Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Upper Lauterbrunnen Valley

Stechelberg to Oberhornsee

I have been to the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland several times but never beyond Trummelbach in the Lauterbrunnen Valley so I was interested in exploring further south in this apparently quieter part of the region. I therefore took the train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen then the Post Bus to the end of the public road at Stechelberg.
On alighting from the bus I passed the local hotel and followed the signposted route for Obersteinberg, which was my initial destination, although I was hoping to go further depending on time and terrain. The path ran along the west side of the river Weisse Lutschine until Sichellauenen where there was a bridge to cross to access the path on the other side. It was then a steady climb through trees, crossing a vehicle track a couple of times, before the gradient eased as I headed to and passed the small hotel at Trachsellauenen. Beyond, the path joined the vehicle track for a several metres as it ran close to the glacier river, Weisse Lutschine. Here a notice board gave details of old iron ore and lead mines and I later spotted the walls of one such mine.
A steep path climbed through the forest and I stopped at one of several bench seats positioned along the route for a coffee break, with views down the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Here a group of walkers appeared from the path that led to the Schmadri Falls and headed downhill. Afterwards I continued up the path to the small farm at Schirboden. Beyond was the steepest section of the walk as the path wound its way through the forest. At a small clearing I had views of the Schmadri Falls, Breithorn and Ellstabhorn.
Eventually the path cleared the forest and crossed open hillside as I headed towards the Obersteinberg Hotel, passing a couple of walkers on their descent. Just prior to reaching the hotel I came to a junction of paths which was signposted Oberhornsee. Having made reasonable progress I decided to head there as it was only around seventy minutes walk away. The path hugged the mountainside as it crossed the meadows with the noise of clattering cow bells above. There was also an abundance of butterflies. The path descended slightly to the bridge over the Tschingel Lutschine just before it plummeted down a gorge.
The path continued up the valley and became quite rough as it steepened before arriving at Oberhornsee, a small lake, there being no habitation in this area. The surrounding mountains and moraine were impressive and I climbed to a wee knoll overlooking the lake for lunch. A few other walkers arrived, wandered around, and disappeared back down the valley. The path continued to the Tschingelhorn Glacier and onto the Mutthorn Hut but I wasn’t equipped to go there. However I was happy with what I had achieved, although I did explore the nearby moraine before returning to the Obersteinberg Hotel.
Here I had the choice of descending by my upward route or following the path that clung to the mountainside. I went for the latter and after passing the hotel I reached a farm.  Here men were trying to split large sections of timber. Nearby was a horse, or possibly it was a mule, and a pig sty containing several pigs. Next was the Hotel Tschingelhorn where I had another route decision to make, descend to Trachsellauenen or continue along the high level path which so far had made for easy walking. Again I opted for the latter but the trail soon entered the forest and was fairly steep in sections with lots of tree roots to cope with. Steep gullies were protected by ropes. This made for a slow descent and eventually a zigzag path led down the south side of the river Sefinen Lutschine back to Stechelberg.
Unfortunately I had missed a bus back to Lauterbrunnen by ten minutes, and as it was early evening they were now running every hour, the same as the trains from Lauterbrunnen. Rather than hang around Stechleberg I walked down the road passed the Staubbach Falls and the Stechelberg Cable Car to Triummelbach where I had to wait around fifteen minutes for the bus to Lauterbrunnen. As is the case with the Swiss travel system I didn’t have to wait long for the train to depart for Interlaken and the end of my trip to the Swiss Alps.
Time taken – 8 hours.
Distance – 13.5 kilometres.
Ascent – 1155 metres.

Photos taken on walk.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011



Schynige Platte to First via Faulhorn.

