Via Alpina

Hiking in the Alps

In the year 2020: a warm welcome!

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2020: Keep on moving in the Alps…!

February 19th 2020

The Via Alpina: the great collection of long distance hiking trails in the Alps, of which the longest Trail runs through all eight Alpine countries, from Trieste in Italy to Monte Carlo, the Principality of Monaco. The Trails consist of 342 day stages in total.

Since 2011 there is the official website about the Via Alpina. Inspired by this project I started in early 2017 to develop the website “Pauline hikes” about the Via Alpina and hiking in the mountains in general. In the fourth year I just inform you that I am still enthusiastic about hiking on and around the Via Alpina! Therefore I hope that also in this year you, dear readers, would like to follow me on this journey! “The road is a destination“.

The lasest five blogs are – as always – mentioned in the sidebar. If you would like to read previous blogs, please click here: on the page of the Archives you will be guided to the blog you are looking for.

Best regards,

Pauline

Aarau: a stop-over in a beautiful old town

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September 21st 2019

A visit to a school friend from the Romanche course

This morning I left Arnhem by the 09.17 hrs ICE train to Basel SBB in transit to Zurich, where I will be staying until Monday afternoon. I had a stop-over in the city of Aarau: there Verena is living, a lady I met a few years ago during the course Rhaeto-Romanic (Vallader) in Scuol. We had a connection and as she had invited me already several times to visit her when I had the occasion, I had sent her an e-mail to ask her whether a visit for today would be convient. Continue reading

Scuol: Stage 67 of the Red Trail of the Via Alpina revisited – part 2

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August 17th 2019

The trip to S-charl is beautiful  – in summer and in winter!

When I left Sulden am Ortler last Thursday, August 15th by bus, the driver was somehow grumpy, apparently not very happy to have to work on the festive day “Assumption of Mary”: it seemed as if he didn’t understand German, so buying a ticket to Scuol in Switzerland proved to be too large a task for me as well for him. So I bought a ticket to Mal. At the change of bus in Spondinig into the direction of Mals the ticket turned out to be wrong, but also this driver only spoke Italian – my co-passengers were interpreting for me… But the sun was shining, so why having any problems! The trip by Postal car from Mals to Zernez went well – I have cast a look to the steep slope from Taufers i.M. to the Rifairalm that I had climbed a week ago…! Continue reading

Sulden am Ortler: a hike to the Marlt Madonna

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August 15th 2019

From great heights magnificent views again!

Yesterday the weather had completely cleared up: a clear blue sky with hardly any cloud. Therefore I had from my hotel room a wonderful view on the Ortler and the wooded slopes to the west of Sulden, with on top the mountain station of the chairlift Langenstein. That mountain station was the starting point of my trip: from there Weg Nr. 23 leads to a Statue of Mary, named Marlt Madonna, which hangs on the rock wall of the Marltgrat, at 2.568 metres, with impressive views on the top of the Ortler! Continue reading

Sulden am Ortler: to the source of the Suldenbach stream

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August 13th 2019

The power of an inhospitable area

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Sulden am Ortler: many clouds are hanging over the glaciers of the Köningspitze

After I had made the tour around Sulden yesterday and had learnt a lot about the surroundings, I went today with the gondola to the mountain station, because I would like to hike from there as far as possible towards the source of the Suldenbach stream. It springs under the Suldenferner, one of the glaciers near the Königspitze that flow towards the valley. It was rather overcast with menacing clouds which hid the mountain tops at the beginning of the valley, the Eisseespitze, the Suldenspitze, the Kreilspitze and the Königspitze, from view. It looked slightly mystic!

