The influence of climate change means that seasonal changes are becoming more abrupt, and this seems to be quite evident in the Eastern Swiss Alps where the snows stay into June. I headed to the Alpstein for a quick run up Santis but had to stop at the Altmann summit as the Lisengrat ridge to Santis was still totally covered in snow. So, I got to enjoy the experience of running full out down the slopes. This is a great time of year to do a trail run since it combines green fields, rock and snow.
The Alpstein region is quite easy to access by bus. Head over to SBB and choose Wildhaus, Dorf as your destination. The bus lets you out at the Post office, and from there follow the tracks to the Altmann summit. During times of high snow coverage you won’t want to descent down any other way than the way you came up. You could also drive there, but then you always have to go back to your car, and I prefer to leave the destination open.
Distance: 8 km
Elevation Gain: 1,261 m
Strava Tracks: Wildhaus to Altmann
The way up will have sections of grass or snow, depending on the exposure of the slopes and the time of Spring/Summer. I headed up there the second week of June 2019, and expected far less snow that was there. Still, I took along a short ice axe just to be safe. I decided to go with my Salomon S/Lab Alpine XA shoes since I love their internal gaiter and mountain oriented shoe design. Somehow the first part of the trail had a crazy level of snow, but the farmers had made a path to make it easier. As a bonus I imagined I was walking through the snow trenches on Hoth.
If you love green fields and cows, then the first part of the run will be a paradise for you. Spring time is awesome in the Alps with yellow clouds seemingly covering green landscapes. Cow bells will be accenting the air and more than likely you’ll cross a few along the path. They may try to lick you for the salt of your sweat, but are generally harmless.
Once I got past the snow slopes I passed by the Zwingli Pass Hut. If you want to relax a bit you can stay there if it’s open (check out the SAC Toggenburg web page). This is also where you can diverge and head down the other side of the mountain if the conditions are too extreme headed up to the Altmann. Beyond the hut the conditions change from grassy to rock, and the hike (call it a climb if you like) up to the Altmann summit begins. The snow will be soft if you do this in Spring/Summer and the sun is out. Still, expect to take an ice axe with you if you’re concerned about slipping and sliding uncontrollably down the mountain. Be warned, the slopes will likely require some step kicking, and this is a hassle if you’re wearing normal running shoes. Most people would use mountaineering boots, but I found the S/Lab Alpine XA worked fine.
If you follow the tracks you’ll see they follow a trail, which will probably be completely covered in snow. However, I’ve been up this route before, the Altmann peak was above me and I aimed for the saddle. You can find you way along the rock and eventually see remnants of a trail, which will the ascend up the well-worn path. The ridge was free of snow, and I joyfully scrambled up the way and eventually came out on top. Altmann has a wonderfully exposed, but reasonably safe summit ridge, which gives an amazing view of the Eastern Alps. I used my RicohTheat V 360 camera on a selfie-stick and placed it on interval shooting to capture images along the ridge.
The way down was easy, I just followed the path I came up on. The snow was super soft so I just ran at full speed down the slope towards the hut and then on down to Wildhaus where I caught a bus back to my life.