G3VGR ALBSTEIG     Feldbergpass - Sankt Blasien     

Both east and west variants of the Albsteig start at the Feldbergpass (elevation 1231m), the highest mountain pass in the Schwarzwald (also second highest pass in Germany). Having walked much of the eastern variant during my Menzenschwandertal hike in 2019, I decided to walk the western variant of the Albsteig's first stage. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, I had waited a long time to walk the Albsteig so enthusiastically made an early start. Due to rail track repairs, no trains were running today between Hinterzarten and Titisee. An adequate replacement bus service was in place and I arrived in Titisee at 0725 allowing sufficient time for a typical German breakfast at Titisee station's bakery café before catching the #7300 bus to the Hebelhof bus stop at the crest of the Feldberg Pass. I enjoyed the scenery as the bus climbed the pass through the Bärental to the Feldbergpass. Unlike 2019's Wasserfallsteig walk, this time I departed the bus at the correct stop, arriving at Hebelhof at 0830. It was a cloudless, hot, sunny morning and I was looking forward to the views from this first stage of the Albsteig

From the bus stop, I made my way to the Albsteig portal at the car park of the ski resort complex of Feldberg. Ski resorts don't have too much appeal in summer and the Feldberg area is no exception. It was totally deserted and all facilities were closed, so looked a forlorn site. The way ahead for the western variant was alongside the Grafenmatt ski run. I started the walk uphill on a tarmac road for a while before the trail diverted into woodland until reaching the top of the Grafenmatt. Ahead of me about a kilometer away, I could see the treeless summit of the Herzogenhorn, the highest point of the Albsteig. When I reached the Herzogenhorn summit, I was rewarded with a 360° panoramic view. To the north, the Feldberg summit with its unmistakable tower dominated the landscape and the south provided a good view over the valleys towards Bernau and Sankt Blasien. I could vaguely make out the peaks of both the Bernese Oberland and the Vosges through the early morning heat haze.

Leaving the summit, I made my way down a steep and rough path to a wood and continued on a more comfortable path under the shade of the trees. At the end of the wood, I reached the Krunkelbach Sattel with fine views to the Bernau and Krunkelbach valleys, both caused by glaciers during the ice age. The Krunkelbachtal is a small valley between Spießhorn and Herzogenhorn. It runs in an easterly direction and is known for its uranium-bearing ore finds. From 1961 to 1991, uranium ore was mined here. Across the saddle on the slopes of the Spießhorn lies the Krunkelbachhütte. On arrival at the hut, I noticed they had Weißwurst on their menu board, so decided to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a typical Bavarian elevenses of Weißwurst, Pretzel and a Hefeweizen Bier. I was less impressed by both the rude, unfriendly woman who served me or the quality of the Wurst. The day was getting quite hot now as I continued upwards, skirting the Spießhorn. After meeting a friendly herd of cows, the path led me down into an impressive beech forest. The tree canopy provided a welcome cover from the hot sun. At the end of the forest, I could see the scattered villages in the Bernau valley beneath me. It all looked quite beautiful and a typically idyllic Schwarzwald scene as seen on picture postcards. The walk down from here was on a narrow track fringed with heather between meadows where cows were grazing. Passing the Scheibenfelsen, a rocky outcrop where the locals celebrate a local custom whereby flaming wooden discs are rolled down into the valley during carnival week, the path was very steep and rocky, causing my feet to get quite sore. I was now regretting the decision to wear only lightweight trail running shoes instead of my boots. It was a relief to reach the tarmac road at Bernau Dorf and I sat on the nearest bench to make running repairs on my feet including a change of socks.

Bernau is a collection of small hamlets and Bernau Dorf had just one shop (closed) and a bus stop. No bus was due for quite a while, so I carried on along the banks of the Bernauer Alb to Bernau Innerlehen which had more facilities including the Bernau Rathaus and had expensive residences instead of traditional Schwarzwald houses. As the trail now through to Bernau Weierle seemed less interesting and I couldn't proceed further from Weierle due to closure, I decided to catch a bus to Sankt Blasien Schwimmbad where the detours ended. Opposite the bus stop I could see the detour sign routing the Albsteig along a cycle track by the busy L149 road back towards Glashof. I went off in the opposite direction towards Sankt Blasien, walking along the Hans-Thoma-weg and Philosophenweg. Along these paths, I enjoyed a wonderful elevated view of the town of Sankt Blasien and its magnificent St. Blasius Cathedral. Further on, I noticed a severe lack of Albsteig signs, despite my downloaded GPS track showing me I was walking on the correct path. After reaching a barrier, the forest road ended and I walked into woods with no discernable path. The GPS plot showed a merger of my current track with a forest road just ahead, but nothing was visible. I heard a tractor above me and after scrambling 15 feet steeply upwards through the brush, I ended up on a forest road and saw an Albsteig information point about 20 metres further along the road. As I was now quite tired from the heat and had covered a good distance, I decided it was a good time to follow the signs down into the town and enjoy coffee and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte at the Café Ell. Today had been a successful start to my Albsteig hike.

At the Albsteig Portal - Feldberg
Road to Herzogenhorn
View south from Herzogenhorn
Krunkelbach Sattel and Herzogenhorn
Krunkelbach Hütte
Meadows above Bernau
Bernau Dorf
Dom - Sankt Blasien
Alb at Sankt Blasien

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