On the road with Marcus
Via Silenzi - snowshoe tour from S-charl to the Ofen Pass
It is the middle of January. Frau Holle has just sent plenty of fresh snow to the Lower Engadine again. A good time to feel the crunch under your snowshoes with every step on lonely paths. Getting to the starting point of the tour is already a bit of an adventure, as in winter you can only get to S-charl by horse-drawn sleigh. Well wrapped up in warm skins, we enjoy the ride and marvel at a glittering winter landscape.
Upon arrival, we check into the rooms at the Mayor Inn, the first of three accommodations on our tour. The house is unique. Its seclusion gives it the character of a lonely mountain hut, but with all the comforts of a hotel. It even has a small sauna and hot tub, and dinner in the cosy Arvenstube was a delight.
The next morning, the time has come. After a hearty breakfast we prepare for the tour. Today's destination is the village of Lü in Val Müstair. After checking our safety equipment, we set off. Shortly after leaving the village, we feel a wintry solitude and follow a snowshoe trail freshly laid the day before. This trail always runs parallel to the Clemgia stream and ends at Plan d'Immez. After a short break, it's now up to you to make your own tracks. With the destination Alp Astras in mind, we follow our mountain guide Chantal Lörtscher at every turn, which makes it much easier with half a metre of fresh snow. For the many wild animals that live here, foraging for food under such conditions is a real challenge.
Around noon we reach Alp Astras. In winter the hut is not staffed and so we look for a place to rest in the lee of the building. At minus 10 degrees, a warm tea from the thermos flask is just the thing. Strengthened, we then set off on the second part of the stage. With every metre towards the Pass da Costainas, the snow gets deeper and deeper. I now clearly feel that this tour requires strength, endurance and also skill. The latter especially on the descent. After more than 6 hours we reach the Lü town sign, happy and exhausted.
The second day begins where the first one ended. Motivated for new adventures, we start in Lü first on the marked winter hiking trail towards Alp Champatsch. The hut is also open in winter, but we are still a bit too early for a coffee. We therefore decide to continue quickly. A short time later we turn off into the deep snow. Untracked terrain and an experienced mountain guide at our side: life can be beautiful. Our next destination is Fuorcla Funtana da S-charl, the apex of today's tour. By then we will have covered 600 metres in altitude. Before that, however, we reach a key point. A cauldron filled with a huge amount of powdery snow. Our mountain guide Chantal now explains to us some options, which passage would be feasible today and how we should go about it. We decide to traverse the cauldron on the slope one by one. It's a really exciting experience, but you can also feel the power of nature with every step. After passing through, we are now looking forward to our lunch break. After half an hour, we reach the Bar Aunta in the small ski area of Minschuns. Over hot coffee and a delicious sandwich, we enjoy a wonderful panorama of the summits. The view stretches from the Ofen Pass to the Ortler group and the Val Müstair is at our feet.
Strengthened, we now head for the last section. As it is now downhill, we try to carry the momentum of the stride and glide a little and not take an involuntary refreshment in the deep snow. Conclusion: It works out well. Without a fall we continue on quiet soles through a small forest at Plaun da l'Aua and reach the Ofen Pass in time before the sun says goodbye for today.
Conclusion: snowshoeing is definitely more than just a leisurely stroll. If you go on this tour, you have to be prepared to leave your own comfort zone. The reward, however, is a lot of untouched and glittering snow in a mountain landscape that has frozen into winter dormancy.
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Marcus has lived in the Engadine since 2010 and works for the Engadin Samnaun Val Müstair holiday region as Head of Sales & IT. In his free time he is out and about in the mountains on his mountain bike or on skis. In summer you can often see him windsurfing in the region.