Friday, July 26, 2013

Some follow up photos from Gabi

Including some of yours truly.  As you can see, I haven't quite managed to lose my tum, despite many days hiking this year!

To being with, a bovine poseur:

Echoes of Escher:

Fresh and early:

But some are earlier!

Somewhat later, and somewhat less fresh:

A well-earned rest:

Bye-bye boots:

As always, click on the pictures for higher resolution (and click again for the max... particularly of the vertical format photos).

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Appenzell Hike -- photos days 5-8

Here are some of the other photos from the trip.  Due to interface limitations I wasn't able to integrate them into the blog posts for the respective days.

Gabi arrives...

...and climbs a long way on her first day, from Berggasthof Forelle on the Seealpsee, via Meglisalp and the Rotsteinpass refuge, to Säntis.  Here we are looking back down to Meglisalp and beyond it Seealpsee:

And here is the Rotsteinpass refuge where we had lunch and then later stayed overnight:

After lunch we went along the Lieslgrat to the Säntis peak:

At times it was fairly rugged going:

Here's Gabi again:

The following day started off with more climbing... up to a saddle next to the Altmann peak.  If you click on the picture below and then zoom in and look very carefully just up and to the right of the middle of the picture, you can see people... which will give you a sense of the scale:

Afterwards we had to go down here:

Which from below looked like this:

And then came a beautiful walk down valley to the Fählensee and Berggasthof Bollenwees, where we spent the night.

 Here's a view along the Fählensee to Bollenwees:

After lunch we climbed up to a ridge overlooking the Rhine valley and Liechtenstein.  Here's a view back along the ridge:

And now looking down to the Fählensee.  The mountain with the narrow vertical snowfield to its right is the Altmann, that we came down from in the morning:

And here's the Fählensee the following morning.  Very photogenic...:

Then we hiked up through more lovely landscape to the Bogartenlücke pass:

There were interesting views in all directions:

And then we went along the Maarwees ridge:

Before ending up at Meglisalp for our last night:

All in all, a beautiful part of the world!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Appenzell hike -- Day 8

Last day. There had been a shower in the night, judging by the water on the tables outside, but once again we awoke to sunshine and hardly a cloud in the sky. The hike was a simple descent of some 800m down to the train station in Wasserauen, and we caught the 10:19 train as planned. We said our goodbyes at Appenzell -- Gabi taking a train to Sankt Gallen on her way back to Munich, and me continuing to Gossau where I caught an Intercity to Geneva (and from there I'll go to Lyon then Avignon), in which I'm sitting as I write this.

In summary? Appenzell was as lovely a region to hike in as I had hoped. The trails and views were spectacular, the food and accommodations (with the exception of the Rotsteinpasshütte) excellent, the people friendly, the weather perfect, no injuries or accidents, and my hiking partners a joy. And just the right length too... yesterday would have been too soon to go home, tomorrow too late. But I think I'll be back in Appenzell some day....

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Appenzell hike -- Day 7

An excellent dinner at the Bollenwees last night... and we slept well... so we decided to do something a little different for the hike today: a reprise of the ridge hike I had done with Kristof and Corinna on Day 3, instead of a simple up and over saddle to Meglisalp. The weather forecast, for the first time, spoke of the possibility of a thunderstorm, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky as we set off around 8:30.

I've had ridiculously good luck with the weather when hiking so far this year. 28 days of hiking and garden visits in England in May with one day of rain, another of drizzle, and otherwise just a couple of showers. 4 days in Provence in April, with summer temperatures for all but the last day (when, I have to admit, it hailed on us for almost 5 hours, but still), and now 7 days in Appenzell without a drop of rain. I'm sure I'll pay for it some day, but for now I'm just enjoying it. This is how hiking is supposed to be!

And speaking of hiking, today's hike was once again gorgeous. There were a few people on the trails, but not too many, and, well, it was pretty much perfect. Gabi hikes at around the same pace I do, and is if anything slightly more tolerant of challenging trails than I am (when we went by the Altmann peak yesterday she wanted to climb up the last 100m to the top... despite the fact that there was no visible marked trail... and only did not do so because I said that I wouldn't go, although I did offer to wait for her with the packs :-). So I had no worries about taking her along the ridge... and other than almost falling off once, she had no problems with it either.

