Adventures must be done!

Vorder Glärnisch Hike (16. Sept 2007)

Team: Andy, Yves

Yves, a fellow PhD student from Uni, had planned a one day hike up to the Vorder Glärnisch mountain (2327.4 m asl) and having no other plan I gladly joined.
We took a bus up to the Klöntaler Lake (848m asl) and started hiking. The way led through coniferous forest and across alpine pastures. We had chosen an alternative route that seemed interesting on the map and indeed it featured a somewhat exposed trail traversing a big cliff.

Trail traversing a cliff on the way to the summit.

In the upper part the steepish trail even featured some cable fitted sections, just to keep it interesting.
The view from the top was splendid and we dug heartily into our lunch.

View from the summit over the Klöntaler lake.

After that frugal meal we hid a new geocache in a crack close to the summit and then descended via a rarely travelled route. It turned out to be leading through very steep terrain at first then the track was very hard to discern, vanishing completely at some point. That was brilliant as we could train our navigation skills. For a short stretch the track involved some good bushbashing and a bit of boulder hopping, the we regained a real track again and swiftly continued downhill till we reached Schwändi, a little village with sporadical bus connections with none fitting our current schedule. We thus tramped on to Mitlödi (503 m asl) where we enjoyed a locally brewed beer while waiting for the next train.
More adventure awaited us in the train to Zurich. It was horrendously crammed with people and we chose to sit in a gangway in the restaurant car. Amazing to watch how easily people do get stressed out about such stuff. Two rather voluminous ladies tried to pass each other in our narrow passage. One pushed so violently past the other one (still puzzles me how much deformation the human body can deal with) that she tore away the spectacles dangling on the (expansive) bosom of the other one. This was followed by a lot of cursing and swearing. When she passed me I was flattened against the window, still beats me how they managed to cross at all!
More excitement arrived with the food trolley and it's master, getting terribly upset about us sitting in the gangway and the chef of the restaurant getting worked up about the fact that we did not want to cross the whole restaurant car but let the trolley pass by standing in the door of the kitchen. That was really a good laugh!
A dinner at Zurich Airport Foodtown settled this good outing.

Tälli VF and Geographic Middle of Switzerland (7-9. Sept)

Team: Andy, Marcel, Maggie, Thomas


My mates had planned to do the Tälli VF and were bound to leave Friday afternoon. I could not resist the temptation and made use of my freedom as a PhD student to join them. A postauto dropped us at a stop near Gadmen. This last leg concluded a series of several trains to get into the region. A little hike of around 1.5 hours brought us up to a brand new hut, just reopened 6 weeks before. We enjoyed a really good dinner at the Tälli hut and marvelled at the accent of the serving lady, very much different to our lowland speech.
The most remarkable saying was ' ... d'Sui uisi lah!'. Compared to our ' .. d'Sau use lah!' (Probably best translated as something like ' ... let's rock!').
The bed rooms were fancy as with duvet and cushion covers sporting cows, Swiss crosses and the linen being dark red (doubtlessly exactly matching the colour specifications of the Swiss national flag!)


A layer of fog had assembled in the valley over night but the hut was just above and we got a splendid sunrise!

After breakfast we got ourselves ready to tackle the wall that loomed above the hut. I was keen as to get onto the rock but a longish ascent over scree slopes and alpine pastures had to be completed first. Along the way we went after a geocache that had been hidden there some weeks before and we were still in for a first found!
After some cable sections that required no use of the VF kit the real VF started. First traversing along a sheer cliff, then up a ladder, the further route was not discernible from our current position. I went first, followed by Thomas, Maggie while Marcel brought up the rear.

Maggie climbing the first ladder, carefully watched and coached by Marcel.

The VF had started relentlessly steep and this was the main character of the whole route as it turned out pretty soon. We thus gained height quickly and were soon high above ground clinging to a steel cable, sometimes assisted by iron bars and ladders.

Marcel and Maggie at the start of a traverse in the middle of the route.

Thomas on a ladder high above the Gadmer Valley.

Me shooting a self portrait shortly before a stone hit me in the neck!

Somewhere in the upper part of the VF I took the chance to take a self portrait (similar to Aaron Ralston, although I was not hurt at the time). Yes, at the time indeed! Shortly afterwards I got hit in the neck by a little stone! Ouch!
And just by chance Marcel had just been taking a movie with his camera! Check it out!


It fortunately turned out to be only a minor wound that bled a little while but needed no further care.
After a good 3-4 hours climbing the summit was reached and everybody was highly pleased with the effort and the splendid views!

The team on the summit of the Tälli via ferrata, in fact this being the first via ferrata constructed in Switzerland!

