2013-01-30

Brisi (2279m) snowshoe hike from Alt St. Johann

The SLF (The Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research) issued a low to moderate risk for avalanches bulletin. Thus I decided to climb something a little steeper than usual on Sunday. I chose the Brisi (2279m), one of the Churfirsten, an impressive ridge of jagged teeth north of lake Walen.

The Churfirsten

I've seen it rated as a WT4 (on a scale from 1 to 5) snowshoe tour on hikr.org or a "rather difficult" backcountry skiing trip.

Selun
Schibenstoll, Zuestoll and Brisi

I left the house at 5:30 in the morning, in the light of a beautiful full moon hanging low in a clear sky. Good start! Leaving from the tiny village of Alt St. Johann I couldn't even see my destination yet. I was roughly following the summer route up the mountain. Apparently I was the first on snow shoes to do so which usually implies arduous trail breaking. Luckily for me it seems to be a popular route for ski touring and thus I could mostly follow in the tracks of skiers who went before me.

Frümsel, Selun
Wind swept ascent

Crossing a wide and beautiful meadow I can finally see my destination towering in front of me. I'm still the only person around and loving it. Starting up the mountain's North face I meet the first couple of skiers going the same way. I have stopped following their tracks: the slope is wind blown and mostly a solid crust of frozen snow. It is much easier for me to go straight up than to follow the switch backs of the skiers. Traversing steep slopes in snow shoes is no fun as you constantly bend and load your ankles at an angle they don't like very much.

Me, Säntis in the background

I reach the summit at noon and enjoy beautiful vistas all around. In particular the view of almost 1800 meters straight down to lake Walen is impressive. It is freezing with a strong wind blowing. Exposing my bare fingers for even a minute of taking pictures causes them to sting painfully.

Lake Walen from the Summit

Because of a phenomenon I call "summit convergence" we are soon a group of about a dozen people on the peak. Everybody but me is on skies - gear I'll soon envy them for. While they speed down the mountain and are down in minutes the descent for me is tricky and annoying.

I'm envious!

The bus arrives late at the train station in Wattwil because a street parade is going on. Since I have just missed the train by a minute or so I decide to watch. It's some sort of spectacle celebrating a witch (?) featuring colorful costumes, marching bands and parade floats. Lots of confetti is blown over the spectating crowd. People would sneak around from behind and stick you with the stuff. I did the mistake of trying to wipe it off which led one particularly daring guy to load my shirt with about a kilogram of it - thanks dude! Some of the floats had phone booth like transparent structures. Dudes from the parade would carry girls from the audience into them and turn on a leaf blower inside to cause a whirlwind of confetti.

Funny?

While most of the floats were colorful and harmless one stood out in a bad way. It featured an "Asylheim" (shelter for political asylum seekers) and an "Ausschaffungsrakete" (deportation rocket) manned by beatniks in curly wigs and blackened faces. Swiss version of political correctness?

This time I couldn't walk down the other side ;-)

15km, 1500m up and down