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A high-wire family adventure in the Swiss Alps | Switzerland holidays

A high-wire family adventure in the Swiss Alps | Switzerland holidays

There was definitely a goat in our bedroom. As the wind rattled the wooden shutters above the mattresses on the floor, where my partner and I and our two-year-old lay huddled, I woke with a start, searching the darkness for the creature whose bleats had interrupted my sleep.

We were in the centre of Switzerland, in the mountains above Engelberg, staying in a barn at Alp Oberfeld. Or – technically – above one, in a converted section of the upper floor, beneath which the 100 goats the Käslin family tend over summer are milked twice a day. I checked the clock on my phone. It was 6am. They were right on schedule.

Beside me my son stirred and yawned. I held my breath preparing for the imminent wake-up. Yet it didn’t come. Instead he snuggled under my arm and drifted back to sleep – something unheard of back home. I would have ordinarily been shocked. But on this, our third and final morning on the Buiräbähnli Safari trail, it was the kind of magic we had become accustomed to.

Engelberg is a region of Switzerland famous mainly with hardcore skiers who come for the 3,238m peak of Titlis and a glacier that is easily accessed. This newly launched 29-mile (46km) hiking route is an attempt by the local tourist office to put the area on the map for summer adventures, too.

The barn at Alp Oberfeld. Photograph: Oskar Enander/Engelberg-Titlis Tourismus Company.

Buiräbähnli means “farmer’s cableways” in local Swiss-German and refers to the series of small, often quirky, cable cars that were built across the country after the second world war to transport machinery, building materials and supplies to the farms among the peaks.

There were soon more than 100 across Switzerland, built to custom designs, becoming something of a cultural icon. But over the decades, as maintenance costs spiralled and more roads were built, the number in this region, once affectionately named “Valley of the Cable Cars”, has more than halved.

“They are still the lifeline for many of us in these mountains,” Nadine, a volunteer at Alp Oberfeld, told me, “especially in places like this, which still has no road access.” We’d arrived late on our second day, hot on the trail of the resident goats, amid the swirling clouds of a brewing summer storm.

The new circular, sporadically waymarked trail (useful GPX files and…

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