Churfirsten-Weg is a medium length hiking trail in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen. As the name implies, its destinations are the peaks of the Churfirsten mountain range, at least three out of seven. That would be the three that can be connected by a trail following the ridge, incidentally.
The trail leads through alpine cattle pastures, lush high valleys full of alpine flowers, as well as shale rock slopes. It offers views of Walensee (lake) and the Seeztal region on one side, and the Alpstein range with its iconic Säntis peak on the other.
My version of the trail skips the cable cars, starting and ending in the village of Alt St. Johann.
- Last departure for the second cable car is 5 P.M. (as of writing). Check the timetables and plan accordingly.
Before Schweizmobil added the “Churfirsten-Weg” tour, I had already planned a custom route in the region, which I dubbed “Drü Rugge”, which is Swiss German for “Three Backs” and references the names of the three peaks of the Churfirsten mountains it crosses: Hinterrugg, Chäserrugg, and Gämserrugg. In case you were wondering, that is also the reason for the mild title gore in this post.
Originally, I had planned it slightly different from the later Schweizmobil version, opting for the more direct path up Hinterrugg, but since I was now going to photograph the route for Schweizmobil as one of their “Fotopaten” (semi-volunteer photographers), I adjusted it to match.
I had also originally planned the route to start and end at Iltios cable car station, since 8.5 hours seemed excessive, but with my upcoming multi day hikes I saw it as an opportunity to train for that.
Speaking of training, I had finally gotten my new 70L trekking backpack, and most of the gear I was planning on bringing, so I figured it would be a good idea to bring all of that along too, for a test run. Since I didn’t want to already start crushing the food I was going to bring, and some items like the mattress were still missing, I replaced them with weights, to make this trial as realistic as possible.
The result: 18kg (~40 pounds). My usual day pack is about 10-12kg, depending on trip length (so depending on how much water I bring).
This would also be my first hike with my new shoes (see end of last week’s ‘Benediktusweg’). Exciting times. Okay, on to the actual hike:
Having strapped on my great heavy sack and McGuyvered my camera pouch to hang from the pack’s front straps as I had forgotten my camera clip on the day pack, I started my long way up the mountains. Incidentally, having the camera bag on my chest turned out to be more comfortable than using the PeakDesign clip on the shoulder strap, which creates a pressure point that starts hurting during a long tour.
This optional part of the ascent featured fairly standard forest- and pasture trails.
Passing Selamatt cable car station after around an hour, I had made it to the “official” Schweizmobil tour. There were of course a lot more people on the trail from here on out.
This ascent to Hinterrugg featured lots of great views, and as promised, lush flower fields, that unfortunately do not really come across in pictures as it was all in the shade on a mostly cloudy day. But it was beautiful in person. I also saw some marmots fairly close up that might have produced a good picture if I had a fast zoom lens on me. Oh well.
I was managing fairly well with the added weight on my back, but I was markedly slower than usual, and the different weight distribution took some getting used to, meaning I wasn’t all that comfortable with my balance, especially when near a steep drop.
It also meant I had some company on the way up from a fellow speed impaired hiker (daily form issue, not weighted backpack issue).
That is one of the reasons I decided to bring it along for a trial run on a medium-difficulty trail (on a scale of T1 to T3) to familiarize myself with the experience and potentially make adjustments before taking it to 3000 meters for days. So it was all going according to plan.
I should make it a habit to force myself to take more frequent breaks than usual though, especially in the beginning when I still feel fresh. Because those extra kilos do take a toll on the back.
Hinterrugg was nice, though in the clouds/fog. Same goes for Chäserrugg. I did enjoy the partial view.
Missing a turn on the way to Gämserrugg allowed me to take some shots for this group’s upcoming cowsta rap album. Worth the 5 minute detour (until I looked at the map and noticed).
The “Plisa” plateau/high valley between Chäserrugg and Gämserrugg was easily my favorite part of the hike. Filled with flowers and lush vegetation, encircled by shale rock walls, it had an almost prehistoric feel to it. Due to the cloud cover and probably my inexperience, the resulting pictures don’t do it justice, but feel free to check in the full gallery below.
Gämerrugg (“Chamois Back/Hill”) could have more aptly been named Schäferrugg (Schaf = Sheep).
As much as I love sheep, I sat down for my second lunch after I’d passed the pasture (and thus found a few square feet of ground without sheep droppings).
Gamsalp cable car station and the end of the official tour was reached soon thereafter, but I still had a ways to go.
The route I’d chosen from Gamsalp to Iltios turned out to be one of the more interesting trail sections of the day. Also an example of why children know what they’re doing when they’re playing “only step on white” and similar: Training for terrain like this:
Descending to Iltios within the golden hour just before sunset made for a wonderful atmosphere and fit the flower seamed path well, making it all the more romantic. Which, well… I was alone, but my name’s Roman so there’s that.
Arriving just as the sun set, I made use of the ideally positioned bench and had a short break and snack before my final descent of the day.
I thought I might also get an opportunity to test my new headlamp.
As it turns out, that was not necessary, as I arrived at the car just before darkness consumed the land and the creatures of the night crawled out of their holes once more to terrorize the-, sorry, wrong journal.
I did smash an estimated two hundred horseflies while crossing a pasture though, just as they intended to commence feasting on my sweat, sweat nectar of life.
Conclusion: Very nice hike with a good variety of trail types and biomes and great views. I would actually recommend doing my original version from and to Iltios, if sure footed, because the trail to Iltios definitely adds something worthwhile to the tour. Admittedly, I haven’t done the other two deviations yet myself.
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 🙂
|Date of Hike:||2022-07-24|
|Net Hours (Est.)||8.5|
|Net Hours (Act.)||8.5|
|BP Weight (kg)||18|
|Max. Alt. (m)||2306|
|Net Hours (Est.)||4.5|
|Max. Alt. (m)||2306|