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.

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.


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


Wildspitz (1580m) snowshoe hike from Sattel to Goldau

Busy weekend. We went shopping for living room furniture on Saturday (I've been living here for 1.5 years and guests keep remarking on the echo in our empty living room ;-)). So that'll hopefully be solved soon.

Need more stuff?

Following that we went to a talk and presentation by renowned Mountaineer and Doctor Oswald Oelz. He's the third person ever to stand on the Seven Summits and climbing partner of such luminaries as Reinhold Messner. He gave an impressive overview of his life dedicated to the mountains: Eine lebenslange Liebesaffäre mit dem Himalaya. Inspirational - being able to put up first ascents on your sixtieth birthday is not a bad way to grow old! The event took place in the Songtsen House, a non-profit organization celebrating Tibetan culture and facilitating exchanges between Switzerland and Tibet. Beautiful original art on display and delicious home made Tibetan finger food.

We spent the crowning end of the day partying at the "Pimp Pallazo", otherwise known as Henrik's flat share.

Early next morning Anita and me left for the village Sattel. Starting in dense fog with visibility of fifty meters or so we soon eclipsed the valley and enjoyed beautiful vistas over an endless sea of clouds. While we were being burned by the sun we could just make out our "Hausberg" Uetli peaking out of the clouds and bad weather for the lowly valley people at home ;-)

We enjoyed a quick picnic on the terrace of the Halsegg restaurant. The waitress was decidedly unfriendly and didn't really want us around. They were having some sort of cheese fondue and wine party watching Ski on tv. Guests were seen as a nuisance.

Trails were well broken in and felt like some sort of snow shoeing highway. A correspondingly large number of people were around. Some with sleds, most on snow shoes or ski touring.

Taking the long way down to Goldau soon saw us on our own though and finding and breaking our own trail for a little while. Just when we got onto a level and easy gravel road again Anita sprained her ankle. Especially ironic since we had just successfully negotiated the trickiest part of the whole tour: steep muddy wet meadows with patches of ice and snow, talking about proper walking technique... Anyway, she still made it down and her ankle is getting better.

~15km, ~950m up, ~1450m down