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2009 Swiss Cross, over the roof of Switzerland

The time has come. The route is roughly planned, we are still working on the details. We follow the Via Alpina westwards to Lake Geneva. This route is also a tough one, but the passes are manageable

but the passes are manageable except for two, which will be a little more difficult. On the way back on the south side of the Alps, we will only be riding in pairs, as this is where we all need our experience and the safety of our horses. The food situation for the horses is not yet optimal, so if you know people along the route who also have horses, we would be grateful for their address and telephone number if they can help us with concentrated feed or hay.

 


8.8.2009 

12 days to go until the start of our Swiss Cross Tour. And as is soon to become normal, a few difficulties have cropped up again this year. A fortnight ago on our luggage test ride in Engelberg, we had the pleasure of meeting two fellow ponies with a lone pony that was completely out of its mind with joy. The pony was not impressed by Flash's or Domingo's wedging hindquarters and tried, come hell or high water, to make friends. Which didn't go down well with our two whites. They just wanted to be left alone. My attempt to lock the pony in the pasture failed miserably, as I was able to hold him back to give Pat time to go through the gate, but I didn't know that the pasture wasn't closed at all, so the pony soon tried to climb up Flash or Domingo again. The second time I tried to tame the pony, Flash's hoof caught my left kneecap. At first I thought it was no big deal. Only after the pony was happily accompanied back to the stable by Domingo - Domingo ran off in the direction of the stable and the pony followed him standing - when I had locked the pony in his box together with the farmer - the top door should also be closed, otherwise he would be outside again - the owner said, did I realize that I could hardly put any weight on the leg. It's now been 14 days and I'm in good spirits that my knee will make it through the tour. But today Pahlavan got it. He suddenly went lame in the middle of a pleasure class at a show. For no reason and with no visible injury. Pat treated him and used her famous pellets. We'll see how things go tomorrow.

 


Our equipment

All our saddlebags are home-made from leather, without external buckles or straps. We have front panniers in which I transport my equipment and Pat Kraftfutter-Reserve for 2 days. In the front panniers I have a battery charger, communication parts, maps, mini wash saloon, spare halter, repair materials, emergency shoeing and fencing tools, rubber cleaning glove that can also be used to touch electric wire, spare fittings, two ointments and other small items, as well as space for snacks and drinks. Plus an emergency signal, warning light and reflective tapes. In addition to a first aid kit, Pat carries a homeopathic pharmacy and a special sedative and painkiller so that we can sedate a horse in an emergency until help arrives. In the rear panniers are a down sleeping bag and an inflatable down mat, a pair of spare shoes, in the other panniers clothing, a down vest and rain protection. On top are my food bags with a Hobbo stove (also burns horse manure) and a cooking pot as well as space for trekking meals and food to be bought on the way. Pat carries 2 x 1.5 ltr drinks bottles on her panniers. Behind the cantle is the banana or roll, which contains the gaiters for man and horse, the pasture fence set (home-made) and our tent/poncho and tent poles, as well as a water bag, on top of which is my rope, a rigid rope from the USA that cannot be wrapped around a horse's fetlocks.

 

Orientation


I really like working with the Garmin GPS60csx because it is extremely reliable and has a good display in all light conditions. The batteries last for two days and so far it has never let me down. I also carry a set of self-printed map sheets, 1:200,000 and 1:50,000 in uninhabited areas. The planned route is marked on the map sheets and the route is also visible on the Garmin. I planned the route with the Swisstopo software and also looked at all the passes and overpasses on Google Images and Google Earth. We haven't walked any part of the route yet, but we've found detailed information on the Internet.




Conclusion Packing


The trick is to organize everything so that you can find it immediately, so that you have everything you need for the night in one bag and everything you need for the horse in the other. Both bags must weigh the same and only the essentials must be carried in order to keep the weight to a maximum of 5 kg (total luggage weight 24 kg).










Equipment on the horse:


We use plastic horseshoes (Duplos) because they have proven to be ideal for us and because the horses like to walk safely with them. The disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantages and it is only thanks to these horseshoes that we are able to cross rock slabs without any problems or master steep rocky climbs.




