The alternative for Einsiedeln
DIDIER HEUMANN, ANDREAS PAPASAVVAS
We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live.
For this stage, here is the link:
It is obviously not the case for all pilgrims to be comfortable with reading GPS and routes on a laptop, and there are still many places without an Internet connection. Therefore, you can find a book on Amazon that deals with this course. Click on the title of the book to open Amazon.
If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.
As we said in the previous stage, when the route arrives at Neuhaus, you enter a more populated region, where the villages almost touch each other until Rapperswil. The density is not so high, but the Rapperswil basin is quite populated, given the proximity to Zürich. A good solution is to forget the route that runs to Rapperswil, the route that many pilgrims follow, and slope down to Zürich Lake. But here in Schmerikon you have another possibility. You can decide not to go to Rapperswil and go directly to Einsiedeln. In fact, the Via Jacobi 4 does not pass through Rapperswil, contrary to what many people think.
The stage is long, 30 kilometers of walking. It has two very distinct phases. The first part takes place mainly in the plain, along fairly inhabited towns. This is where the A3 motorway passes, which goes from Zürich to Graubünden. The second part is one of the most beautiful routes and panoramas of the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland, in the mountain pastures and forests overlooking the lake. It is often steep, but so beautiful.
Difficulty of the course: Slope variations (+790 meters/-298 meters) are quite marked, but the stage is long. In fact, the elevation gain to climb to the Etzel pass is a little higher than climbing from Rapperswil, because there is a small bump beyond Tuggen. At the start, except for the Tuggen bump, the route is easy for nearly 16 kilometers, until you reach Hüsteten. From there, to the Etzel Pass, it is a long climb of more than 7 kilometers, with nearly 500 meters of climbing. Beyond the pass, the route descends a little, but climbs to reach the highest point of 930 meters, at Hinterhorben. From there, the descent is problem-free to Einsiedeln.
In this stage, the tar clearly dominates. Too bad for such a beautiful course:
- Paved roads: 22.1 km
- Dirt roads: 7.9 km
Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.
It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.
For “real slopes”, reread the mileage manual on the home page.
We have divided the route into several sections, to facilitate visibility. For each section, the maps give the route, the slopes found on the route and the state of Via Jacobi.
Section 1: Along canals and rivers.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.
|Via Jacobi quickly leaves Schmerikon in the direction of the harbor and the sports grounds.|
|It then runs along the Aabach River on a wide gravel pathway. The area sometimes seems quite marshy.|
|Shortly after, it crosses the river on a wooden bridge dating from the beginning of the XXth century.|
|Then, a small paved road flattens in the meadows under the big oaks and the majestic maples.|
|The journey on the road is not long, and soon Via Jacobi finds a metal bridge to cross the dark waters of the Steinenbach Riverl, which runs parallel to the Linth River.|
|The Linth River is the twin sister of the Steinenbach River. The gravel pathway flattens between the two rivers, this time along the Linth River.|
|Here, these two rivers are not wild, they have been domesticated into canals. As the canton of St Gall is quite close to the border, it is not uncommon to find military works along the road.|
|Then you see the imposing tower of Grynau, whose date of construction is unknown. For a long time, it was considered a Roman observation tower, but no Roman artifacts have ever been found there. It is rather a work of the Middle Ages, which became the property of the Habsburgs, at the beginning of the XIVth century, then of the counts of Toggenburg. The building became an inhabited castle.|
|The area here was a strategic place. Austrians, Swiss and French fought here. The Swiss fought to find out who was the owner, Schwyz, St Gall and Zürich claiming the castle on numerous occasions. For a long time, this work was a customs post, because before its correction, the Linth River bypassed the rock on which the medieval tower stands. All the traffic of goods and people coming from the east of the country and heading towards central Switzerland and the Gotthard could be controlled and directed from the tower. The customs post was definitively abolished in 1848 when in Switzerland the cantonal borders were abolished. In 1877, the castle was sold to the highest bidder and since then it has remained private property. The Grynau tower was completely destroyed by fire in 1906. It was rebuilt and topped with a new roof. Currently, the premises on the ground floor and first floor serve as deposits for the owner of the neighboring restaurant.|
|Anyway, today you’ll cross the Linth River here and you leave the canton of St Gallen for the canton of Schwyz.|
|AThen a small pathway runs along the road between meadows and beech undergrowth.|
Section 2: A small bump, just to warm up.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: flat, then climb without major problem.
