The weather outlook for the Saturday wasn’t all that good. So we pored over the weather map looking for the brightest spot. My eye falls on Krönten and the Kröntenhütte in the Urner Alps and after some discussion we agree we’d be spending the Friday evening in Kröntenhütte, with a view to climbing Krönten on Saturday and then descending.
Barbara has a few problems with the booking website, so we end up phoning the next morning to reserve our spot in the hut. Then we organise a taxi to get us from Erstfeld to Bodenberg – the alternative being a two hour uphill walk on a tar road…
We start lazily on Friday morning. Have some porridge for breakfast. Pack our bags. And then make our way to the train station. At the station we shop for cheese and bread, a coffee-to-go, and then head to the train for the one-and-a-half hour journey from Zürich to Erstfeld.
The taxi’s waiting as we walk out of the station. Uphill we go past cyclists and a few descending hikers. Fifteen or so minutes later we’re at Bodenberg. We hand over some cash to the taxi driver, say our thanks, and do some last minute adjustments to our packs, and then we set off.
For our ascent route we’ve picked the very appropriately named Geissfad (goat path) – the shortest and steepest of the paths to the hut. The first few hundred metres is on a farm track and then we start climbing steeply uphill on a mountain path where sure footedness is definite plus.
Every step is a balancing act. Sometimes it’s the edge of a protruding rock, other times you’re teetering on something loose and wobbly, looking to find a stable place to plant your feet… After about three-quarters of an hour we stop for some water and a handful of ‘gomz’ (gummy bears). We’ve done just over a third of the vertical height.
Our path weaves its way through a field covered in ferns. Occasionally passing under a canopy of leaves. Despite the heat and the steepness we make steady progress and soon we’re looking at the head of the valley with its magnificent glacier looking like glazed icing.
Shortly after our second water stop the path starts to even out and we turn into a side valley. Soon we spot the hut above and to our right. Krantzes hundreds metres high tower above us, only occasionally broken up by a smooth snowfield. The path towards Krönten, on the opposite side of the valley, is covered in new snow. So that’s not going to happen tomorrow morning. Ah well, we’ll just have to come back…
Then we’re at the hut and unpacking in our ‘private’ room. We opt for the top double bunk with the skylight above us. Drinks, dinner and a few rounds of hangman later we’re on our way to bed. We open the skylight to let fresh air into the room. The wind, howling and buffeting, soon forces us to close it. Maybe we can open it later when the wind starts dying down.
I wake in the middle of the night. Through the skylight I see a canopy of stars. One brighter than the other! Above is the milky way. Low on the southern horizon I spot Orion. This is one constellation I know very well, having grown up with it looking down on me alongside the Southern cross… I take a trip to the loo, and when I return, Barbara wakes. I tell her to peep through the skylight. Like me she’s blown away by the scintillating brightness and vividness of the star canopy.
With no plans for the day, other than to eventually find our way back to Erstfeld, we get up well after the sun do. At breakfast we chat to Markus, the hut warden, who confirms my suspicions that the route to the summit is not in great condition. He mentions that snow had fallen to as low as 2100 metres during the week, and a lot more on the 3000+ metre summit. A party, who had been to the summit the day before, had taken nearly eight hours to reach the top. Often waist deep in the snow.
Markus fetches a map and suggests we follow a path downhill on the opposite side of the valley. It’s the path I noticed and liked for our descent the evening before on our map.
After we pay for our stay, we say our thanks and goodbyes and then we head off. The scenery is stunningly beautiful. Green, lush valleys below. And majestic cliffs, with glazed white collars towering above. I mention to Barbara that these krantzes have a special energy about them.
When we get to the junction where we have to cross the valley to follow the path suggested, I show Barbara the snow field we’ll have to cross and mention that we’ll be walking on scree-covered slopes for quite a bit of the way. I also suggest we could follow the less difficult path and then cross over later and still get to Wilerli, from where we were planning on getting the cable car down to Erstfeld. We choose the latter.
Our path down is close to the river. Sometimes we’re nearly at its level, and other times, where it has carved deep gorges, we are a hundred metres above it.
At an alp (mountain farm) we stop for a cup of coffee. They produce fresh goats cheese. The dairy does not look as if it will pass EU inspections. But the cheese tastes nice, so we add another half a kilo of weight to our bags and then continue on our way.
Most of our walking, once we’ve crossed the river is in or just above the tree line. The fields we cross are covered in flowers. Butterflies everywhere. White ones. Orange ones with black markings. Dark brown ones. Blue ones. Yellow ones. I manage to get a few pics of these beautiful creatures as they perch on flower tops. And also of the flowers that host them.
At Wilerli we agree it’s too early to head down with the cable way. (Nothing to do with the precarious looking contraption, by the way!) 600 more vertical metres now await us. And a tar road, but the scenery makes it worth it.
Arriving at Erstfeld station we spot a restaurant on the opposite side of the road and head straight for it. Panache (beer shandy) for me and a Shorle for Barbara. Then it’s off to the bus and the start of our journey back to Zürich.
Not having stopped for a lunch break, we’re beginning to feel hungry, so food and dinner becomes a topic. We decide to visit a restaurant where we can get a decent burger, arguing that we deserve it after the nearly 13 kilos and 1600+ vertical metres we covered!
Our fellow guests may have been surprised to see the two off us straight of the mountain. The staff on the other hand was totally welcoming and soon we had fresh drinks and were waiting for our very well deserved burgers and chips.
A perfect end to yet another perfect mountain day!