Hörnlihütte (3260m)

Convinced that Matterhorn is the most beautiful mountain in the world, Yasuko’s birthday wish was to spend a few days in Zermatt. Our friend Patrick was so kind to let us stay at his studio with a fantastic view of that magnificent mountain. We could have sat in the studio just watching that magnificent mountain from the window, but not with Yasuko, of course.

For non-climbers, the closest you can get to the Matterhorn, is the Hörnlihütte, the base camp for the Matterhorn peak ascent. That’s not something one needs to tell my darling twice. So the  birthday wish became a hike, as the weather forecast promised a sunny day. We packed the sandwiches and off we went…

 

The Hörnlihütte has been renovated a few years ago, is very modern and serves nice and simple Swiss food (Rösti and similar stuff, that is). Every hiker takes that same picture on the terrace with the Matterhorn in the background. Except us, we took many 😁.

We were a bit worried about the descent, as there are some really steep and scary parts, with a ladder, ropes and almost vertical drops of a few hundred meters right next to the secured path. But it all turned out to be quite manageable. We just avoided looking down for too long.

On the way down, Yasuko expressed a wish for her next birthday. The guess is yours…

Findeln Glacier hike & Chez Vrony

Blauherd – Stellisee – Fluhalp – Findeln – Winkelmatt

It started in the complete fog, when we got out of the gondola at Blauherd this morning….

but soon it cleared out and picturesque lake Stellisee reflected the Matterhorn in its water!

Our plan was to do the 5-lake hike but we saw the tempting glacier beyond the lake so we walked up to the moraine which is simply…

… spectacular. Rocks, stones, gravel and sand pushed by icy snow creates moraines of massive dimensions. Nature at work.

A nice stop at the beautiful and well-known restaurant Chez Vrony.

Matterhorn Glacier Trail

Trockener Steg – Hirli – Schwarzsee
7km, not much up and down

This trail is a fantastic walk so very close to the towering peak of Matterhorn. The weather was changing rapidly from grey to shiny blue and then foggy. That change made this magnificent mountain change its face as well.

First, at Trockener Steg, the trailhead, we visited the exhibition about the new Kleine Matterhorn gondola station project. It is an engineering wonder built between 3000m and almost 4000m of altitude where even spaghetti take 45 minutes to be cooked. There was a little demo gondola cord to hang on and pretend. My (Yasuko’s) trial was so miserable, that I prefer to keep its photo to myself : ) But it made us laugh for a long while…

When we started walking, the sky was grey – Zermatt covered by a layer of fog. Pretty to look at it if you stand above the fog…

The atmosphere was winter-like with a calming stillness.

We could clearly see the Hörnlihütte and the path leading to it. Weather permitting, the hike to the Hörnlihütte is going to be my birthday hike.

 

Churfirsten

Walenstadtberg Höchenklinik (980m) -> Hochrugg (1320m) -> Paxmal (a peace memorial)-> Schrina Obersäss (1718m) -> Alp Tschingla (1528m) -> Walenstadtberg (805m)
11.2km, 765m ascent / 970m descent, 4h45min

Our original idea was to go up to Chäserrugg, 2262m, from the Walensee side. Studying the map carefully,  we figured, it meant “climbing” 1’300m of altitude on some very steep mountain path. Well, we changed plans…

Instead, we opted for a round trip hike over Alp Tschingla with still 800m ascent : )

After one hour’s steady uphill from the bus stop (980m),  we reached Hochrugg, 1320m. Picnic lunch time with an awesome view of the Walensee and the Flumserberge on the other side of it.

Passing a couple of charming farmhouses,  an gigantic Parthenon-like monument, Paxmal (a peace monument) appeared out of nowhere, on the mountain flank of the Churfirsten!

Apparently, a Swiss stamp engraver and artist called Karl Bickel, built this peace monument between 1924 and 1949, high above the Walensee. The setting is awesome:  the backdrop of the soaring Churfirsten peaks.

Our path to Alp Tschingla was steep, but the majestic vertical rock walls of the Churfirsten mountains, paired with a view of the deep-blue Walensee 1,000 m below, was phenomenal.

Finally reaching Schrina Obersäss (1718m), the highest point of this hike, the path levelled out.  Relatively easily we arrived at Alp Tschingla and had a tasty home-made almond cake and a cold beer as a self-reward!

With a little more than one hour left to catch the bus at Walenstadtberg, we almost flew down 700 m of altitude and ended up with muscle ache the next day.