The walk from Schynige Platte to First had been on my list of things to do before I even left home as it is one of the classic Alpine hikes. Prior to setting out for the Schynige Platte I ascertained that the ‘First Gondola’, which I would use on my descent, operated until 2000 hours during the months of July and August. This would allow me ample time to cover the route rather than rushing which would be the case at other times of the year, if the route was open. Otherwise it would add another two hours or more to the walking time for the descent into Grindelwald.
I caught the train from Interlaken to Wilderswil then the cogwheel train, which covered over seven kilometres and an ascent of 1420 metres in fifty minutes, to the Schynige Platte. The train and station were busy with walkers, tourists and those visiting the Alpine Gardens. Before setting off along the marked trail I walked to the nearby hotel to take a few photographs from its balcony on what was a pleasant sunny morning.
On returning to the station I crossed the railway line and followed the signposted route that ran below the platform and on towards the farm at Oberberg. However I soon came to a junction of paths where I took the higher and more scenic route. This path took me below the Tuba and Ober berghorn summits and along the ridge with awesome views of Lake Thunersee, Lake Brienzersee and Interlaken. Here I found a newly constructed bench seat and table, which had just been vacated, for a coffee break taking in this panorama.  After my break I continued along the path gaining a bit more height before descending a ladder and joining the route from the farm.
The path wound its way round then to the col below Loucherhorn and entered the amphitheatre and hidden valley of Saigistal where it climbed along the north slopes of the Indri Sagissa mountain and it’s amazing folds of rock.  After a couple of kilometres and with the end of the cliff face reached the path turned south over rocky ground as more height was gained to reach the col and the Berghaus Mandlenen refuge and restaurant. A number of folks were eating on the restaurant platform but I joined those sitting outside the perimeter fence partaking of their packed lunch. A chough hopped around hoping to be fed.
I could see the summit of the Faulhorn but it involved more climbing, initially on a zigzag path then over stones and rock to reach a narrower grassy ridge where cattle were feeding. This led to the foot of the Faulhorn and an alternative route avoiding the summit. However having come this far I had no intention of missing out on summiting this mountain.  At the start of the final climb lots of choughs were feeding amongst the vegetation. A stony zigzag path took me to the summit and its hotel, apparently the highest and oldest in the Alps at 2680 metres and having being in existence since 1830.
Once I had visited the points of interest around the summit, and spotted possibly one of the highest washing lines in the Alps, I descended the south face and followed the path below the north side of Simelihorn. Lower down the path had been upgraded and I passed a few mountain huts before reaching Lake Bachsee where it was fairly busy with walkers and tourists who had come up via the First gondola. This was my means of descent but firstly I had to reach the top station, over three kilometres away. It was a pleasant, easy walk with views down into Grindelwald and across the valley to Wetterhorn and Schreckhorn.
The long descent in the gondola gave me plenty of time to reflect on a superb walk amongst awesome scenery in a wonderful part of Switzerland.
Time taken – 7.25 hours.
Distance – 15.5 kilometres.
Ascent – 730 metres.

Photos taken on walk.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Eiger Trail

It was a wet morning in Interlaken but with a forecasted improvement for later in the day I travelled to Lauterbrunnen where I changed trains for Wengen with the intention of walking back downhill to Lauterbrunnen. However while wandering around Wengen the clouds began to break up so I decided to walk the Eiger Trail instead and boarded the train for Kleine Scheidegg. I had walked this route on a previous visit but low cloud gave restricted views so I was looking for better conditions on this occasion.
On arrival at Kleinn Scheidegg I set off for Station Eigergletscher, the last stop before the train entered the tunnel through the Eiger and Monch heading for the Jungfraujoch. The path had been improved since my last visit with new wooden signage and a manmade lake. Here metal seats were positioned in a shallower part of the water, presumably to allow you to cool your feet.
Despite some rain the path was quite busy with tourists walking back towards Kleine Scheidegg. The cloud again appeared to be breaking up as I reached Station Eigergletscher where I crossed the railway line and located the start of the Eiger Trail. I made a slight diversion onto the Eiger’s west ridge and walked up a narrowing rocky path. With the pinnacles ahead looking rather imposing I returned to the start of this path, which overlooked the Eigergletscher, and had lunch.
I lingered here for a while as at that time it was dry and the cloud had lifted. As well as the Eigergletscher, I had views of Kleinn Scheidegg and the Lauberhorn, which I had climbed the previous day. Eventually I set off on the descent of the Eiger Trail but the cloud quickly reformed and I didn’t get the hoped for views of the Eiger’s North Wall, which was rather disappointing. In fact it rained at times.
The track was easy to follow and there were a few alpine flowers to look at as well as a small bird, similar to a sparrow, which came quite close. A number of streams were crossed and there were several impressive waterfalls to photograph. Spray from one floated across the path so it was fortunate that I was wearing my rain gear.
I emerged from the cloud with views of Grindelwald still some distance away. After Alpiglen there was a bit of road walking and here I encountered more rain. On passing below the rail line at Brandegg, signposted paths bounded by fields, led me to Grindelwald and the end of the walk.
It was early evening and the trains to Interlaken now ran every hour instead of half hourly which they did through the day. I had just missed one so I found a restaurant where I was able to sit outside, under cover, looking at the cloud floating around the North Face of the Eiger.  There was more rain and a fine rainbow, double for a while, developed. This brought customers eating indoors outside with their cameras so I thought I better take a few shots myself.

