05: Einsiedeln to Brunnen

At the foot of the mythical Mythen range

 

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:

https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/de-einsiedeln-a-brunnen-par-la-via-jacobi-4-32021330

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.

The Camino de Santiago. I. From Bodensee to Geneva on Via Jacobi 4

If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.

Today, the trip takes you over hill and dale to 4 Cantons Lake (Vierwaldstättersee). In the heart of so-called primitive Switzerland, the lake spreads its branches, which look like fjords, between the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. Switzerland, between history and legends, was born here. William Tell, Arnold Winkelried, and all the other Waldstätten of the Rütli oath of 1291 must have taken these axes one day, whether they existed or not. History, today, sweeps away these stories a little, which hurts the hearts of many Swiss people. Nevertheless, the fact remains that central Switzerland is the historic and tourist heart of the Swiss Confederation, with the lake as its epicenter. The history of Switzerland is written here along the water or on the sometimes very steep slopes of the mountains overlooking the lake. Because before finding the steamboats plying the lake, you have to cross the Mythen ranges beyond Einsiedeln. When you walk by here, you will discover, for those who have never been there, a magnificent region which is full of charm and heritage in every corner of the groves or in the small boroughs.

Difficulty of the course: The journey takes place on significant slope variations, especially in tough descent (+595 meters / -1031 meters). The course is entirely in the canton of Schwyz. If the first part of the route is only a walk, almost flat, in the valley where the Alp flows, a very demanding climb in the forest leads to the pastures of Hagenegg, the highest point of the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland, at the foot of the two Mythen mountains. From there, a long and steep descent leads first to Schwyz, the capital of the canton. Then, the route is without problem to reach Brunnen, at the foot of the lake.

In this stage, a large part of the route takes place on pathways, in the forest:

  • Paved roads: 19.0 km
  • Dirt roads: 14.8 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 the Alp River, which flows gently into the valley.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

 

Via Jacobi leaves Einsiedeln beyond the monastery on the heights of the city, most often on tar, rarely on dirt.
It crosses a park then runs past opulent residences.
Further on, it transits towards the suburbs of the city.
It quickly joins the Alpthal road and follows the road to the fork which leads to the cloister of Au.
UA small road near the river leads to the cloister of Au. This cloister founded in the XIVth century became Benedictine at the beginning of the XVIIth century. It underwent profound transformations until the end of the last century. About twenty nuns occupy the place.
Beyond the convent, a small dirt flattens long in the meadows, between the small Aubach brook and the mountain.
Here, you find above all cows from eastern Switzerland, the brown breed (Braunvieh). Rarer are the Simmental, and the Holstein cows have trouble finding a square meter of grass. And yet grass is not what is missing here. The dirt road passes near a small oratory, and further near a cross.

Shortly after, a variant is proposed to climb up to the mountain of Haggenegg via the village of Trachslau. But the direct Via Jacobi 4 continues straight.

Soon the road joins the gravel pit of Trachslau, near the Alp River. Religious signs, crosses and small chapels are present everywhere in the canton.

Section 2: The track will soon leave the plain of the Alp.

AGeneral overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

 

The whole way up the Alp Valley looks flat, but it still rises imperceptibly. In Trachslau, the dirt road, after skirting the gravel pit, rejoins the valley road for a short time. Here, there is work with wood and furniture. But, Via Jacobi does not pass directly through the village.
It just follows a small dirt road near the Alp River, parallel to the road.
A little further on, the dirt track runs along the road for a long time, with the Alp River to its left. The Mythen Mountains loom larger on the horizon. Getting closer to these mountains will be your goal for many kilometers.
Traffic is minimal on the road. In fact, the road is a cul-de-sac that doesn’t even go all the way to the top of the valley. This does not prevent cars from circulating a little. There are the locals who live a little higher, then the picnickers who climb to the mountain pastures during the weekend on motorable paths. Further on, the dirt road crosses to the other side of the river.
The dirt road then follows the river, near an undergrowth of beech and maple. Here, nature is less beautiful, more confused.
Further on, the pathway joins the meadows. On the horizon, you can now clearly distinguish the two Mythens mountains.
At a place called Kleinschnülimatt, the pathway crosses two small streams, which abound in the valley.
At the foot of the village of Alpthal, the central village of the valley, the pathway joins the bed of the river. There are small waterfalls here, and large stones lie in the riverbed. You guess that the mountain must be a little capricious from time to time.
Shortly after, the pathway runs along the river in the dense vegetation and continues to the village. You walked nearly 8 kilometers and only climbed 100 meters. It’s flat, right?
The pathway runs now on the edge of the village. It continues along the river.

