Location: Wasserauen, Appenzell, Switzerland
Type: Mountain hiking trail
Distance: 16.51km, Duration: 7:59:16 (ROUTE)
En route to the hike, we had the best welcome to Appenzell by driving directly into the Appenzell cattle alpine descent proceeding where farmers in traditional clothing brought their cows from the alps back to the valley after the summer. One of the cows banged into the car. Luckily, the car only received a layer of fur – no dents!Immediately out of the parking lot in Wasserauen, we noticed this trail was very popular. What a huge difference compared to the trail yesterday which was almost deserted! The walk to the trailhead was an insane incline on pavement that was angled at what felt like over 45°. We were completely overdressed with baselayer after the previous day’s rainy and chilly experience. Within minutes of hardcore cardio under the beaming sun, I already needed a shower. Finally, the actual trail started where we were faced with even more insane climbs, except this time, endless man-made staircases where each step seemed miles high.
That was the gist of how our morning hours were spent (just over 1.5 hours), step-after-step all the way to the infamous Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchl. No longer offering overnight stays, it is now a busy café nestled on the mountain face. We didn’t go inside, opting to have our own lunch on the grass in front it while watching paragliders do tricks in the air and admiring the spectacular views. It was at that moment I pondered how fortunate I was to be in this country soaking up the scenery.We continued up the trail to the left of the Gasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchl, overwhelmed with sights everywhere along the way – the rock climbers climbing up the rock face to our right, the beautiful turquoise lake of Seealpsee on our left down below, and a cross WAY up high in front on another mountaintop far away that appeared to be part of another trail. The trail was very easy compared to the morning climb.
In under an hour, we reached a hut which I thought was the final summit destination. Nope! A trail sign there pointed to the cross on the mountaintop which we thought was part of another trail earlier.We soldiered on, zigzagging up a single-track trail with steeper gradient. While walking up the mountain, the sunlight shined on the hut at the perfect angle. Natural spotlight!
I felt completely bonked up this trek and my knee injury flared up. It really didn’t help boost my ego when a young girl zoomed past me, only to backtrack to her family behind me, and then zoomed past me again. I carried on with my head down low at my glacial speed. My face showed involuntary agony, but honestly, I was enjoying the hike! Finally we reached the Berggasthaus Schäfler (Mountain Inn Schäfler). Up a short path to the right was the summit cross. I dragged myself there and plopped on the grass, resisting the urge to fall backwards and take a nap.
Feeling more alive 30min later, we headed back towards Berggasthaus Schäfler and continued to its left where up a short path was a large metal pyramid structure. All around us was a jaw-dropping panorama of mountain paths.
We descended back to the hut and turned left, essentially walking around the mountain we originally came from. In about 30 min of slight decline, we arrived at the Ebenalp summit cross (1630m), the northernmost summit of the Appenzell Alps. This was near the final station of the Ebenalp cable car from Wasserauen for those who skipped the treacherous ascent we did this morning. We spent some time watching the paragliders taking off from the mountain edge, mesmerized by the organization involved in laying everything out and ensuring the strings were all in the correct position when they took off.
A 15min hike down took us to the prehistoric Wildkirchli caves. A rather short cave walk and since everything was in German, I didn’t understand the significance of it until some google searches later. It sure gave us a nice cool down though! Coming out of the caves to the right was a chapel perched in the rocks.
Around the corner was the Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchl again, except this time, we saw it from the front. Very cool and rustic looking!
Down we go, all the way down! A never-ending path through the forest.
It wasn’t too eventful until …. another cross (1232m)! Not really a summit cross, more of a religious cross beside the Alp Bommen restaurant with a farm.
Their farm animals sure ate a lot if they produced this ……
This never-ending descent had some slippery loose gravel parts. It was such a tease to finally reach an open area, only to enter the forest again for more descent. An hour later, we reached the base of the cable car. It was amazing to look up to see how high we hiked up (and that was only a portion of our elevation up) – this alone was the fruits of our labour!