|Shortly after, Via Jacobi leaves the road to climb gently towards a deciduous undergrowth dominated by large oaks. Formerly, the whole region was a big swamp, which disappeared with the canalization of the Linth River.|
|The Canton of Schwyz remained very Catholic after the Reformation. Here the pathway runs along the hardwoods along a Via Crucis.|
|It then runs in front of the Chapel of the Holy Trinity Linthbord, a chapel dating from the end of the XVIth century, under a clump of trees, in the middle of the meadows. This Gothic chapel was originally built in honor of a woman named Anneli who miraculously regained the ability to walk. The last restoration of the chapel is from the last century. Here there is drinking water at the fountain.|
|Shortly after, the pathway heads towards the agricultural suburb of Tuggen.|
|After passing through the small industrial area, it reaches the center of the borough (3,500 inhabitants). All these boroughs, located near the highway, should be well sought after by commuters who work in greater Zurich or greater St Gallen. There are many very recent houses estates developments.|
|Moreover, you can clearly see when crossing these boroughs that the housing is mixed, with old residences and fairly recent houses. Here there were once furniture and textile industries, which have largely disappeared from the region.|
|Further ahead, the paved road begins to climb the hill beyond the center of the borough.|
|On the heights, you’ll find the real countryside, the farms and the smell of the grass.|
|In the region, the farms are less beautiful than in the canton of St Gallen which we have just crossed. The shingles have greatly melted, and even the geraniums and dwarfs have disappeared. The only constant thing is the order of the piles of cut wood, where no log protrudes from the others.|
|Higher up, the pathway slopes up in the meadows under the apple trees. There are apparently no crops in the area.|
|Sometimes in the distance, you see and guess beautiful farms, but, at first sight, in the region the functional shed is preferred.|
|Higher up, at the place called Röschli, the slope softens, and the tar replaces the grass of the meadows.|
|It is then up to the top of the hill of large meadows, where the cows graze or laze, including BraunVieh, brown Holsteins or Simmental cows.|
At a place called Schillig, the road begins its descent towards the plain.
Section 3: A long crossing of the plain towards Siebnen.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.
|The road is steep enough to descend into meadows and farms in the wide valley where the large adjoining boroughs of Siebnen and Wangen extend.|
|The descent is not long and sometimes fruit trees coexist with large hardwoods and walnut trees.|
Up there on the hill an old house with decrepit shingles, of which we cannot say if it is still alive…
|At the bottom, Via Jacobi joins a small regional road. There is not heavy traffic, but you still have to walk for a while on the side of the road. It is a region of peasants, cows and apple trees.|
|At a place called Wissenstein, Via Jacobi leaves the axis that goes towards Wangen to head towards the motorway and Siebenen.|
|The small road that crosses the countryside then crosses the A3 motorway, the large motorway that goes from Zürich to Chur and Graubünden, crossing the canton of Schwyz.|
|Right next to stands the LoretoKapelle with its colored roof, which does not often have to be opened.|
|On the long rectilinear stretch the farms, quite large here. For the first time we see a little corn. It is still necessary to bring a food supplement to the cattle in winter, even if in the region they spend most of their time in the meadows.|
|At the end of the straight line, the small road crosses the railway line.|
|The road then turns and follows the train to Siebnen station.|
|Beyond the station, Via Jacobi flattens towards the center of the borough. Siebnen (5,200 inhabitants) is not an individual municipality, but bordering the three municipalities of Schübelbach, Galgenen and Wangen, boroughs smaller than it.|
|Here you can even buy bells, which will not surprise anyone in German-speaking Switzerland, except perhaps in Zürich.|
|On the main street, the Nikolauskapelle is a hidden gem not far from the parish church. The chapel is already beautiful on the outside, but even more beautiful are the altar and the murals depicting the life of Saint Nicholas of Myra. The oldest parts of the chapel date back to the XIIIth century.|
|In the past, the Saint-Nicolas chapel dispensed services at irregular hours. So the parishioners had to walk a long way to the respective churches of Schübelbach, Galgenen and Wangen. This was difficult for children and the elderly, especially in winter. With the growing number of jobs, and therefore of inhabitants in the borough, it was necessary to wait until 1925 to have a church in Siebnen, the Church of the Sacred Heart.|
|In the center flows the Wägitaleraa, the river which gives entrance to a very touristy valley here, the Wägital valley. The river that was causing a lot of hassle has been channeled. Via Jacobi does not go through there.|
Section 4: From one borough to another.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.
