In the northwest of Switzerland’s canton of Graubünden, you’ll find the region Surselva. The name comes from the ancient swiss language romansh and translates to ‘above the forest’. Right so, cause the main valley is primarily composed of forest and pastureland, bogs and alpine meadows. These forests and the areas are home to animals like capricorns or deers, wild rivers rumbling down the valley and nature that is almost untouched. I wanted to discover this area myself by hiking through one of the oldest primeval forests in Switzerland and ending up just like name suggests me to; “sur selva”, so above the timberline.
The forest of Scatlè, one of the last three remaining in primeval forests in Switzerland, is a prehistoric jewel. It is completely untouched and in its original state. Fallen trees remain to further on contribute to the regeneration of the forest and keep everything in it’s natural state without any influence of human kind. The spruce-forest is nested inbetween avalanche trains and steep rock hillsides. This explains the french name ‘scatlè’ which means ‘in between’. The forest is within 1850 m and 2015 m above sea level and extends to a width of 150 to 300 meter. The 5.5 hectare protected area is the highest primeval forest in whole Europe.
The hike I made started in the small village of Brigels. The goal was Val Frisal, a high mountain valley above the forests. As I made my way along the river, I passed Scatlè. Always on my left hand side, I couldn’t keep my glare away. It is truly not possible to enter the forest as it is completely overgrown and wild. Even our pathway wasn’t really a path anymore, it made us jump over small rivers and fallen trees. You have to watch every step, which is incredibly hard as your eyes are automatically glued on to the forest, hoping to get a chance to see more of this unique area.
After you pass Scatlè you follow a steep path to your first valley above the timberline. The roaring waterfalls are your company throughout the whole hike. Only when you arrive on top in Val Frisal, the water suddenly becomes silent and you see how it melts on the summits only to make it’s way through the Val Frisal and then further on tumbles down the valley. This place and the hike is unlike many other hikes barely untouched, with no restaurants or chairlifts. You really have to earn the view you get in the end. Everything along the path is a product of the centuries and you’re just a silent visitor in between the trees, the water and the rocks.