The Churfirsten (plural, singular: Churfirst) are a beautiful and characteristic mountain chain in the eastern part of Switzerland. They consist of 7 mountains all built of limestone, locatet between the valley Toggenburg (Wildhaus) and the Walensee. You can see the steep south walls when travelling on the A3 leading from Zurich to Chur (Grabünden). The northern side is generally smoother and better accessible, offering the characteristig view of the 7 (see picture). There's a big difference in experience of reaching any summit: Northbound the smooth alps with their huts and the lovely Toggenburg, Alpstein opposite, whereas the Southside gives a view of 2000m almost vertical nature to the Walensee, very impressive! The chain is running exactly in E-W direction, and each Churfirst has it's own character and name. From East to West: Chäserrug (2262m, cable car to the top) Hintterrug (2306m, highest one) Schibenstoll (2234m, summit plateau) Zuestoll (2235m, interesting limestone formation) Brisi (2279m, broad one in the center) Frümsel (2267, steepest north flank) Selun (2204m, flat north flank) Further West follow another 4 peaks (Wart, Schären, Nägeliberg, Leistcham) in the same chain, but they are not countet to the 7 Churfirsten. (Think because 7 is a beautifull number and they don't look similar to the other). There are also some caves in the limestone plateau, but you have to know the entrances. A famous one is in the back of Selun, it's called Wildenmannlisloch (meaning the whole of the wild man;-). Its about 200m long and interestig to visit with children!
You have two possibilities to reach the Churfirsten. One is from the north, valley of Toggenburg (A1 from Zurich as far as Wil, then head for Wattwil (Center of the Toggenburg) or take the A3 to Pfäffikon and go to Wattwil over the small pass called Ricken). From Wattwil you can reach Unterwasser and Wildhaus within half an our. There are also good train and bus (chance to the bus at nesslau) connecitions to these Villages (1:30 from Zurich) The Second one is to come from the south. (Walensee, from Zurich on the A3) Leave the A3 in Walenstadt or take the train to get there (1h from Zurich). From Walenstadt you can drive or take a bus to Walenstadtberg, parking site at Schrina Hochrugg, 1290m. If you are Interestet in hiking and enjoing a beautiful scenerey, I recommend the north side of the Churfirsten. From Unterwasser there's a cable to Sellamatt (1400m, restaurant, accomodation) from where you have many possibilities for exploring the beautiful plateau at the base of the churfirsten (many hiking routes, well marked). There is also a "Sagen-Weg" meaning a path where local tales and mythes are explained! You can reach every Churfirst on a marked path within 3-4 hours without any problems over the north flanks. If starting from the bottom of the valley it's about 2h longer. The south side is much wilder and steeper, and there are only two marked routes for getting to the north side. One leads to the top of Chäserrugg via the Valsloch (4-5 h from Schrina-Hochrugg or Walenstadtberg). The other one is west of the Churfisten, between Leistcam and Nägeliberg, called Gocht. (3h from Schrina/Walenstadberg) Both are steep and good in dry conditions without any snowfall. Very experienced mountaneers can also reach the valleys between the Churfirsten from south, but often there are no paths and it can be dangerous! If the south walls are your goal, the best ist to come from the south side. There are many superb climbing routes, mainly in the UIAA 6 or higher. Access is not easy, execpt of the ones on the Chäserrugg or Hinterrug, where you can use the cable from Unterwasser and descend to the south.
None, but in some days in spring and fall the swiss army does some shooting in the area. They will warn you at the trail heads.
When To Climb
Hiking usually from may to ocotober/november, depending on snowfall/old snow. The Chäserrug is a good ski ressort from dez - mar. In the same period you can ski-moutaneer: The Brisi and Selun are acessible in winter time via the north flanks. Also the valleys between the Churfirsten are excellent but rather short tours. Watch the local avalanche conditions (www.slf.ch)!
Wild camping is officialy forbidden, but if you do it without leaving any traces and not in sight of any hut it's tolerated. There are some campin Sites and accomodation in the Toggenburg (www.toggenburg.ch)
www.sktiouren.ch or www.basislager.ch where you can write trip reports or read them. or www.slf.ch for avalanche conditions.
Maps and Guide Books.
Like you probably know, the Swiss maps are the best - an the most exact of them are the ones with scale 1:25'000 - I can highly recommend them! If you can get it, buy the Map Nr. 2514 "Wanderkarte Obertoggenburg-Appenzell" also with the whole Alpstein and parts of Appenzell. It's bigger and all the official hiking routes are red marked! Other case, its Map 1134, Walensee If you strictly stay on the paths, the 1:50'000 will also do a good job: Map 237, Walensee If you are planning to go climbing, the best choice is "Kletterführer Churfirsten-Alvierkette-Fläscherberg" by Thomas Wälti with detailed infos about every route in the Churfirsten.
I just happened to see this page again after a long while. I see you wonder, whe there are only 7 Churfirsten, though there are additional summits. My explanation would be as follows:
The name Churfirst of course on one hand has its origin in the name of the town Chur. The other, quite obviously for us Germans, is the similarity to the title "Kurfürst". The Kurfürsten were the seven (!!) electors of the roman emperor, all powerful dukes and princes in their own right. While the German empire (Holy Roman Empire od German Nation) lasted, there were always seven heditary ones. The 30 years' war was started because the Emperor tried to exchange the protestant King of Bohemia with one of his Catholic dukes.
I think the original ones were: Archbishop of Mainz, Archbishop of Köln (Cologne), Archbishop of Trier, Duke of Brandenburg, Sachsen (Saxony), King of Böhmen (Bohemia) and Duke of Pfalz (Palatinate).