More details on today’s route :  Alp- und Kulturweg Schrina

More on Paxmal

Sankt Martin, a charming Walser settlement

This is our first visit to the Calfeisental (Calfeisen Valley), a very isolated, narrow yet beautiful valley behind Bad Ragaz, of which Philippe had never heard neither.

The drive to Sankt Martin is already kind of an adventure. The only road is so narrow that it can only be used one way at a time. The first 20 minutes of every hour upwards, 10 minutes of buffer time, then 20 minutes the other way.

We loved the charming hotel-restaurant Sankt Martin because we could feel that someone really cares about this place!  The soup and risotto we had were very tasty.

This place is another surprising discovery in a region so close to our home.

Sankt Martin:

Our hike today:
Sankt Martin (1340m)  -> Alp Sardona (1743m) -> Sankt Martin (1340m), 12km, 550m ascent / descent, 4 hours

More on Sankt Martin hotel-restaurant

The Dolomites Day 3: Burgstall

Kreuzbergpass 1636m  -> Burgstall 2161m -> Fischleinbodenhütte 1454m -> Moos 1339m
500m up, 800m down

3nd day in the Dolomites. Another great walk around the imposing Sextner Rotwand (2936m).

The Dolomites Day 2: Drei Zinnen and Fischleinbodenhütte

Rif Auronzo 2320m -> Lavaredohütte (2344m) ->DreiZinnenhütte 2405m -> Talchlusshütte (1548m) -> Fischleinbodenhütte 1454m
200m ascent; 950m descent

I was walking in a heaven today : )  Too many majestic peaks in every direction and I did not know which way to look at….

The Dolomites Day 1: Lago di Braies

Lago di Braies (1494m) – Forela Sora Forno (2388m) – Rifugio Biella (2327m) – Grünwaldalm (1590m) – Lago di Braies (1494m)
17km (estimated), 1100m up and down

The Dolomites wich I have long dreamed of!

Today’s plan was to walk the first part of the famous Alta Via 1 (a 120km long-distance hiking route) and take the route 23 & 19 back to the lake. The Alta Via 1 hike is on my wish-list for a while so it will give me some ideas for this route for the future.

At the trailhead we were welcomed by the amazing green color of the lake, Lago di Braies,  surrounded by impressive peaks! Being on the Alta Via 1,  I was already all smiles : ))

After going around one side of the lake, a very steep climb started. Several people were going up and one Italian was coming up steadily but with lots of efforts.  He was doing the Alta Via carrying a 22 kg bag including a tent and all you need for sleeping outdoors! No wonder he was sweating.

We were happy to reach the top at 2300m and had our well-deserved picnic lunch “on the rocks” with a fantastic 360-degree view.

From the Rifugio Biella the flat path started but it did not last long. With small up and downs we walked around the impressive mountain Sas dla Porta / Seekofel at the level of 2300m.  And then, inevitable, after the ascent, the decent. It was a path of scree. We had to concentrate not to slip. It is almost like snowshoeing on powder snow. But more tiring….

Happy to finish this exhausting downhill and back to the lake, we replenished our batteries with a cup of tea and a cold beer at the Grand Lakeside Hotel terrace…

Eataly 🇮🇹

This trip unexpectedly turned into a fantastic food adventure. The best I can remember (outside Japan, that is). Ohhh… these black smoked gnocchi with truffel and asparagus were to die for and the gnocco fritto a surprising start into a  great meal.

Cagli

We stayed three nights in Cagli, which looks very much like a normal Italian town with a medieval touch, but doesn’t leave as much an impression as the amazing towns of Assisi and Gobbio. The reason why we stayed here was due to the proximity to Philippe’s favorite model sailplane flying place!

But it nevertheless turned out to be an interesting place.  Our B&B apartment, part of an old mansion owned by low-key Italian Francesco, was nice and cozy. What surprised us was Francesco’s museum-like mansion! It has a 4m high-ceiling dining room, several bedrooms with antique furniture, an enormous kitchen with a fireplace and antique plates,  and other countless rooms…. Totally amazing!

The town has a good size square where locals and some tourists hang out for coffee and chatting. We get a good taste for an Italian life, by going for dinner in this square where everyone gathers and also by going for breakfast in one of popular cafes in town where many locals seem to come for espresso and a sweet bread.

A taste of Italian life in Cagli.