The reverse Kesch Trek: 4 days, 3 huts and 1 dog blanketPosted: 08/09/2013
At the beginning of August I walked the reverse Kesch Trek – a four day alpine tour through the Swiss Alps. Locked between the exclusive resorts of Davos and St. Moritz, the actual Kesch Trek starts at the Flüelapass, snakes around the Piz Kesch and ends in Zuoz. The route stays quite high up, only occasionally dropping below the 2,000 m mark.
I walked the trek in the opposite direction together with Constantin and a couple of our Swiss friends Beni and Corinne. Reversing the trek gave it a nicer dynamic, as we ended rather than started the trip with the Schwarzhorn (3,147 m), my first 3,000 m peak. Read on to find out how it all went and what happened with the dog blanket.
Day 1: Zuoz (1,716 m) – Chamanna d’Es-cha (2, 594 m)
Walking time: 3 hrs; Ascent: 880m
We met Beni and Corinne at the Flüelapass, left our car there and drove on in their car to Zuoz. That way we were independent of the Postbus that runs from Flüelapass to the train station in Zernez and didn’t have to worry about timings on day four. We parked at the ski lift in Zuoz and set off uphill towards Chamanna d’Es-cha.
The ascent was initially fairly gradual along a little dirt road, but turned to steep as we started to follow a mountain stream in the second half. After three hours including a short break next to the stream we arrived at the hut. We had just enough time to catch our breath and find our dorm in a little house a few more meters above the hut itself before dinner was served.
Chamanna d’Es-cha is a fairly small, old hut with a cosy dinning room. As it was 1st August, we got a bonus experience. After dark, the staff lit an impressive beacon fire outside the hut to celebrate the Swiss national day. There are more photos in a post dedicated just to the beacon fire.
Day 2: Chamanna d’Es-cha (2, 594 m) – Chamanna Kesch (2, 630 m)
Walking time: 5.5 hrs: Ascent/ descent: 1,004 m / 980 m
The day started with me realising I spent the night under a dog blanket. As I sat up in my bed and looked at my blanket, it was quite clear my blanket was for dogs. There was a big sign ‘Hundedecke’ and a picture of a dog drawn with a permanent marker at both ends. Why it was on my bed, I don’t know. It served as a great amusement for everyone else that morning and for the rest of the trip. I learnt my lessons – I now make my bed before it gets dark.
After all this commotion we had breakfast and started the day’s walk around the Kesch summit. The route first leads up to Fuorcla Pischa (2, 871 m) and the landscape very quickly starts to reflect the altitude. The grass fades away and gives way to stone fields, scree and gravel. This year the Alps saw quite a lot of late snow and a good deal of it was still around in early August. We crossed several snow fields on the way to Fuorcla Pischa.
We made a brief stop at the pass, but the wind blowing at the top spurred us on to descend towards Alp Plaxbi (2, 069 m, 3 hrs from the start). By the time we arrived in the valley, we could feel the heat of one of the hottest weekends of the summer even at 2, 000 m. Fortunately enough we found a large boulder next to a stream that provided shade for our lunch break.
Refreshed we continued down to the lowest point of the day: Alp digl Chants (1, 999 m). There we started the ascent to Chamanna Kesch. The heat was nearly unbearable, the ascent very steep and the whole experience pretty gruelling. It reminded me of our walk in the Drakensberg earlier this year. At least there was a trough with water roughly half-way up where we could cool down and refill our water bottles (purification tablets at the ready).
Our arrival at Chamanna Kesch (aka Kesch-Hütte) after 2.5 hours was a joyous moment, amplified when we found out that this modern hut is fitted with hot showers!
Day 3: Chamanna Kesch (2, 630 m) – Chamanna da Grialetsch (2, 542 m)
Walking time: 4 hrs; Ascent/ descent: 531 / 615 m
Without any dog blanket surprises our departure from the hut on day two was speedier if not as funny. Day three was in general a fairly mellow and relaxing day. The trail continues from Chamanna Kesch with a gentle stroll at roughly equal altitude through the Val Funtauna and then briefly ascends to the Scalettapass (2, 606 m). From there we descended towards Dürrboden, but cut across the hill to the other side of the valley on to the path to Chamanna Grialetsch before we lost too much altitude.
