Center of the ‘Ofenloch Weg’ (Literally “Ovenhole Route”) is the Ofenloch cave, thusly named because of the visual resemblance to a pizza oven, along with the impressive canyon of the same name.
As is the case with the Grand Canyon, the cause of this slightly smaller scale one is a small creek called Necker, namesake of the valley.
The “official” version of the route leads from Schwägalp (the foot of Säntis) via Ofenloch to Ennetbühl, while for my version I’ve inverted the direction for three reasons:
- This way, we’re walking towards Säntis instead of having this lovely view in our backs.
- I prefer ascents to descents.
- The last bus from Schwägalp leaves slightly later than in the other direction from Ennetbühl. (17:32, so early evening by my reckoning.)
- The signage in the first (or last) third of the route leaves something to be desired and is often more than a bit ambiguous. Bring a map (and/or download offline map data on your phone).
Jenny was indisposed and going on this hike, or any hike this day, was a bit of a spontaneous decision. I picked it for being the highest altitude region without snow coverage (probably) that was close and short enough to still reach and complete on time.
The fact that it wasn’t a loop and that the last bus from finish back to start left at 17:32 provided some time pressure though. Challenge accepted.
The first time I left the house, I would have arrived just soon enough to theoretically finish on time according to the “official” estimate. (No, I haven’t learned from the Via Calanca fail, aparently.)
The first two times returning from the parking lot, then from a hundred meters down the road to get my sunglasses and wallet, respectively, were not a big issue.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit of a scatterbrain at times, but forgetting my backpack and having to drive back from around 20 minutes down the road to get it is peak performance. I had a lot on my mind that day, but still.
Well, by now I’d have to complete the route in 4 hours instead of 5, but I flipped a coin and decided to try.
Luckily, I didn’t get into any major traffic jams on the way and at least I still had 3.5 hours to reach the bus station by the time I started the hike.
The ascent from Ennetbühl led mostly across grassy hills, forest patches, and alpine farms with untrained dogs that “haven’t eaten anyone so far” but still nailed this cat person in place while sweating bullets and waiting for someone to call the barking, jumping dog back instead of watching the situation with an amused look on their face.
On the bright side, the views of Säntis on one side, and the Toggenburg region with parts of the Churfirsten mountain range on the other more than made up for it.
After the initial ascent followed picturesque snow dusted hills and the same beautiful views in all directions.
I did scare up a chamois while walking up a hill. It came running from the other side, passed me at a distance of about two meters, and almost reached the forest at the foot of the hill before I had my camera ready. It stopped there for a moment to whistle and warn its friends of my approach. I had no idea they whistled until then.
The titular Ofenloch Canyon meant taking a detour from the road to Schwägalp, and for a moment I considered skipping it to make sure I reached the bus on time. But I couldn’t just skip the main attraction so I made my way down the valley.
On a narrow, leaf covered trail, with a steep drop on the left side, I should mention – so carefully rather than quickly.
While the canyon walls were quite impressive, and the namesake Ofenloch could be described as mildly interesting, I have to say that part of the hike was a bit anticlimactic.
Maybe the time of day or time of year was not ideal and the atmosphere would be different in summer for example, but I was left with a “meh” impression. Also because (it seemed to me) you can’t really get close to the Ofenloch itself, and where the trail leads through isn’t all that interesting.
No matter, I still got plenty of amazing views and impressions along the way, mostly of Alpstein in increasingly warm evening light, with the moon already rising above, or of snow dusted meadows and moors and sunset lit forest roads with the backdrop of these mountains. Lovely.
I was hungry by now, but didn’t have time to spare, so I ate the nuts and berries I brought on the go. Who needs a break to eat, right?
I did afford some minutes to change out of my sexy wet T-Shirt and into my nice and dry, warm woolen hoodie after the temperatures dropped along with the setting sun.
After a final spurt along a dark, muddy forest path, having passed a way sign that suggested I’d need 25 minutes to reach the bus station (with 20 minutes left on the clock), I reached the station with 10 minutes to spare.
Ample time to try to take some decent low light pictures of Säntis while waiting for the bus.
In all seriousness, as I’ve mentioned before, I do like challenging myself and I do like my hikes to be cardio exercises at times, I would have liked to stick around and enjoy the views a bit more at some points along the road. So once again, calculating enough time to finish a particular hike at a leisurely pace and adding some time to account for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances is generally a good idea.
Nevertheless, this race against the clock to reach the bus has been a cool experience for me. Only because I made it, of course.
Oh, and the route was nice too, mostly.
Would you like to share your own experiences with this hike? Do you have any questions? Something to add? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
Route Report / Gallery
Don’t miss a hike 🙂
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