Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pilatus T5-Trilogy

One of our "interesting tours" books includes a couple paths on the North side of the Pilatus that sound great but that only be done when it's dry and late enough in the season that all the snow is gone. Today was one of those days, so we linked up a couple of the paths with another trip up the Esel (also in the book) to form a Pilatus T5-trilogy.

After taking the gondola up to Fräkmüntegg we leave the crowds (sunny September Sunday on the Pilatus... there are crowds!) and follow the hiking path towards Alpgschwänd. Just short of the alp we turn uphill and follow another trail up, up, up through the woods, past some folks gathering mushrooms, up up, until we come out of the trees and things steepen up a bit. Here, above us in the first (very) light scrambly bit (there's even a cable), we see the first other people on this path: a large group working their way up. We're moving faster, but they're enough ahead of us that they aren't really a bother. Up, up some more with the views getting progressively better, until we come out at the Steinbockhütte. This seems to be the destination for the group in front of us (nice destination: the views are really great) so we weave through them and continue on our way. There's steep grass ahead, so we break out the trekking poles (we have ice axes with us, just in case, but they aren't necessary yet) as we traverse and climb on an easily followed trail through the Hängifeld.
Grass flank above the Steinbockhütte
We traverse to the top of the Sulzgraben (this bit of steep grass over a sharp drop is a bit of a pulse-raiser!) and then do the last bit of ascending to hit the East ridge of the Pilatus. We've done this bit of ridge before more than once and it's great each time. The ridge takes us up, up, up to the Rosegg. Along the way we do a quick food break and enjoy the views. From the Rosegg we traverse across to the steep wall of the Esel, which we scramble up (nice pic showing that line here, from this post), climb over the railing (plenty of tourists around wondering where the hell we're coming from), and then go up to the top to enjoy the views and the madness.
On the way up to the Esel
Now it's down to the buildings at the Kulm, through the tunnel, a bit down the standard trail, and then a left turn to star the third part the day's trip: the Nordwestpassage. This small, but easy to follow, trail takes us westward more or less directly under the cliffs leading to the ridge. There isn't anywhere that it's particularly challenging, but it is certainly quite exposed.
Part of the Nordwestpassage. If you look carefully you can see the path.
At the beginning of a big scree field, we descend steeply a bit along the last grassy shoulder and then traverse to pick up the broader path of the Alten Tomlisweg. This leads us up and through the wall, with a bit of easy (though uncomfortably wet in places) scrambling to the ridge. Now we're on a normal hiking path that takes us up to the Tomlishorn and the crowd that's up there (not as bad as the Esel since it's more walking). Another quick food break to enjoy the views, and then we take the normal hiking path back to the Pilatus Kulm (we'd thought about going down the Alten Tomlisweg, but the though of descending through some of the wet bits isn't particularly appealing). The easy and crowded path takes us back to the tunnel and the path down. At the saddle near the chapel we turn off to the right to follow the path down, down, down to Gsäss, and then back to Fräkmüntegg, where we enjoy cool beverages and watching the people in the rope park before hopping in the gondola and starting the trip back home.

This really was an exceptional tour and is one it's very easy to imagine doing again.

Stats: 11.4km, 1300m up and down.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Climbing around Salvan

track and text to come