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Eggstöcke Klettersteig and Klausenrennen

Published by Stijn , 1 October 2013, 22h45.

Region: World » Switzerland » Glarus
Date of the hike:28 September 2013
Hiking grading: T3 - Difficult Mountain hike
Via ferrata grading: TD
Geo-Tags: CH-GL   CH-SZ   Glärnischgruppe   Ortstockgruppe 

Eliot, one of my friends from the Leeds University Union Hiking Club, is visiting me in Zürich for the weekend. The weather looks good for Saturday, but not for Sunday. The idea of doing a via ferrata suggests itself and is accepted without any hesitation. I decide on the one in Braunwald. I was there already in June, but decided against doing the via ferrata back then because of wet and foggy conditions. It was a rather unremarkable day then, only memorable thanks to a funny picture of a stoic cow chewing on a straw in the fog. I didn't even bother to write a Hikr report about it. Let's see if we get luckier this time.

Eliot will need to hire the via ferrata set. I doubt that any reservation is necessary this late in the season, but there's no harm in submitting the online reservation form anyway. I quickly get a reply warning me that the Klausenrennen, an old timer hill-climb race from Linthal to the Klausenpass, is taking place on the same weekend. We are taking the train, so access and parking won't be an issue for us. Rather than avoiding the event, we'll actually try to see a little of the race. We're not wanting to pay for the expensive spectator tickets. Instead we guess that if we join the Klausenpass road somewhere in the middle of nowhere from a hiking trial, then we should be able to see the event for free.

As we first want to do the Eggstöcke via ferrata, an early start is required. At 8am we are in Braunwald. A short walk brings us to the Gumen cable car, where we are the first passengers of the day. The operator literally puts the cable into motion especially for us. After hiring Eliot's via ferrata kit at the Gumen hut, we ascent the grassy slope leading to the Gumengrat and the start of the via ferrata.

The Eggstöcke via ferrata consist of three parts, up three successive rock faces. The first section ascends the Leitereggstock. There's no time to gently get into the rhythm, because the via ferrata is fairly demanding from the start. The first section is a K3, and would be more difficult if it had not been for the rather excessive amount of metal pegs and rungs that are provided. Other Hikrs have complained about it as well, and I'd agree: if there are good holds in the rock, why not let us use them? Still, it's an enjoyable route. It's Eliot's first via ferrata, but with his general mountaineering experience, he's got the hang of it immediately.

The Leitereggstock is not really a summit, but more like a step that goes halfway up onto the Vorderer Eggstock. Almost immediately after finishing the first section, the second section presents itself, ascending the second step onto the Vorderer Eggstock. At the foot of the second section, a descent route splits off. The second section is reasonably similar in difficulty to the first one. K4, since the iron aids are not quite as abundant as on the first section, but the via ferrata is all the more enjoyable for that. It's still excellently secured. A little too well, at points, when the steel cable hangs in the way a bit...

After summiting the Vorderer Eggstock, a section of easier terrain presents itself, leading to the Mittlerer Eggstock. The route goes up and down a little, in a combination of normal path and short sections of K2-K3 via ferrata, with the crossing of a bridge across a chasm as the obvious highlight / photo opportunity. Crossing the summit of the Mittler Eggstock (third log book of the via ferrata already) and passing a modern emergency refuge (log book here as well, if you're not tired of signing your name by now), you see the summit of the Hinterer Eggstock ahead, teasingly close by. However, the way is blocked by a 100 meter deep chasm, and a very vertical rock face on the other side of it. A sign with a skull reminds you to properly secure yourself on the descent from the Mittler Eggstock. At a junction you have to make the biggest decision of the day: use the second escape route to descend further down, or attempt the third section of the via ferrata up onto the Hinterer Eggstock?

