Photo: Looking over nature park Thal from the start of the Weissenstein plateau.
I have mentioned on various posts (for example) that you need to check when the cable cars stop running each day, and if there is a shut-down during the spring/autumn off-season due to maintenance/low demand.
I actually got caught out by that this week.
My plan had been to take the Postbus from Solothurn up to Balmberg and then walk back down via the Alte Balmbergstrasse to Balm and through the forest to home. However given the wonderful clear blue skies we decided to stay up in the snow and carry on to the restaurant/hotel at Weissenstein and take the cable car down.
Normally this wouldn’t be a problem. The Weissenstein cable car is basically always running year round. So I didn’t really think about it to check ahead before hiking over (though obviously a week day in November is as likely a time for a brief maintenance shutdown as any). However we arrived to find the hotel and cable car station shuttered with a note saying they were closed Monday-Wednesday.
Thankfully this isn’t the worst place to find yourself stranded; the mountain isn’t especially high (1280m) or remote and I am familiar with all of the quickest ways down and the safety in each case. An hours walk would have gotten us back to Balmberg (but with a bus only once every 2 hours), going down the old road to the train station at Oberdorf by the base of the cable car (also possible by following the pass road), or straight down the Stigelos towards Solothurn (not advisable in snowy/icy conditions).
We took the old road down to Oberdorf and luckily arrived 5 minutes before the next train. This is a bit steep but there isn’t any exposure or risk (I ride down it by mountain bike sometimes).
The weather was stable, the snow wasn’t a problem, it had only been a short hike up until that point, it was only around midday, and we had enough warm gear and supplies so that it wasn’t anything more than a slight inconvenience – but it was a reminder to be a bit more careful (even with places you know very well).