We finally, finally finally got a weekend which had a borderline forecast that turned out for once to be better than forecasted instead of worse! With a sick German boy (poor widdle robot was really pretty sick for once, fever and all) I was flying solo, but had an awesome goal in mind, Gonzen, a really cool peak above Sargans. It has an awesome rock face that attracts the mind from the city, and is at the point of a really cool ridge which branches off from a much higher steeper mini range, making a really cool high valley in between. Anyway, the trip reports seemed good, the difficulty reasonable, T3 with two ladders, reports of 3 hours to the summit and 2 back down, and the weather was holding so off I went!
It took a bit of wandering to find the best way up from the town, the trip reports had started from a parking spot partially up the hill. A bit of back and forth, and some kindly advice from a passing mountain biker, and I was well on path, definitely on my map, and moving uphill. Everyone was really friendly, and whenever I go hiking alone I always attract more attention than any other time, plus a chance to bust out my bitchin’ Deutsch with some locals is always fun. I chatted with two people on the way up who confirmed I was on the right path, but seemed sure I was in for a long day, great. Anyway, just after the last chat I came to the looked for trail branching. Except, the stupid thing was a blue white trail marker.
Damn. I had promised German Boy no Blue White trails.
So for those of you not familiar with hiking in Swiss land, basically every trail you can think of is sign posted, and rated for technical difficulty, exposure, and committment. They have a LOT of hikers, and they decided the best way to reduce rescues is to give everyone a super buttload of information, and post a lot of scary signs. The first level is yellow, a Wanderweg, or “hiking trail”, mostly these you can push a baby carriage up, or drive a four wheel drive car. At the extreme end, they may be, you know, grass not paved. The second level is a Bergweg “mountain hiking trail”, and this is red white, likely what most people would picture, an easily identifiable trail, but rough rocks, probably steep, maybe chances for a fall, but easy to find and with a misstep there probably won’t be serious complications. The last of the three levels, of course despite classifying everything, who needs more than three colors to go from baby carriage to glacier crossing, blue white, is an “Alpweg” or Alpine hiking trail. Committed, likely exposed in the case of rapid changes of weather, steep, tricky, not an obvious trail possibly hard to follow, likely requiring the use of hands, and where if you trip, things may be bad. Anyway.
So, no Alpwegs, alright, off we go, continuing along the dirt road, traipsing around the mountain looking for another way around. I figure, there has to be another detour up, it will be fine. Another one comes, damn, still effing blue white. What could possibly have gone wrong on the internt? These guys are usually pretty good? We have had some moments where they had underrated things though, and in interest of perfect safety while hiking alone in an unknown place, I sighed and continued on. By this point, I had travelled quite awhile horizontally, and not so miuch vertically. I started to figure I probably wouldn’t end up on the summit, BUT, it was super nice weather, none of my old lady joints hurt, and I really wanted a picture of my fitness since the past four months of tracking my workouts. Onwards and upwards, with a turn around time of 2 pm, as I now was quite convinced I was not on the shortest route, or any swollen joints.
Onwards, and onwards, and onwards….. never… ending.. wander… through the woods…. 2 hours came and went, then three, and I was pretty hungry, hot, and thirsty. Everywhere I looked to take a break was covered in giant red and black ants. Damn. Last year a wasp of some sort crawled up my pant leg and stung me, the mark is still there and I have been justifiably more paranoid ever since. So onwards. Eventually I sat down about a foot from the trail, in some blessed shade, and scarfed down a sandwhich, and almost a whole orange pepper. The short break was enough to cool me off, and, well, why not, so off I go. Most of the way was super light hiking, in some places steeper, increasingly steeper as I went on, passing vacation houses which an increasingly awesome view over the Lichtenstein alps. Onwards. Gonzen started to become higher and higher up on the signpost, meaning it was getting closer, and before I knew it I was at the Gonzen berghaus, where I figured I would not end up.
Okay. Time check: 1 pm. Sign time: 1 hour to summit. Hm. Oh damn, is that a cross I see? Eugh yea, now I have to do it… another 500 height meters, one hour, and a suspiciously large amount of people in jeans and tshirt later, BAMN, Summit. It ended up taking 4.5 hours instead of 2.5, but it seems like I took quite the extensive detour AROUND THE ENTIRE MOUNTAIN, and all in all, it seemed like it went really fine. Another short break, and then, well, back down because I was kind of bored, super hot, and collecting an impressive sunburn. It was a gorgeous day, and a gorgeous view, surrounding alps, emerald green valleys, snow, steep rock, truly a swiss delight. Only the last hour was truly hiking, the rest was really just walking on essentially a dirt road.
I batmanned my coat to prevent further charbroiling, drank some more water, and headed off to try and find a shorter way back down. My trusty phone suggested a detour, with one bus stop, and amazingly even for this early in the season, a bus coming, but, google maps was being a bit cagey about the whole bus thing. It seemed odd. Either way it seemed to go to a town that was closer than where I started, and it was a definite road, so, well, dice thrown. 5 km and 800 heigh meters descended later, I finally come across the bus stop, and what does th sign say?
The bus comes once, a week, in an hour. Not once a day, not once an hour… this is the only time the bus is coming this week. Damn. Possibly cool, possibly sketchy. Swiss bus stops are always full of these conditions too, which are complicated and in Swiss german shorthand, with dates, and odd names of holidays, and only if the sun was shining, or if you called ahead, or if the phase of the moon lined up and the fairies did the dance… I tried calling German Boy, but he was in a random sunday afternoon nerd meeting, so I decided to walk to the next stop and see what I saw. So off I go down the road. One slight sketchy dude, alone, offers a lift. Tough decision, hitchhiking terrifies me, but we were pushing 6 hours in my least comfy shoes, but, no, off we go, walking on. I finally come across the second bus stop, AND, low and behold, the bus aka mini van, but legit and all official, passes me on the way up. I do a little dance, and enjoy my 45 minute wait. Shoes off, snacks eaten, re-filled water bottle drank, a cool breeze, some shade, some more conversations with locals. Apparently the trail with the ladders really would have been quite easy, and the ladders were also fine, and apparently the ladders were the only thing which bumped up the rating, which was a bummer to find out after the fact, and she seemed a bit amused at my taped feet. She was also actually impressed by where I had started, which is an odd achievement: impressing a swiss local by how far you hiked!
The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, only really shocking was, how fine I felt. All stats in this was at least 20km, 1,300 height meters, and 800 descended which is tough on knees. 12 miles, 4,200 feet up and 2,600 down in 6 hours with only a total of half an hour breaks which involved sitting down. No knee pain. No hip pain. Minimal ankle pain, and only two measly numb toes. All in all, a baffling success. By the time I got to bed I did have a bit of that odd muscle pain I get, a super deep ache, like growing pains, that doesn’t go away when you move or stretch or ice or take pain killers… I personally think it is a serious mineral/vitamin/ion deficincy and find some magnesium and potassium helps, but that may be placebo, Anyway it was much less than the snowshoe trip, much less than ice climbing, and today fine, though still enough to keep me awake. It turns out it could be Delayed Muscle Onset, which can start within 8 hours, but I am not really sure. For example after SOLA running it was worse the next day and my whole body hurt to the touch, but this is something different. Anyway. Highly, highly successful day. Finally evidence that all of my butt busting in physio, and in the gym, and wracking up cardio hours, is finally making a difference.