Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Finnu -> Schalba

Short winter hike up to Chastler, down through Meinimatte and Schalba, then back around past Egga, through Bodma, and then more or less along the contour line to Finnu.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Snowshoeing: Finnu -> Maelchgrat

Again up to Brischeru via Chastler. Today we're a bit earlier (9:30 start), so we're the first ones along the path for the day (noticeable because the wind has blown snow over the path during the night). Our goal is the Mälchgrat and we have a description of the way there, but there aren't really any paths to be seen, so we wing it. Up behind the houses of Brischeru and then more or less along the slope following the occasional hint of a trail (from snowshoes or touring skis). Throughout the weather is odd: the clouds seem to be swirling, so at times we're in sun and at times we're under clouds. The 4000ers are all buried under an impressive cloud blanket.
Fun watching a group of touring skiiers work their way towards the Gärsthorn. By the time we get to the bottom terrace of the grat, it's looking like the clouds are there to stay, so we decide not to do the last bit of ascent and wander around the lower terrace a bit. Crazy wind-crafted snowscapes. Lunch with a nice view but in the cold cold wind, so it's a quick one.

On the way back we watch the 4 touring ski guys come down the mountain (with two dogs!) and then follow their path back into Brischeru. Of course by the time we get down to the alp the clouds above us have cleared up and the sky is fantastically blue. Neither of us trusts it enough (or feels fit enough really) to turn around and go back up, so we have another snack and then head back down towards Chastler.

Along the way we follow a side trail off into the woods and get to enjoy a very nice steep descent through the deep snow in the woods before rejoining the main trail. Quite a nice diversion from the very well trampled highway. After a bit more wandering around Chastler, we head back down to the flat (3:30).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Finnu -> Visp

Down to Visp via Eggen and Eggerberg. Wandered around Visp, had lunch, did some shopping. Back by Post bus to Eggen and then on foot back up to Finnu.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Snowshoeing: Finnu -> Brischeru

We set out directly from the flat (~1420m) in Finnu. After a quick detour caused by a bad guess at an unmarked path split, we head off along the UNESCO trail towards Brischeru. Up a bit through the woods, past Chastler (1606m) (looks like another great place to stay in the winter) then more seriously up through the woods to Brischeru (2057m). Lunch while enjoying the amazing views (another great place to stay that's only reachable on foot), then up a bit more to the Bättchrixji (2171m) with a very nice view up the Rhone valley. Back along a ski-touring trail around the shoulder of the Gärsthorn and then back to Brischeru. Back to the flat along more or less the same route.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


This was the first snowshoe trip of the year and the first anything that we've managed to do in quite a while.

After the gondola from Reigoldswil to Wasserfallen (937m), we headed on foot up to the Hintere Wasserfallen, where we put on the snowshoes. It was then up a bit towards the Chellenchoepfli and then along the ridge (snowshoeing and a ridge walk!) through the woods to the Vogelberg and a bit further to Passwang Pt 1204 (1204m). Down to the road and then along the road to the Gasthaus Vogelberg. Over the ridge then down to Ulmethoechi. Past Stierenberg (993m), around the Chleini Weid, then down to Nunningen (621m) and the bus back home.

We forgot to turn on the beeper, so there's a hand drawn track for this one. We were underway for about 4.5 hours with a couple of short breaks.

Boy was it great to be outside again.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hiking the Schluchtensteig (Schwarzwald): Boll -> Lenzkirch

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hiking the Schluchtensteig (Schwarzwald): Blumberg -> Boll

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hiking the Schluchtensteig (Schwarzwald): Stühlingen -> Blumberg

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hiking in the Jura : Oensingen to Holderbank

This was one of those "stay flexible" days. The idea was to hike from Hägendorf to Oensingen along the Jurahohenweg in order to enjoy the forecasted excellent views. In reality the train into Olten was late, causing us to miss the connection to Hägendorf, so we started in Oensingen. After climbing past the old castle and up to the Roggenflue we discovered that the high fog was higher than it was supposed to be and that the Alps were mostly covered by clouds anyway. Ah well.
We followed the quite nice path along the ridge, occasionally seeing a bit of the Alps off in the distance, until hitting the parking lot for the restaurant at Alp. From there we headed down into the valley to Holderbank, from which we headed home.