|Via Jacobi leaves the borough on the side of the recent housing estates. At the exit, a small organic grocery store is a delight for hikers.|
|Yet, there is a bit of grass sometimes between Siebnen and Galgenen but the big farms disappear one after the other. Are they destined to disappear one day from the canton of Schwyz?|
|The road then crosses a very inhabited region, between old farms and new housing estates.|
Is the reputation of a so-called primitive canton still valid? Not only Swiss Germans live and work here.
|The road then arrives at Galgenen (5,200 inhabitants), again a large borough But the Via Jacobi does not run through the center. It crosses here the small river of Fisibach.|
|Here again, the habitat is a curious mixture of farms, old houses and new housing estates. However, there is a major difference from what is often found in the country, especially in French-speaking Switzerland. Here, new housing estates are rarely isolated, but included in the middle of old homes.|
|Shortly after, the road crosses the Saint-Jost chapel, consecrated at the end of the XVIth century, transformed in the XVIIth century. However, the Gothic frescoes were preserved, some of which recount episodes from the life of St Nicolas de Flüe. There are as many chapels in the canton of Schwyz as in the canton of St Gall.|
|On leaving Galgenen, the road again crosses more extensive countryside.|
|Here pears and apples are grown under large protective nets.|
|Further on, you find a more mixed landscape, with also some small industries.|
|Shortly after, the road crosses the Spreitenbach, a larger river that hops over stones, but the road remains in fairly populated areas.|
Section 5: A long climb to the Etzel Pass.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: the holidays are over. Climbing starts.
|The road still crisscrosses the countryside a little, with a few BraunVieh cows chewing on the good grass. In front of you stands the hill of St Johann, where the route will soon pass.|
|What a striking contrast between the Schwyz of yesteryear and the Schwyz of today! In the large basin of Lachen and Altendorf, which has nearly 15,000 inhabitants, by the lake and the motorway, industries are flourishing.|
|The road then passes in front of the large Uzbek Business Center, at the gates of Altendorf. The Swiss cross on the panel probably indicates that the Uzbeks did not occupy the country. Phew!|
|Here, a choice is possible. You can reach Einsiedeln by following Via Jacobi 3, a route that is often more difficult, here longer, more mountainous. But, the pilgrims run straight on Via Jacobi 4. But, it will not take long to climb either, for them too.|
|Shortly after, the road arrives at Rorwis, very close to the highway and the lake, crosses the small Chälenbach brook.|
|The route flattened for nearly 16 kilometers, except near Tuggen. So, here a last bend in the plain, and the harsh law of the mountain is inscribed.|
|The slope is steep to climb the hill of Sant Johann. We will admit it, this is the first time that we have seen vines in the canton of Schwyz.|
|It is truly an exceptional site that chapel of Sankt Johann, dating back to the XVth century, which stands majestically on the hill.|
From the hill, some pilgrims will no doubt regret not having taken a few more steps to the edge of the lake to visit the Lindt chocolate factory, one of the jewels of Switzerland chocolate.
|A stone’s throw from the chapel, a restaurant is often taken by storm.|
It must be said that from here the view of the upper lake of Zürich is remarkable. You can see the two banks, those of Schwyz and St Gallen, with Rapperswil in the background.
