A beautiful day to climb a big peak.

I’ve had my eyes on Mount Pilatus for months, since a local friend suggested it as a place for hiking and (in winter) sledging.  Andy had hiked there in the fall – walking down from the summit.  Today, Andy and I decided to visit and climb up from the base.  The funicular railway is closed (due to coronavirus restrictions) so we planned a round-trip from the Alpnachstad train station to the kulm (summit) and return.  It was a beautiful day and, though a bit hot and humid for hiking, it still granted us spectactular views. Read on and check out the full gallery.

Andy descends through the alpine meadows with views of the Alps beyond.

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Hüttchopf ridgeline hike

A beautiful walk through forests and meadows on a clear spring day.

Okay: enough of the “street hiking” in Zürich.  It’s time to get back out on the trails and in the woods!  It rained the past three days, clearing the air of the haze that accumulated during the long March-April dry spell. Given a sunny forecast, a quiet Sunday morning, and an intriguing route, I hopped a (nearly) empty train to the outskirts of Zürich Canton. An hour later  I was walking past the church of the tiny village of Fischenthal, its bell tolling for a service that cannot be held, and then off the road onto a steep dirt track through a pasture.  Read on for the full story and more photos.


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Morning walk

A time-lapse movie of my walk to Zürichberg.

I enjoy my walk to Zurichberg every day, and have long wanted to share it.  So today I experimented with a time-lapse movie.  The walk to the viewpoint took me 23 minutes; the movie will take you one minute to watch.  (For the steep parts you unfortunately get a close look at the stairs, not the pretty scenery.  I’ll have to experiment further!)

The map below is from another day, when I continued clockwise past the “End” to return home.

walk map

Uetliberg to Sihlbrugg

A hike along the entire length of the ridgeline on the western shore of Zürichsee.

From the windows of our flat we look across central Zürich to the steep slopes of Uetliberg, with its summit hotel, restaurant, and observation tower; the map below is very nearly that same view.  I’ve visited there many times for the sunset view, and once for a walk with Andy south along its ridgeline as far as Felsenegg.  But I’ve longed to walk the entire ridge, and today seemed to be the day: I walked from Ringlikon at right to Sihlbrugg at the left edge of the map below.  It’s much longer than it looks! Read on and check out the gallery.


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Spring snow

A dusting of snow, after spring had already arrived.

A snowy morning on Zurichberg.After hiking in a t-shirt on Saturday – a balmy day (close to 20ºC) – I was surprised to wake this morning to see snow covering Uetliberg – the hill on the opposite side of the city.  As I climbed my usual route to Zürichberg I soon passed through above the snowline and, where just two days earlier I saw families out preparing their tiny garden plots for the new growing season, the daffodils were covered in a dusting of snow.

Spring snowfalls are nothing new to me.  But what surprises me is that this is only the fourth snowfall I’ve seen in Zürich this year, and none of them have dropped more than one or two cm of snow, even in the higher terrain.  So I’m wondering: when is it ever winter, anyway?


A long walk from Zurichberg

An eleven-mile walk down the ridgeline from Zurichberg and down to the lake.

It was a beautiful spring day, one of those early warm days that draw you outdoors.  With the prospect of alpine hikes unlikely for the coming months, due to safety issues involving avalanches or coronavirus (or both), I decided to walk closer to home.

I climb straight up to the top of Zurichberg every morning, with its lovely view of the distant alps.  From that viewpoint I’ve often wondered whether it’s possible to walk down that ridgeline, parallel to the lake.  After lunch, I headed up my usual route to Zurichberg.  Unlike in the early morning, it was bustling with people… older couples out for a stroll, young families with toddlers in tow, hipsters running with their headphones, and hardcore mountain bikers zipping by.  I picked a less-traveled route, but soon discovered that these hills above Zürich are covered with a web of gravel paths, all well maintained, well signed, and well mapped… and today, well populated.

I walked through hardwood forests, with stacks of impressive logs, recently cut, demonstrating how they thin these forests for both the health of the forest and the revenue and raw materials it can produce.  I passed small family groups building campfires, or setting out a picnic lunch on a table. I passed couples enjoying a couple glasses of wine on a shared bench.  I walked through meadows with wildflowers blooming.  And when I decided to head downhill, toward the lake, I wandered the small lanes of suburban towns where people were out preparing their gardens for spring.  A lovely scene.2020-03-28-82109.jpg

At Tiefenbrunnen I hopped the S6 back to Zürich, paying an extra two bucks for 1st class and I had a train car all to myself for the 15 minute ride.

Most people were careful about social distancing, keeping to the opposite side of the path so I could pass them with the recommended 2m separation.  But some were not so careful, and sometimes it was too narrow or too crowded to be truly separated.  In retrospect, after passing several hundred people on the trails today, I would have been better off spending 2-3 hours on an empty train to reach a distant trailhead for an empty trail.

I took few photos and have no gallery, but I include a few interesting scenes below the map.

Stats: 11 miles, 3.5 hours.

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My route is shown in blue, starting at top center and ending bottom center. I forgot to start the track at home, so it actually starts on Zürichberg just before I left my usual turf and headed into the great unknown to its southeast.


Braunwald to Schwanden

A lovely solo hike from Braunwald, across the high country and down to the valley village of Schwanden.

Sometimes I just need to get in a few miles of post-holing.  And when the view is this good, why not?  After completing a major deadline yesterday, I really needed to get away from the computer and out into the Real World for a while.  Given the rapid onset of spring in Zürich, I wanted one last taste of winter.  Switzerland closed all the ski areas (early) on Monday, so none of those facilities was an option.  But our walk in Braunwald, two weeks ago, left me wishing to go back.  I found a longer walk, from the same starting point, and so I jumped a train back to Braunwald.*  Read on, and check out the photo gallery.

Bösbächibach brook and the peaks (L to R) of Eggstock, Gassenstock, and Bösbächistock.

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