The Charterhouse in Schnals, founded in 1326, was badly damaged during the agricultural wars of 1525 and was deconsecrated in 1782. After a number of different incidents, the building was burnt to the ground in 1924. Today, some very interesting cultural events are held infrequently in the monastery cloister. After a brief look at the ruins of the Charterhouse (1327 m), we continue on our way on trail no. 20 along a forest path that leads into Penaudtal valley.
Once we leave the ruins of the abandoned Penaudhof farm behind us, we reach a bridge and soon after a wayside cross at the edge of a small plateau. The trail now begins to climb to a place with the unusual name of “Karl Sumperer”. It is dominated by a triple-bar cross, known as a “weather cross” that is intended to ensure protection from bad weather.
Archaeological discoveries from the Stone Age were made near a boulder (stela) here where the Alpine inhabitants used to say the rosary every Sunday. This may well have been a magnificent viewing point for prehistoric hunters because from here you can see virtually the entire valley against the backdrop of the magnificent panoramic view of the Similaun summits.
Every year around mid-June, pilgrims walk in a procession through this valley praying for a good harvest. It is more or less the same trail that is described here. The worshippers begin their procession in the hamlet of Sankt Martin am Kofel, our destination today, and having crossed the Niederjöch pass they descend the left slope of Penaudtal valley, to arrive at the church of Unser Frau in Schnals, where the priest approaches them on arrival. After hearing Holy Mass, the pilgrims usually stay overnight with friends and the next day they make the return journey to Sankt Martin am Kofel in prayer. In ancient times, the people of Schnals also went on pilgrimages over the pass to Sankt Martin (more interesting facts available in the printed version of the Archaeological Map). We quickly reach the Penaudalm (2323 m), which offers a place of rest and even has emergency beds available.
From here, the trail climbs once again and soon we are looking down on a clearly defined, light-coloured, snake-like something at the bottom of the valley: it is the ruins of a former irrigation channel (see Interesting facts A4). We soon arrive at the Niederjöchl pass (2662 m) which provides a magnificent view across Vinschgau to the ice-capped peaks of Cevedale and to Martelltal valley (where archaeological finds were made at an altitude of 2400 m), and we are literally invited to venture forth through the gigantic mountains, continuing our path to the South.
We now take the left slope once again, going up as far as a metal cross (2720 m) which marks the start of the long descent to Sankt Martin am Kofel, a hamlet consisting of a number of farmsteads that actually appear to have been hung out on the steep slopes.
Shortly after the pass, we come across a modest hut on the trail that is used as an emergency shelter. The trail then drops steeply and we have to be careful here as there are a few very difficult sections.
We reach the edge of the forest and soon the trail becomes a forest path that leads us directly to the pilgrimage chapel of Sankt Martin am Kofel (1776 m) that looks for all the world like a ship anchored against the slope and just about to weigh anchor.
During our short visit here we notice a number of votive offerings and a marble panel with the classic depiction of St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar. From here, it takes only a few minutes down to Latsch (639 m) by cable car. But remember: the cable car won’t run if there are high winds. There’s only one thing to do in that case: first, build up your strength at the inn and then walk down the mountain! I can’t ask you to leave the trail but I must tell you that there are hundreds of cup-marked stones along these sun-kissed slopes.