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Julia

Julia

Shooting stars and ibexes – week 2 on the Via Glaralpina

Small stones slide away under the soles of my feet and roll down the steep cliff into the valley. With my hands I look for the next grip on the rock to pull myself up a little further. Furrowed and jagged, the glacier rises before my eyes – next to it crouches an almost inconspicuous building. I creak open the door to the oldest SAC hut in Switzerland.

But I should start from the beginning. The second week on the Via Glaralpina began on Glattalp where the last one had ended. A visit to the doctor, a lot of time on the sofa and various wishes to the universe had helped – my leg finally felt good and resilient again, the inflammation of the muscle attachment had largely subsided. Good thing, because I really wanted to return to the Via Glaralpina, of which I had only been able to complete 6 of the 19 stages! So I packed my things again and headed back to Glarnerland.

Day 7: Barren karst landscapes and wide views

From the Glattalp hut, I had spent two days looking at the route of day 7 – and yet, with the best will in the world, I could not make out a path through the steep mountain flank. Now that I was standing at the start of the route, I realised once again how perspectives can be deceptive – from this perspective the terrain now seemed much less steep, and I was looking forward to the climb that had eluded me for so long. Over a lot of scree, the route went upwards in the cut, until suddenly the mountain seemed to be cut off – I had reached the karst plateau.

I decided to take a break and let my eyes roam over the glaciers in the distance – with excellent visibility I could see as far as Titlis. Then suddenly my eye caught a movement close by – a weasel or stoat scampering over the rocks, too fast to see it clearly or even film it. With a smile on my face from this encounter, I set off on the rest of the trail, first balancing over many karst holes and then finally tackling the very slippery descent. Soon the grass came back now and my descent led me to Urner Boden.

  • The route is one of the short tours on the Glaralpina and takes about 3h.
  • The ascent is scree (medium to coarse scree) and therefore somewhat slippery, but overall the route is a rather easy blue-white tour.
  • The descent through the Firner Loch is more unpleasant. This is red-white again, but much more slippery (sand and small scree) than the ascent.
  • The route should definitely not be walked in snow, as it has small and large karst holes big enough to either stretch your foot or fall in completely (and some of them are deep).
  • There is mobile phone reception all along the route.
  • All information about the route here: Stage 7

Day 8: Smart sayings and shooting stars

Here I met my mother, who would accompany me for the next few days. Since she is already a bit older at 69 and we didn’t quite know how well blue-white scree on the descent from Gämsfairenstock would be doable for her, so we decided on the more relaxed variant to the Claridenhütte. Since I had also done this summit a few years ago, the decision was okay for me.

A widely curving path led us first gently, then more and more steeply towards the hut. While the terrain once again became more and more barren, the stones at the side of the path became more and more colourful – because apparently someone took pleasure in amusing sayings for hikers. That was just what we needed, because on this sunny day we were dripping with sweat! We crossed another glacier stream bed and soon the Clariden Hut was in front of us – including an inviting hammock and sun loungers.

This is exactly how we had imagined it, so we put our feet up while the house chickens cackled and made their circles around us. Every now and then, the cat purred by, the dog didn’t give us a glance. After a delicious dinner from the friendly hut crew, I looked up at the cloudless sky – and had an idea. I quickly checked my photography app and saw that the Milky Way would appear tonight directly behind the Tödi! And at a really humane time of half past nine, I couldn’t think of sleeping any more, so I counted various shooting stars that evening while my camera captured the beauty of the moment.

  • The original route leads over the Gämsfairenstock, but can be bypassed red-white around the Rotstock.
  • Gluten-free food at the Claridenhütte was no problem and free of charge (must be announced).
  • Plenty of deckchairs, loungers and hammocks outside.
  • Mobile phone reception is only possible at the front of the chicken coop with Swisscom.
  • Own flower beds and chickens on site.
  • There is a bathing lake nearby (approx. 15 min. away).
  • As far as I know there is no shower, the toilets are dry toilets with conveyor belt (in the house).
  • All information about the route here: Stage 8

Day 9: Glacier rivers and its majesty, the Tödi

Yes, here I can say – stage 9 was one of my highlight stages. After a beautiful sunrise and a last look back towards the Claridenhütte, the path led us over rocky terrain – we had misinterpreted the sign “avoid chains”, as we soon realised. So right at the start we had to do a short scramble, which my mother mastered with flying colours. Our path led us past many small lakes towards Tödi until we reached the first highlight of the day – the crossing into the next valley. Our gaze wandered far and wide over the glaciers, a meandering river, lush meadows and the Tödi, which towered above it all. Wow!

Our path now led into the valley in many small bends and we couldn’t wait to cool our feet in the river. After the return ascent, the second highlight of the day immediately followed: first a small, moss-covered river, almost fairytale-like in appearance – and then, behind the last bend, the next valley with the mighty Biferten glacier. It flowed lambently into the valley, guarded above by the Grünhorn Hut and below by the Fridolins Hut, our destination for the day. Now there was no stopping me, because I wanted to get down into the valley as quickly as possible so that I could make it up to the Grünhorn hut and back down again before dinner.

