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Rigimarsch 2014

Published by Stijn , 29 May 2014, 19h38.

Region: World » Switzerland » Schwyz
Date of the hike:28 May 2014
Hiking grading: T2 - Mountain hike
Geo-Tags: Rigigebiet   CH-SZ   CH-ZG   CH-AG 
Time: 11:30

It's been almost two years since my last proper 'challenge hike', the Lakeland 50 in the English Lake District. That was 50 miles with a total ascent of 3000 meters. So the Rigimarsch (, with its 50 km and total ascent of 1550 meters should be easy, right? The fact that all of the ascent is concentrated at the very end, worried me a little, though...

The Rigimarsch starts around 19:30 on the eve of Ascension Day in Bremgarten, Aarau. The route follows the river Reuss to Rotkreuz, continues to Immensee with views over Lake Zug, and ends with the ascent of Rigi Kulm via the Seebodenalp and Rigi Staffel. If you're quick then you can catch the sunrise on the summit of Rigi Kulm in the morning. Sounds good, right? At least, that's what David and I thought when we signed up.


We arrive in Bremgarten around 19:00 on Wednesday evening, and the shopping centre is already crowded with participants queueing for the registration desk. Shortly before 19:30, the queue starts moving. If, like us, you signed up in advance, this isn't a registration as such, you just have to pick up an envelope. My envelope contains a wristband for getting supplies at the checkpoints, a page with information like the opening times of the checkpoints, the Rigi-Bahn ticket for the return journey that I pre-ordered with a Rigimarsch discount, and a medal (no need to finish if all you want is the medal...). That's everything we need, and at 19:41 we start with the hike.

We try to keep a good pace on these early kilometres. We overtake a lot of people, except on a few sections (in particular after the picturesque Dominilochsteg footbridge) where the path is too narrow to overtake and we have to settle for a slower pace. The weather, which had been predicted to be changeable and a little showery, was actually really good. We enjoyed some gorgeous evening sunshine before the sun set and we went on into the night.

Early on already, the unmistakable silhouette of the Rigi is visible in the distance. Now, one of the classic challenge hikes where I lived in England is the "Yorkshire Three Peaks", circular hike ticking off the three most famous hilltops of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Descending the first hill (Pen-y-ghent), you can see the iconic Ribblehead railway viaduct in the distance, at the foot of the second hill (Whernside). The viaduct then disappears behind the undulating landscape, and when you finally see it again an hour later, it does not seem to be the slightest bit nearer than before! On the Rigimarsch, you have to endure a similar "lack of visible progress", only it's a lot worse. The Rigi is always there, ahead, in the distance. During the night, the red beacon of the transmission antenna on Rigi Kulm hardly ever disappears. Hour after hour, never do we seem to get the slightest bit closer to the mountain. The only thing that changes, is that the mountain seems to grow ever taller as we walk through the night...

There are five supply posts along the route, where the organization provides tea, broth, bread, apples and chocolate. The first post is at Schoren, a little bit away from the bank of the Reuss. Though the turn-off is well-indicated, a lot of people seemed to go straight ahead. Some of them probably did this intentionally ('missing' the post is a short-cut, cutting off a good kilometre), but there are certainly a lot of people who (following the crowd without looking at the signs) miss the post without meaning to. We don't want to 'cheat' by deviating from the official route, and make the detour to this first post.

There's no more trouble following the rest of the route. The route is indicated with little Coop-flags and candles. The candles are battery-powered, but they still look rather atmospheric in the night.

At the Rotkreuz post, I change my socks and reapply blister plasters on my heels. I probably should have made sure to break in my shoes a little better before the Rigimarsch. I certainly feel some decent blisters developing on my heels, and that feeling will only get worse as the kilometres go by.

The fourth section between Rotkreuz and Immensee is the first tougher one. Tiredness is starting to take its toll. Moreover, the distance between these posts a little longer than on the previous to stretches (except for the first one), and the first little hills to be climbed don't help either. In particular, the long ascent out of Immensee village towards the supply post isn't fun.

The penultimate section between Immensee and the Seebodenalp is the most gruesome. It follows the asphalted Seebodenalp road pretty much all the way. Initially, the ascent doesn't feel so bad. On the road, it's just a matter of keeping your engine going; keep putting one foot in front of the other. There are beautiful night-time views down to Lake Zug and towards Küssnacht am Rigi. It's actually quite satisfying to see how quickly we seem to gain altitude over the lowlands. But then the ascent goes on and on and on and on. Progress seems to get ever slower, and still there is no sign of the Seebodenalp. We might have walked too quickly earlier on, because now both David and I are struggling to find any energy left. We get overtaken by a lot of people who have dosed their energy much better, until finally we drop back among hikers with a similar level of suffering.

The post at Seebodenalp is busy and there is hardly a place to sit down. That's just as well, because bearing the pain and just keep going is the only thing there is to do now, really. The path becomes rougher, but it's certainly nice to have some more varied terrain underfoot after that endless asphalted road. We see how the first sunlight lights up Rigi Kulm. It was always a very optimistic target to witness the sunrise on the summit... At least we also get some great sunrise views from the lovely Düssen viewpoint. As we reach Rigi Staffel, clouds get the better of Rigi Kulm, so there's not summit view for us at the finish. Instead we complete the final torturously steep kilometre from Rigi Staffel to Rigi Kulm in the mist. I reach the finish sign at the Rigi Kulm hotel after a total time of 11:23, a couple of minutes after David who had gone slightly ahead.

Unfortunately there is no more free food at the finish. I guess the Rigi Kulm Hotel cafeteria wanted to ensure some income in exchange for having all the participants crash in their dining halls. Exhausted and in pain, we take the rack railway down at 8am. At Arth-Goldau, a passing cyclist inquires about "what kind of group we make up, then". Surprisingly, he seems to be quite keen to sign up for the next edition already, in spite of seeing all of us limping about in agony! We get back to Zürich around 10am, though really our conception of time is so messed up at this point that this doesn't really mean anything to us any more.


11 hours 23 minutes is a little slower than I had hoped for. To have the entire 1500 metre ascent all together at the end of the night after 40+ kilometres, was even tougher than I feared. But we made it and can proudly look back at a great experience.

Would I do it again? I'm not sure at the moment, but ask me again in a couple of weeks and I'll probably give you a definite "yes".

Hike partners: Stijn


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