The gaze hesitates between the softness of the meadows and the rigor of the river bed. But up there in front of you, there are the Mythens mountains where you will have to climb.

Section 3: On the way to the mountain pastures.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: at 15%, and often well above, with some flat areas to catch your breath. Very demanding course.

 

The pathway then plays a little with the river, passing from one side to the other until it quickly joins the road which goes to Brunni at the top of the valley. Brunni is a cul-de-sac village.

Here you come to a place called Malosen. The holidays are over, here work can begin.

It is perhaps the most beautiful bump on the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland. A very stony pathway climbs, sometimes with slopes of more than 30%. It first climbs more than 200 meters for just over 1 kilometer in the forest. The start is brutal.
The big stones burn your feet and the spruces, beeches and white firs give you little shade on a wide pathway.
Towards the top of the forest, the slope is reduced, but it remains steep, very steep. From time to time, the bushes gain ground, but in Switzerland the tracks are maintained almost like golf courses.
The pathway then emerges in a clearing, with barriers. Cattle are not allowed to enter the forests.

Above now stand out, magnificent, the two Mythens mountains. Admittedly, it is not the Matterhorn, but it is almost as beautiful, in any case almost more human. Close to the mountains, you can see the small alpine chalets where the track runs. The Mythen are not high, less than 2000 meters above sea level.

A little higher, the pathway heads to an altar of repose. You pray a little to reduce the slope. But, the prayer will not be answered. Water flows from the fountain, cool. The steep climb still continues, in the middle of the mountain pasture.
Soon, there are only spruces, isolated or in small clumps, climbing the mountain. Many chalets nestle on the slopes. Are they alpine chalets or real second homes? We cannot specify. But, if they are alpine chalets, the peasants here do not seem to live in famine.
The pathway arrives at a first alpine chalet, near a place called Bruust. In any case, this one looks like a real alpine chalet, which you encounter in Swiss pastures. But the cows have already come down by this time. Here, you are done with the big climb and the pathway starts again on a gentler slope, but so little. You also see small paved roads on the alp. It must be very useful for bringing the cattle here and for the peasants to come and have a look.
DMany small streams, often dry, descend from the sides of the mountain. They are cluttered with pebbles, like small canyons.
The slope becomes steeper again on the stones and the pathway then arrives at a place called Bogenfang, where there are more people.

A small road climbs from Brunni from the bottom of the valley and a picnic spot, like there are many in the region, is available to the inhabitants. Is there a booking plan for this kind of hospitality? Here, you arrive by car on a bad road.

The place is busy and we won’t have a place here today for the picnic. The pathway continues to climb on the stones. Here, you are so close to the Mythens that you could almost touch them with our fingers. You see that the Mythen are not that wild, since the mountains adopt spruces, even to their peaks.
The pathway then progresses for a while on a gentler slope in the pasture, where the small streams of the Lümpenenbach flow.
But you are not yet at the top and the slope returns again very steep in the meadows.

In winter, skiing is done here, at the foot of the two Mythens.

You are now almost top of the mountain. It slopes up again but the slope is a little less steep in the pasture. But it is relative.
Shortly after, you almost arrive at the pass, at a place called Gummen where happiness is announced.
It is a small refreshment bar where you can buy alpine cheeses, goat cheeses, yogurts and butter. You will have to use your German here to be able to taste the products of the mountain pasture.
A little more effort, and here is the Hagenegg Pass, the highest point of the Camino de Santiago in Switzerland, even higher than the Brunig Pass, the only pass of the Camino in Switzerland. You went from 885 meters above sea level in Einsiedeln to 1404 meters here. Walkers never appreciate that you can drive up here, innkeepers do. A small road actually climbs the other side of the valley for tourists and skiers. There are often a lot of people here.
The descent begins under the Hagenegg Pass restaurant.

Section 4: A slide, or rather a springboard for the valley.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: : at 15%, and often well above, with some flat areas to catch your breath. Very demanding route, one of the toughest on the Way to Compostela in Switzerland.

