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September 23rd 2018

The difficult track is the most beautiful track…

This morning the weather seemed to have improved compared to yesterday: there hardly were any clouds around the mountaintops, so after a tasteful breakfast (again!), which of course include the Birchermüesli, I took the 9.18 hours Postal car to St. Antönien to start a stage of the Via Alpina in an area that was completely new to me: Stage 61 of the Red Trail.

Actually I started the Stage in the opposite direction: in order to hike the Stage from the Carschina Hut to St. Antönien I had to arrive at that Hut in the first place…!

The Postal car left the railway station of Küblis towards the west, passed through the industrial area, drove into a valley towards the north, being the Valley of the Schanielbach stream, and worked its way over narrow roads along mountain slopes covered with magnificent beech forests further and further to the village centre of St. Antönien, called St. Antönien Platz. Around it are many farmhouses, scattered all over the green landscape. A lot of passengers left the Postal car, but those who were heading towards the Carschina Hut (of beyond), could stay on the bus until the bus stop “Rüti” further uphill. There the Postal car turned and disappeared again towards the valley.

From “Rüti” there only was one single road going uphill and that was the paved road, also used by cars to the parking lots or to – that’s as far as one can get – to the Berghotel Alpenrösli in Partnuns. Today the road was also used by farmers who were busy to remove the electric fence from the sides of the road. Outside St. Antönien I had already spotted a sign “Öffenes Weidegebiet” (“common grazing area”) and during my hike a sign warning for crossing cows.

Continuing my hike I got a “sneak preview” of the feast this day had to offer: when I turned a bend in the road I saw surging a fascinating rockface with sharp peaks – the Wiss Platte (2.628 m) or also called “Weissplatte” and the Schijenfluh (2.627 m).


St. Antönien: first glances on the Wiss Platte and the Schijenfluh

I also noticed a sign proudly announcing “FW 2018 Baukurs”: here a course had been organised initiated by the Forest and Natural Disasters Council of the Canton of Grisons, with the purpose of training to create ways to prevent erosion by snowfall or snowmelt, i.e. by constructing avalanche barriers.

The further I hiked on my trail those chalky rocks became into the picture more beautifully and impressively over and over again: from the green pastures they steeply rose up. The Walser houses and barns were like brown-blackish dots, enlightened upon by the morning sun.


St. Antönien: view on the Wiss Platte and the Schijenfluh with the houses of Partnun

Since the month of June there has been an exhibition of art in this area called “Kunstluft” – (“Air of the arts”), whereby several artists from Switzerland and other countries have been focussing upon subjects of art in connection with the alpine world outside. Something that already existed for some time now, was the “Heinzenkapelle” (hayrack chapel), a barn that has been transformed by a trio of artists into a kind of sanctuary, where all kinds of artefacts are made of “Heinzen”, the hayracks I have seen hanging from the barns yesterday. Here one of the themes was a drone made of the wood of hayracks: with this the artist gave expression to the fear of being spied upon and focussed upon a variety of items from the Valkyrie-ride by Wagner to the helicopter attack on a village in Vietnam in the movie “Apocalypse now”. It seems a kind of accusation against today’s society, something that goes somehow too far to my opinion, because the artist himself is part of this society and has a lot to be thankful for… Outside there was a roofed semi-circular seat with the inscription “Äolusharfe”, a wind harp. When you sat down, you had to wait for the next gust of wind in order to hear “spherical sounds” – sounds comparable to Tibetan singing bowls. I sat down for a while, the sounds were around me and that brought me real quietness.

Moving on I noticed again and again those huge mountains rising up; they certainly became more impressive…!


St. Antönien: on the way to Partnun with impressive mountains in the background

After I had a cup of coffee at the Berggasthof Alpenrösli, I continued my hike to the Carschina Hut. Meanwhile I had lost sight of the small Via Alpina logo… With each step I came closer to the imposing mountain range of the Wiss Platte and the Schijenfluh! Whether I looked into the direction of the Madrisahorn (to the east) or to the Wiss Platte and the Schijenfluh (to the north), I was totally enthusiastic. From the green valley of Küblis one doesn’t expect such a special landscape, in all shades of white! Furthermore in the west the mountain range of the Sulzfluh came into sight. It was interesting to look from the mountain in the distance towards the ground at my feet: there was a large patch of Alpine Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla alpina), with still rain drops like pearls on the greyish-green small leaves.

Between the mountain ranges of the Wiss Platte and Schijenfluh to the east and the Sulzfluh to the west is a wide mountain pass towards Austria, the “Gruen Fürggli”, with a footpath leading to the Tilisuna Hut situated in the Gampadelstal valley, part of the Austrian valley called the Montafon. From a distance it looks as if the area is covered with ice of a glacier, but it consists of waving blocks of limestone.


