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