This decision should not be taken lightly. The last section of the via ferrata is considerably more difficult than the first two, a solid K5 with some challenging overhangs. We pass one person who has found himself out of his depth and has to abort his ascent. An extra sling and carabiner come in very useful here, to give our arms a little rest on the toughest sections. Eliot does a great job, successfully completing such a difficult via ferrata on his first time. The cross on the Hinterer Eggstock, which is the end point of the via ferrata, might not be the official summit (which is 400m further along and a mere 15 meters higher), but for once we don't care about such trivialities. Looking back across to the emergency shelter on the Mittler Eggstock, it's hard to believe how nearby it still is, with all the effort that came in between out of sight down below.

We're not quite sure if there are any protected sections on the descent, so we keep our harnesses on for a while, but that turns out to be not necessary. In fact, the descent is surprisingly gentle compared to all the rough crags we had to ascend to get here. It is marked white-blue-white until Bützi, but in fact the path is hardly more than a T3. We come across one wooden marker post lying off track on a steep slope. Apparently it has broken off and fallen down from somewhere higher up. I venture across to rescue the post and put it back along the track, to make sure that people don't get confused by it.

We get back to the Gumen hut to return Eliot's via ferrata set and to have a quick beer. It's been about five hours since we started here. It might seem that you can do it quicker when looking at the map, as the distance covered is very small, but rest assured that five hours is a good pace already!

Now for the vague plan of trying to see something of the Klausenrennen. We won't be able to get to the road for the start of it (at 2.30pm), and we're not quite sure for how long it will go on, but we decide just to head that way and see what happens. After the slightly hazy weather of the morning, it has become properly sunny now, so some more hiking in this spectacular landscape is enjoyable anyway. We head past the Bergetenseeli (T2) to the Rietstöckli (T3), where we have a distant but clear view of the long strait of the Klausenpass road at Urnerboden. Not a car to be seen here, though the event should have started an hour ago already. Strange. Dozens of flies are harassing us on the summit, so we don't hang around for too long. A well-constructed path zigzags down to a narrow road, which descents past Vorder Stafel towards the Klausenpass road. We ask some other hikers, and they presume that the race has already ended. Did we miss it?

Because the Klausenpass road cuts so deeply through the narrow valley here, we can't see it until we are practically standing next to it. And as we approach, roaring engines can be heard as well. The race is still going on, with bikes and three wheelers currently doing their run up towards the pass. The marshals are quite happy for us to sit next to the road and watch on. No fuss about us not having spectator tickets :). The old three wheelers and the bikes with side-pods are especially eye-catching. The other old bikes are all quite similar to each other. A marshal tells us that this would be the last category of participants for the day. A pity that we missed all the cars, but nice that we still got the see the bikes. When they have all raced past, we continue on the hiking trail towards Linthal.

More roaring engines! A flash of a glorious old racing car to be seen between the trees! Damn it, the marshal was wrong, there was still more to come! Now we are in the forest however, without a good view of the road. We hurry on until we are able to get to the road again. We've missed about ten cars, but there are still more coming, and what an experience it is! Our new spot is also an even better photo spot than where we stood previously. Topping everything off is the Mercedes W25, the car that set the course record of the original Klausenrennen back in 1934.

We can now continue down towards Linthal. When we get to the hairpin at Bergli, there is a little confusion amongst the marshals: can we cross the road and continue down, or not yet? All the old timers will be making their way back down any minute now. We decide we might as well wait and watch the spectacle again. The cars don't drive by at full racing speed now, but the chance of seeing all the cars the we had missed before is still very much worth the wait. What started as a vague plan to "try to see a little of the Klausenrennen", could not have turned out better.

By the time we get down the Linthal it is getting dark. The spectators have left and things are closing down. Still, there are a few more surprises in store for us. A street vendor is closing shop and giving away his last Bratwürste for free. Free stuff in Switzerland, it does exist after all! We also encounter a random bagpipe band marching through the street. It's a fitting end to a day that was filled to the brim with excitement. As it seems now, it was the last day of summer as well, and we certainly made the most of it.

Hike partners: Stijn


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