Category Archives: Switzerland

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.

 

Tomasee / Lake Toma

Oberalpsee (2046m) <-> Tomasee (2343m),
8km – 468m ascent &descent

A hike with Rieko-san to the Lake Toma.

Lake Toma is the source of the river Rhine, Its water travels 1’320 km through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands into the North Sea. An amazing thing to imagine!

For the first time, I hiked in the Disentis-Andermatt area. There is still so much to discover in my homeland Switzerland 😃

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

WALSA-Weg: Oberterzen to Murg

Oberterzen – Murg, 5km

Philippe joined me for the last stretch of the WALSA-Weg today : )!

This stretch started with a gondola up to Obertersen and all the way we were rewarded with a great views of the deep-blue Walensee and ever color-changing Churfirsten.

WALSA-Weg (Walensee-Sargans Trail), Mels to Bad Ragaz

WALSA-Weg (WALensee-SArgans Trail)
Mels (near Sargans) to Bad Ragaz, 23 km

This hike was a series of challenges from the very beginning: a wrong bus information forced me to walk from the bottom of the valley instead of from Vermol, a further 4 km uphill hike including lovely 500 m of altitude. Well, off I go.

After already walking 2 hours, the path was suddenly marked “Gesperrt (Closed off)”!  While I was looking at this sign in disbelief, “why now?  why this sign not before?”, a car passed by.  I quickly waived at  the car to stop and asked two locals in the vehicle:
Is it really closed off?  Can’t I go anyway?  Do I really have to walk back 2 hours the same way!?

The man told me that it was due to a landslide and the path was closed off. Then the woman who seems to be his mother looked at me from the top to the bottom and said, “If you are careful, you can manage. But you have to be careful.” With her blessing, I decided to go ahead. I could turn back if it was too risky, I concluded myself.

After walking downhill a while, surely enough,  I came to a more than 45-degree slope and saw a bridge gone with a landslide.
Very slowly one step after another, without much elegance, I managed to cross to the other side and to continue on the safe ground. Phew!

Next came another dangerously half-way fallen bridge over the stream! I tried to test the bridge but it looked wobbly. The stream was narrow so not dangerous, but I did not want to get my shoes wet or slip on and twist my ankle. On this path I have not seen any other hiker yet and I cannot expect anyone to rescue me in case of an accident….. A few good stones to hop on helped me to make it safely to the other side. Second done!

As the last challenge of today (enough for one day!), several gigantic fallen trees  blocked the path completely and forced me to go back to the paved street : (

But I met a delightful Swiss couple, Claudia & Gion from Chur, who used to live in Japan over 10 years and speak very good Japanese. We hiked together for more than an hour with Gion talking about his experience in teaching psychology and with Claudia about doing Nishinjin-ori in Kyoto! The couple seems to be in their 70s but they have no problem walking up 500m non-stop.  Some Swiss are impressively fit!

This amazing encounter and the fantastic view of the Rhein Valley and surrounding mountains had blown away all the little challenges “on the road”!

Detailed route on the WALSA-Trail

WALSA-Weg: Vermol to Oberterzen

Plattmol, Mels  -> Chapfensee (1056m) -> Schwarzenberg -> Flumserberg -> Oberterzen; 21km

First going up to Chapfensee, a small lake above Vermol.

After going through a rather dense forest, the path opened up to a panoramic view of the Churfirsten mountain range.

At the colorful charming house there was a beauty!

After already 3+ hours on the “road”, 3h 20 min more to go.

Coming out of the ravine, the awesome looking Spitzmeilen peak was seen at the end of the valley.

At the last stretch I was rewarded with a view of the deep-blue Walensee and Churfirsten.

More on the WALSA-Weg

Tamina Gorge & Bad Ragaz

Bad Ragaz – Bad Pfäfers – Taminaschlucht (Tamina Gorge) – Naturbrücke – Pfäfers – Wartenstein – Bad Ragaz (11km)

I heard about this gorge last year and anyone who read the story of “Heidi” knows about Bad Ragaz, the thermal bath town visited by Clara’s grandmother.

The rather well known spa promotes its healing waters surfacing at 36.5°C. That’s lukewarm at best. In Japan, I rarely visit an onsen with water temperatures below 40° C. So we skipped the soaking.

