Activity Workshop
 

Swiss Hike - Churfirstens

Hike time:

5 hours

Start:

post bus Walenstadtberg Reha-Klinik

Finish:

Walenstadt bahnhof

Season:

Summer

Profile:

from 940m up to 1710m, then steeply down to 450m

Rating:

medium difficulty, but quite strenuous with lots of vertical

Summary

A circular tour high above the beautiful Walensee, with the towering Churfirstens looming overhead. Especially in the middle section, the traverse across the 'shoulder' of the ridge is spectacular, with great views both upwards and downwards, but this doesn't come without some effort. The post bus takes away a few hundred metres of the climbing, but there's still over 750m of it, and over 1200m of descent. The final drop is on steep hard roads, and can prove more than a little tiring!

The Churfirstens form an instantly recognisable silhouette above the green-blue Walensee, a sheer wall of notched teeth. They should be very familiar to anyone who has been skiing at Flumserberg, as most of the slopes there face this constant and marvellous backdrop.

Note that this hike doesn't go to the top of the Churfirstens, it just loops around the southern slopes underneath the teeth. If you want to climb all the way to the top of Chäserrugg, then see the alternatives below.

Getting there and back

The start of the hike is at Walenstadtberg, whose Reha-Klinik can be reached by hourly post bus from Walenstadt. Walenstadt is also the end of the hike, and lies at the Eastern end of the lovely Walensee, on the main rail line between Zurich and Chur.

To make this an easy day trip from Zurich, take the train to Ziegelbrücke (45 mins), the train from there to Walenstadt (30 mins), and then the post bus up to Walenstadtberg (20 mins). This stop is also known as the Sanatorium, or as Knoblisbüel, and is the end of the line. Check the times before you go though. At the time of writing, the post bus is not running between 8:35 and 11:35, exactly the times it would be most useful, leaving the unsuspecting hiker with a long wait, or a long and not too interesting walk up the road. After the hike, the return journey is the train back from Walenstadt to Ziegelbrücke (hourly, around the half-hour) and then from there back to Zurich.

To avoid the ticket queues at the station, get a return to Walenstadt from the machines (CHF 24 with halbtax) and get the post bus ticket from the driver (a few CHF).

Hike map

For a zoomable, scrollable map of this hike, see this online map using Openstreetmap or Opencyclemap.

You can also download this kmz file churfirstens.kmz to open it in Google Earth or view it in Google Maps in your browser. Or of course you can use programs like Prune to transfer the track to your GPS.

 

The walk

Knoblisbüel - Schrina - Tschingla - Lüsis - Walenstadt

profile of the hike
3D plot of the hike, showing the ascent to the West, the traverse back Eastwards,
and then the descent down to Walenstadt

As soon as you leave the post bus, the sheer rock walls impress themselves upon you. It feels a lot higher, and more dramatic, than the lowly 950m it really is.

From the bus stop, cut up through the car park to rejoin the paved road, and continue on up as it winds even higher towards the West. After 30-40 minutes, the switchbacks lead to Hochrugg, with the Bergrestaurant Schrina. A little farther on, there is a signposted 10 minute detour to a monument called "Paxmal" - in the style of a Roman temple with intricate and colourful mosaics. It's very well done, and took the artist Karl Bickel 25 years to complete, but a little more explanation would have been useful. This is a popular spot, especially as the car park is just a few minutes away, but much better views are yet to come.

Returning to the Paxmal turnoff from the main road, you pass a popular paraglider take-off point, providing some colour and interest to the already stunning scenery. Rejoin the road and continue uphill for about 10 minutes, until a signpost for "Obersäss" directs you off to the right and the route finally leaves the paved road. Follow the faint path across the fields, and climb up following the white-red-white markings of the steep track. Eventually, the switchbacks reach a peak and the path starts to head back Eastwards, reaching a maximum altitude of around 1710m before dropping slightly to the welcome restaurant at Alp Tschingla, whose terrace provides ideal basking. Watch the climbers on the impossible cliffs above, or watch the lake sparkle below (but sadly no chocolate cake to be had).

Once revived, continue the trail signposted "Lüsis", continuing to descend gradually, and continuing to admire the changing views. After around an hour you reach the signpost at Brunnen, where the path splits. Take the left fork, rising slightly, signposted "Lüsis Khs" - this leads over a grassy hummock giving (more) superb views of the Churfirsten ridge, the Walensee and the valley further East. After 10 minutes or so you arrive at the restaurant Lüsis, which offers another watering opportunity (but still no chocolate cake).

Follow the signs to "Walenstadt Bhf", leading down a steep drive, which turns into a steep gravel road descending in switchbacks. The hard surface is quite tiring on the legs - this is where it would be nice to have a set of wheels (one-way mountain bike hire, anyone?). Plod down here for around 45 minutes, until another signpost for "Walenstadt Bhf" leads off to the right along an overgrown track. This quickly becomes a steep narrow track, dropping beside a vineyard to the outskirts of Walenstadt. Follow the yellow diamond signs through the lanes past the two church spires, to reach the station after around 20-30 minutes.

The Waypoints

                      Latitude       Longitude    Altitude(m)
Knoblisbüel         N 47°08.458'    E009°17.109'      943
Restaurant Schrina  N 47°08.485'    E009°15.919'     1264
Paxmal              N 47°08.526'    E009°16.216'     1268
Signpost1           N 47°08.498'    E009°15.496'     1339
Rest. Tschingla     N 47°08.892'    E009°17.680'     1536
Brunnen             N 47°08.315'    E009°19.508'     1310
Restaurant Lüsis    N 47°08.107'    E009°19.808'     1272
Signpost2           N 47°07.679'    E009°19.501'      627
Walenstadt stn      N 47°07.204'    E009°18.775'      450

More Info

For more on Paxmal, see ausflugsziele.ch, or the Museum Bickel site.

Alternatives

Touring around the sides of this ridge gives great panoramas over the Walensee and the feeling of being close up to the towering teeth. But some might ask whether it's possible to hike all the way to the top instead. Surprisingly the answer is yes, there are footpaths up from both sides.

One possibility would be to climb up from Wildhaus to the restaurant at Chäserrugg, and then take the cable car back down again — but then you only see the north side of the ridge and don't get the whole "ridge-crossing" experience. Or you can climb from Walenstadt to Chäserrugg and take the cable car down the other side. This involves quite a climb (from 450m up to 2260m) and is steep in places but not scrambly, it's marked red-and-white the whole way.

Or if you can handle a bit of descent as well, you can avoid the crowds on Chäserrugg and go over Hinterrugg instead, and then there are a variety of paths down the other side to the cable car or bus station of your choice.