Hoher Kasten in the Appenzell region (Switzerland) is a place with fantastic views and an opportunity for pleasant and light trekking. Light? Well, not this time.
We were tempted by time and views. Geologischer Wanderweg Alpstein is planned for 5 hours and 30 minutes, which translates (in theory) into 16 km walk, 650 m ascent and 1500 m descent. The starting point is, of course, the upper cable car station. So, we park the car in Brulisau (surprisingly, the parking lot is free) and 5 minutes later we rush in a cable car towards the sky.
At the top, of course, there’s a delightful surprise: the panorama stretches from Lake Constance in the east to the distant peaks of the Grisons looming somewhere in the south. Rhine Valley and Appenzel hills look fantastic in such transparent air. So, we walk around the peak for 15 minutes, separated from the abyss by barriers and admire the scenery.
Feeding the eyes is one thing, but we didn’t come here to stand! The descent (the only one) from the peak is between the cable car building and… the hut. First, a narrow staircase, and then a steep, winding rope-lined path on a rock bring us 100 m below in a flash.
Then we walk under a vertical rock and go up a narrow ridge leading towards Saxer Lucke. We pass the saddle and some signposts and head towards Stauberenkanzel. And here it’s getting less idyllic.
As soon as we go down from the southern slopes to those with northern exposure, we come across large patches of snow still lying on the trail. It should not be a problem, but the slope is 45′, and below… well, you can’t really see what is below. We pass the first heap rather lightly. A kilometer away, two more of those do not provide any protection such as branches or roots. And crampons? Well… we left them in the car… it is the end of April, after all! 1,700 m a.s.l…. flowers are blooming, the grass is green, and here you have… snow. Since the trail before the Stauberenkanzel hut is to become more demanding, more exposed and more northern, we are beginning to have more and more doubts. Another pile of snow hanging over the precipice. No. We turn back. Well… we will have to come back here in summer. We descend towards Samtisersee, the turquoise lake, which we admired an hour ago from above.
Sometimes you just have to let go of the mountains (or be better prepared).
Alpstein and around Appenzell
Maybe Appenzell is the most conservative Swiss canton, but also it the very Swiss one in terms of landscapes. Rolling grassland hills and steep mountains. Ridges between abysses and cristal clear lakes. Switzerland in a nutshell.
Because it is located rather far from Zurich and non-major tourist track goes through it, Appenzell is somehow tourist-free. Enjoyed by locals, visited only by those who have been to Switzerland many times. But if by any chance, you are looking for an alternative for Jungfrau you should stay here for a while.
What to do in Appenzell and Alpstein:
- Hiking: Ebenalp, Schafler, Seealpsee
- Hiking: Hoher Kasten
- Hiking: Saxer Lucke
- A cable car ride to Santis (or hike!)
- Cheese tasting and experiencing Swiss cuisine
Hoher Kasten tips:
- Cable car cost CHF 46 for up and down ride, CHF 28 only for a ride to the top. Halb-tax is accepted. Children up to and including 15 years – free.
- Top of the mountain is accessible and suitable for disabled and small children – simply it is flat and there are viewing platforms without stairs.
- There is a revolving restaurant at the top!
- Summit is 1795 m asl, so not too high.
- However the trail down is rather difficult and steep at the beginning, ultra-dangerouse if snow-covered.