crystals. Ahead of us, the summits of Titlis and the perfectly proportioned Graustock reigned majestic. The sun flooded the scene in gold, blotting the white in a dazzled haze. Cross country skiers swooshed around us. The crowds had dispersed across the huge plateau.

Soon, Frutt chapel chimed midday - a Christmas card scene, this white stone structure set in deep pleats of snow - and we settled on a wall outside a shuttered dairy to enjoy our turkey sandwiches. After topping out at Tannalp, our path became rugged, tumbling through deep, shaggy snow as it skirted the Tannensee into a scene that looked like a corner of Antarctica. Unblemished snow beneath towers of rock in colours as if taken from an artist's palette.

As the sun began to slide behind the horizon, it cast china blue shadows across the snowy flanks, and by the time we crossed the dam at the far end of the lake to take us back to the cable car, our noses were red with the cold and our shadows, long and sinewy.

Crowds had once again formed - and I suppose little wonder given the beauty of the place and the number of hotels and facilities clustered around the lift infrastructure. We had enjoyed a tranquil walk nevertheless, but will be seeking out a queue-free destination for our next hike. We did later learn that lift passes can be purchased online in advance, thereby saving one of the long queues - and I highly recommend this for anyone planning a winter visit.

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