Today I went hiking with a colleague from the University of St. Gallen, about an hour to the east of Zürich. Our goal was the summit of Kronberg, 1662m, with fabulous views of Mount Säntis and the Alpstein region to the south, and deep into the Swiss Alps to the west and the Austrian Alps to the east, as well as to the grand expanse of Lake Constance to the northeast. Read on and check out the gallery.
After a short drive from the train station in St. Gallen, we set out on foot on the shady northern side of the Kornberg ridge. It was -4ºC; perfect winter hiking temperature. We climbed steadily upward through pasture and past summer homes of the local dairy farmers – the Appenzell region is famous for its cheese – and soon topped out on the ridge and burst into the sunshine, a deep blue sky above. The great ridge of Mount Säntis loomed ahead; a cozy guesthouse beckoned nearby, with patrons enjoying a morning coffee on its patio, basking in the mid-morning sunshine.
We took a detour to avoid the well-traveled direct route to the summit, instead crossing open fields and a small stream valley. The snow cover was thin – a few cm in places, and perhaps 50-60cm in the deepest spots. My colleague has been on this route dozens of times, and says he has never seen so little snow in mid-winter. Soon we reached the summit of Kronberg, with its adjacent restaurant and gondola bringing tourists up from the valley below. The view was spectacular, as we scoped out our route for descent. As you can see, though, the snow cover was barely a few centimeters.
We decided to follow a ridge to the south, then to the west, rolling up and down the ridgeline. We passed a stone marker as we crossed the border from the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden (inner Appenzell) to Appenzell Ausserrhoden (outer Appenzell) – both of which are encircled by the canton of St. Gallen. The bizarre nested geography of these cantons is tied to their fascinating history: Appenzell was once one canton, but split in 1531, with the Ausserrhoden choosing to align Catholic and the Innerrhoden choosing Protestant.
Another interesting tidbit: “Appenzell Innerrhoden was the last canton in Switzerland to grant women the right to vote on local issues…. A centuries-old law forbidding women to vote was changed in 1991, when Switzerland’s federal court ordered the canton to grant women the right to vote.” [Wikipedia]
Anyway, the ridgeline was a beautiful passage; the afternoon sun warmed the air well above freezing and the snow became wet and sticky. (In mid-February! Crazy!) We had distant views to left and right for the next hour along the ridgeline.
Soon we came to another hut, closed for the season, and turned left to descend steeply to the road in the valley. Below is a view down the hillside pasture we followed toward the valley.
Fortunately there is a bus stop right at the trailhead; 15 minutes later we were on a bus down to the train station, then a few stops on a regional train and we were back at our starting point. I love the rural transit system, which enables end-to-end hikes like this one! Be sure to check out the gallery for more photos. If you are interested in following our adventures, via RSS or email, click “Follow” at upper right.
Stats: approx 11km, 860m gain; approx 4 hours walking time. I didn’t quite start the tracker at the beginning, so I’ve added it by hand on the map below.
At bottom, the red pin shows the location of the hike.