Étape 3 : Blancrupt – Schallern
Vendredi 25 Février
C & B : Un matin de brume et de bruine qui diminue à mesure que nous montons ver les hauts champs de la crête sur laquelle nous procédons à travers un large paysage de bruyère couverte de neige. Nous suivons le bord de la crête au dessus des arpentes raides et de temps en temps une éclaircie nous permette des visions fugitives des collines éloignées et des lacs gelés au dessous de nos pieds, les distances accentuées par la brume.
12.00 Heure du déjeuner
Il faut que je dise quelques mots sur le menu typique d’un déjeuner en route et en hiver. Aujourd’hui par exemple :
Menu de 3 Euros
Hors d’ouvres : soupe du jour – vase de champignons a l’eau tiède
Entrée : Fromage Baby Belle sur un lit de pain vieilli
Dessert : Poigné de noix salées aux raisins secs
Arrosés par quelques bouchées de l’eau froide et tout bouffé à pied dans dix minutes parce qu’on se refroidit quand on ne marche pas. Heureusement, un quart d’heure après, nous rencontrons le Col de la Schlucht et un petit restaurant du ski, pour prendre du café et du gâteau.
A la fin d’une autre longue journée nous avons dépassé le sommet du Hohneck et sommes arrivés a l’hôtel Schallern, accroché au flanc de la colline ; situation spectaculaire. Le soir suive son rythme habituel- une bière, une douche, un repas fortifiant et au lit ; demain promette d’être une journée ardue.
Friday, February 25 t
M : The woman of the Sainte-Marie’s B&B, said that the weather was good one day on two. Apparently, it was not right because the next day was sad and in this third day the sky was cloudy and did not promise an improvement. Also I decided that from now, the weather’s information of the day would give in the evening of this day. Thus, this way, we could not make a mistake and the disappointment would be less.
The day’s program was a classical hiking Vosges: The Ridge from the Col du Calvaire, through the Gazon de Faing, Gazon de faîte, the Tanet and the Col de la Schlucht by the red rectangle’s path or GR5. Then, we had a ascent to the top of Hohneck followed a descent up to Schaeferthal. After this place, improvisation to the hotel « Schallern ».
First, we had to climb from the Col du Calvaire to the crest and at the top of the ascent it was standing a wood panel « Les hautes Chaumes ». It give informations on the flora and indicates that he is forbidden to pick up more than 3 liters of « myrtill sauvages » per person . Today I swear on my honour that we didn’t exceed this amount !
I like to walk on the ridges because the view is extended. I seem to fly above lakes. When the weather is wonderful, you can see all the summits which succeed as far as the eyes can see.
What a pity ! For a so beautiful path, the alsatian ( or lorrain) sky didn’t made a great effort.
However it was not horrible, visibility was acceptable to the Col de la Schlucht. We didn’t meet hiker, only some trees with all branches on the same side i.e. in sense of the wind. Some shrubs, rocks and indistinct footprints. In the valleys, the White Lake and Trut’s Lake were prisoners of ice.
The Col of Schlucht (Schlurrrrt as said Bill ! Shlucht means ravine), what a contrast ! It’s not my cup of tea. It’s always an horrible anthill with, in winter, skiers wearing cosmonaut’s suit and huge plastic shoes who walk like robots and tourists by car and motorcyclists the rest of the year.
The transition between the silent of the ridge and the noise of the restaurant where we sit to drink was seizing. We didn’t linger and we set off in the forest. After thirty minutes, we made the best faffing since the beginning of the walk in middle the ski tracks. Really, hiking, get on badly with skiing ! So we asked the wicked skiers who make tracks in all directions with the aim in view to lost hikers, where was the Hohneck.
No far off here, the fog took over and the ascent to the summit of Hohneck was in the total emptiness. Miraculously, when we arrived the cloud had cleared and the “refuge” emerged.
When we were stopping few minutes, I discovered that my phone is no longer in my pocket and I let out an audible « Merde ! » before this mishap. I asked to Christine or Bill, if they call me to see if my bag was ringing. No, it remained silent, but a woman answered and said that my mobile waits me in its gift shop at Col de la Shlucht. Fortunately, it’s a ugly thing without gadget which can only call, not a beautiful and expensive iPhone. Whoever found it was certainly not temped to be dishonest. I was a little angry against me, against my thoughtlessness. Well I’ll be damned ! One glove in the snow this morning, one phone at midday, and when will I lose the head ?
We restarted our walking and my dark reflexions flown away. We went down « au pif » to Schaeferthal. And here, impossible to take the blue triangle trail as planned: Too slippery with or without snowshoes, invisible and on a steep face. I had to see the trio alsaco-Scottich arrived safe and sound ! We chose a easier trail, but when without warning, a firn cut the passage. Cautiously and slowly, we got through them.
After, few bends, we arrived to hotel « Schallern », which was like the « Little House on the Prairie ».
The inn was peaceful, pleasant and our bedrooms were cozy.
The dining room full of books was converted into drawing workshop for children, budding artists.
For the dinner, maybe Christine was fearful when she saw le menu where we could be read « Souris d’agneau ». Did she think: « What ! The French eat frogs, snails, stinking cheese and now, the mouses ! It really is a barbarous people ! » However she did justice to this dish. But Bill was guilty of a great lack of delicacy because he ordered a « quiche lorraine ! » Yes, You heard right ! Here, in Alsace, a « Quiche lorraine » ! Can you imagin my shame ? As if I ordered an english cream in Scottland !