 

You enjoyed the climb to the pass. You will not be disappointed with the descent. What happiness! It is even more demanding than the climb, for many people. Nearly 1000 meters of vertical drop to the lake, with sometimes slopes of more than 30%, on average above 15%. Long live the knees, ankles and hamstrings! At the start, it is a narrow pathway that winds through the exuberance of the bushes.
The pathway descends between deciduous trees, especially beech shoots, spruces and wild grasses on the other side of the Mythens. It constantly plays with the tiny tributaries of the Nietenbach, which take pleasure in crossing the track, appearing out of nowhere, and disappearing immediately.
Further down, the pathway widens a bit into what looks more like a forest than coppice.

Above the Mythen are shrouded in mysteries.

The descent to civilization is long. The pathway, sometimes narrow, sometimes wider, twirls with delight and turns over more than 4 kilometers, along the sometimes-bare trees, straight as drumsticks.
Lower down, the slope softens a little and the Nietenbach takes on a little more water.
At a place called Brändli, the pathway widens and a small oratory borders the track. Pray to stop the rain during your visit or thank Heaven for having granted you good weather.
Shortly after, Via Jacobi hesitates a little between the forest and the clearings.
Even lower, the forest opens up and the paved road replaces the pathway. Civilization reappears, but the slope remains.
On the horizon is one of the arms 4 cantons Lake, near Brunnen. Then, the road is back in a small undergrowth before reaching the small crossroads which leads to the small hamlet of Stoffels.

Section 5: A little penknife at Victorinox, between Schwyz and Imbach.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: : it slopes down again, with some pretty slopes, but you can see the end of it.

 

The road then descends towards a small undergrowth towards the Nietenbach brook, which has grown and hops in the dale.

Here, the waterfall is cool, and the water draws lines like combs.

The road then slopes down towards the plain but the slope remains steep, at more than 15%. From there you can see Brunnen on the edge of the lake.
The road then heads quickly to the village of Ried.

If you glance above, you see the Mythen towering over the valley from this side as well.

The road descends again, crosses the Nietenbach brook one last time, with whom you have played hide and seek with delight during the descent.
It arrives fairly quickly on the heights of Schwyz, where a gigantic college, founded by the Jesuits in the XIXth century, sits enthroned. The cantonal school as well as the cantonal administration are present there today. The Jesuits were quickly forgotten in Switzerland. Present since the XVIth century, where they worked for education in the Catholic cantons, they were hunted down for a long time, then banished following the Sonderbund war in 1847, a prohibition written into the constitution. The text was eliminated in 1970, by a small majority (56% of voters). Today, there are a hundred in the country.
Via Jacobi quickly arrives in the center of the city. Schwyz (14,500 inhabitants) is the capital of the canton of the same name.
A warrior statue is planted in the middle of the main square. Is she beautiful and elegant? Some will find there a symbol of the idea of resistance of the Swiss at the beginning of their history. Local tourist agencies describe the central square of Schwyz as one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. Really? It is a place, certainly with some baroque buildings, but in the middle of traffic.

On the other hand, the baroque town hall of the XVIIth century, with its paintings on the facade illustrating the battle of Morgarten, is remarkable. The building was burned down and then rebuilt. Its current facade dates from the end of the XIXth century. It houses, among other things, the council rooms, the public balance and also the municipal prison. But this building is in an environment that will be said to be disappointing, not to say worse.

Some Swiss, history lovers, will perhaps make a jump to Banhofstrasse, to the museum of federal charters, to see the only copy that is claimed to be original of the pact of 1291, at the origin of the Swiss confederation.

There is still a very remarkable building, just next to the central square, the Hofstatt Ital Reding dating from 1609, a truly sumptuous building, bursting with poetry. The parish church of St-Martin was rebuilt in late Baroque style, after the fire which destroyed almost the entire village at the end of the XVIIth century.

Via Jacobi leaves a town of Schwyz without much architectural interest by following RN8 road. There are many churches and chapels here. You have to go inside to see what religion they are aimed at. Schwyz is primarily a Catholic canton and only 10% of the population follows the Reformed religion.
Shortly after, the road passes through Ibach (6,000 inhabitants), which adjoins Schwyz. It is the home of the world-famous Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. 25,000 of these red tools are made here every day.

There is money here to see the shopping center that borders the national road.