Not what we planned, but it was a nice walk in the mountains.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hiking around the Aletsch glacier: Day 2

Greg's pre-sunrise climb to the Riederhorn was pretty much a waste since the clouds were too thick to see much in the way of mountain tops. Oh well, it's good to start the day with a bit of exercise.

We got a pretty late start because the hotel didn't serve breakfast until 8, but then we headed up along the ridge path towards Moosfluh. This really nice path had the added advantage of being mostly empty, it was our one bit of solitary hiking on the trip. Along the way we spotted a couple bits of wildlife: a pair of Gemsen and a small member of the weasel family (to be looked up later). The original plan was to take the UNESCO high route between Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn, but that was all in cloud by the time we reached the climbing point, so we opted to join the crowds and take the Aletschtour around the mountain to the Märjelensee. What a relief it was to be back on the highway and away from all that scary solitude. right.

Along a very nice path along the mountainside with great views of the glacier and its constraining mountains we reached the path down to the Märjelensee and were shocked to see a horde of giant ants moving off to the Gletscherstube:


We walked down to the glacier itself and amazed ourselves with the sheer scale of the thing from close up. Upon finding a hole, we did something one probably shouldn't do and climbed underneath the glacier to look around.

there are probably a million good reasons not to do this

After a brief Kaffee and Kuchen break, we took the tunnel under the Tälligrat (see straight line on map), and then continued along to Fiescheralp and the gondola back down. The train trip home was just as crowded as the one down.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hiking around the Aletsch glacier: Day 1

This trip would be a good candidate for: Switzerland's 20 Best Hikes for People Afraid of Being Alone in the Mountains.

We start the day with a cheat and take the gondola from Blatten to Belalp instead of walking the 700m. We've already fought through half the population of Switzerland on the trains and bus, so the gondola ride seems somehow earned.
We set off on an easy flat path, go by the organizational beginnings of an Alpabzug and watch some rebellion from the cows. hee hee. Further along to the Hotel Aletschboden and nice view of the glacier, and then down, down, down the "Steigle" to the Aletschji. Quick lunch on a nice rock on the other side, watching the crowds go by on their way to the hanging bridge, holy crap is this hike popular today!. We get a nice view, through the crowds, of the glacier from the Gletschertor and then head down to the bridge.

It's a nice bridge! Wider than the one at Trift, and maybe not as high, but quite mobile and fun to cross. Up, up the other side to the massive crowds at the lake, and then down into the forest. Very, very nice path to Teife Wald and then up, up, up through the woods to the Hotel Riederfurka. Many nice mosses (multicolored!) and mushrooms (multicolored!) along the way.
Reach the hotel, have a beverage and check in, then skip the 8 CHF alpine garden and exhibition at the villa Cassel and head off around the Casselweg (around the Riederhorn) instead. This is a nice easy path with great views of the Matterhorn and other big mountains.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Zermatt: Day 2

Hiking with Greg's parents in Zermatt

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zermatt: Day 1

Hiking with Greg's parents in Zermatt.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gelterkinden -> Farnsburg -> Buus

Hiking with Greg's parents in the Baselbiet.

Jim atop the Farnsburg


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Faulhorn -> Grosse Scheidegg

Hiking with Greg's parents, day 2.

Setting off from the Faulhorn hotel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Schynige Platte -> Faulhorn

Hiking with Greg's parents, day 1.

Intrepid hikers. That's the Faulhorn in the background.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hiking the Pilatus

Text to come.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lausanne -> Cully

Text to come.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday : The Arnigrat

The Arnigrat has been teasing us for more than a year now: In July of last year we turned back on the ridge because it started raining, and then in October we didn't even complete the climb to the ridge before turning back due to the lack of visibility. Since then we haven't had the combination of time + weather required to complete the hike. Yesterday that changed.

We leave home pretty early and make it to Sachseln (472m) not long after 9:00. From there it is a real Andrea special: straight uphill to the Stucklichrüz (1802m), where we have a break and a sandwich. This is the same path we took in October, but much nicer since the weather is good and things aren't too muddy.