Still, we hiked up the gorge to the source of the thermal water. Philippe vaguely remembers that he visited this place in a school outing (he has little memory of what he has done in school, it seems).

After we were informed by a friendly tourist office staff that our planned hike is partially rather steep, we left Bad Ragaz, heading for Bad Pfäfers (Pfäfers Bath).  It’s not more than an easy one-hour walk along the gushing river in the imposing narrow gorge. It’s morning and not many people around. We enjoyed the cool air in the impressively curved gorge.

The beautifully maintained baroque-style spa building appeared in front of us and after our picnic lunch in the sun we entered in the thermal spring grotto.

This 450-meter long gorge is impressive! The nature curved rocks only let a narrow sunbeam coming through. It is mysterious and awe-inspiring. We could see hot thermal steam bubbling up. A couple of panels explained where it all began and what we’re looking at.

 

After the visit of the gorge, the steep hike started into the forest and then down again to the historical “natural bridge” followed by upward wooden steps, which the tourist office personal warned us about.

We arrived at the cute town of Pfäfers, with an impressive baroque monastery church and the former Benedictine abbey (currently in scaffolding).

Bad Pfäfers
Bad Pfäfers
Taminabridge
Taminabrücke, a bit out-of-place supermodern bridge

On the way back to the town, we had another highlight: the Wartenstein Ruin where we could have a fantastic view of the Rhein Valley and the familiar Prättigau peaks such as Vilan, Chrüz and Philippe’s beloved playground Gafäll.

Back in Bad Ragaz an outdoor sculpture exhibition was greeting us and many others with more than 400 pieces, scattered everywhere in the town as well as in the beautiful garden of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.

More details on the gorge
Hike route

Griesalp to Hohtürli

Via Alpina, Section 13 – Part 1

Griesalp (1408m)  – Bundalp (1840m) – Hohtürli (2774m) – Blümlisalphütte (2840m) – Oeschinensee (1593m) – Kandersteg (1176m)
16km, 1550m up  and 1750m down

Today is one of the hardest hikes on the Via Alpina route, almost 1,400m up to the highest pass of this trail (2,774m). The Via Alpina has a total of 14 passes.

Unlike yesterday, today the sun is out and the blue sky smiles at us.

After a hearty breakfast, we’re ready for the big day!
Leaving behind our beautiful, cozy hotel, we went down to the village center. Not that we wanted to go down but the route does not give us a choice. The center is nothing more than a bus stop and a couple of hotels. Like us a bit earlier, many hikers were getting ready for the next stretch.

Crossing the river, the climb started on the other side of the valley. The first stretch was through the woods. Several hikers were on the trail as well.  A bit later, we walked through pasture land and passed a couple of farmhouses to finally reach a restaurant at Bundalp (1,840m). It looked enticing, but too early to have a break, we skipped it and continued.

At this time I told Caroline that we had gone up roughly one third of today’s ascent, only another 1,000 m up to go. Not sure whether it was encouraging or discouraging…

A little bit later, the imposing Blümlisalp Massif and the Blümlisalphütte appeared on the hoirzon, today’s highest point as well as our lunch destination. The hut seemed to be sitting on the boulder, majestic, far and away.

It was very sunny and it seemed a popular route, with a lot of hikers on the trail.

The steep slope was criss-crossed with many paths.

We looked up to the hut on the boulder under the blue sky often. What a fantastic sight! The more altitude we gained, the more of yesterday’s path we could see on the opposite side of the valley, even the Sefinenfurgge pass, yesterday’s highest point .
I always love seeing the  travelled route and pass of the day before. It helps me to understand the exact geography of the area. It is like creating your own 3D map in your head.

The rugged Gespaltenhorn (3426m) and Gespaltenhornhütte at the foot were also visible.  The dutch couple we met the day before went into this direction. That route  seemed not funny….

After we managed some narrow path on the ridge, the famous steps to Hohtürli appeared. The stairs seemed to wind up endlessly.

One step after the other. Luckily no one was coming down and we did not need to cross other hikers on those narrow steps.

The last stretch on the stairs looked vertical! The sweat was streaming down on my face while I was concentrating on the steps ahead of me,  not looking at the steep slope going down several hundreds meters.

After some hundreds of steps, I reached at the top of staircase and Caroline came up just after me and smiled, when seeing the hut in front of us. Done.

Finally at the Hohtürli (= the high small door), 2774m. We made it!