Ratikon Tour

Where: Switzerland
Mileage: ~40 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous

Hut to Hut Ratikon Tour

See video of trip below.

The Rätikon is a mountain range situated on the borders of Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The highest peak is under 3000 meters, the advantage to this range is that almost every mountain can be easily reached without crampons and/or an ice axe. It is famous for their breathtaking views and many people take a multi-day trip to enjoy this area.

Relaxing night before hike we stayed at Hotel Turna in Malbun, Liechtenstein. Hot tub, steam room and great view, I’ll take it. 3 countries in 4 days.

Our route:
Day 1: Malbun – Sareiserjoch – Nenzinger Himmel – Amotschonjoch – Paludhütte
Day 2: Palüdhütte – Brand – Lünersee – Saulajoch – Heinrich Hueter hütte
Day 3: Heinrich Hueter hütte – Lünerkrinne – Totalp hütte – Gamsluggen – Schesaplana hütte
Day 4: Schesaplana hütte – Hochjoch/Gr. Furka – Pfalzer hütte – Malbun

Day 1: Malbun – Sareiserjoch – Nenzinger Himmel – Amotschonjoch – Paludhütte

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Breakfast at hotel in Malbun, Liechtenstein (1600m). Sun behind the mountains we headed towards Sareiserjoch (2000m); it took about an hour to reach. Climb began on pavement passing by small homes, cows, sheep, llamas and marmots. This was Alpine territory. The word alp signifies a high mountain pasture where cows are taken to be grazed during the summer months. Being that we were hiking through Moo Moo country, it was a challenge to stay on trail because of the tracks left from the cows. It was also a challenge to hear each other as the cow bells were making a lot of noise.

From Sareiserjoch you have a view of two different countries: Malbun, Liechtenstein on one side and Nenzinger Himmel, Austria on the other. My sister unable to hike this part of the journey took the ski lift up on Alp Sareis. We were able to find her through my camera lens waving at us on the joch. She would later meet us on the Austrian side. Joch’s a funny word and after much discussion on its translation, I decided to research it. A joch is a col and it refers to the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks. That much was apparent, but I’ve never heard the word col until now. The translation was not a notch, pass, gully or even a saddle. Cols usually lie on the line of the watershed between two mountains, usually on a prominent ridge.

The weather grew warmer on our descent to Nenzinger Himmel (1400m). On this part of the trail we hit the border of Liechtenstein and Austria. Of course we would stop for a picture sitting right on the border. We crossed over Schalanza stream and could see Stüber Fall. We reached Nenzinger, a summer settlement of 200 homes, 1 guest house and hotel business, a café and a grocery store.

Amotschonjoch (2028m) was the next obstacle and was quite the climb. During the gruesome ascent we ran into about 50 hikers with children and a herd of cows on the hiking trail. We scurried off to the side to get ahead of the traffic. Hirschsee was a tiny bit off-trail. We ate lunch sitting by the tiny turquoise lake with towering cliffs above. Quite the view.

Headed back towards Amatschonjoch ridge through a meadow with views of Gamperdonatal Valley and the joch itself. The path narrowed as we crossed sever small creeks/waterfalls. On the way down to Palüdhutte (1660m) was wet and slippery. On the slop of the mountain Chamois (goat-like animals) were grazing. We arrived to the hut and enjoyed a nice cold radle with our sister. 16 kilometers (10 miles) down.

Palüd is a French word meaning wet spongy ground or land that is covered partially or entirely with water. The hut is owned and operated by a family of three generations. They clean, cook, etc. Dinner was a three course meal.

Day 2: Palüdhütte – Brand – Lünersee – Saulajoch – Heinrich Hueter hütte

Good Morning Austrian Alps! It was crispy outside when we woke up. After breakfast we split into two groups: two headed down to Brand on the chair lift and two hiked down to Brand. On the trial we passed by a horse scratching his back on the trail sign and of course cows loitering on the path.

To reach Brand we walked through a dense forest; the ground was covered in moss. The descent was 600 feet in 50 minutes to Brand (1007m). Stop at ATM for Euros. Check.

Schattenlagantweg path is the route to Lünerseebahn. We walked alongside Alvierbach stream with a view to the west of 4 waterfalls. From Lünerseebahn to the reservoir, Lünersee and Douglashütte (1976m) it was 414 meters of ascent. The path turned from dirt to limestone rock as we climbed the switchbacks. Towards the top chains and ropes were put in place for safety.

