• Appenzell
  • Falling in Love With Switzerland Over And Over Again – Hoher Kasten Edit.

    Tiina Kivelä

    Just when I said I don’t recommend sneakers for these trails, I caught the weekend crowds at the end of my Saturday speed hike from Hoher Kasten, half of them taking careful steps on the slippery and rocky path from Wasserauen to Seealpsee, and the other way round. Everyone has the right to their own style though, but still, I’d highly recommend sturdy hiking/trekking shoes for these trails. Or trailrunning ones, with the sticky sole. Because I’m really worried when looking you stumbling with the not ideal for the occasion, no matter how trendy, Nike Frees.

    This time I took my trailrunning shoes to Alpstein, to take a speedy tour from Hoher Kasten to Wasserauen. First, I took the train and bus to Brülisau and from there the Kastenbahn up to Hoher Tauern and the excellent 360° views (and many pics). From Hoher Tauern, after tightening up my shoes and backpack, I ran (and occasionally walked and stopped), past Berggasthaus Staubern and more nice views, before stopping for an Appenzeller beer at Berggasthaus Bollenwees.

    After the beer, and almost swim in Fählensee, I took the hilly route over Bogartenlücke to Wasserauen train station, from where the train home. Overall, it was appr. 17 km hike, which in the end would have been better the other way round, as the 1600m descent would have been better as the ascent, and the 1000m descent better for the ascent. Nevertheless, I and my knees survived, and you can do it the better way, now when you know (though in that case, please take into an account the gondola timetable from Hoher Kasten more carefully).

    Hoher Kasten, as I know very well by now, has one of the best views to Rhine Valley (Rheintal) and to the whole Alpstein Massif and Appenzell (the region, not just the town). And like said many times already, when hiking and running around here, the extensive network of guesthouses takes care of your energy and hydration level more than fine. Just remember to take cash and enough time with you when going.

    Tiina Kivelä

    Tiina Kivelä

    Tiina Kivelä Hyvä retki

    Tiina Kivelä

    Where: Hoher Kasten – Staubern – Bollenwees – Wasserauen runhike, appr. 17km & 5h (map)

  • Appenzell
  • Postcard From Meglisalp

    Tiina Kivelä

     Greetings from Meglisalp! I wanted to write you an extra post from this magical place, 1500m’ high, in the Alpstein massif, just because it’s so awesome.

    This village and a mountain guesthouse in the Appenzell Alps in Switzerland can be only reached by foot in the summer, and by skis in the winter. The closest road, parking and train station is appr. 2,5h hike away.

    From here, you find over 100 years old miniature village, guesthouse and a chapel, on side of excellent hiking and running trails, and near good skiing and climbing. And more than excellent surroundings. The guesthouse (Berggasthaus Meglisalp),  extremely well suitable for a shorter or longer rest on a tour in the area, is open every summer, from mid-May to end of October, currently offers 110 beds to sleep on and food and drinks, local specialities included, for the hungry and thirsty.

    The guesthouse has been in the host family from the beginning (built in 1897/89) and this year they are accelerating a renovation project, in which the overall bed count will be raised to 130, and the bed count per room decreased, to better adjust to the needs of modern travellers. If you want to take part and support the project (and be able to say brag that you kind of own a piece of Alpine hut), which aims to reserve the old spirit and traditions while accustoming to the demands of modern times, you can do that by a patron initiative, more of which in here (auf Deutsch): Berggasthaus Meglisalp.

    And if I’d be a marrying kind, I’d definitely consider the cute little chapel for a wedding ceremony (below’s the coordinates if you someday get the invitation for an alpine destination wedding).

    Where: Meglisalp  2’747’401.500, 1’235’666.500 (map)

  • Appenzell
  • Solo Hike In Alpstein

    Hyvä retki Tiina Kivelä

    Yesterday, when failing the long weekend (when not working the traditional way, the bank holidays and long weekends, like this now in Switzerland, tend to go without me noticing before it’s too late) I took the micro-adventure option and set to Alpstein for a little solo hike. During the tour, I got to see again the Seealpsee in the sun, and Meglisalp, one fo the most remote and cutest little villages I’ve seen in the Swiss Alps, and the terrifying Fählensee and the magnificent views down to Sämtisersee and up to Altmann. And the high ridges with their alpine hiking routes, which yet aren’t the most enjoyable to hike (later in the summer though…) and a bit scary thunderstorm. I also got to see again how trendy trail running is, especially in the Alpstein area (maybe because Alpinsight/Elevation?) and no matter style or season, the third time really proved that these places are worth the effort, always.

