One of my favorite mountain runs is to go from Wildhaus to Santis via the blue SAC Alpine route. This route climbs quickly from the valley and then offers a long ridge to the Altmann before taking the Lisengrat to the Santis summit. It’s an ideal location from St. Gallen, Winterthur, Zurich and Chur as a day trip. The region is easily accessible by car or a combination of trains and the Post bus. Additionally, there are many mountain huts and restaurants in the region to plan a multi-day adventure.
Distance: 15 km
Elevation Gain: 2000 m
Strava Alpine Tracks: Wildhaus – Altmann – Santis
The route is quite interesting as you move through farming areas dominated by alpine cow, and then above 2000 m you’re likely to see small herds of Steinbock (ibex in English) as well as many hikers/runners during the weekends, or any day that is sunny with good weather. Additionally, where the weather is a bit unpredictable, I like heading here since there are multiple ways to get down or seek shelter in case the weather changes for the worst. Also, the multiple routes give great flexibility in planning short runs or longer endurance trials with elevation gains that will train you well for any mountain marathon or ultra.
Moving quickly up the trail from Wildhaus you hike up a forested gorge that comes out in a valley with the Schafberg area high above and after crossing a gate to keep the cows from escaping take the Blue alpine trail instead of following the farming road. Green fields and cows will surround you (and more than likely a herd of sheep) until the mountain peaks start to dominate and you hike up to the ridge that will take you to the Altmann via the Naedliger Gratweg.
After traversing along the ridge the blue trail takes you to the Altmann. The trail turns into rock scrambling and easy climbing to the main ridge. From the top you can go to the right or left (main peak) and watch the clouds envelope you. The ridge has wonderful exposure but is rather safe. If you feel unsure you can go on all fours (feet and hands) to steady yourself. The lower summit (to the right) requires more climbing skills, so I’d recommend heading to the main summit (where the cross is) if you don’t feel safe on the exposed rock.
Once you descend down from the Altmann, go back along the trail and head towards the Santis summit via the Lisengrat. This is one of the most easily accessible long ridges in the Alps, and offers amazing views over the landscape. If you go at the right time clouds will come in like tide waves and blanket the mountain. As you look back you’ll see the Altmann monster peak, and you’ll marvel at how far you’ve come. A mere few hours ago you were dodging cows in the green fields, and now you stand atop the Ostschweiz.
I’ll be honest, actually being on the Santis summit feels a bit strange after the Altmann. Santis has a cable car and hotel, restaurant, etc. with crowds of people heading up each day. You may feel a bit strange sharing the summit with people flying drones and taking picture from the summit, when the best picture opportunities are really along the Lisengrat. Here your quest can end and you can enjoy a beer, or take the cable car down to Schwagalp and from there take a bus back to your life. You can also run/hike down, and you have a choice of various directions. Schwagalp will be an hour if you move quickly, but you could also take a longer route to Ebenalp. I often take the cable car down as I’m often lazy these days.