After lunch and some more admiration of the scenery the descent on the Northern side of the range led over steep, rocky terrain, finally taking us to the Engstlenalp where we enjoyed coffee and cake at the hotel. Thomas left with the postauto and the rest of us tried to find some accommodation for the night. This proved to be tough. I reckon at last a quarter of the Swiss population must have had headed for the hills for a last sunny summer weekend. In any case, all the cheap hostels were fully booked and we grumbling we settled for the most expensive hotel in Melchsee-Frutt: the Glogghuis. I'm afraid that at the time of writing I've already forgotten the price, most likely due to subconscious suppression, but it was something around 120 CHF per head! Gee, for heavens sake, you can buy tramping food worth up to ten days for that!!!
Having accepted the heavy toll of central European tourism industry we started tramping towards Melchsee-Frutt which took us another 2 hours or so.

A dammed lake on the way to Melchsee-Frutt. Note the beautiful sun glint (or more technically 'forward scattering of incident radiation caused by BRDF properties of slightly rippled water' if you like).

I felt a bit out of place when checking in at the reception, still wearing my gaiters and having sweated all day. The clerk was however very polite and ignored our state. They say that money doesn't stink, and I reckon the hotel staff must have learned the lesson well!
The deal turned out to be not too bad as it included dinner and breakfast buffet! I will not describe the meal we had in great detail but must mention the salmon and trout for starters (most excellent stuff) and the rich dessert. The main course was not that inspiring and we concluded that next time we would stick with the starters and the dessert!


Breakfast was fair enough as well, we could even pack some sandwiches for lunch. I only wished that I was hungrier that morning and deplored the fact that my small backpack was limiting the amount of food I could carry off!
We tramped up to the Abgschütz pass (2263 m asl) where we got well above the cloud layer. This was followed by a descent towards the Seefeld where we sought to visit the geographic middle of Switzerland. When approaching the cloud layer we observed the amazing spectacle of halos forming around our shadows in the clouds!

A perfect halo around the projected point of view. Note also that for the others the halo they observed was also centred around their heads!

We were soon engulfed by thick fog, the brilliant view was gone instantly and we had to concentrate on the down climb, yes, climb, as some sections were even fitted with steel cables. We had however not much chance to be afraid, there was simply too much fog to see any drop at all!

Marcel and Maggie on the trail towards the Seefeld with the Bernese Alps on the horizon.

We had lunch at some metres off the geographic middle of Switzerland that seemed oddly practical situated on a little mound amidst flat alpine pastures. We wondered about the chances of the middle being so perfectly sitting on land feature. Had there been some tinkering with the data to get it right there? Would have been bummer to have the middle of the country in some cliff section, right? How very convenient to have it at a vantage point surrounded with grilling places for our fellow country men to enjoy a sausage or a steak (one of the most favourite pastimes of the Swiss) ...
The day ended with an longish hike through a amazingly beautiful gorge to the village of Giswil.

A waterfall of a tributary to the 'Kleine Melchau' stream that carved out the deep gorge of the 'Klein Melchtal'.

Braunwald Via Ferrata (2nd Sept. 2007)

Team: Sandrine, Andy

The Braunwald VF is situated above the Braunwald village, one of those rare places without cars. The VF consists of three parts (cf Figure 1).

Figure 1: The three VF routes (blue, red, yellow)

We had to walk one hour longer than planned due to one of the lift being out of order. We then started with the blue VF up to the Leiteregg and then continued with the red route.

Are you tied in correctly?

Sandrine tackling a chimney.

Unfortunately the weather was very misty, thus the views were not that grand. The climb was however quite interesting and pretty exposed in places, but due to the fog, the real height was not quite apparent.

Towards the top of the climb of the red route.

The routes follow essentially the ridge line which gets somewhat narrow in places.

This is awesome: Pi - nuts!
Sticker on a box containing a 'summit log book'

The down climb was astonishingly time consuming as it lead straight down a grassy mountainside, but at least there were cables to clip in and hold onto. The rocks were slippery as in places!

The long ladder at the end of the red route.

From here it was only scree sliding and hiking some walking trails down to the gondola that took us back to Braunwald.
This VF is very well set up and the protections are in excellent condition. Only drawback is the down climb from the red route: this gets a bit tedious after a while (especially in the middle of a cloud). I reckon that if one has the time adding the yellow route would be the best option as this route ends at a tramping track, thus avoids the down climb. The route is rated between 3 and 5, the latter applying to the yellow part while the former may be true for the section along the ridge line. I'd rate the climbs on the blue and red sections with a 4.
All in all this VF can be absolutely recommended, preferably in better wx conditions.