    On this solo hike, I thought a bit a lot about the pros and cons of solo hiking too. Because solo hike, in the mountains especially, is a very interesting concept (especially if you tend to be as philosophical as I am during your loooong hikes alone). On the one hand, you take a risk by going alone, especially when in the higher elevations, in remote places. You’re on your own and there’s no one else by your side if something goes wrong. You don’t have a partner nor the society keeping an eye on you, which is both a risk and a blessing.

    If and when the hell breaks loose aka you jump few centimeters up from your loner seat when the thunderstorm suddenly roars right above your head, echoing in the valley between the mountain faces, by a remote (though there was a road to this particular lake, so the remoteness can be discussed) lake at 1471m’, between 2500m’ peaks, you most likely wish you weren’t alone. When you in seconds scan your surrounding and realize that you are by the lake in an open area where storms are the real kind of storms and that you just crossed slowly an exposed snowy pass in where you definitely should not be during storm, you most likely wish there’d be someone saying it’s gonna be alright, we gonna make it safe. You might even wish there’d be someone holding your hand then. Or at least that’s what I’d wish and really wished yesterday, when by that lake the hell broke loose like that.

    And not to think even more serious scenarios of hike gone wrong, twisted ankles, dehydration and low blood sugar. So on one hand, going solo is not the wisest move. But on the other, hiking solo you aren’t relying on any false comfort. Someone saying “It’s gonna be alright”, and holding your hand doesn’t really make it alright. Harsh but true. It’s comforting and stress reducing, but it’s not really anything concrete. And if you twist the ankle in the mountains, you’re most likely gonna get flown home/to the hospital by Rega (btw if and when spending time outdoors in Switzerland regularly, you should check Rega) and not carried down by your camerado.

    Someone taking the longer route or the sketchier one with you doesn’t, in most cases, really make the route more secure, nor reduce the risk (we can later discuss the certified mountain guide exception as well). When hiking with someone, there might be someone by your side if something happens, you might be the someone by the other one’s side if something happens. Or most likely you are just double trouble together.

    Tiina Kivelä

    On your own, you observe and think more than with others. On your own, you don’t take the sketchier because it’s sketchy and the weather is worrying – or you take the sketchy because you know you can do it and the weather is permitting. On your own, you evaluate, calculate and make thoughtful decisions, which I believe are more careful when you’re on your own. Simply because you have more time and reason to keep an eye on the details, and concentrate on the essential (and not ie. the butt of your handsome fellow hiker ;).

    With other people, the bias for false authority comes many times in question too, and even though the more experienced person is more experienced and knows more, they most likely aren’t aware of what other people really can or can’t do (again the certified mountain guides are an exception). And honestly speaking, it shouldn’t be anyone’s responsibility to take care of other adults in the mountains.

    After all, in 99% of the cases, it’s your responsibility to get yourself home safe, and learn the skills and facts needed to make the best possible decisions and actions for you, and whenever with others (professional, paid guides excluded) for them too. Mountains are very good, if not the best, place to learn humility and the positive selfishness, the self-awareness, which come handy in many places, not only when hiking.

    When you’re on your own, there’s no other noise than yours, and it’s kinda good to learn how to live with the noise. And come to the conclusion that you are a kinda damn capable person, with or without other people. Of course, and even more probably, you might also come to the conclusion that there’s still something a lot to learn. But then, you just go learning them, to do more awesome things and to do better the things you’re already doing. And you learn to not purposely hurt yourself, or anyone else, when hiking, or whatever challenge you’re doing, and to not fail the same way all over again. You learn to take care, first of yourself and then of others. Like they say in the aeroplane, always put the mask on you first, and only after that help the others.

    So, in nutshell and for the closure of this mental health week too, I do suggest you go hiking alone. At least once.  It does good for you, mentally and physically. It doesn’ really matter where you go as long as you go, but if needing inspiration for a bit more challenging solo hike destinations I can highly recommend this Alpstein and Meglisalp in here. Because these places are just awesome and they also give nice of a perspective on things. Just see the humans in the last pic for scale.

    But please do note that they also might make you think how you really should be carrying an ice axe with you whenever you climb over 1500m in May… Or maybe it’s just me who haven’t really learned the lesson in the first two times.

    I’ll stop by the gear store on my way to the next high alpine adventure though.

    Tiina Kivelä

    Where: Hike Wasserauen – Seealpsee – Meglisalp – Fählensee – Sämtisersee – Brülisau, appr. 18km & 1500m ascent (map)