My Swiss Alpine – Elm – Linthal Run

Since running the 2011 SwissAlpine K42 marathon (and deciding the morning after to do the Jungfrau marathon) I’ve begun amassing mountain runs around Switzerland. These little adventures, or fast hiking exercises, I’m not sure what the current marketing concept is from Salomon, I guess I just like going from point A to B as fast as possible (hence the running) in the Swiss alpine environment. Afterall, you don’t need the organization of an actual marathon event to enjoy some trail running. In this edition, I present the run from Elm to Linthal over the Richetlipass.

I didn’t really intend on doing this trip, originally I wanted to go from Steinibach. to Linthal, but I took the wrong bus and ended up in Elm Dorf at 977m. I considered just running over the Segnaspass to Flims-Laax, but the trail was closed and the route to Linthal over the Richetlipass at 2261m was now the only option for getting out of the valley. According to the signs it’s an eight hour hike as you ascend up a beautiful valley and then negotiate some alpine terrain before descending down and finding the train station on the opposite side. The local drum band might be practicing along the path, and you’ll pass by a few award winning milk producers, who proudly display their achievements on their barns. This initial ascent continues for a few kilometers, and gradually beings rising as the mountain peaks come into view.

Swiss Tank Base

Soon the mountain panorama beings to reveal itself, and if you do the run on the right day of the week, you’ll now quite clearly discern the sound of artillery fire reverberating off the mountain walls. That’s not some sort of acoustic trickery, at the end of the valley there’s a Swiss Army tank base, officially named Schiessplatz Wichlen. Yes, a bonafide panzer firing range in fact, where locals and army fanatics can drop by to watch the Swiss tanks train their shooting skills. Being a fun-loving explosion boy I also wanted to check out the experience, but I also wanted to not miss the last train from Linthal. I did however, stop to take photos with my Ricoh GRD of the old panzer rusting in front of the base. From here you just follow the signs down the road a bit, then hang a left and begin the ascent to the Ski hutte. As a side note, if you’re running here don’t pick up any random tank shells you might find along the trail.

I stopped at the ski hut for a drink and enjoyed a Sinola, a type of Coca-Cola imitation. I got rid of the carbonation of course, stayed for a few minutes and then pressed on. Beyond the hut you’re on mountain trails heading up to the pass. The alpine sun was high and strong this day – and my body is tuned for cold-weather endurance. It’s just a few hundred meter assent, really just a short Swiss mountain jog up to the pass and then down the other side (sort of).

Mountain Panorama

I began ascending up and up along the trail. The higher ridges that seemed a world a way a few hours ago were now just above me and I was headed to the top of their backbone. Beyond the first ridge you have to descend down, and enjoy a fantastic alpine amphitheater, peaks filling 180 degrees of your vision. I stopped to shoot a panorama and then continued on. There’s another hut along the way, and on a fine sunny Saturday expect to say Gruezi to men with large white beards enjoying large steins of beer in the hot alpine sun. There’s a giant boulder, about halfway between the amphitheater ridges, and I stopped for a climbing break. The Salomon Crossman shoes sort of suck for rock climbing, but the boulder is easy enough to play around on without killing yourself. I like mountain running for the environment, and if you can’t stop to enjoy it there’s no point in running through it (for me at least).

Beyond the boulder pause you have a short ascent up to the final pass. From here you can continue up the blue alpine route (no trail just a rock ridge) up to the summit, or head down to Linthal. Naturally, I wanted to do the summit, but I also wanted to be on a train by 4pm, and the summit would wait for a day when I wasn’t already low on water. The descent down to Linthal is quite steep and muddy. It basically goes straight down and if you’re not accustomed to these trails expect to go slow or trip and fall on your face. Hiking sticks are highly advisable for the descent here, it’s just grass and rock, but it’s a steep beast when the sun is high, also expect to find shrooms along the way and indulge in fantasies of fairy kingdoms getting squashed under your feet.


The final run to Linthal is a gradual downhill descent, passing through woods and next to streams fed by the melting glaciers and mountain snow. If you get tired and ask the right person you’ll get a ride on a farm tractor, but don’t plan for it. I arrived at the Linthal train station at 4:30pm, making the adventure a comfortable 6.5 hours of mountain running (and walking) with tank picture breaks, a little bouldering and a cola in between. This was the hottest run I’d ever been on and drank half a liter of mineral water at a cafe while waiting for the next train.