More after the map…
Étape 4 : Schallern – Steinlebach
Samedi 26 Février
C & B : Nous sortons du garage à côté d’un refuge, fermé pour l’hiver. Nous avons déjà passé une longue matinée ; quatre heures de descente et remonte pour gagner autrefois la crête. Nous avons gaspillé une bonne heure piqueniquant dans le confort relatif du garage, heureux d’être arrivé encore une fois sur la crête. Martine aperçoit le placard qui annonce que nous avons devant nous toujours quatre heures de marche pour gagner Markstein, notre but. La brume est descendue, le vent a devenu plus froid et frais, l’atmosphère maintenant un peu menaçant. Il nous reste cinq heures de lumière – pas beaucoup de marge pour erreurs. Nous mettons les raquettes pour la première fois et, débutantes, Christine et moi, nous essayons de forcer le pas. Apres un quart d’heure nous voyons un second placard qui donne trois heures et demie à Markstein, on fait du bon progrès. Un autre quart d’heure, un autre placard qui estime encore une fois quatre heures. Apparemment on ne réussit que de se défendre. Un peu déçue, Martine nous explique que les placards Vosgiennes sont un peu fantaisistes. Les têtes en bas, nous continuons la marche en silence, avec seulement le son des raquettes qui glissent sur la neige. Malgré notre situation je me sens à l’aise. Je suis en terrain que je reconnais ; ceux sont les collines du sud d’Ecosse en hiver ; la solitude, la froide, la bruyère, la brume. Je suis chez moi et, malgré tout, je suis content. Pendent des heures nous marchons à travers cette paysage désolée et sans relief, finissant par perdre espérance de jamais arriver au bout. La neige commence à tomber de plus en plus fort, oblitérant les balises et nous naviguons à la boussole (c’est à dire au pif). Tout soudaine un placard émerge de l’obscurité, ‘Hôtel de Steinlebach’ notre hébergement pour la nuit. Dix minutes plus tard est on est arrivé, dépouillé des vêtements mouillés, chaud et dégustant une bonne bière. Moi, je suis assez content, c’était une journée que m’a mis à l’épreuve mais enfin j’ai retrouvé ma forme.
Saturday, February 26t
M : It is always very difficult to make understand in hotels that walkers are people who get up and leave early. Even if they are on holidays. Especially on holidays! We left the refuge too late. We knew we had to walk fast because the way was long to Steinlebach.
The innkeeper showed us a way to go to Markstein, I listened, I didn’t understand, I said « Yes », and decided to do as I like.
Before the lake of Schiessroth a hiker showed us another way to go to Markstein, I listened, I said « Yes », and decided to do as I like.
After the lake of Fischboedele we met an army of daunting of wild boar hunters who didn’t showed us path. It saved me having to say « Yes » without understand.
We walked almost always in the same way: I have taken the head of the expedition (I was the guide, isn’t it !). Bill was the « serre-file », followed at last and pushed (not too strongly) the ranks. And the ranks were Christine.
We were moving in single file. In silence. Only our shoes were loquacious: “che-che-che” in powder snow, “Croc croc croc” in the frozen snow, “Squelch-squelch-squelsch” in the mud et “Splatch-splath-Splatch” in puddles.
More after the break…
Enough fun, back on topic
We climbed to Kerbholz, where we found snow and continued the rise towards the Rainkopf by the farm of Kastelbergwasen , which makes the best blueberry’s pie in the Vosges, and perhaps the world ! But it was closed. To 1.pm we reached the windy crest near refuge of Rainkopf. Unable to eat outside, even behind the building, it was too cold. Then, we have found the nicest restaurant of our journey: the dark garage of the refuge. We ate, sitting on old and rickety chairs, between shovels, saws, logs, planks, etc., while psychologically preparing us to the great moment that we waited. Now we could not move back: For the first time, we would use the snowshoes.
After a few steps, Christine and Bill found that walking with them was not difficult. Tiring, but not very technical .
Now, our feet changed conversation: they repeated « clack-clack-clack » ….
If my teammates were happy to get along as well, however I had a moment of panic when I saw on the panel, « Markstein 4h » because it was 2.00 pm. This time was evaluated without snowshoes. The weather was more and more foggy and I thought there was not shelter on the way ! I even had the temptation to descend to the Bresse (village in the valley), but motivated team up, would not hear of it.
We began our race against the clock to a speedy pace without stopping. We knew that we should not waste time because it was getting dark before six o’clock.
Gradually the fog enveloped everything. It was all to see, and we have seen nothing. Towards Rothenbachkopf, in this little sinister atmosphere, I thought back to hikers who were lost in the fog and were dead. At this place, a cross, that we didn’t even seen, remembers the drama (1965).
.Fortunately, on the way, there were traces of snowshoes and a line of stakes on the ridge that we should not lose one’s sight. I knew there was below, the road that went to Markstein, but it was not clearing the snow from and nobody was using during winter. At Neurod and Hannenbrünnen , I was surprised to discover shelters that I didn’t know.
When there is no more visibility, it’s no easy to estimate the length which remains. I feared that it gets dark before we arrived and I prayed that we had no problem. I didn’t want to get out of the bag the batteries for GPS, because my finger were terribly cold .
After a long walk, I was relieved when finally appeared in the void, a big panel that says « Steinlebach ». The rest of the part was purely formal and we were happy to find the warmth of the inn.
At this moment, it was almost dark and the snow began to fall.
Those who had made the tracks in the snow were already sitting in the room, before some beers.(lire la suite)