I went over a section of the Kultur- und Geschichtenweg, into the direction of the gondola. A part of this trail is the EVOPÄD, an educational and pedagogical trail for all ages: a training course for exercising the seven forms of intelligence, in which the recovery of one’s balance (literally and figuratively speaking) is the focus point. One item I hadn’t paid attention to on Monday was a maze, consisting of five or six circles of stones in the gras, which sometimes were connected with each other, but sometimes they weren’t. It was Phase 6 in that trail (out of 7), the “caveman”. On the information panel was explained that walking in a maze (several times out of it and into it), an ancient symbol of experience for solving life-issues with the help of balance, is a binding factor between our power and our feelings and strengthens our linguistic skills to express ourselves. Identity-building, finding your place in this world, empowered language as to content and expression, the competence to take responsibility… After several attempts to find the right way in those circles – I just got it wrong time after time: which circles continued and which didn’t – I noticed that my inner balance was very much put to the test, so I took a picture of the maze and happily walked on to the gondola… I crossed the bridge over the Suldenbach stream and I could see from a sign that had been folded back that the route by the western side of the valley could be closed in winter because of the danger of avalanches. Then that part of the Kultur- en Geschichtenweg will not be accessible.

The Sulden Gondola consists of two parts: there is a middle station, where one can directly change to the gondola of the next trajectory, There also is a wide track uphill to that middle station and from thereon further to the mountain station. I took the gondola, but I saw however tiny dots on the road far below: hikers who made the trip by foot. Although is was very cloudy, the mountain station and also the quite smaller Schaubachhütte were visible against the background of the low clouds. From the middle station (at 2.172 metres!) the landscape grew more and more barren: there were hardly any trees. The eastern side was still just solid rocks, but at the western side the large, grey moraine of debris that had been carried along by the (nowadays only short) Suldenferner glacier. It was lying like a scar between the green mountain slope more uphill and the valley through which the Suldenbach stream quite white-coloured was flowing. Once at the top, at 2.610 metres, the temperature was only +7°, but there was a phenomenal view on the surroundings, Sulden in the depth and blue skies with white clouds in the north.

A few metres further below is the Schaubach Hut: in Italian it is called Rifugio Città di Milano. It is a large building, painted in a bright shade of pink with an (undoubtedly isolated) roof of metal panels, and with a beautiful view over the moraines of the Ortler glacier. The hut has been built in 1875 and is named after the author, professor, alpinist and geographer from Thüringen Ernst Adolf Schaubach (1800–1850). Accompagnied by a painter and a natural scientist he had done research about the until then scarsely known Eastern Alps and described it in a popular scientific way in his quinquepartite book: “Die Deutschen Alpen” (The German Alps) (1845–1847). In 2014 a plaque with information and a portrait have been placed at the hut. Also this hut has been destroyed during the battles in the First World War. In 1926 the new hut was opend: the Milanese branch of the Italian Alpinists’ Club had taken over the ruins – the new build has been financed with donations from the Milanese citizens – which explains the name in Italian. The views from the Schaubachhütte are impressive, especially with the interaction between light and shade by the sun and the clouds and the extent of the moraines. The gondola arrived at the top again: a tiny dot in comparison to the surroundings, and that despite that this gondola has been considered as the largest in the world. Every gondola, (four in total) can transport 110 persons at the same time!

There are more plaques and memorials on the walls of the hut. There is a cross with a bronze panel from 2015 with a text in cut-out letters: “1915–1918: Im Gedenken an unsere Tiroler Standschützen” (1915–1918: in commemoration of our Tyrolean Standschützen). Another bronze plaque is made as a relief with images of the Gran Zebrù (Königspitze in Italian) and of four tough and proud looking members of the “Comando Provinciale Vigili del Fuoco Reggio Emilia“, the provincial fire brigade, who had climbed the mountain on August 5th 1997.

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Above Sulden am Ortler: panoramic views on the scree-covered slopes and the glaciers of the Ortler and Sulden

In the hut it was still quiet, but cosy, and also pleasantly warm. A minestrone with sausage and a large glass of mineral water made the stay even more pleasant! The kitchen here is run by one of the high standards hotels in Sulden, Hotel Post.

Although visibility had not improved, I just started my tour to the glacier. At first the track was wide, not too steep and frequently used. The landscape was green; it would be a long way to the Suldenferner glacier. The mountain tops weren’t visible…

In comparison to the flowers at lower altitude those growing here were much smaller: they were standing bravely and colourful between the short grass ‘though. I still saw the bright blue Spring gentians (Gentiana verna), which I had seen in bloom in early spring above Küblis! They grew between bunches of white Saxifrage (Saxifraga). Next to them there also were short-stemmed Campanulas with large calyxes between the rocks!