We also carry cut-resistant high gaiters for the hind legs, which we put on if we get into deep snow or if we come across sharp-edged scree. We avoid using gaiters wherever possible and accept small scratches and cuts because they heal quickly and better than a scraped-up fetlock because sand or small stones have got into the gaiters. We had a new saddle (Rieser) made for Pat and are very happy with it. The horses are ridden with a knotted halter, as it is easy to control the horses and they can eat or be led or tied up at any time. I use a simple woolen blanket as a pad, with a construction made of foam and a folded fleece blanket in a Navajo pad edged with leather. I can use the fleece blanket as a rug, but also as a sweat rug or cold protection for the horse.

 




Horses: Flash and Pahlavan, (7 year old Dillboss) who have already completed 8 multi-day tours of 120 to 300 km each this spring and early summer (one tour with over 120 LKM/day) and most of the tours took place in the mountains or in the Black Forest. Flash, (18 years old) has maintained his basic fitness level well and has even built it up further. Pahlavan has also put on muscle and can now easily keep up with the pace and distance. Flash and Pach are western trained and ridden and are now experienced trail horses who can literally obey your every word when necessary. (Although this is also sometimes decided by the horse.) We have been riding Flash in the mountains for 5 years and Pach, as a Dillboss, is a mountain horse by genes, with incredible surefootedness. The horses will graze outside in the evenings if possible (we have a fence with us) and are given hay and concentrated feed wherever possible, which we have to organize along the way.

 

The companion. We have the third member of the team. Stefan Streit from Tyrol will accompany us with his Haflinger Jimmy. Stefan is an old friend who has already done a few mountain tours with us and whose only shortcoming is his horse, Jimmy, who has already caused us some problems twice. Not always alone, but always at the front. Jimmy escaped on two different tours in two different places, but at the same lake, and took the other horses with him. So after a 40 km day, he quickly covered another 40 km in 3 hours. So much for horses that are not fully utilized after 40 km. At least that's my view of things, I can imagine that Stefan would have something to say about it. But what the heck, Jimmy is now used to being tied up, and if not, he gets a 35 kg cowbell.

 

20.8.09


Thursday was still a bit hectic. The flask for my Swedish drops and the ordered spare parts for the trailer only arrive with the 12 noon delivery. But we manage to get the small repairs done and by 1 p.m., our two whites and we are on our way to the big adventure. The Good family in Mels welcomes us with open arms. Stefan has been there for a few minutes and we put the horses out to pasture and enjoy the cool evening air in the pergola. Pat has brought a sparkling wine to celebrate the day, accompanied by pears and cheese, and after the cows have been milked, we sit down to dinner with the Good family. We look after the horses again and prepare our camp for the night in the meadow next to the horses just before going to bed. It was oppressively hot today and even at 10 p.m. it is still too hot under the sleeping bag. Soon the starry sky is twinkling above us and while I'm already dozing off, the phone rings and Marianne, our next but one hostess, answers that everything is settled. I thank her and immediately fall asleep again.


21.8.09

The tour begins today. At 6 a.m. we feed the horses and muck out the pasture. Breakfast is already prepared when we finish. The coffee smells wonderful and the home-made alp cheese tastes excellent. We are ready shortly before 8. Another group photo with our hosts and we set off. The tarred road takes us to Weisstannen and later we turn onto the Via Alpina, a long-distance hiking trail that will take us all the way to Lake Geneva. Here the horses can finally take a deep breath and we set off up the mountain at a brisk trot. We reach the alpine cheese dairy, where we buy the cheese that tasted so good down in the valley and ride further up until the path becomes so steep and narrow that we dismount and lead the way. We overtake two hikers and Pat pulls the convoy up the mountain in tried and tested ski lift style. The path is narrow and we repeatedly cross small streams in the black shale scree. Flash is sweating unusually profusely and refuses to go on from time to time. I am forced to finish. Something is wrong .... No idea what's going on. We take a break at a small waterfall and cool Flash down. His pulse and breathing are normal, but it takes a while before he starts grazing again and wants to continue. That's when I hear Stefan. His bridle is gone. He still had it downstairs and hung it on the horn. Should he go back? Should we buy a new one in the next valley? Before we have even made a decision, the two hikers arrive and....... Yes, the one in the back is carrying the set of teeth he found on the way. Problem solved. Flash is also dry again and we carry on. We pass the last mountain pasture and head up to the Foopass. I get a set of wet feet at one of the streams (this wouldn't have happened with my boots) and change my shoes and socks. The pass drags on for another 4 km until we finally cross the ridge. It's pleasantly cool up here and we can see Elm below us. Now it's only about 8 km until we arrive at our station. The way down is easy, only the last stretch on the steaming tar in the sunshine has a sauna-like character. We meet Mrs. Marti, our hostess for the night, and soon we are sitting comfortably together under the canopy of the beautiful garden terrace, enjoying coffee and homemade cake. Flash is fine again, he got a few scratches from the stream I went swimming in, but nothing too serious. Only Pahlavan has a problem now. Saddle pressure. We'll have to think of something for tomorrow.