Next we head down a bit to the Stockalp and then through the valley and up to the ridge itself. Somehow we manage to lose the path in the valley (I blame the Arnigrat!), but that wasn't too much of a problem since it is obvious that we needed to climb out of the valley and up to the ridge. After making the ridge and the nice path at the top, we continue along the first local maximum (2029m), where we wait for two couples to pass us. We're planning on doing the hike pretty slowly in order to extract maximum enjoyment. :-) (Well, that and Greg's low-level fear of heights is in overdrive, so he's probably unable to go fast).
Looking back along the Arnigrat

It's pretty much perfectly clear, so we have fantastic views of the central Alps and their glaciers. The only problem is that walk and gawk is pretty much out of the question: the path is in great shape and not too rough, but it really is pretty narrow and the drops on either side are pretty dramatic, so watching foot placement is a must at most times.

Last time we took this picture, the sky wasn't blue.

After reaching the end of the ridge at Wandelen (2105m) we celebrate a bit, have another break, and then head down to Sachseln by way of the Wengenhorn, Wengen, Bachswengen, and Edisried.

It was a great hike.

Yabadu says we did almost 2000m up and down; we're not sure if that's a record for us, but it certainly was a lot of height change.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

About the maps

This is a technology post, not a hiking post.

Andrea got a GPS tracker for her birthday this year that records GPS values as we hike. This can be used for geo-coding photos or for exporting GPS tracks. Greg wrote a little Python program to parse the GPX output and generate the corresponding google maps. For the sake of having it saved somewhere, I've posted it. The referenced in the code is from here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Four days in the Rätikon: Lindauerhütte -> St. Antönien

We manage another early start and start the day with a nice climb to the Drusator. There's bad weather forecasted for the afternoon, so we want to make a pretty quick day of it.

The path starts on grass, but pretty quickly turns steep and rocky. Quite rocky. We're both very happy that it's morning and we don't have to worry about the sun reflecting off the light-colored gravel back into our faces. Up, up we go into an increasingly rough and barren landscape until towards the top where everything is gray rock except for the old stone customs house, which is at least brown.
Through the gray rocks to the Drusator
At the Drusator itself (2342m) the pass wind is strong and the views are great. We head down a bit and across the slope towards the Sulzfluh until we reach the Carschinafurgga (2221) where we have a snack near the Carschinahütte and admire the great views of both the Drusenfluh and the Sulzfluh.

Continuing on, gently downwards through meadows to the Carschinasee (2180m) and the Bärgli (2137m), where we admire the plethora of avalanche fences on the Chüenihorn and then start downhill, unfortunately on the road. Luckily after a while the path deviates from the road and we can stay offroad until we get to St. Antönien (1420m), where we catch a bus and head back home.
Looking back towards the Sulzfluh

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Four days in the Rätikon: Totalphütte -> Lindauerhütte

We woke up Sunday morning in a cloud: visibility around the hut was down to around 10-20m. After breakfast we decided to hope that the clouds would be hung up on the next ridge and set out. By the time we made it to the ascent to the Gamsluggen we had seen occasional signs that things were improving but it was still pretty clouded up, so we took a break and had a snack. Eventually Greg's patience ran out, so we convinced ourselves that conditions were getting better and headed up to the pass. The last 20 or so meters up to the Gamsluggen (2378m) were pretty scrambly because too many people had passed over an insufficiently developed path.
From the pass nothing was to be seen, so we started the descent to the other side, scrambling down using chains and cables. This was not Greg's favorite part of the trip: not being able to see how big/steep the drop was allowed him to imagine somethig really scary. Still, we eventually made it down to the valley floor and continued along towards Lüneregg. At some point the sun came out and we were able to appreciate how really beautiful the valley was: grass, flowers, steep rock sides, etc.
looking back down the valley

After tramping through some marsh and scaring some marmots we climbed up to the Lüneregg (2297m) and had our first nice panoramic view of the day. From there it was around the bowl to the Cavelljoch (2239m) from which we had a great view down onto the Lünersee underneath Totalphütte (though the hut itself wasn't visible). Basically following the contour lines along the valley walls under the Kirchlispitzen, the very nice path led us to an apparently unnamed saddle (2263m) from which we had our first view of the Schweizertor.
Schweizertor from one side
The path led down, down, next to the sheer rock faces (complete with climbers!) until crossing under the Schweizertor at about 1960m. About halfway down we have a quick break, watch the clouds play in the spikes of the Drusenfluh, and admire the very long switchback on the other side of the valley that we're going to have to take to get up to the Schweizertor.
Working our way back towards the Schweizertor on the switchback
Further, along the switchback, scrambling up through the rocks, we reach the Schweizertor (2139m) and stop to have lunch on a nearby knoll. From here we have a nice view of three pairs of climbers on the Drusenfluh. Crazy stuff.