When the Schaubachhütte had disappeared from view, after I turned a corner at a large boulder, the trail led into southern direction towards the glacier, over a narrow path made of large pieces of rock, that were however steady. It was quiet, despite of other people hiking on the track. All of a sudden I heard the thundering noise of falling rocks from the opposite side of the valley. Another hiker on the track had heard it too, but we couldn’t see where the rockslide had come down. We walked on, him being somewhat faster than me – at a certain moment he was just a straight, small blue dash against the scree-covered slope. Weg Nr. 171 runs over the Eisseepass to the Casati hut at the other side of the mountain range, a long, steep route, which is not without danger…

Here only a few plants are growing! Protected by rocks a yellow Alpine avens was in bloom, a plant that doesn’t occur in the Netherlands: Geum montanum. This perennial has a long taproot and leathery leaves to protect itself against the harsh (micro-) climate. Another small plant, also protected by two rocks, stood out, a labiate with bright purple flowers, that have bright orange under lips: a Alpine toadflax (Linaria alpina), which is mostly biennual, attaching itself with long roots onto the scree, but also grow on with rhizomes above-ground –also in mini-mini size! Then there is a buttercup, with the appropiate name Glacier buttercup (Ranunculus glacialis), that can survive in scree up to an altitude of 4.000 metres… The stems are short, thick and fleshy with plant saps functioning as anti-freeze. The calyxes are mostly a bright white, but there also are shades from soft pink to deep burgundy red. I have seen many white, but still the pink and burgundy varieties!

The sun was trying to pierce through the clouds, but it wasn’t very successful where I was going – looking back into the direction of the Schaubachhütte and the valley of Sulden it appeared to be the case however: the hut was lying in the bright sunshine!

There was a lot of variation in the rocks: as to colour, chemical composition and size. Erosion had worked its way through many layers of stone and mixed them all. Some rocks obviously are ferrous, because I noticed many rusty brown “smears” in many rocks. A patch of beautiful pink rocks were shining in the somewhat gloomy light. I took a very tiny chunk of it along, because I liked the colour so much. But after a while I decided that I shouldn’t have taken it with me – it actually belongs to these mountains! – and I looked for a spot where the little rock would stand out. At a remarkably large dark grey chunk of rock, on which already a yellow greyish marbled rock was lying I have left my “trophy”. Later on I came across another large rock resembling very much a folded piece of spekkoek, the Indonesian layered cake!

Between all those larger and smaller rocks and fields of scree I hadn’t expected to find any plants, but actually there was a yellow Mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides) growing! In a field of snow a lump of yellow-brownish rock was lying with on the inside dark rock in the same yellow-brownish colour, so the difference was only noticeable by the white snow underneath the rock! I tried to come a bit closer to the area where I saw water appearing from underneath the glacier. That didn’t prove to be successful, because I felt my hiking boots being sucked into the muddy soil… That it has happened to a hiker before me was visible from the foot markings in the same puddle, which have been filled with water by then! Between the blue ice clear water was shimmering. So here was one of the sources of the Suldenbach!

The inner peace that I hadn’t felt at the stone maze down in Sulden, I definitely felt here: the energy of these surroundings, which are really inhospitable to survive, was very powerful. It was quiet, except for the soft murmuring of the small water streams – even the soft splashing of drops of meltwater could be heard. That the sun wasn’t shining didn’t bother me much. The diffuse light and the harmonious colours of the rocks, along with the white of the snow and the bluish colour of the glacial ice rendered the atmosphere almost magic and very serene!

On the way back I could just step from rock onto rock, actually without a real track, following the little streams towards the wide road I left on the way up to the glacier mouth over the narrow and stony footpath. Here and there I still spotted patches of ice between the rocks in the bes of the streams! In this – so I thought – unspoiled landscape I unfortunately found a piece of hard foam and a stack of rusty barbed wire… I also saw a rusty piece of twined metal cable lying around: had a hoisting cable fallen out of a helicopter perhaps? The foam was just a shade too bright to fit in between the rocks and the iron wire just too reddish-brown… Somewhere else I noticed that a mini-sized lake had been created: between a few rocks a tiny patch of green moss on the bottom under water and a small yellow Mountain saxifrage was growing next to it!