 

22.8.09 Saturday Elm - Linthal

We buy a sheepskin from our host's brother and decide that we will walk the 30 km tomorrow to protect the chafing on Pah's flank. In the morning, Flash doesn't come trotting up to be saddled as usual. He stands in the pasture and waits for me to fetch him. His scratches now have a scab. The only strange thing is his behavior. We saddle up and march up to the village. The sheepskin covers the scrape and does its job. I obviously made a mistake when planning the route for today, because instead of the Richetli Pass, we head towards the Panixer. We turn back and are back on the right track 20 minutes later. We leave the Via Alpina and take the cattle track to the Richetipass. Unfortunately, it doesn't clear up and we walk up the path higher and higher in a light drizzle. By now it is not clear whether we are getting wetter on the outside or the inside and the path up is steep and strenuous. The horses walk at their usual pace and we let ourselves be pulled up by the tail. At the top, just before the pass, there is a dairy with cattle fattening. We tie up the horses and enjoy a coffee in the heated dairy. The innkeeper warns us that the descent is steep and should only be done with caution. He was right. The first 200 m of the descent was very steep on turf, causing the horses to slip again and again, and later on the path was occasionally slippery. Passages where we had to lead the horses along a narrow path on a ridge past vertical rock faces, or places where the horses had to slide down over slate slabs in the narrowest of spaces, only to meet the path again just 50 cm before the precipice and continue on it. Flash goes without any problems and is almost over-motivated. We were wet, and not just from the rain, but after half an hour the situation improved and the path became easier and after a long, strenuous descent we reached the valley to Linthal, where we were warmly welcomed by the Christen family. The horses and we were looked after perfectly. All the wet clothes went into the washing machine and we enjoyed the hot shower. We built a paddock for Pah and Flash in the pasture above the house. Jimmy is tied to a high wire near the others. At first he fidgets around, but after a short while he calms down and we go to sleep.



 

25.8.09

Yesterday we had an unplanned break day. Pat's knee was hurting and we had to swap Pahlavan's panniers. So we drove home, took Pat to the sports therapist, waited 90 minutes until he told us that he only had a pulled or torn knee ligament: Yes, we can carry on. Pick up Pah's old saddle, the Ortlieb luggage and then back to Attinghausen. We got off to a good start today, it was oppressively humid but the ascent to the Surenen Pass, partly on gravel road, partly on the Via Alpina, went well. At the top of the Waldnachter Alp, the Alpine woman made us a good coffee, while I supplemented Pah's deerskin so that both chafing spots were covered. Refreshed, we then climbed the remaining 900 m up the pass and were rewarded with fantastic views at the top. The horses were now going at a steady pace and Flash and Pah kept trying their hand at leading the group by walking up the path on long lead reins while the staff pulled themselves up. We take a break just below the pass and enjoy our lunch while the horses graze quietly. The path down is pleasantly flat, so we make good progress and our knee problems are kept to a minimum. On the Blacken Alm we are followed by young cattle, which Jimmy doesn't find funny at all. Pah, however, learns that the cows give way if you go after them. One cow jumps over the barbed wire, which breaks and the cow disappears into the tall grass, apparently unharmed. We walk down the valley, it starts to rain and then pours down in torrents as we stop in Engelberg in the meadow next to a cattle shed. The farmer later allows us to put the horses in the stable and provides us with 2 bales of hay. There is even a table in the next room so that we can eat our hastily bought dinner.