My backpack stayed down, with only my jacket, water and camera I ran off as fast as I could. The path became steeper and steeper and stones rolled away under my feet. Soon I had to use my hands. Finally I stood on the ridge, the glacier at my feet, and turned the heavy metal ring of the hut. I wondered what was behind it.. The door creaked open, revealing a barren room with a rough, cobbled floor. It was dominated by a heavy wooden table covered with carvings, on which lay various old, yellowed hut books that had clearly already passed through thousands of hands.

Some panels on the back wall told the story of the Grünhorn hut, which was built in 1863. I let my gaze wander, over the walls and out through the narrow window slits to the peaks. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the climbs here 150 years ago: With nails under their shoes, heavy leather rucksacks and in the simplest clothes compared to today. By the way, the first woman stood at the summit of the Tödis on 13 July 1869 – in a skirt. What an achievement in those days.

I would have liked to stay longer, but dinner was calling and so I set off again at a run towards the Fridolins hut. Without a backpack, I felt so light and my feet just flew over the path – I would remember this feeling for a long time. I ended the evening once again with Milky Way and shooting stars – again perfectly aligned above the Biferten Glacier, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

  • The detour to the Grünhornhütte is worthwhile and takes about 1h (at a normal pace). The path is secured with chains in the upper part.
  • Gluten-free food at the Claridenhütte was no problem and free of charge (must be announced).
  • The toilet is an outhouse and is located in front of the house, as are the washing troughs.
  • Mobile phone reception is only possible outside the hut (tested with Swisscom).
  • There is a small bathing lake directly under the hut (see photos).
  • There is no shower.
  • All information about the route: Stage 9

Day 10: Curious sheep and a surprise thunderstorm

The next day we started early because a thunderstorm was forecasted for the afternoon. But so far there was not a cloud in the sky and we started our descent in bright sunshine. Our path led us through curious sheep, which surrounded us and could not be stroked enough. Streams and deep ravines lined the path, which alternated between a steep descent and a plateau.

From Hinter Sand, the hiking trail changed to a road that led us down into the valley via Pantenbrugg, which is full of history. Behind Tierfed we put our feet in the water, which were happy to cool down after 1400 metres of altitude. The sky still looked harmless, but this quickly changed over the next half hour. A dull rumble and a first twitch in the sky quickened our steps, and with the first thick drops we arrived in Braunwald. A break day was on the cards, because it was supposed to rain through the whole of the next day.

  • The descent can be shortened from Hinter Sand by taxi. The corresponding numbers can be found on the notice board at the Fridolinshütte.
  • The route runs on a wide natural road from Hinter Sand. It is long, but thus quite relaxed to walk.
  • The Pantenbrugg / Panten Bridge is along the route, it is worth reading the history about it.
  • All information on the route: Stage 10

Day 11: Ibex safari and lunar landscapes

There they were, the horned kings of the Alps! Mightily enthroned on the rocks above us, first a herd with six bucks, later one with female ibexes – here we counted over 30 animals. Not that the ascent towards the Muttseehütte was not spectacular enough in itself – deep gorges and mist-shrouded peaks alternated every minute. But the main reason why my mother in particular wanted to walk this stage were the royal bucks. And once we had spotted them, I could hardly get her to go on.

When we finally arrived at the plateau of the Muttseehütte, I was a bit surprised – a dam and some technical buildings and lines dominated the picture. Since the hut had been fully booked for months, I was now not so sad that we could not spend the night here. For this reason we had to combine two stages today (11 and 12), so our destination for the day was Bifertenhütte. We soon left the area and also the grassy terrain behind us in the direction of Kistenpass, through dark rock we went higher and higher. And then we finally got a good look at it – below us Lake Limmeren shimmered in the most beautiful shades of blue.

On chains and with a sure step, we continued upwards until we reached the highest point of the Glaralpina for the time being at 2729m. Wisps of clouds drifted over the plateau that now stretched out before us, swallowing us up from time to time. Like a mirage, the hut appeared from time to time in the distance, only to disappear again shortly afterwards. The last few kilometres a cold wind blew around us, so we looked forward all the more to the hut and a warm tea. The next two stages I would be on my own again, because now something special was waiting for me: the royal stage of the Glaralpina.

  • We had to combine stages 11 and 12, as the Muttseehütte had been fully booked for my time slot for months, therefore I have no info on the hut.
  • The Bifertenhütte was renovated only a few years ago and has a very modern design, with a lot of emphasis on wooden interior.
  • Gluten-free food in the Bifertenhütte was no problem (by prior arrangement).
  • The toilet in the hut is outside and a separation toilet.
  • There is running water in the toilet, but no shower.
  • Mobile phone reception was unproblematic.
  • All info on the route:  Stage 11

Facts & figures

The overall route of the Via Glaralpina: green my route, red the sections I bypassed.

The second week took me from Glattalpsee to Bifertenhütte – a total of 57.8km with 3290 positive and 4378 negative metres of altitude. I ran stage 7 at the end and stage 8 on the red-white trail so that my mother could accompany me. We had to combine stages 11 and 12 because the Muttseehütte was fully booked.

Stories with videos from each day with more details can be found on my Instagram-Profil under “highlights”.

Disclaimer: This blog post was written in collaboration with Via Glaralpina and Glarnerland Tourism. However, the report reflects my own experiences. This text was also written without AI (Chat GPT and Co.).

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