When I had almost reached the mountain station of the gondola I saw how the wind had made nice symmetrical patrons in the eternal snow and how these lines had been “colourised” with something golden-brown – desert dust? While I was looking at it, I also spotted a wildlife crossing in the snow: I could not see whether there were footprints or also hoofprints in the firm snow. So when all tourists have gone home, wildlife gets on the move!

When I was standing in the gondola again, with many others, to return to the valley, we saw beneath us at first one Murmeltier pottering in and around its burrow, but we spotted the other one that had been sitting completely still, only later. Everybody started pointing and shouting that there was still another one – in many languages, but we all enjoyed watching those adorable animals with their beautiful brownish-black fur that were minding their own business and weren’t bothered by the noise from the gondola!

The fourth suggestion my friends had given me was to have a Bauerntoast at the restaurant Ski Alm at the valley station in Sulden: very nice according to the friends. That will be for a next time: in and around Sulden there is still so much to do and to experience, that I will certainly return!

Sulden am Ortler: a first acquintance

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August 12th 2019

“King Ortler”, the village and the impressive nature

Yesterday I had my last breakfast at Hotel Margun in Mals; I have said a well-meant goodbye to Family Waldner and promised to come back a next time. Mrs. Waldner pointed out to me again, half jokingly: “Schön auf dem Weg bleiben, gell…!!” (Will you please stay on the indicated tracks!), referring to my trip across the Glurnser Köpfl. So I reassured her! Continue reading

Mals and surroundings: to Laatsch, Glurns and the Tartscher Bichl Rock

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August 10th 2019

Walking in the rain and in the sun…

Yesterday, August 9th, I woke up with only minor muscle pain after my wild hiking adventure on Stage 69 of the Red Trail of the Via Alpina the day before: from Taufers i.M. over the Rifair Scharte and the Glurnser Köpfl back to Glurns and Mals. That morning I have just taken a picture of the Glurnser Köpfl in the morning sun…! Continue reading

Stilfs: Stage 69 of the Red Trail of the Via Alpina – part 1

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Important information: this Blog is up to now just a ultra-short blog with many pictures. The full text (with references and hyperlinks) will be published as soon as possible!

 


August 9th 2019

Panoramic views from the Rifair Scharte and the Glurner Köpfl

Yesterday morning I have started to hike Stage 69 of the Red Trail of the Via Alpina: from Taufers im Münstertal, just on the border between Switzerland and Italy, via the Rifaier Alm over the Rifair Scharte Pass to Stilfs in the valley of the Suldenbach stream and the Stilfserjoch Pass. This stage is the sequel of Stage 68 of the Red Trail: from S-charl to Taufers over the S-charljöchl and through the beautiful Val Avigna valley, which I have hiked about two years ago, on June 13th 2017 and which I have enjoyed so much! ! Continue reading

Laas: marble, the white gold from the mountains

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August 7th 2019

Orchards and blocks of white marble

Yesterday, Tuesday August 6th, I have made a short walk through Mals to Laatsch in the west and further on to Glurns. That was despite of the rain quite interesting – I will come back to it later.

Today the day started promising with the morning sun shining on the Ortler. That wouldn’t stay for long, unfortunately… Continue reading

The river Adige: from the source near Reschen to Bolzano

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August 5th 2019

… and also to the anti-tank barrier at the Plamont/Pian dei Morti

Yesterday morning I left Munich with the 7.34 hrs Eurocity-Express. In the beginning the landscape wasn’t very interesting, but near Innsbruck the mountains were already partly visible between the patches of clouds. From Innsbruck the journey continued to the Brenner Pass. From the train it became obvious that the Brenner Pass is a very important traffic artery: due to the Sunday’s driving ban for the international road traffic all parking lots were overflowing with lorries and trucks with trailer. Continue reading

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