It leveled out as we hit a waterfall and a few more switchbacks we reached the top. Beauty, exquisiteness, splendor, grandness should I find more words from the thesarus. I can’t explain exactly what my eyes saw at that moment. The sky decided to cool us off with sprinkles as we reached Lünersee surrounded by the peaks of Zaluandakopf, Kirchlispitzen, Schesaplana and Seekopf.

There were many people at Douglashütte as it is an easily accessible route because of the cable car. Off we went to Heinrich Hueter hütte (HHH) from here after a small snack. There are two routes to HHH, we took the harder strenuous route. This climb was straight up on the side of the mountain to Saulajoch (2065m) just under Saulakopf (2516m). Parts of the hike were dangerous as one side was a mountain wall and the other nothing but air.

This area is home to a wide range of flowers (Enzian, Türkenbund lilies, Alpenrosen) that bloomed on Saulajoch. Heinrich hütte (1766m) welcomed uswith a large wooden terrace. The view from the terrace was incredible as the sun set in the valley below us. Another 16 km done! Unlike the last hut, this one seems to be much more popular and was completely full for the night. Good night Vorarlberg, Austria!

Day 3: Heinrich Hueter hütte – Lünerkrinne – Totalp hütte – Gamsluggen – Schesaplana hütte

Destination today Schesaplana hütte. Since yesterday we came through Saulajoch we decided to head back to Lünersee the Lünerkrinne way. Lünerkrinne (2155m) is a narrow gap in the ridge. From here we turned left on the path around the lake and headed up to Totalphütte (2385m). This 45 minute stretch was quite challenging. At Totalphütte we warmed up with Speckknödel- a favorite in the mountainous areas of all European countries in the Alpine regions. Speckknödel (Austrian Bacon Dumplings) is a traditional Austrian recipe for a classic dish.

Totalphütte is open every summer from mid-June to early October; since there is no road to get up here, food procurement is done by helicopter and a ropeway that delivers weekly fresh goods. Before 2010 the hut was fueled with a diesel generator, two pv systems and a small wind turbine, but since there is high amount of guests they had to connect it to an electrical grid.

To reach Schesaplana hütte we faced the climb to Gamsluggen (2380m)- not the most predictable standard path. Snow covering the north side and stairs cut into the limestone on the south side. The path was incredibly steep and narrow with chains to utilize to reach the top. Perfect view of Lünersee and the Swiss side. On the descent the path was unstable, rocks joining us as we slipped down the trail. Finally reaching the flat portion of the trail we were now in Switzerland.

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Schesplana hütte was originally built in 1898 and sits below the cliffs of the Schesaplana. The place is owned and run by three generations of a family that cooks, cleans, serves, etc. Food and drinks were just right!

Day 4: Schesaplana hütte – Hochjoch/Gr. Furka – Pfalzer hütte – Malbun

We missed the rain overnight. Heading northwest to Hochjoch/Gr. Furka (2359m) it was colder and cloudier. On the trail up we saw an animal I had never seen before, an alpen salamander- shiny, black color. They live in the Central, Eastern and Dinaric Alps and only above 700 meters which is just close to 2,300 feet.

As we got near the peak of Gr. Furka we crossed back into Austria. Naafkopf (2571m) marks the point at which the three countries (Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland) meet. Continuing north in the haze to Barthümeljoch- we were on a flat and rocky section with reddish formations within the grey stone. This area is known as Rote Wand translating into Red Well. It was here that we sighted male and female Alpine Ibex. Their sight is very infrequent especially the males.

We reached Pfälzerhütte (2108m) which lies on the Bettlerjoch ridge- border of Liechtenstein and Austria. Quick stop to warm up and dry our shoes. We decided to peak Augstenberg (2359m). The route took us up and then leveled out for about 45 minutes until we reached the peak. The view, the view, the view. 360 panorama.

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We took the ridge until the descent to Malbun. An hour and a half later it was over. Our feet soaked in the freezing river for only a moment as it was astoundingly cold. Goodbye Ratikon Tour!

Note to self: Buy new hiking shoes.

Check out the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDMYcVyq_60.

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