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.
Lunch break with a view of Matterhorn
Matterhorn is reflected in the lake.
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.
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.
Our lunch spot
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.
Soaring Churfirsten peaks
Schrina Obersäss 1718m
Walensee is 1000+m down!
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.
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.
Our hike today: Sankt Martin (1340m) -> Alp Sardona (1743m) -> Sankt Martin (1340m), 12km, 550m ascent / descent, 4 hours
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 : ))
Lago di Braies, a boat pier
A quaint church at the lakeside
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.
Some parts are very steep
… and somewhat scary
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.
I am on the Via Alta!
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….
Going down on the sliding scree
Down to the valley, looking up where we came down…
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…
Monte Morcia (1181m) to Monte Catria (1701m) 5-6 hours, 20km (estimated), 550m up & down
On the second day in the region of Monte Morcia.
Today we left early so that Philippe gets an early start with flying on his preferred hilltop, Monte Morcia.
After watching him flying his airplane a bit, I headed off to Monte Catria (1701m) , the highest peak in this area. Its peak with the cross can be seen from far.
From Monte Morcia I walked on the white road till the foot of Monte Acuto (1668m). By then several cars with German number plates passed by and I knew that these flyers were going to the same point where Philippe was. This spot is popular particularly among Germans, I was told.
Looking back M. Morcia and Philippe
After half an hour or so, it was a relief to be out of the car road and finally find the hiking path. It lead into the beautiful dense forest and I enjoyed the serenity of the place, away from the scorching sun.
A beautiful forest path
From the GPS map I knew that I had to go around to the other side of Monte Acuto before going to Monte Catria. At a couple of points the signposts were not clear or not present at all so I asked some forest workers for directions (almost no other hiker was on the path).
Again I came out of the forest and onto a gravel road. Soon a car passed by but it stopped a couple of meters away and back-warded towards me. From the window the guy extended his arm and held something in his hand. I noticed that it was the regional map of “Monte Catria”! While I stared at it, he gave it to me without a word and drove away before I could say anything.
Monte Catria map
I was taken back and wanted to ask him, “did you read my mind??”
I kept wishing I would have had a proper map, as I lost my way several times today. Might he be one of the workers whom I saw and asked for directions earlier? I did not recognize him and was therefore a bit perplexed, but overjoyed with a new “compass” in my hands!
So I started walking with a better sense of orientation and confidence. Soon Monte Catria came into sight. The top with the cross looked quite far and its sharp mountain flank looked unfriendly.
Monte Catria is finally in view
The mountain flank seems unfriendly; how am I going to cross this?
The hike took more time than I had planned, as I spent a lot of time trying to find the path. But two women hikers came down and told me that it would take only over one hour so I decided to give it a go. The path was steep and slippery near the top but the view was fantastic! Unfortunately it was terribly windy and cold up there, so I could not stay for long.
At the trailhead of M. Catria
A large red-white sign
The Cross at M. Catria
The mountain flank seems unfriendly; how am I going to cross this?
To the cross, the top of M. Catria
I walked back the way I came and I was exhausted when I reached where Philippe was still happily flying his airplane along with lots of German and Swiss enthusiasts ….
Monte Morcia (1181m) -> Pian di Troscia (975m) -> Paravento (451m) -> Castello di Frontone (570m)
Philippe was very excited to get to his preferred modell airplane soaring place, Monte Morcia. Even though I love Philippe very much, staying put all day, watching him and his airplanes, was out of question. So I leave him with his big boy toys and am off to exploring the surrounding mountains on foot.
Needle take off
Monte Morcia and its suroundings are an area not particularly known for hiking. There are marked hiking paths but it requires a bit of research and luck, if you are not familiar with the place. However, I headed off from Monte Morcia (1181m) in good spirit.
Today’s trailhead Monte Morcia
First on the ridge walk from Monte Morcia.
I could see Philippe and other airplane flyers far on the ridge.
Looking back the path
The slope is pretty with flowers.
Flowers on the mountainslope
Soon the path went into the forest. It was rather difficult to find the right path and I went back and forth till I find one.
Going to the forest. happy to find the white/red marker
After coming to the open area, the path disappears into the blooming flower field! The flowers are high up to my hip but luckily I could see the trace in the field.
The path disappears into the flower filed
Pian di Troscia 975m
Frontone at the hilltop
After rather steep and difficult gravel path (it turned out to be not a marked hiking path), I arrived at a small village called Paravento.
Center of Paravento with no one in sight
I was happy to be down at the valley and look back Monte Morcia.
Looking back Monte Morcia
The day was still early when I decided to visit the Castello di Frontone, a hilltop medieval town which I could see earlier from the top of the mountain.
Arrived at Castillo de Frontone
A boy on the main street of the village
Today’s hike was overall not very successful, as I was not familiar with the region, only had a GPS map, and the Italian signposts tend to be sporadic. I did a lot of going back and forth to find the right path under the scorching sun….
But I still go some sense of the region so the overall experience gets an “OK”.
After going up the winding mountain road up to 1500m, this vast plain, Piano Grande (Great Plain), suddenly opened up in front of us. Breath-taking!
We could well imagine that this plain surrounded by the Sibillini mountain range and Mt. Vettore (2476m) used to be a lake a long, long time ago. Now it is a large pleateau bursting with wild flowers. No wonder many people came up to see this natural spectacle!
We could see a village perched on the rock at the far end which must be Castelluccio. Getting close there, we realized that the village was all rubble destroyed by the three earthquakes in 2016. The village is still in ruins guarded by the army and and an incredibly sad sight which made me almost cry…
A heavenly beautiful place and witness of nature’s uncontrollable forces.