There's a stubborn summer outlier: a brilliant blue gentian fluttering on the edge of a bubbling stream. Where the water tumbles in a pretty ribbon, the surrounding grassy flanks are auburn - so rich that a marmot poking its head out from the long grass goes almost unnoticed. My boots on the pebbles crinkle and splash as I forge the stream, and a cricket bounces out of the way on the other side.
The scene is high above Val Fex, above Sils, one the most beautiful valleys in the Upper Engadine region of Eastern Switzerland. Our hike started with the cable car from Furtschellas valley station, where a gaggle of cows were gathered after their long walk down the mountain for winter. Good news for me, as after reading one too many reports of hiker deaths at the hooves of cows I am quite anxious around them when out about on isolated hillsides. Once at the mid-station, the view quickly opened up onto the Mediterranean blue lakes Sils and Silvaplana in the valley, and above them, mountainous flanks like a Gothic cathedral, so high no trees can grow.
Now it was our turn to climb, and climb we did, steeply, to Alp Munt, where there was quiet after the cows' departure. Just us, the marmots and an ibex silhouetted high above. We followed the path around the alp and found a rocky outcrop on which to perch as we snacked on fruit bread from a local deli made with red wine and spices.
Following the course of the stream, we gradually meandered downhill into Val Fex, where the road along the valley was peppered with horse-drawn carriages and the river shone silver in the unbuffered sunlight. Here a different scene: tidy stone cottages with vegetable patches and flowery sun terraces. Further still, the shade of woodland, where we picnicked on sweet chestnut bread sandwiches filled with organic Gruyère cheese and rocket, and then an open meadow with a farm shop selling homemade energy bars and nut cake. Further yet, we passed a gorge of tangled stone and pine,
Eventually the path spilled out onto the pristine streets of Sils, a Keswick-like promenade of pretty hotels and smart shops. From the mountain tops to the valley bottom and all the scenery in between: the perfect sort of late-summer hike.
Duration: 4 hours