The sun was strong again, but the boulders were smaller. Our lunch break was therefore brief and somewhat squashed as we tried to hide in the shade of another boulder. The ascent that followed was at first very steep, but in the end not too long. We reached the Furggasee quite quickly. From there it was a short walk to the Fuorcla da Grialetsch and the hut itself.
We arrived at Chamanna da Grialetsch shortly before 3pm, early enough to pick one of the first beds and spend a couple of hours in the sun. Beni and Corinne even managed to go for a swim in one of the lakes nearby.
Chamanna da Grialetsch was a perfect place to spend the afternoon at. I thought it was probably the best Alpine hut, I’ve stayed at yet. It is a traditional, simple hut with small dorms packed with beds, simple washrooms, but a very cosy dinning room and a nice terrace with a view of the Grialetsch glacier. Altogether it was very tranquil.
Day 4: Chamanna da Grialetsch (2, 542 m) – Schwarzhorn (3, 147 m) – Flüelapass (2, 383 m)
Walking time: 5 hrs; Ascent/ descent: 800/ 955m
Day four was by far the highlight of the trek. With the entirety of the route above 2, 000 m, the landscape was stark, rocky and patched up with remaining snow. The first part of the day went through a long stone field up to Fuorcla Radönt (2, 788 m). Navigating through the stones was quite slow and required a good deal of route finding as well as hopping.
After the pass we crossed a bare glacial valley with hardly any vegetation, but with a stunning glacial lake. The path skirts right past it and then goes up again to the Schwarzhornfurgga (2, 880 m). This part of the trek was also very remote and quiet. We didn’t meet anyone until the Schwarzhornfurgga.
At Schwarzhornfurgga the path joins the main route from Flüelapass for the final summit ascent to the Schwarzhorn (3, 147 m). The remoteness and tranquility are over here. The path up is busy, with numerous hikers bagging a 3, 000 m peak from the parking lots of the Flüelapass. The route up is a simple, but very steep walking path. Although the elevation difference is only less than 300m, it felt like more. After much zigzagging and puffing we finally arrived at the crowded summit.
From the summit we could look back on the last two days of walking… where storm clouds were gathering and moving our way. We finished our lunch quickly and started descending, racing with the looming storm. We did not out run it, but descended well below the Schwarzhornfurgga before the skies opened. After a few substantial raindrops, the hail followed. Unlike on the Hirschberg, this time we got our share of the pummeling. At least it was quickly over. It was impressive to watch the storm cloud sweep down the valley. While the grey cloud loomed ahead, behind us the sky was blue again.
It didn’t take us much longer to reach the road to Flüelapass and to walk back to the car. We drove Beni and Corinne back to their car in Zuoz, had a pizza and a finishers’ beer and drove back through the Inn valley all the way to Innsbruck and then on to Munich.
Total distance: 45km
Total ascent/ descent: 3, 130 m/ 2, 480 m
Total walking time: 17.5 hrs
Getting there and back: 4hrs drive from Munich via Lindau (to Flüelapass) or along the Inn (to Zuoz); train to Davos/ Zuoz from Zurich
Beni picked and planned the whole trek. Thank you Beni. He used schweizmobil.ch to get all maps. That unfortunately means that I don’t know what published maps cover the area.
- A brief overview of the trek on myswitzerland.com
- A trip report from a three day variant of the trek
- A detailed overview of the trek in German, might still be useful with some Google Translate help
- What I did last summer: Tour des Combins on the Swiss-Italian border
- An attempt at the Rumer Spitze
- Crampons, rope teams and Zirbenschnaps. A mountaineering course on the Dachstein.
Any questions, suggestions, additions? The comments section is all yours!