Onwards the path leads, past an old customs house, then up and over the Öfapass (2291m) and finally down through a really pretty flower-filled valley under the Drusenfluh, behind the Dri Türm, and down to the Lindauer Hütte (1720m).

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Four days in the Rätikon: Schesaplanahütte -> Totalphütte

We get a reasonably early start (7:30) in good weather (clear! clear! clear!) and head up along the blue-white way to the Schesalplana through the wet grass and mud, up, up, up. Eventually we cross a magical barrier where the ground is mostly dry. We see lots of snails and Alpensalamanders as well as a few marmots.

At a certain point the way starts to get really blue-white; it's lucky that things are pretty dry by then because it would have been really nasty to cross some of the patches in wet conditions. There was a nice section of chain that seemed hairy while doing it but that when seen from the other side made Greg very happy he didn't know what he was doing at the time he was doing it. We do plenty of scrambling, plenty of traversing on loose surfaces or where no real path was visible. Still, the way is very, very well marked and is never critical.
"in some places use of hands is required to proceed"

After a surprisingly short period of time we hit the bowl (~2720m) below the Schesalplana itself, join the path coming from the Mannheimerhütte and start seeing people; lots of people. Up until this point we had been completely alone; after this point we would be constantly around other people.

Another 200 or so meters up an easy, but very steep path to the top of the Schesaplana (2964m, 10:30). We've somehow managed to fly up tho the top; getting there in less than the "standard" time. At the top we enjoy the panoramic views, take some quick pictures before clouds come in, and have an early lunch. We enjoy the sight of others stopping at the saddle below, contemplating the way down, reconsidering, thinking, then taking the route and vanishing from view.

After our break we head down to the vanishing point and descend towards the Lünersee. There are some really nice bits along the curly, swerving rock at the top.
We scrambled up, now we scramble down
Down, down, down, until we start to meet the hordes coming up for the day trip to the peak. Hordes! We hit the Totalphütte (2381m), our days destination, at around 1:30, much too early! We were at least able to secure good mattress positions in the hostel. We spend the rest of the afternooon marvelling at the crowds and the great views, try a Kaiserschmarrn (good, but tooooo much), a gratis schnapps (obstler, not our favorite), and basically putter away the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Four days in the Rätikon: Malbun->Schesaplanahütte

After a fairly long trip to Malbun involving a tram, a train, and two buses (one of which we had to ride in all the way across Liechtenstein!), we did a lazy start and took the lift up to Sareis (2003m) in drizzling rain that luckly stopped by the time we hit the top. From there it was a casual, slow climb to the Spitz (2186m), then a steeper way along the ridge to the Augstenberg (2359m) where we had decent views over the Swiss Alps and the Alpstein. Continuing to follow the ridge, we went down to the Pfälzerhütte (2108m, in a saddle) where we had a coffee and a snack before climbing up, up, up to the Naafkopf (2570m), the peak that lies at the three-way border between Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. This was entertainingly steep at the end.

One could imagine great views from the top, but we had to get them quickly as the clounds kept moving in and out. After a short break, it was down again (nowhere else to go from the peak) and along an unofficial path following stonemen back to the official path.
Following stonemen down from the Naafkopf

At the Barthümeljoch (2288m) we heard the first thunder, somewhere off in the distance. Along the way to the Gross Furgga we crossed a very steep snow patch that left Greg thinking back to the snow that turned us back above Iceberg Lake in Ansel Adams Wilderness. This snow was softer though, and a slip wouldn't have put us in a cold lake, plus the clouds were racing in, so crossing was a must. Clearly we didn't die.
By the time we reached the Gross Furgga (2359m) it was completely clouded in. Andrea assures Greg that the views are fantastic. From this point the thunder in the distance started getting a lot more frequent, so we had an additional spring in our step as we descended into the valley and along a path across a scree slope. After we get below the clouds we can see the hut in the distance and a bunch of ugly clouds caught on the ridge on the other side of the valley. We continue along the side of the valley for what seems like a very long time, hearing thunder, watching clouds come in from both sides, still managing to appreciate the incredible abundance of flowers, until we reach the Schesaplanahütte (1908m).