 

 

23.8.09 Linthal Attinghausen

It's still cloudy, but the fog has lifted and the mountain peak behind the house glows in the sunlight. The horses are brought into the garage, where they are given hay, concentrated feed and water. The things are wonderfully dry and smell good. It's nice to have a piece of civilization like this. After a hearty breakfast, we saddle up and make our way back to the village to tackle the road up to the Klausen Pass. Pat's knee is still a bit sore, so we want to get as much of the road as possible under the horses' hooves. On the way, we meet Maseratis, Lotus and the like and then stop at the stream at the top of the Urnerboden. We trot towards the top of the pass and after the pass we take the Via Alpina and the high trail under our feet again. The mist-covered valley stretches out below us, the glaciers glow above us and our path is framed by shimmering golden mountain peaks. The high-level trail takes us past lush green Alps towards Lake Lucerne and Altdorf. Pat complains of pain in his knee and we decide to leave the planned route and descend into the valley to Klausenstrasse. After a cool panache at the Naturfreundehaus, Pat takes the cable car down into the valley while we lead the horses down. At the bottom of the pass road, a friendly Swiss man gives Pat a lift down the road. I call Noldi, our next host, and ask him to send a cab up. He agrees to come himself and Pat is picked up while we cover the last few kilometers to Attinghausen.

 



26.8.09

In the morning Stefan tells us that Flash got loose and wandered around the stable all night. The farmer is already there and is amazed that our horses have already eaten almost the entire grass mountain. The weather has improved considerably and the valley stretches out beautifully below us as we ride up to the Joch Pass. Behind us, the fog climbs up the valley and when we reach the top, we are asked to take the mountain bike route. However, this is so steep that we barely make it. We send Flash ahead and let him pull us up, the other two behind. At the top we meet a family working down in the Engstleren Alp and the children sit on our horses while they graze. The descent over the Hasliberg and Reute is a long one and down in the valley we have to walk along the river to the farm of forest ranger Kurt Zumbrunn.



 

27.8.09 Meiringen Lautenbrunnen

The ascent to the Grosse Scheidegg is unspectacular and leisurely. We tap our way up the tarred road to the pass in the company of hikers and enjoy the view below the summit restaurant. The Eiger in front of us, the Jungfrau in the background. We lead the horses down to Grindelwald and take the path along the black Lütschine down to Zweilütschinen and up to Lauterbrunnen. We are greeted by Hans and Therese at the Jungfrau campsite. The horses are put in a fenced-in paddock and we sit together with Therese and her boyfriend for a long time after dinner, swapping stories. 

 



28.8.09 Friday Lautenbrunnen Griesalp

Flash indicated at the back right as we led the last few meters down into the valley. He walked clearly when trotting, even uphill. This morning his hock is warm, but he is not lame. Probably a shot. The effect of Pat's pellets is phenomenal. We trot along the white Lütschine to Stechelberg. The weather is great and the scenery is impressive. After Stachelberg, we take the road up the mountain and cross the forest into the Sefinental valley. In the valley itself, a wide path leads up through pine forests to the cone at the end of the valley. From here, the hiking trail leads steeply up the mountain. We lead Pah up to the top, and Jimmy can now also be kept on the path with two ropes to the left and right. At the top of the first hill, we stop for lunch and let the horses graze. The path leads steeply up to the Rothornhütte on a well-maintained path. The hut owner says that the descent from the Furke will not be feasible for the horses. We try it anyway and lead the horses up the path. At the top, just before the pass, it gets really steep and the path winds its way up the mountain in tight zigzag bends. Jimmy slips and has a hard time getting back onto the path. We've made it to the top, and it's just as the hut owner said it would be. On the other side, a staircase with narrow steps leads about 300 m down the mountain. Too risky. We turn around and head back to the hut. The horses are fenced in and have to make do with the grass that has already been grazed. Fortunately, we still have some concentrated feed with us, so they will definitely have enough. The helicopter bringing food to the hut is eyed critically by the horses, but otherwise they don't care. The landlady explains the alternative route we can take tomorrow so that we don't have to descend into the valley. 

 



Saturday, 29.8.09

Stefan's Haflinger has girth pressure. Stefan decides to stop and says goodbye. He will return to Lauterbrunnen and be picked up from there. The hut warden explained the alternative route to me last night and we start from the Rotstockhütte via the Lobhornhütte to the Tschingel and from there down to Saxelen. Flash overcame his bullet hole within half a day thanks to Pat's globules, but this morning he has a little girth pressure. I'm treating the area with my green bile cream and folding the rabbit's fur to relieve the pressure. Normally this should be done in a day or two.

Thick fog envelops us as we lead the horses in different directions at 8.30 am. We can hear Jimmy neighing for a long time. The fog remains constant and we have to open and close various gates along the way. We pass the Nebelsuppe restaurant in Nebelsuppe and enjoy a punch and a coffee. We soon pass the spot where 28 cows fell to their deaths a few days earlier. It is incomprehensible what happened there. We walk past the spot in silence. The path is easy and Pat mounts Pahlavan and lets herself be carried to protect her knee. The horse is a life insurance policy here in the mountain. We finally reach the Lobhornhütte and pass the Sulgensee. The fog lifts for a few minutes and we enjoy the landscape. The Tschinggel is a basin that we traverse above the vertical rock faces. At the top of the pass, we see Saxelen and decide to go down, as this is where we are most likely to get concentrated feed and hay for the horses.

