Beautiful sunny Saturday morning, full of glory. We decided to go for a proper nice walk to celebrate the winter retreat. The target was the hill of Belchen, the fourth highest peak of the Black Forest, lying in the lesser explored south-of-Freiburg area.
We parked Claude in a small village of Münstertal, which is at about 400 meters altitude, which according to our trusted guidebook meant a trail of some 1120 meters in altitude gain to get to the top of Belchen; and that in only some six kilometers in length, so pretty much straight up. Once we hit the slope, the signs were clear – the spring had arrived! Birds chirping, sun shining, snow melting – plus I could totally tell by the way my hair was glowing.
Soon we left Münstertal below, and immersed ourselves in the deep forest. Marching up like machines, we saw the altimeter on Iest’s watch flashing crazily, and giving up soon after – poor thing couldn’t keep up with us. (Even though it’s fair to say that this day did not find Iest in his top form, he puffed like a steam engine and sweated gallons. Good thing there were some refreshment stations along the way. Me, on the other hand, was running around like a gazellette enjoying the spring vibrations.) After a while we ventured into the snow territory, even though the snow was clearly giving out to the spring mood.
When we emerged from the forest at Hohkelch, we already got some pretty views, and despite the sun, the snow was quite deep at places. Snowshoes were not necessary but would not have been completely out of place. But once we traversed more to the southern side of the hill there was only very little snow, and it was a good place for our right-under-the-top break in the sun, with a snack and yes our moose thermos full of tea, which was nice.
When we got to the top we were intrigued by a wooden box with circular holes high up and a snowman. After a close investigation, we soon discovered that the snowman was just built by some kids, but the wooden box remained mystery – no visible entrance from any side, no discernible use. Iestyn studied carefully the scribbles at the picnic table nearby but to no avail.
The views were pretty but there was not much to do, so we decided to slide down on the other side of the hill, to get back to the valley where we left Claude. According to our guidebook simplified tiny map there should be some trails going down that way, and we knew the general direction, so there was no way to get lost. What we did not really think through was the fact that we were going down the shady side, and also the steeper cliffy one. So, in no time at all, we found ourselves thigh-deep in wet snow with every step, no path in sight, and falling over our pretty heads. Since we’ve been know to be pretty feisty in situations like this, we just sucked it up, and persevered determinedly until we part slid, part toiled and part plowed through that white mush under the snowline, found a trail and finished still in good mood but mighty tired of the day.