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Fürenwand Klettersteig

Published by Stijn , 26 October 2013, 18h12.

Region: World » Switzerland » Obwalden
Date of the hike:26 October 2013
Via ferrata grading: D
Geo-Tags: CH-UR   CH-OW 
Time: 5:00

Many thanks to the warm Föhn winds for chasing away the snow to higher altitudes again. It meant that lots of options were still open for this sunny late October Saturday. I decided to do the Fürenwand Klettersteig in Engelberg. With five via ferratas, Engelberg is the self-proclaimed "Klettersteig Eldorado" of Switzerland. After doing the Rigidalstock Klettersteig in July (including the two little via ferratas by the Brunnihütte) and the Graustock Klettersteig in August, the Fürenwand was the only one still missing from my list. Even though the Fürenwand might actually be the most notorious of the bunch. Going up a 600m tall near-vertical wall is certainly not something that you can do anywhere.

I drove from Zürich with David, and we met up with Marco at the valley station of the Fürenalp cable car. The parking immediately by the station is payable if you don't use the cable car, but there is plenty of free parking just down the road. The start of the via ferrata is just a 20 minute walk from here. You follow the paved road (now free from traffic) up the valley, until a blue sign tells you to turn left.

The via ferrata starts with a rather monotonous climb on T-shaped pegs. Some people have written complainingly about the distance between the pegs. It did not bother me, but I admit that I am quite tall, and I can understand that it might be a stretch for someone shorter. After a traverse, the T-shaped pegs are replaced by the more usual rungs and there is also a short ladder. The going is still rather monotonous, but still physically testing. The via ferrata is vertical almost constantly, and unless you take regular breaks, you will certainly work up a sweat on the relentless ascent.

About halfway up, there is an easier section. Some older guide books might mention an escape route here, but this does not exist any more. What does still exist is a swinging bench, a nice place for a break and/or to take some distance from other people on the via ferrata. In our case, however, exactly the opposite happened: somehow all the people on the via ferrata got bunched up immediately after the bench. As we found ourselves at the front, we weren't too bothered by this, but we could see some queues forming below us. The sun has reached the Fürenhochflue wall by now, and we continue up enjoying the scenery. The view towards Engelberg, along the green Engelberger Aa valley below, is particularly pretty.

The second half is definitely more interesting than the first. It starts with a "wet section", where even after a number of dry days, there will still be water dripping from the rocks. Care is needed here, as obviously the wet iron pegs are quite slippery. The wet section consist of a spectacular traverse followed by an ascent on iron rungs, until you are in the dry again. Afterwards, there are a couple of tricky sports where the a couple of pegs are either missing or bent down completely. Mostly, the rock is grippy enough for this not to be an issue, but at one spot there is nothing but polished rock on which your shoes, still moist from the wet section, can hardly find any grip, and you have to swing yourself, hanging from the cable, towards the next peg. Not the most comfortable manoeuvre, this.

Towards the end comes the highlight of the via ferrata: a wobbly wire ladder that goes up a full 20 vertical meters, with the massive drop of the full Fürenhochflue wall below. It definitely puts your nerves to the test. I absolutely enjoyed it, and it is certainly the most unique feature on the route.

The log book and the end of the via ferrata are reached soon after, and the Fürenalp restaurant is just minutes away. We enjoy a drink with views dominated by the massive east face of Titlis. We then descend via the Stäuber waterfall (not to be confused with the waterfall of the same name in the Maderanertal). Aside from the impressive waterfall, the scenery in its beautiful autumn colours is generally enjoyable.

In summary: the Fürenalp is a solid K4 via ferrata. It deserves this grade maybe not as much for its technical difficulty, but certainly for its exposure and for the physical demands of the sustained ascent. The wire ladder at the end is a unique feature not to be missed by via ferrata enthusiasts. Five hours was our total round-trip time, including a relaxed drink on the Fürenalp. The via ferrata itself can be done in two hours if you don't hang around.

Hike partners: Stijn

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