 



Sunday, 30.8.09

Bright blue sky over Saxeten as we feed the horses early in the morning and re-shoe Pah at the back left. We have breakfast at the Hotel Alpenrose and enjoy the fresh coffee and good bread. We ride back up the road we came down yesterday and soon reach the hiking trail to the Ringgeli Pass. Lake Thun glistens below us and the mountains are reflected in it. At the top, we meet a shetland mare with a foal and the people on the mountain pasture know the caretaker of the Rotstock hut. We are offered a coffee. We decline with thanks. The descent from the hut is steep and narrow. We stop for lunch in Sulgen and reach Raichenbach on the hiking trail. We trot along the Kander to Kandersteg and the horses are happy to be allowed to run again. The gravel path is great for trotting and we enjoy the ride. We soon reach Kandersteg and find a great stable for the horses near the path center.

 



31.8.09 Monday

We make our coffee on Stefan's stove and feed the horses with the wheat bran from the previous day and the dairy cow concentrate that the farmer provides us with. The horses are even lying down this night, the horse manure is visible everywhere. We saddle up and set off on the path to the Bunderspitz. The path is steep and there are four gates to open and close. We decide to take the road and make good progress from there. The heat is already pressing down and we are glad to be gaining altitude. At the top of the valley we get a second breakfast and drinks at a mountain hut. I take my tools out of my trouser pocket and realize that I've left my pouch behind on the way. I guess and then, yes, the dairymaid drives me down again so that I can have another look at the gates at the bottom. 60 minutes later I come back with the pouch and we say goodbye and ride on up the gravel path. At the top there is an iron gate that is being opened by a car driver, we trot up to get through the gate right after him. But he wants to know where we are going and only when I assure him that our horses can make good progress on narrow paths does he let us pass. The horses pull us up the path, which becomes steeper and narrower. The last 300 meters of the pass are very steep and it takes all our concentration and strength to lead the horses up there. The last few meters of the pass lead past a rock face on the right, which is secured with ropes. The saddlebags scrape along the rock and our adrealine level rises a little. Finally we reach the top and a Dutch couple take photos of the last few meters of our ascent. We've done it. The descent down to Adelboden is leisurely, and today we soon stop to give the horses an extra break. They need it.

 



1.9.

We say goodbye to my friend Andreas and ride over Boden and Geilsbüel towards Lenk. The view from the Hahnenmoospass is wonderful and we enjoy the view from the restaurant in Bühlberg. The route today is only short, we have to give the horses a break before the strenuous next day. We spend the night on an abandoned mountain pasture.



 

2.9.09 Lenk - Exerguillod We set off early today, as we have over 70 km ahead of us. From Lenk, we head straight up to the Trüttlisberg Pass, where we unexpectedly run into a stair climb on the hiking trail. We turn back and take the cattle drive path while the weather takes a turn for the better. Once again there are lots of gates to open and close and the valley with Lauenen lies ahead of us. We cross a marshy meadow down into the valley and are once again followed by curious cows on the descent. We take a break in Lauenen and shortly afterwards tackle the Chrine Pass, which is only about 400 m higher. On the way, we have to pass through a stinking swamp and my pants and jacket suffer once again. A beautiful hiking trail opens up and leads along the slope, while a thunderstorm brews above us. We reach Gsteig, where it is pouring down with rain and doesn't promise to improve. We decide to shorten the route and ride directly over the Col de Pillon towards Aigle. At the top of the Pillon, we get soaked once again and we head down the tarred road, dripping. It's almost four o'clock and we still have 30 km to go and we're not exactly dry. We finally leave the main road via the cycle path and reach La Forclaz on the mountain trail. I suggest we look for accommodation as we won't make it to Noville before nightfall, but Pat wants to carry on. On the way to Exergillod, a car comes towards us quite quickly and Pat manages to answer the first questions in French. The car belongs to Sylvana and she invites us to her llama and goat ranch. We gratefully accept and ride the 1.5 km back at a trot. The horses are allowed to roam freely on the grounds and we enjoy an excellent goat cheese fondue