zürich must have been a lonely place over the weekend: yesterday, when we passed through zürich main station on our way to pfäffikon (sz), the trains leaving zürich and heading for the south were chock-full! i guess all of zürich was on its way to the mountains: the first really good snow situation since christmas last year! we were ourselves on our way to pfäffikon to meet up with fellow snow shoe-ers from the [zindelspitz section of the swiss alpine club][sac-zindelspitz] and then on to [brienz and axalp for two days of snow shoeing!][axalp-tour]
we were among the first to arrive in pfäffikon but were soon joined by the rest of the group. after making sure that everyone had snow shovel and avalanche beacon, our tour guide fredi declares us ready to go — which is fortunate, as our train is about to leave. via thalwil we go to lucerne, change to the [brünig pass train] (fantastic view, narrow gauge rails!) and arrive finally at brienz. from here it’s by post bus up a _very_ narrow winding road to bramisegg where we have an excellent lunch at the bramisegg pub!
[brünig pass train]: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Br%C3%BCnigbahn
lunch out of the way we are itching to start snow shoeing — our hotel landlord (over night we are staying at the very nice _[chemihüttli hotel]_ up at axalp) had come down to bramisegg and arranges for transport up to teiffental by stopping everything on wheels that’s coming down the mountain road: a couple of us are ferried up in the car of the bramisegg’s cook, a couple get to ride on a snow plow that happened to come down for a lunch break — it seems like the whole village is drafted into service!
[chemihüttli hotel]: http://www.chemihuettli.ch/
finally, at teiffental we mount our gear and set off! the weather is clearing up: instead of the closed cloud cover that we had so far we get more and more sunny intervals. the snow is fantastic — powdery and absolutely no comparison with the harsh and crunchy stuff we experienced two weeks before at st moritz and maloja! we slowly wind our way up the mountain. the tour is fantastic — as is the landscape!
above lake hinterburgseeli we get a lesson in how to descend a rather steep slope: clearly the telemark style is the most elegant alas only two of our group have that skill — the rest either try to step down or very pragmatically sled down on their behinds…lots of fun 😀
once around the lake it’s up the mountain again and then follow a trail through the forest to axalp.
[our hotel][chemihüttli hotel] is quite nice and consists of three huts: one the restaurant, one a bar, and the largest one the actual hotel itself. the rooms are nice and large (mrs d & i share a four bed room with two others from our group) and the landlord turns out to be the cook as well — and a good cook to boot!
after a nice and relaxed dinner (and a whisky in the bar hut), we retreat to our rooms — the night is a bit noisy in spite of very good beds: one of our group of four is snoring like there’s no tomorrow; sigh, i forgot to bring my ear plugs 🙁 (note to self: stock up on ear plugs and distribute them over my rucksacks).
after a very nice breakfast we are off to our second snow shoe tour: up to lütschental then down to bödeli, up again to fangisalb and across and down again through the giessbach valley back to bramisegg — advertized as a “leisurely 3 1/2 hour” tour by fredi.
the weather is even better than yesterday: blue skies! the hike up to lütschental is in places breathtaking: walking on a snow covered narrow ledge the valley drops down below us to our right… after 1.5 hours we arrive at lütschental — and see two eagles take off and disappear into the surrounding mountains! a magnificent view seeing those two birds of prey take to the skies! it seems they had just killed a chamois — whose bloody corpus is just a few meters away from our resting point.
from lütschental on we leave the road that we’ve been following so far and follow a summer trail across the mountain side. this part of the trail is now crossing avalanche areas (the slope is in places more then 30°). a first gouge we manage to cross one by one, the second one stops us: it’s in the shadow and full of unsettled snow. we have to backtrack all the way to lütschental and then take a different route down to the valley floor. our slope descend training from yesterday comes in handy — it’s a rather long descent and steep descent, quite an ardorous task.
nobody’s been down here since it snowed and we are the first to make our way around the valley floor — which at this point has become a cauldron which is only accessible from above as the only way out is a creek twiggling its way through a narrow gorge. at the end of the cauldron is a large waterfall: it’s front is frozen white-green, but still there’s water flowing in the back! a wonderful view!
the original plan had been to follow the ski tour trail up to fangisalb: on closer inspection it turns out that there’s no such ski tour trail and where it was supposed to be is an overgrown slope that is impractical to follow — we need to make our own trail up! exciting and lots of fun!
…eventually we reach the top and enjoy some dramatic views across the snow cover high plateau towards faulhorn and the surrounding mountains.
while the views are just great with all the snow up here we have a bit of a problem finding our path — after a wrong attempt and some backtracking we finally make it across the mountain and join the trail back down to bramisegg. we are now seriously behind schedule and it’s obvious that we won’t make the 15:58 post bus back from bramisegg to brienz — unfortunately our delay increases quite a bit: the ski tour trail down through giessbach valley turns out to be another piece of fiction as it winds its way through a wooded gorge and becomes quite a challenge to walk down in snow shoes with all the tree roots to circumnavigate (how one is supposed to do this with ski remains a mystery).
in the end we not only miss the 16:58 but also the 17:25 post bus and arrive at bramisegg at 17:55. despite the effort of the brienz taxi drivers that we summon up the mountain we get to brienz station just in time to see the train back to lucerne leave…bummer! as the next one is not due until an hour later we take refuge in the restaurant across the road from the station and have our first real break today!
we are back home after a long but fantastic day at 22:00. tired but happy!