Advice for Living and Climbing in Switzerland

Original Post
NeilB · · Tehachapi, CA · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 45

Hi, MP community. My wife and I are discussing the possibility of moving from California to Switzerland. She has visited there, has distant relatives and a dual citizenship (USA-Switzerland). I am a climber and the thought of moving there is exciting, though there is no lack of climbing opportunity here in California. I'm looking for any recommendations as to where in Switzerland is optimal to live for the climbing and how we might go about making a living there. My wife is a writer by trade. I am an engineer and fabricator currently working in the aerospace industry. We are both ready for a change. Any suggestions welcome. Thanks!

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,763

Switzerland is beautiful, vibrant green for a reason.

California is brown and tan for a reason.

Rainfall may be a big downer if you're not used to it…unless the last few days in CA suit your taste!

David A · · Amsterdam, Netherlands · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 260

Hi Neil,

I can tell you that basically anywhere you choose to live in CH is pretty ideal for climbing; you'll never be more than a couple hours away from anything less than spectacular. The northern 1/3 of the country is mostly rolling hills with relatively less climbing, but the southern 2/3 of the country has a high density of of all types of world class climbing; bouldering, sport crags, big wall sport climbs, crazy alpine, ice, trad, you name it. Like I said, the country is so small, you can live anywhere and be easily within day trip distance to some pretty epic spots.

You'll have to think about what language you're going to want to hear the most, French, German, or Italiano. Most people speak English at least a little bit, but each corner of the country holds a vastly different culture depending on the language spoken. Quite fascinating given the country's size.

In terms of work, a strong economy makes me think you shouldn't have too much difficulty finding a job in the engineering/aerospace industry. There is a bustling high tech scene there, and I know several major US and UK companies have offices around. Don't know much about the work visa situation though. At the very least you could get a job teaching English I bet.

Source: have dual citizenship, lots of family, and have spent a lot of time there.

Ashort · · Tacoma, WA · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 35

Get an english language teaching certificate before you go. If you have a TESOL or equivalent certificate and a work visa you shouldn't have too much trouble finding English teaching gigs. I would think finding a job in engineering would be difficult unless you are very fluent in the language. Not just conversational fluency, but also technical fluency.

I am guessing you can get a family based visa with your wife holding dual citizenship?

NeilB · · Tehachapi, CA · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 45
David A wrote: Like I said, the country is so small, you can live anywhere and be easily within day trip distance to some pretty epic spots.
David A,
Are the day trip distances exclusively by driving your own car like in America, or are there many climbing destinations reachable by taking public transit?
NeilB · · Tehachapi, CA · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 45

And thanks for all the info, everybody. Keep the suggestions coming if you have good insight.
I don't mind rain so much. Growing up in lush and green Tennessee wasn't so bad.

David A · · Amsterdam, Netherlands · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 260

You can reach quite a bit by using public transit. Obviously it's more convenient if you have access to a vehicle, but the public transit system is so efficient, it takes about the same amount of time as it would to drive a car to certain locations. If you are using public transit exclusively, you'll probably have to take a train/bus combo to get to crags.

Bottom line, yes, you can day trip to great climbing areas using public transit, especially if you live in the southern 2/3 of the country. \

What type of climbing are you most psyched on?

entreves · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

I try to add something more having spent five years of my life in Zurich.
They produce good climbing guidebooks covering the entire Switzerland and a little beyond the borders.You will also find good books from the Swiss alpine club.Every book will give you great info on how to reach the climbing spot using both car or public transport.You will be able to reach almost every place by train/bus just a bit slower than by car. Better if you'll live close to an important station to have more connections (Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, etc...)
Here you can plan all your trips and check the ticket price. There are several kind of abonement....check the half price card, it's great.
Great website for planning hikes, bike tour and more by public transport.

By the way, everyone told you to go to the alps to find amazing spots and of course the alps are one of the best mountain range all over the world, but don't forget the Jura along the border with France and Germany, you'll find nice limestone crags, good especially in spring and autumn when the alps are packed with snow.

Ben Philbrick · · lucerne, switzerland · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 25

lots of good information so far! i've been living and climbing here for three years, and currently based in luzern.

as for the immigration process, your wife is a swiss national, so that means you'll be going for your "b permit" aka "b bewilligung" which will allow you to stay for a year, work, and get married. there's lots of information on on the process, which i followed religiously (also came from california) and it worked out well. expect about a 6 month time frame if everything goes well.

get stoked on skiing! it's ridiculously cheap here. with a half tax card, and the SBB snow and rail passes, i can ride the train/bus/both and ski somewhere awesome for about 70 CHF. not bad. i've been knee deep in powder more than i ever have in my 20+ years of skiing these last few seasons. hit the smaller, locals only resorts rather than the big names. you'll experience less people, more culture, and better snow. i haven't skiied in zermatt, and i could honestly not care. i've had way more fun at melchsee-frutt than i think i ever could at some fancy place, and i've managed to clock in 8000 vertical meters in a day there. try doing that at some busy resort.

climbing...gonna get tough when it gets wet. the jura mountains are awesome for fall (when the fog starts to settle in for the next six months) and offer tons of possibilities. dry tooling, mixed climbing, and straight up rock climbing in the winter months are all good up there. the plaisir guides are all translated and easily understood.

don't stick to the plaisir guides, though. i just got a set of the sac clubfuhrer books for this region, and i wish i got them sooner. they'll give you info on trad routes in your neighborhood (as well as really good scrambles and hikes) that would normally be left out of the plaisir guides. to really get info on all the routes in a region, you need about 5 books. no lie. plaisir guides to french 6b, plaisir extreme above that (bolted, and some trad), sac kletterfuhrer for both, and sac clubfuhrer for trad climbs.

the guidebooks will not be laid out as plainly as supertopo books. it's a good and bad get more routes per book, but a lot less info. is a good resource for current route conditions...but pretty much in german.

if you want to head into the high mountains, then there's a series of books out from topo.verlag that have great topos and info on routes. you'll never find the access to 4000 meter peaks to be more comfortable! imagine taking a ski lift to the bottom of a glacier, climbing some awesome ridge route, and returning to a hut for beer that afternoon. that can happen. it's awesome.

there's also some excellent adventure routes to be had. check out the "keep wild" books for some good, long trad routes in the tessin area. best to do over a long weekend, and you better enjoy steep approaches and backpacking. that being said, the trad climbing in tessin is awesome and unspoiled, a welcome change to ski lifts and huts everywhere. the random hunter hut may or may not be occupied, and when it is, i've experienced wonderful moments of hospitality. the best of which was after a 12 hour day followed by an invite to eat freshly killed pig and drink homemade wine specially made for hunting season by these hunters.

feel free to write me an email if you need any more specific information at bennyphilbrick at gmail döt com

Ben Philbrick · · lucerne, switzerland · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 25

i should also point out that even though the public transit system here is awesome, it can definitely be a hinderance to travel in less frequented areas. my versatility to climb things improved drastically as soon as we bought a car over here. rather than race through a climb since the last bus leaves at 4:42 in some valley end, we're able to enjoy things and not stress constantly. it's also nice since some valleys will only offer bus service two or three times per day, with a car we can get in earlier and leave later than would be normally possible.

that...and waiting for a bus or train in the rain, snow, and wind sucks. a lot.

waiting for the next train, which comes the following morning, in the rain...snow...and wind...really sucks.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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