General Suworow drove his troops mercilessly over the Pragelpass into the Glarus region, and cyclists still suffer on the pass today, recover at the crystal-clear Klöntalersee lake, drink an Elmer lemonade and marvel at the Alpine thrust fault.
In contrast to today’s cyclists, in 1799 the Russian army were unable to enjoy the beauty of the Alpine world. In late autumn, 70-year-old General Suworow herded his 20,000 tattered troops from Altdorf over the Chinzigpass (2073m) into Muotatal, over the Pragelpass into Klöntal, through Sernftal and over the Panixerpass (2400m) into Vorderheintal. Thousands met a miserable, freezing death in rain, snow and mist, countless pack animals and cannons plunged into chasms, and starving, emaciated figures ravaged, pillaged and plundered in unearthly fashion. The 18% gradient up the Pragelpass is still tough, but nature offers a reward: the wild Muota river below, the barren, furrowed karst landscape of the Silberen above, the mysterious Bödmeren jungle-like forest with fallen trees, undergrowth and ferns, and inside the mountain the Hölloch, a 190-km-long cave system. The snow-capped summit of the Glärnisch is reflected in the clear, fjord-like, Klöntlalersee, the main town of Glarus is the busy centre of the Glarus region. Early industrialisation in the Linthtal valley brought Switzerland’s first Co-op to Schwanden. The district of Schwanden also has the oldest Swiss nature reserve, the «Freiberg Kärpf», dating from 1548. The 40-million-year-old thrust fault visible in the razor-sharp, yellowish ridges of the cliff faces of Sernftal is unique in global geology. Slate was quarried from the mountain for centuries and used for roofing, tables and school blackboards. Those days can be experienced at close quarters in the Schiefertafelmuseum (Slate Museum) in Elm.