|Then, the small paved road dawdles a bit in the meadows to soon find itself at a place called Schlipf. Here, small roads, some dead-end, crisscross the mountains, from the lake to the mountain pastures. It cannot be said if there are many resident chalets. The feeling here is that the peasants still have the power.|
|Further on, Via Jacobi will still stay a little on the road before leaving it to run through the grass.|
|AThen, the pathway passes over the Chessibach stream, which laps in gentle cascades over the moss-covered rocks in the hornbeam sprouts and the small maple trees.|
|Beyond the stream, the pathway slopes up in the deciduous undergrowth. These are above all beech trees, the very ones that are found in the piles of cut wood lined up as always with meticulousness. Sometimes, you may even have the feeling that it’s never used the firewood, and that the piles are only there for decoration, for the pleasure of the eyes.|
|Further afield, Via Jacobi joins the Blistenstrasse, a small road that climbs from the plain to go to a mountain restaurant, at the edge of the mountain pastures, and which is also used by local farmers, quite numerous on the hillside. Today is apple time.|
|Here, doggies are kept.|
|The paved road makes few bends. And here, the slope is tough again.|
|Higher up, Via Jacobi leaves the paved road for a shortcut at the edge of the undergrowth.|
|The slope is very marked here in the meadows, under the oaks, the beeches, the maples and the hornbeam sprouts.|
|The pathway will then play a little with the meanders of the Summerholzbach stream, which flows from the slope. Nature is wild here, extravagant. Fortunately, there are direction signs so you don’t imagine yourself lost.|
|The slope becomes increasingly steep on the black dirt and beech shoots. Stairs attached to the slope are a great help.|
|The slope soon exceeds 20% when the dark pathway joins back the Blistenstrasse above.|
|The road then crosses the main branch of the Summerholzbach stream and arrives on a kind of small plateau overlooking the lake.|
|Later on, the road then gets in Blisten, 692 meters above sea level. Here, you are 1h15 to Etzel Pass and more than 3 hours to Einsiedeln.|
Section 6: Up there is the Etzel Pass.
General overview of the difficulties of the route: demanding slopes in perspective.
|In Blisten, there is a restaurant, which we cannot say if it is still in operation. Find out if you want to stop here.|
|The paved road ends here and a wide dirt road winds gently through the meadows.|
|Below, the lake still spreads out with grandeur. A little further on, the pathway runs through the grass and finds the Lüsibach stream, a meager trickle of water. In the mountains, small streams are very numerous.|
|The pathway then undulates in the grass in the middle of farms and cattle.|
|Shortly after, the grassy pathway then joins a small road that climbs from the plain. You are in Schwändi, 694 meters above sea level, 50 minutes to Etzel Pass, which is 928 meters above sea level.|
|Fairly quickly, the tar turns to gravel and the slope increases in the meadows. From here, Via Jacobi will climb the Pilgerweg, the Pilgrims’ Way.|
|Higher up, the road ends in a dead end and Via Jacobi heads to the woods on the grass.|
|Further afield, the pathway runs a bit through the forest, where you can see the first spruce trees emerging in the middle of the hardwoods.|
|Higher up, the pathway comes out of the woods and gets to Oberschwändi, where apple trees still grow, at an altitude of 768 metres. You gained less than 100 meters of vertical drop from Schwändi.|
|The pathway then crosses wide clearings, like mountain pastures, in the middle of conifers.|
|It then approaches the forest again, crosses the Giessenbach stream, one of the largest streams in the mountain.|
|A stone’s throw from here is the junction of the two tracks. On consulting the detailed maps of the Via Jacobi, you see that the Via Jacobi coming from Rapperswil is called Via Jacobi 84. The main route of the Camino de Santiago is that of Siebnen, the Via Jacobi 4, and not that of Rapperswil. However, it is obvious that the majority of pilgrims travel to Rapperswil.|
|The climb to the pass is tough but magnificent from one clearing to another, most often at the edge of the forest shared by beeches, spruces and silver firs.|
|As you approach the pass, anti-tank defenses line the path.way In Switzerland, these barriers are called toblerones, by analogy with chocolates of the same form. But the hell, what potential enemy would have passed through there with their tanks?|
|Soon, at a bend in the pathway, you will see St Meinrad far above, at Etzel Pass.|
|Rejoice, deliverance is near, but this is the steepest moment of the climb.|
Beyond St Meinrad, follow stage 4a to Ensiedeln.
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