But Victorinox uses less recent buildings for handling, as seen here, when Via Jacobi leaves RN8 road.
The route passes behind the Victorinox buildings, crosses the Tolbach brook, crosses a small chapel and continues along the stream.
Shortly after, it passes the parish church of St Anton on its way to the center of Imbach. There are countless churches and chapels in the region.
There, Via Jacobi crosses a fairly large river, the Muota, which empties into the lake beyond Brunnen.
A small road then leaves Ibach passing in front of a beautiful renovated chapel.
Then, a narrow pathway flattens into the meadows.
The plain and the hillside are covered with beautifully landscaped farmhouses. Everything exudes order and cleanliness here. There is never a pile of manure sticking out.
Here again stands a small oratory lost in the middle of the meadows.

Section 6: The track reaches the 4 Cantons Lake.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

 

The pathway then slopes up slightly on the hill, in the middle of the farms. There are also cherry trees, the canton being a known producer of kirch. In general, the farms are less opulent than before in the canton of St Gallen. For a long time, the canton of Schwyz was considered a poor canton in Switzerland.

Higher up, Via Jacobi joins a paved road and heads to Unterschönenbuch hamlet in front of the baroque Katrinakapelle chapel, built in the XVIth century, then restored in the last century.

A small road then descends towards Brunnen in the plain, passing in front of a pile of cut wood which sums up, in itself, the state of mind of the country: order and a certain taste, which one would say baroque.
The road runs along a small industrial area, then under the highway.
Then Via Jacobi slopes up again, first on a small pathway, then on the road to the heights of Brunnen.
The road arrives at Ingelbohl, the hill of Brunnen, where a large cloister is located. Founded in the XIXth century by the Capuchins, this convent is now the seat of the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Cross (3,200 sisters present in 17 countries). There is also a private school here and a boarding school for young girls, the Theresianum.
Beyond the cloister, stairs lead you to the plain, near a farm where you can also sleep in the straw. From there, you will quickly reach the station or the lake.
Brunnen actually belongs to the municipality of Ingelbohl (8,600 inhabitants), but Brunnen attracts crowds for its port and lakeside. You are on the shores of 4 Cantons Lake, where the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne bathe. It’s magical here, with the mountains plunging into the lake all around and the boats coasting along the shores.
A small canal runs not far from the port. The restaurants and hotels are lovely.
After the oath taken in 1291 on the Rütli meadow by the three primitive cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, the three cantons renewed their alliance against foreign bailiffs in 1315 in Brunnen. The Brunnen chapel, which is also called the confederal chapel, is located on the site where this oath is said to have been taken.
Evening descends on the lake. Magic, right?

 

Lodging on Via Jacobi

Trachslau/Alpthal
Guestroom, breakfast Martin Kälin, Tracslauertrasse 4a, Trachslau 055 412 10 44
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Schuler-Marty, Dorfstrasse 54 055 412 15 61
Guestroom, breakfast B&B Mythenstube, Dorfstrasse 50 055 556 83 89
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Gasthaus Alpschloss zum Pfauen, Dorfstrasse 33 055 412 28 18/079 505 51 58
Hagenegg
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Berggasthaus Hagenegg 041 811 17 74
Schwyz
Guestroom, cuisine Steinstöckli, Rickenbachstrasse 33 041 810 10 51
Hotel**, dinner, breakfast Hirschen Backpacker Hotel, Hinterdorfstrasse 14 041 811 12 76
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Wysses Rössli, Am Hauptplatz 041 811 19 22
Ibach
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Cheng Chuan Hotel Post, Schmiedgasse 92 041 811 16 53
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Diti Nisi Restaurant, Schmiedgasse 92 041 810 18 41
Brunnen
Guestroom, breakfast Kloster Ingebohl, Schönenbuchstrasse 2, Ingebohl 041 825 24 50
Guestroom (straw), dinner, breakfast Schlafen im Stroh, Famile Bucheli, Schulstrasse 26 041 820 06 70
Hotel, dinner, breakfast Gasthaus Rosengarten, Bahnhofstrasse 33 041 820 17 23
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Gasthaus Ochsen, Bahnhofstrasse 18 041 820 55 66
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Brunnerhof, Gersauerstrasse 3 041 820 17 56
Hotel***, dinner, breakfast Weisses Rössli, Bahnhofstrasse 8 041 825 13 00
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast City-Hotel, Gersauerstrasse 21 041 825 10 10
Hotel****, dinner, breakfast Seehotel Waldstätterhof, Waldstätterquai 6 041 825 06 06
There is no difficulty of finding accommodation on this stage. Book anyway for security.
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Next stage: Stage 6: From Brunnen to Stans

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