2022-08-14

Alpspitz (1996m) to Drei Schwestern (2052m) via Kuegrat, ~35km, +2200m

Ventsi is on some kind of fitness rampage. Becoming a gym buff and ramping up the amount of elevation gain he covers on day hikes. 1000m, 1500m, 2000m, ... until he started running out of hiking buddies that would join him. So he texted me at work whether I'd be interested in going on a hike of at least 2500m elevation gain with him. Sure thing.

My reaction when Ventsi contacted me about a hike.
Vaduz Castle, home of the Liechtenstein royal family.
On top of the first observation tower on the way up. After I jolted myself awake by touching an electric fence.

I didn't actually plan an itinerary, just sort of eyeballed the map for fun looking ridges that I hadn't done yet. So all I told Ventsi was that we'd "hike Liechtenstein". We drove to Vaduz and parked the car at the (free!) lot at the monarch's castle. From there we had two options for getting to the ridge - a mellow trail and the "F├╝rstensteig", an exposed path cut into a steep rock face. I had already done the former (in winter), so I was keen on trying the latter this time around, even if it meant a slight detour to the summit and backtracking some of our steps. This proved to be the right call! We started out on a beautiful path through the forest, sheltered from the sun by the dense canopy of trees. To the point that it felt like twilight at times. Then the trail opened up straight into a steep limestone wall with great views and daring passages. I can't help but admire the audacity of whoever envisioned a trail in terrain like this. A ton of manual labor went into cutting the steps, bridges and ladders.

The trail was quite exposed over long stretches. Easy hiking, but falling would be ill advised.
If you squint you can see our trail cutting through this image. You have to admire the audacity to look at terrain like this and envision a walking path through it!
One of many summits on the way.

By the time we gained the summit it was hot and humid. We only stayed long enough for a small snack before continuing along the long trail on the ridge, ticking many summits along the way. Beautiful vistas spanning Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria and Germany rewarded us. On one of our summit rests we listened to cheering crowds echoing up the mountain from the Sunday soccer game in the Rheinpark stadium - several kilometers away down in the valley.

The trail ahead.
Some scrambling required.
White-Blue-White trail markers for parts of the way.

We reached the Drei Schwestern, the last few prominent peaks on the ridge. There we had a choice: we could either be completionists and continue over hilly unexciting meadows to finish the entire ridge. This would have brought us to down do Frastanz in Austria, significantly complicating the logistics for our return home. Or we could head straight back down towards Planken in Liechtenstein. In the end the colorful sunshades of the Gafadurahut made all the difference and lured us down the direct path back to Liechtenstein. It was hot and humid and we were both running with sweat. Each of us carried 2.5l of water when we started, but we both ran dry a long time ago. So we were parched and the thought of a chilled coke in the shade was simply too hard to resist. At the end of the day we drank 6-7liters each, with a single pee break in between ;-P

Ventsi.
Some via-ferrata-like sections.
Cool way to build stairs: jam logs between the rocks.

Coming down the mountain we loosely planned to find public transportation back to our car parked at the castle. However, we had a good conversation going, were freshly hydrated and it looked like there'd be a nice trail traversing the entire mountain range back to our starting point. So we spontaneously decided to close a full loop on foot. In the end this meant we covered about 35km and 2200m of elevation in an 11 hour outing. Not quite the 2500m Ventsi challenged me to, but nevertheless a great hike for the both of us. And while it might not have been the desired endurance/cardio challenge, it was a challenge in a different way: this was Ventsi's first time on such T4 scrambling trails. So he did get to expand his horizon in different ways ;-P

Views into Austria and Germany. Lake Constance in the distance.
Ventsi holding up the arch.
Approaching the hut where we vaporized a liter of Coke in seconds.
Paraphrased: "You believe the hunter to be a sinner because he dosn't attend church. A look towards the sky in the lush forest is better than a false prayer." Amen ;-P

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