It has been one month since my last ‘real’ hike – on Pilatus – but it has taken that long for my health to return more or less normal after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms a few days afterward. (Fortunately, I tested negative then, and again 10 days later in an antibody test.) So with today’s beautiful weather enticing me outside, I decided to make a quick trip over to Flumserberg – where Andy and I skied in January – to hike where I could really see some views. Read on, and check out the gallery for photos and video.
The Flumserberg ski area is set in a minor mountain range with a beautiful view across the Walansee valley. With a direct train from Zürich to Unterterzen, on the shores of the Walansee, and a gondola from there to the base of the ski area at Tannenboden, one can be on alpine trails in just 90 minutes travel from home. I chose to take an additional gondola ride from there to the top of the ridge at Maschgenkamm, at 2020m. It feels like cheating – to skip the 1595m climb (over 5,200′) – back in NH, it would be a whole day’s outing to summit a peak like that! But, wow, as you step off the gondola and through the restaurant, the views are spectacular. And there you are on the ridge, ready to circumnavigate the verdant northwest bowl of Flumserberg.
Today was the first day the gondola was open since March – a combination of the emerging summer season and the re-opening after Coronavirus restrictions – so there were a fair number of others out to enjoy the day. That said, it never felt crowded. I was following a route suggestion for the vier Gipfels tour (four peaks), a shortened version of the sieben Gipfels (seven peaks) that suited my current condition and my time constraints just fine. (I am accustomed to eating gipfel, as the Swiss call their form of croissants, but it is also a term for mountain summit; here, 7 gipfels refers to the seven little peaks on this ridgeline.)
As I took my first steps up Ziger, the first of my gipfel, a jet plane zoomed past, doing a barrel roll just a hundred meters over my head. (The Swiss air force likes to spend sunny days in the mountains, too.) Passing other hikers, some much younger and some much older than me, I soon left the main ridgeline and cut across some ski slopes that had challenged (ok, frightened) me a few months ago, now blooming with wildflowers. At one point the trail cut through a snowbank, but the trail maintainers had plowed it clear.
Above you can just see a farmer with a sledgehammer, on the trail at the right edge of the snow, pounding in fenceposts. Many alpine meadows serve as ski slopes in the winter and cow pasture in the summer. The farmers use electric fences to contain their cows all summer, then pull down the fences in the fall when the cows migrate to the valley; every spring they walk the fenceline, fish the fencepost out of the rocks and brush, and set them back up. I’ve noticed this same behavior in places that are not formal ski areas as well… the goal is to prevent invisible (but dangerous) surprises for backcountry skiers who encounter an intact fence!
Soon I passed a small picnic area – a single table, a small fireplace with grill, a wood box with free firewood, and a happy family grilling wurst for lunch. Then on to a promintory called Gross Güslen (big sprinkle?) with spectacular views of the Walansee valley. The water is chalky blue, typical of runoff from alpine glaciers.
On my way down I passed the elegant Seebenalp hotel, with happy diners enjoying a sunny lunch on its veranda. From there I followed a gravel road back to Tannenbodenalp; at one point the I followed the trail through a gate in the electric fence and walked among curious cows for the next kilometer. (Be sure to watch the video!)
I would like to return to Flumserberg – it’s convenient to reach and there are many trails to explore; next time I’d like to take a longer hike and get in some more elevation gain.
Check out the photo gallery – the most beautiful views are there!
Hike stats: 8.66km, 2h02m, gain 103m. Mostly downhill!