Uri Rotstock (2928m)

Another day, another hill. Uri Rotstock, 2928m. It is a neighbour to the Engelberger Rotstock, which I attempted before but had to turn around because the snow was too bad. Fast forward a couple of weeks in which Switzerland had very dry and relatively warm weather (in fact, the river Rhine in Germany carries low water because of this, giving commercial shipping a hard time) giving me hope there'll be less snow in the area this time.

As usual I leave with the first train in the morning at 5:35. This is pretty much a necessity nowadays because of the sun, the lazy slacker. Sunrise at 7:40, sun down 16:41. So I'll be racing the daylight.

Even getting to the mountain is an adventure today. The Postauto (a regular bus) climbs up the narrow and winding road with mere inches to a vertical drop on one side and sheer rock on the other. The road is closed for all other traffic whenever the bus is scheduled to be there. Great respect for the driver, this stunt would totally stress me out. He on the other hand was cheerily listening to Swiss traditional accordion folk music at full blast. We'd stop along the way several times, delivering the mail and picking up cans of milks from the farmers.
If you are looking for a memorable public transportation experience sometime I recommend taking the bus to St. Jakobs, Isenthal: http://g.co/maps/7xr34

I'd like to think that by now I'm reasonably fit. I usually overtake other hikers and beat the posted reference times by a healthy margin, especially considering that the given times only account for moving time while I include all rest and photo stops. I was thoroughly humiliated today though. About halfway up the mountain a couple overtook me from behind and kept increasing the distance between us, all the while casually chatting with each other. By the time I reached the summit they were already heading back down again, having beat me by about an hour or so. No way I could have kept pace...

I met a couple of people on the summit, among them a trio from Germany who camped on the mountain in order to summit today. We had a nice chat and shared their summit rum and my summit chocolate. One of them had ripped his trousers, leaving a huge tear in his crotch. He continuously stuffed a scarf down his pants trying to close the hole against the icy wind. Looked kinda funny ;-)

Since I hate going the same way twice I chose to descend on the other side of the mountain. I was apparently the only one to do so in quite some time. The reason was obvious almost immediately: This side is in shadow most of the time and is covered in huge snow fields. It's also much steeper and the trailmarkers difficult to find. It also features lots of frozen creeks and water slides you have to negotiate. While I didn't need them on the way up I was very glad I brought my crampons, ice axe and gators. It would have been suicidal trying to climb this without. The trail is rated a T5 challenging alpine level hike in the best of conditions. Funny really. So far I've encountered something new on every single hike. Non-stop rain, scorching sun, thunderstorms, wet snow up to my balls, mudslides, dust, rivers of ice... Lots to learn still - the mountains never get old ;-)

Back in the tiny village of Isenthal I got informed by one of the locals that I had missed the last bus out (it was 17:30!). I couldn't really confirm this from the indecipherable mess of a time schedule (seriously - who designs these things?! One needs a PhD just to know when the bus arrives). In any case I had just resolved to another couple of hours of boring and strenuous street hiking when the first car I flagged stopped and two nice ladies drove me down to the train station. All three of us were surprised by the seemingly insurmountable language barrier. They couldn't understand my high German and I couldn't decipher their Switzerdütsch. So much for speaking "the same language".

In the train back I shared a coach with lots of recruits on their way back from the weekend to their barracks. Switzerland is peculiar in this regard since they carry their weapons on them at all times. So I was sitting between a bunch of 18 year olds trying to stow their assault rifles out of the way. Many resorted to simply using them as foot rests. Strange sight to behold.


  • 28km distance
  • ~2000m elevation gain, ~2200m elevation loss
  • 8:15h hiking time
  • half a kilogram of chocolate consumed

2011-11-27 Uri Rotstock


Säntis (2502m), Girenspitz (2448m)

I was feeling sick the whole week with a sore throat, a cough and a runny nose. Thus I picked an easy peak for the weekend: Säntis (2502m), the highest point of two cantons. Nice and easy trails, very little snow. Time to summit was given with 5:50 hours. I started at 8:15 and by 13:15 I was already coming down from the second peak that day, the Girenspitz (2448m) on which I had rested for about 45 minutes after escaping from the Säntis summit. They have detonated the whole peak and replaced it with a six story tall block of concrete, turning it into a huge tourist center. Even now, outside prime season, the place was crawling with people. Very anti-climatic for a summit experience. I briefly talked with an old lady who congratulated me for actually hiking up the mountain and told me about her mountain excursions in younger years.

The road leading to the cable car base station is a cul de sac. Despite that it was still cursed with heavy traffic which echoed up the whole mountain (it's apparently very popular amongst motor bikers. Not the right way to experience a mountain IMHO. Especially when public transportation works as flawlessly as it does here. I had to change trains/busses multiple times today and didn't plan ahead at all. Still I never had to wait for more than 2 minutes. The connections worked flawlessly.

Lots of signs on the trails and on the peak itself warning people when they are leaving the air conditioned Disney land and entering the alpine. Still you'd see lots of idiots scrambling around on high heels and sneakers. Apparently a third of all mountain deaths happen while hiking. I hope most of these are accounted for by clueless folks like these. I've met some pretty cool folks too though. A family with two young kids who ran up the rocks as if it was nothing. They were secured in climbing harnesses and generelly seemed well equipped.

Weather was surprisingly mild for November. Except for the peak itself where a strong wind cooled you down it was warm and sunny. I climbed 1643m and descended 1224m, covering a distance of 20km. I arrived at the bus station by 15:15, so the whole trip took 7 hours. I did very much feel that I'm operating at reduced capacity though, felt beat for about twice the distance.

Learned a new concept too. Apparently Säntis is an "Ultra" peak, meaning its prominence over the surrounding area is more than 1500m. There are only 1524 such mountains in the world, so I think that makes a worthwhile todo list ;-)

All photos here.