15 minutes later the sky cracks open... goooood timing! We spend a while sitting outside on a bench under an overhanging bit of roof enjoying cool beverages and watching the clouds and mountains deliver fireworks to celebrate the Swiss National Holiday.
Looking across the valley, under the clouds

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rheinfelden -> Sissach

It was another day of flexibility: the original plan was to hike the Arnigrat, but weather cancelled that. Then we decided to do something around Laufen, but we were 3 minutes too late to the train station. So we took the next train that was leaving, went to Rheinfelden, looked at the signs, and decided to walk to Sissach.

The path went via Magden, somewhere, to the Sissacherflue (where we had a refreshing beverage), and then down to Sissach and the train back to Basel. Total time was about 4 hours, including two short breaks.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Around the Dents du Midi : Cab. Susanfe -> Salvan

Starting early from the Cabane de Susanfe (2102m, 7:00) under uncertain skies (spots of blue in an otherwise somewhat threatening sky); up to the Col de Susanfe (2494m), where the pass wind was just insane; down, with some scrambly bits, past a group of very playful mountain goats, to the Lac de Salanfe (1925m) and then around to the hotel where we had a break and piece of cake. Down, down along a way that's part gravel road, part very nice woods path, to the floor of the Vallon de Van; through the cluster of vacation houses at Van d'en Haut; through the woods and down to Salvan (934m, 3:15).
it's windy on the Col de Susanfe

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Around the Dents du Midi : Champery to Cab. Susanfe

This was a hike organized by the SAC Basel section.

From Champery (1064m) we headed up and along the really nice Galerie Defago; up and around to the Bonavau (1550), where we had lunch; around the bowl to the gorge carved by La Saufla; very, very nice, at time scrambly, ascent through the gorge to the Pas d'Encel (1808m) ; around the valley Susanfe to the SAC hut (2102m).

towards the gorge of La Saufla

We had beautiful weather.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A day in the Voralpen

The weather forecast was promising, so we set off to the mountains for a nice Gratwanderung.
When we got on the bus in Thurnen it was clear that we weren't the only ones with this idea: The first bus was full and the extra second bus (which we were on) was also pretty much full.
After getting off the bus (along with about 100 other people) at Wasserscheidi (1584m, 9:15am), we got a bit of a jump on the crowd and headed off towards the Leiterpass. On the way up we passed two good-sized parking lots, also completely full, and saw loads and loads of people.

We made the Leiterpass (1905m) in the middle of a crowd, had a quick snack while admiring the view out over the Alps, and then headed off along the Chrummifadeflue. Luckily for us at this point a large portion of the crowd was turning the other way and another large portion took the route up through the Schwalmere. By the time we made it up to the Homadsattel (1960m) we were alone. It seems like everyone else stayed down on the panoramaweg. After another quick snack, we followed the ridge up to the Homad (2076m), where the Gratwanderung portion of the program began.
looking back towards Leiternpass

From here we followed the ridge along past the Möntschelespitz (2021m) and a couple other minor view points. Up on the ridge the number of people was much more reasonable: smaller groups and not as many of them.

View along the ridge to the Stockhorn, Thunersee and Bernese Alps in the back.

We made it to the end of the ridge ahead of the oncoming clouds and then headed down to Oberi Walalp (1714m). The plan from here was to head up to the Stockhorn and take the gondola down, but the peak itself was inside a cloud and the weather was starting to look a bit iffy, so we took the low route and walked around the corner to the Oberstocksee (1665m) and then up a bit to the Berggasthaus Oberstocke (1776m) where we had cool drinks and a snack. A bit of descent to the Hinderstocksee (1592m) and then we were at the lower gondola station: Chrindi (1637m, 3:30pm). We took the gondola down to Erlenbach (722m) and made it to the train station just as the rain started.

By the time we changed trains in Spiez the sky had really cracked open and rain was coming down like crazy.

This was a really nice hike, with lots of variation and a good portion along the ridge.