A relatively passable spot, or "hole" (Lukke), in the mountain wall between Switzerland and Austria; the name would indicate that mountain goats (Gemsen) -- or perhaps only mountain goats -- use it to pass through from one country to the other, though the question as to why they would ever quit the luxuriously green Swiss valleys for the rougher, rockier terrain in this part of southern Austria remains unanswered. Although the Austrian "pasture" is called the Totalpe (the dead Alp), the most wonderful small flowers are abundant on the chalky rock -- from high up at 2500 meters, all the way down to the area around the Lünersee at 2000 meters. Here you can see the craggy rocks on the horizon with the u-shaped pass (in the middle of the picture) where the Gemsen would pass. The rocks on either side seem to lean away from the Lukke.

The view over Lünersee on the way up to the Gemslücke. Just beyond the shaded mountains to the right is the gorgeous green Gafalljoch, which one can take to get back to the Lünersee. That means climbing once again from the valley in Switzerland and then back down to the lake.

The Gemslücke is a narrow pass on the craggy rock wall which separates Austria from Switzerland. The views on both sides of the border are magnificent. This walk is our favorite

We suggest starting out by walking from the Douglass Hütte to the Totalp Hütte. Most of the effort for the walk is done by the time you reach that point. One should start out early from the Douglass Hütte so as to be certain of getting back before the last departure of the Lünerseebahn, especially if there are crowds and the lines are long.

Walk around the western side of the lake. After about 20 minutes, take the path up to the Totalp Hütte. The climb to the hut is fairly long and quite steep. The best we've done is 1 hour 40 minutes from the Douglass Hütte, a climb of almost 400 meters. It's fairly steep and very rocky. 'Trittsicherheit' (being sure-footed) is necessary. There are some lovely flowers to be admired along the way, but it seems long and tiring anyway.

Winding our way up to the Totalphütte.

The view of the hut from the path coming up.

This is the way the hut looked way back in 1980, our first year when there was so much snow that kids went sledding down the mountain sides next to Todalphütte.

Friend Fritz took this picture of the two of us on the rock butting out in front of the hut in 1991. We are on our way back from our first walk to Gemslücke.

At the Totalp Hütte, one can rest and drink some Skiwasser and enjoy the beautiful view of the mountains to the east and south. The 'Erbsuppe' is delicious, but best left for the walk back down.

The tiny bluebells that, in some places, practically cover the ground.
The northern side of the mountain wall towards Switzerland, which is covered with scree, impossible to walk on. The Gemslücke is on the right, just out of the picture.

Gentians, the tiny deep blue ones that you also find in the 'fjäll' in Sweden and Norway.
 Alpen-Mannsschild (primrose family) or Alpine rock-jasmine, which really cover the ground in many places on the Todalpe.

Leave the Totalp Hütte in the direction of Gemslücke, which may be spelled in any of several different ways. After only a few minutes, you can't help being struck by the beauty of the wonderful Totalp, which is not a dead Alpe at all. (An Alpe is a summer-time grazing ground for cows.) It may be ungrassy and very rocky, but it's covered with a mat of wonderful, tiny flowers of all sorts, as well as the occasional Kratzdistel. (It is not recommended to sit on a Kratzdistel!)

Grossblütige Gemswurz, large-flowered leopardsbane, which the Lünersee area is loaded with.
The Totalpe in the direction of Schesaplana, which is north-east.

Ranunculus alpestris, or Alpen-Hahnenfuss, covers the ground over much of the Totalpe.
Deep-violet violets among the rocks in the Totalpe. It may look dead from far away, but it's very much alive.

It takes about an hour to get up to Gemslücke, depending on how much time you spend looking at flowers. The path goes gently up and down over the rocks, giving tantalizing glimpses of the rocky horizon. The last part of the path is steep and composed of very slippery sand and scree.

A narrow, steep, slippery path leads up the last stretch of mountainside to the Gemslüke. (As you can see, there were heavy clouds this year.)
From a slippery spot in the scree, the second walker has this view of the first one arriving and ready here to start the descent into Switzerland.

The descent is probably the most fun part of the day. If you just watch carefully where you put your feet, there is always a good rock to give support. The cables that have been installed are essentiel. But be careful anyway! The Swiss Alps are in the background.
The very rare Arnika (Arnica montana - Daisy family, or Compositae), the yellow flower with the always imperfect petals that you don't want to miss when you see it once in a while. Having no leaves on the stem (or one or two small ones) distinguishes it from other yellow compositae flowers, such as Gemswurz (leopardsbane.

It's best not to plan settling down there to eat a sandwich and admire the view for a long time, as there isn't much space for standing even, much less sitting. And on a sunny weekend day, there may well be other people up there, too. Still, you must take a few minutes to admire the view over the Totalp, Seekopf, the Lünersee and Zimba on the Austrian side; and down into the gorgeous, green valleys and over the more distant mountains on the Swiss side. Both views are magnificent, but the best of all is looking east along the border, past the Kanzelköpfe and towards the Kirchlispitzen and the Schweizer Tor.

Gemslücke, Gemsluke or Gemsluggen or any of several different spellings. This was in 2000. The sign is relatively new; it's good to know the height is 2380 m.

Here we're getting onto flat ground - almost. We are approaching the many sheep and the gorgeous green Swiss valley.

Before starting the descent into Switzerland, it's best to "batten down the hatches", to tighten your boot laces and attach firmly any hanging objects such as cameras or water jugs. They are in danger of banging against a rock on the way down and you'll need your hands for hanging on.

The climb is steep and over rocks and there isn't any level place for your feet in most places. Cables have been installed by the Verkehrsverein to assist you. While they aren't always necessary, we find that they are in a couple of places. After a while, you reach a less steep, rocky path and from there on it's pretty easy going.

View from the Gemslücke towards the Kanzelköpfe and the Schweitzertor. We once sat down here for lunch, but in 1994 it was so crowded we could barely find a stone to sit on. We almost felt as if we had crashed a party. Climbing up to the Gemslücke is strenuous, but wonderful fun. Fortunately, there are cables to hang on to. You obviously have to watch your step. This picture was taken on our first trip to Gemslücke in 1991 with Fritz and Renate Lange.

Often, one notices from the Gemslücke that there are many sheep in the Swiss valley. Sometimes they seem to cling coherently together in some sort of either tight or drawn-out pattern, as viewed from "upstairs". As you get closer, you can hear the wonderful music of their bells.

There are indeed a whole passle of sheep in the valley. This picture comes from the walk back through the Swiss valley and over the Gafalljoch back to Lünersee and Austria.
Green, green, green is the valley. This is looking east, the way we are headed coming down from the steep cliffs. The clouds are still hovering close by. It was a wonderful day and the clouds can just add to the romantic mood.

At the bottom (or before it, if you find the "shortcut"), you turn east and climb gradually back up towards the Gafalljoch. There are often Murmeltier (marmots) in this valley, so be quiet and keep your eyes open and camera ready. It takes us about 2 hours from the Gemslücke to the Gafalljoch, with a 15-minute rest in the valley and time to look at the marmots.

Down in the Swiss valley, looking back west, before
turning to our left to get up onto the Gafalljoch.
We are on our way back down from the Gafalljoch,
getting very close to the lake here.

Descending from the Gafalljoch, be sure to look east up towards the Verajoch, a very beautiful landscape. Just before reaching the Lünersee, there is usually a beautiful, large field of Eisenhut ('monkshood' in English). The walk from the Gafalljoch back around the eastern side of the Lünersee to the Douglasshütte takes us about 90 minutes, for a total of about 7 hours for the entire walk. It's long and quite tiring and wonderful and well worth the effort expended!