After lunch at the Meglisalp, and taking possession of our room, and showers, the question arose as to what to do with the remainder of the afternoon. I wasn't excited about putting my sweaty hiking gear back on, and frankly felt that after 7 days straight of hiking (I had hiked about 3.5 hours on my rest day, between going up to Aescher for lunch and down to Wasserauen to meet Gabi, as well as over 4 hours already today), I could afford to give myself an afternoon off. So Gabi went out and hiked another couple of hours by herself... she does not lack for energy!

Dinner was once again excellent, and we had a nice conversation with a young couple from Sankt Gallen, who introduced us to the local specialty liqueur, called (what else) Appenzeller, which apparently contains 42 different herbs... and tastes like medicine. And despite there having been some clouds, the threatened thunderstorms had not materialized. Another good day.

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Appenzell Hike -- Day 6

Last night was as bad as feared. Knocking back a couple of shots of Williams (pear schnapps) and a beer put me to sleep around 10:30, but I was awake again by 1:45, and tossed and turned for the rest of the night. Interestingly there weren't many snorers audible, and those that started seemed to stop quickly (probably as their hiking partners poked them in the ribs to make them sleep on their sides... and thus stop snoring). But there was lots of movement (as people went to and from the bathroom), some light (headlamps, phones), and lots of little noises. At least Gabi seemed to sleep reasonably well (she didn't notice any lights, for example), despite being poked in the ribs a couple of times :-).

So I was a little bleary as we started off this morning around 8:30... but I woke up quickly as we climbed the Altmann. It was a near vertical Klettersteig of around 260m, which doesn't sound like that much, but was surprisingly exhausting after coffee and not sleeping the night. A couple of interesting things on the climb: we saw a group of Ibex (Steinböcke) above us, and Swiss kids. I'll explain the latter.

Throughout this trip I've been surprised at how laissez-faire Swiss parents are about their kids and boulders and cliffs. At Hotel Forelle, for example, there was a near vertical rock ridge of perhaps 4m in height. Kids from about 5 years old up were climbing on it the whole time, chasing one another along the top, tripping and falling over rocks and boulders, and so on. I didn't see a single parent intervene (nor, for that matter, a single child cry or get injured). So, this morning on the Altman, climbing up a difficult and steep Klettersteig, I look back to see a Swiss family (mother, father, two kids under 7) climbing up after us. And they were fast too! Impressive.

We traversed to a saddle with a beautiful view of the ridges and valleys between us and the Rhine valley and then went down an at times very steep and difficult path to the photogenic Fählensee and Berggasthof Bollenwies where we are staying the night. Took us a little more than 3 hours under a hot cloudless sky, so we were ready for lunch (Chaesrösti and Fleischkäse washed down by 2.5 liters of mineral water).

But of course we weren't just going to sit around in the afternoon, so we slogged up to the high ridge overlooking the Rhine valley and walked along it for a while in the afternoon sun, enjoying the stunning views. I was able to point out Liechtenstein and the town of Feldkirch in Austria, as well as the location of the Gafadura mountain hut across the valley, because we hiked through this area on the H2H and stayed overnight in the Gafadura. However, I was pretty ignorant about everything else we could see below... I only know things I've hiked through!

We got back to Bollenwees at around 4:30, had showers, and the Wirtin (owner / manager) told us that the place would be very full tonight... and would it bother Gabi to sleep in a room instead? That would be fine, said Gabi, grinning. Some people are just born lucky. As I write this, she is outside, reading in the sunshine. Lunch was excellent, so we are expecting the same of dinner. I imagine I'll go to sleep early, given my lack of sleep last night, and also because tomorrow is another big hike (the last!).

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Appenzell Hike -- Day 5

I like it when I can sleep in a bedroom in the mountains, as opposed to a bunk-room: no snorers and plenty of space. However, given Gabi's experience last night, I started to reconsider: she had an 18 mattress bunkroom all to herself... way more room than I had, and, one assumes, nobody snoring either. At least, I was starting to reconsider, but then we arrived at the Rotsteinpasshütte, and saw how we were going to "sleep" tonight. For those who were there and remember, think Refuge de Balme the night before we went down to Samoëns. And just as it was then, the place here is full tonight. With lots of familes... with lots of kids. Sigh. It's going to be a tough one.