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My Swiss Alpine Run – Luaterbrunnen to Eiger Rotstock

One week to go before the Jungfrau Marathon, and I was in the Jungfrau region to train. This was a special training run in fact, because it was an essentially unplanned for screw up. See, I got a few dates mixed up in my head and when I left the house on Friday morning on the 2nd of Sept. I thought I would be running the Jungfrau Marathon the next day. As it turns out – in reality, the race is on Sept. 10th, one week away. I realized this later that morning, but since the hotel was already booked I figured I would just go there anyways and run from Lauterbrunnen to the Kleine Scheidegg, which is the last 20km of the official Jungfrau Marathon race route. Now I am relaxing on a German train speeding towards Bern with my netbook and a fine Franziskaner Weissbier to recount the adventure, all is well in the world.

A Jog in the Alps

The run up from Lauterbrunenen was uneventful, the roads give way to trees and dirt and little rocks. This climbs passed Wengen and soon the view of the mountains comes into view. Those high peaks kissed with snow fields and glaciers melting into history. I try to get into the Alps and shoot a lot of pictures so maybe one day I’ll show some grandkids what it was like the when the Alps still had ice and snow. I’ve done this route before when hiking with Kate, a friend of mine who was visiting Switzerland and I decided to show her the Alps. Any route which starts in trees and green and ends in glaciers and high peaks is a fun day for me. This route is a fun run, but leaves my body unfulfilled and a lingering desire is present at the end, with a lust for thinner air. When I reached the remnants of the Eiger glacier my legs were a little tired, but I must be in half-way decent shape, because I didn’t feel any need to stop or have a beer at the restaurant. It was still early, just 10:30am and since I was already there, I figured there could be more to do and see. This is the mountaineer in me, always pushing for more. I imagine I’ll feel differently when I run the full Jungfrau Marathon, which starts in Interlaken and ends at the Kleine Scheidegg. But on this day, my spirit desired something more.

Thinner Air

It took me just over two hours and thirty minutes to get from Lauterbrunnen to the end of the race at the Eiger glacier (what’s left of it at that altitude). This was only 20 km and I really wasn’t that tired and it was still early so I decided to just keep going. Beyond the Eiger Nordwand train stop there’s the trail leading up to the mountaineering routes, and I decided to just see what was up there. The normal trail stops at this point but there’s one of those nice blue SAC Alpine trails which includes ropes to climb up. I kept ascending till just below the famous wall of the Eiger and then saw a continuation of blue to a little peak to my left. To be honest, if I had had a climbing axe and better shoes I might have just kept on going up – but this of course, would have be irresponsible and…totally awesome (maybe another day). Instead of climbing the Eiger I continued to the smaller peak and a few minutes later I was on the summit of the Rotstock at 2660 meters. At the Rotstock I stayed to run around and pose for some self-portraits, naturally I want to look cool in my Salomon running gear. I also figured it would be a good time to record some thoughts in the SAC summit book. So, in total I started from Lauterbrunen at 796m and ended up at 2660m, a nice workout for the day. This was my version, what I call the Jungfrau-Rotstock half-marathon, which ascends just a few more vertical meters than the SwissAlpine K42.

Mountain Zen

I’ve never been much of a runner, but mountain running has a fine allure. Being light, going fast and traversing up and down peaks gives me a certain sense of freedom. I find it fun to train for marathons when I take the opportunity to just run and see what I’ll find. You might find Swiss Army tank bases doing target practice or just some peace of mind pushing yourself over passes and through mountain ampitheaters, either way it’s a fun way to spend the day and if you take a camera you’re sure to capture some wonderful mountain vistas. That’s the real reason why I like this mountain marathon thing, the adventure of discovering new places and just pushing myself a little to see what will happen. Cape diem and all that mens sana en copre sana bullshit. Plus I like to dress up like an X-man in Salomon running gear and do something with the look aside from planning a trip to comic-con in San Diego (although it’s on my to visit list).

Jungfrau Marathon

Next weekend on the 10th of September 2011 is the official Jungfrau Marathon, it starts just in front of Hooters in Interlaken (or in front of the Grand hotel, depends on where you look), and ends at what is left of the Eiger glacier. I still need to find a hotel, I imagine that Interlaken will be booked out so I may be staying in Spiez. I’m looking forward to the starting bell (I’m assuming a giant cow bell will kick things off). I didn’t die on the SwissAlpine K42 so I’m planning to survive and write an article about the Jungfrau Marathon experience. And then, well, who knows? The passes don’t have snow yet so I’ll probably go on a few more running adventures in the Alps before the ski touring season starts.