St. Antönien: view on the “Gruen Fürggli”, the pass to Austria

There were still a lot of plants in bloom, a. o. Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) and the Silver thistle (Carlina acaulis). These two I had seen yesterday during my walk over the Saaser Alp at the “Naturheilkräuter”-trail (the “natural healing herbs”). The Kidney vetch helps to heal wounds, bad blood circulation and frostbite in feet and hands. The (protected!) Silver thistle is useful for problems related to kidneys, bladder, liver and gall bladder… Interesting to see these beautiful plants and to know that they were also able to assist mankind in recovering from illness and distress, long before large pharmaceutical concerns created a kind of monopoly on our health…


St. Antönien: kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) und Silver thistle (Carlina acaulis)

About half past noon I had climbed that high that I had a phenomenal panoramic view around. All of a sudden I heard the sound of a alphorn coming from somewhere very far away. Further there was only silence around and it occurred to me how far that sound carried! This was one of those special moments again…

I could have taken the wide, easy road, which slowly winded against the mountain slope, but I chose a steep path that runs over steps, cut into the slope, straight up the mountain. There I could also see the small mountain lake of Partnun, the Partnunsee far below at the foot of the Wiss Platte with the greyish fields of scree, shining blueish-green in the sunshine. Going up I always kept the Sulzfluh within eye-range.

The sun was shining, the temperature was nice. The panorama became more and more impressive…

When I arrived near the foot of the Sulzfluh, a path ran towards the mountain, to the “Klettersteig” (via ferrata), where I spotted tiny colourful dots against the almost vertical mountainside. So: the real mountaineers! Every now and then I also heard the sound of their voices floating towards me. The landscape steadily became rougher, with large blocks of limestone, which were scattered across the slopes as by a giant’s hand. The Carschina Hut also came in sight: at first glance the building looked like a small block of rock, compared to another mountain, literally towering over everything: the “Drei Türme”, the “Three Towers”, to the west of the Sulzfluh. Looking to the south I saw a lovely hilly landscape, the Alp Carschina, where the official track of the Via Alpina would run. I found my side with the enormous field of rocks more interesting!

The Carschina Hut is situated at 2.229 m, just above the “Carschina Furgga”: from that direction the track of Stage R60 arrives from the Schesaplana Hut at the Carschina Hut. That Stage is quite promising – but that is something for a next time! First I would like to have some rest and something to eat at the Carschina hut, where the atmosphere in the “Stube” was lively and cosy. It was too cold to sit outside: the west wind blowing over that Carschina Furgga was quite chilly. I also noticed some dark clouds rolling in….

First I drank a large glass of mineral water with elderberry flower syrup and spoiled myself with a “Carschina Rösti” with a “Prättigauer Hauswurst” (homemade sausage). I had to wait 20 minutes for it, but it was worth waiting for: it was very tasty.


St. Antönien: Rösti with Prättigauer Hauswurst in the Carschina Hut

At a quarter to three I started out again, at this point to take the actual Stage 61… The road sign gave a lot of information: if I took the Via Alpina I would arrive in 2¼ hours in St. Antönien, if I chose to return on the same way as I had come, it would take a quarter of an hour longer. The descent on the paved road didn’t appeal to me that much, so I decided to return on the same track. I was very glad that on the way up I had been able to look around me and enjoy the scenery, because descending I could only watch my steps and no longer pay attention to the surroundings. I did not regret my decision: in the course of time I have noticed that descending on paved roads is not a joy for one’s knees!


St. Antönien: near the Carschina Hut a lot of information is given on the road sign!

I kept an eye on the weather ‘though, because a lot of dark clouds came billowing in. The interaction between bright and dark spells was fascinating!


St. Antönien: the Sulzfluh in the sunlight, but with dark clouds in the background

I also noticed a difference between the light in the morning and in the afternoon: it was interesting to see the landscape in two different moments of the day.

The nearer I came to St. Antönien, the more fly amanitas (Amanita muscaria) I spotted, growing in larges patches – and also other poisonous mushrooms. In the meantime the sun had disappeared behind dark clouds, which I had already seen coming when I left the Carschina hut. It was already getting darker and it also started to drizzle. I had left the white-greyish landscape behind me and entered into the green surroundings of St. Antönien: with forests, the mushrooms and meadows still with cows, who curiously watched me passing by.


St. Antönien: everywhere large patches of Fly amanite (Amanita muscaria) are growing

When I returned in Küblis it had started to rain heavily. What a marvellous day it has been: it was a hike of superlatives! I find this part of Prättigau a fascinating area, where I would like to return one day and where I have still a lot to discover. Next time I travel between Landquart and the Engadin, I will see this area from a new perspective…