But I'm ahead of myself: back to this morning. After a leisurely breakfast in Hotel Forelle, during which I was able to check the news and a couple of blogs via the house WiFi, we set off under blue skies and sun (but, how else?). We had about 1000m to do with full packs up to the Rotsteinpass, and then after we would climb to the 2500m Säntis peak and back with a lighter load. We were in no particular hurry because I'd already decided to scale the hike back given the amount of snow there was around Säntis... we'd do about 6 hours total, instead of the 8.5 that was planned.

First stop was Meglisalp, where we had something to drink and Gabi applied plasters to an incipient blister on her heel. Second stop was Rotsteinpass, where we had lunch and got the bad news about tonight's accommodations. Third stop, after an impressive (lots of vertical cliffs on either side) and impressively secured (cables and steps galore) hike up the Lieslgrat was the Säntis peak, where Gabi applied a second plaster (the first had slipped off) to an in the meantime full-fledged blister. Then back to the Rosteinpasshütte, an unexpected (and very welcome, but expensive... 5CHF for 3 minutes) shower, and now writing this.

Views weren't superb today... it was pretty hazy when it wasn't cloudy, and it was cloudy a lot of the time. That was OK as long as we were hiking (because I was hot enough anyway), but it was chilly at lunch and there were only intermittent views from the peak. Don't remember if I've mentioned this before, but the construction on top of Säntis is one of two blots on what is otherwise a spectacularly beautiful area (the other being a vast car park in the valley at Wasserauen). It looks like a 1950's conception of 22nd century architecture (although it was only built in the 1990's), and is "crowned" with a massive (123m high) spire. I'm not sure what its function is, but as for its motivation, I'm inclined to believe that it was built as a compensation for the Appenzeller males' ego after they were forced to give the Appenzeller women the right to vote... in 1992.

We are up fairly high here... about 2120m... and tomorrow will go up almost to the top of the second highest peak in the area, the Altman, at around 2400m, before dropping back down to Hotel Bollenwees (1450m)... where I have reserved a room :-). Gabi, poor soul, only requested a bunk... but who knows, maybe she'll get lucky again like in the Hotel Forelle!

I wonder if I'll sleep at all tonight. I wonder how many snorers there will be in the upstairs bunkroom complex. Sigh.

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Appenzell Hike -- Day 4

After two tough and long days, it was time for a rest day. And that was what I had planned. Only it didn't work out that way. Not for Kristof, who hiked some 1300m up the second highest peak in the area (the Altman at around 2430m, I think). And not for Corinna, who hiked some 350m up to Hotel Aescher for lunch (and afterwards hiked back down again). And not for me, since I went with Corinna, and then at the end of the day walked 200m down to Wasserauen to meet Gabi and take her back to the Berggasthaus Forelle.

The weather was perfect -- sunny and warm -- and because of that and the fact that it was a Sunday there were tons of people on the trails. We must have seen 300+ while going to and from Aescher for lunch (Chaesrösti for us both... despite my intention to order something else, after hearing Corinna order one, I couldn't resist). But on balance I decided that I prefer it like that rather than to be alone due to cold and rain.

Before and after lunch I washed clothes, chose and posted pictures to the blog (but not these daily summaries because they are written on the iPad and for some reason it can't connect to the local WiFi), read news, and so on.

Kristof enjoyed himself on his hike, did some climbing, got to boot-ski down another snowfield, and saw a small group of Ibex (Steinböcke) from up close. Midafternoon Corinna and he left to drive back to Munich... better hiking partners one could not wish for.

Gabi showed up around 6PM... an hour later than planned due to another delayed train... and then we hiked back up to the Forelle (drawing amused glances all the way since she wanted to carry her pack, and I had none :-). We showered, changed, had dinner outside, dessert inside, and a nice conversation. Off to bed now and back up to Säntis tomorrow!

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Through the cleft

The zigzag way down

Bollenwees... just right of center

Espresso time again!

Looking back



On our way down

Morning view from Schaefler 2

Morning view from Schaefler 1

Heading back to Schaefler

Looking back to Säntis

More landscape


And boot-skied down this!

Espresso mountain style!

Much more snow... we crossed this


The way gets wilder

Wildflower with bug

On our way to Säntis!

View from Aescher

We'll walk along the top of this ridge tomorrow!

Aescher in the morning light


Hotel Aescher