Time taken – 5.5 hours.
Distance – 10.5 kilometres.
Ascent – 460 metres.

Photos taken on walk.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Day Two_14_August_2011


Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg and onto the Lauberhorn

I took the train to Grindelwald without a plan, as the earlier sun was being replaced by cloudier conditions.   On approaching the village I spotted the gondola which runs from Grund to Mannlichen, apparently the longest in Europe, and decided to use it to access an area where there was some easy walking if the weather continued to deteriorate.
The village was busy and some of the streets were closed off for a cycle race. After visiting the local Coop to pick up my lunch I descended to Grund where I caught the gondola to Mannlichen. The ride apparently takes thirty minutes but I wasn’t timing it as I was in no rush. Below me mountain bikers were ascending and descending the tracks.
On alighting at the top station the area was rather busy, especially outside the hotel where tourists were watching the Swiss dancers.  I strolled along the path to and climbed the mountain Mannlichen at 2342 metres in height. I had excellent views which included Wengen, the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Schilthorn which I had climbed the previous day.
Afterwards I returned to the gondola station and took the marked trail for Klein Scheidegg. The route was busy with walkers and the clattering of cow bells as there were various herds feeding beside the track and in the valley below.  Beyond Klein Scheidegg were the snow covered imposing mountains of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger.
On approaching Klein Scheidegg it started to rain so on arrival at the station I found some shelter for lunch. However the rain was short lived and the cloud began to lift and break up so I decided to add an ascent of the Lauberhorn to my day’s outing.
I followed a marked path from Klein Scheidegg to the top of the Wixi ski tow, where the building also operated as a small restaurant. The route continued along the ridge passed the top of the Lauberhorn ski tow and onto its summit at 2472 metres. There were a couple of bench seats at the summit so it was time to relax and take in the awesome views.
I spent a while on the summit as it was very peaceful with no one else around. On my return to the restaurant at the top of the Wexi tow I met a couple ascending the mountain. Here I decided to vary my return to Klein Scheidegg and followed another marked trail south, passed the Russi Jump, to the farm at Rinderhitta. Here cattle are kept on the ground floor of the building while the farmer and his family sleep upstairs. The path then followed the line of the mountainside back to Klein Scheidegg where I caught the train to Grindelwald.

Time taken - 4.25 hours.
Distance - 9 kilometres.
Ascent 530 metres.

Photos taken on walk.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011



Murren to Schilthorn.

The previous day I travelled from Scotland to Interlaken in Switzerland for a week’s hiking in the Bernese Oberland.
With a reasonable forecast I took the train to Lauterbrunnen, the cable car to Grutschalp and the link railway to Murren. Here I located the local Coop to purchase my lunch and liquids. I then returned towards the railway station where I had seen the signed route I wanted to use to ascend the Schilthorn. This route took me passed a few Swiss style houses and up the side of the stream, Agertenback. Beyond a ski tow, I followed the path that climbed to the west of Allmendhubel, a small hill and viewpoint. Here I found a bench seat to use while taking on some food and liquid. Cows, calves and a bull were close by and were very inquisitive, even putting their head into a chaps rucksack.
After an extended break being entertained by the cattle annoying some of the hikers I continued west along a track and soon came to penned sheep with some tethered to the outside. They were getting their feet trimmed and injected, presumable to prevent infection. However my progress was delayed for a few minutes as a ram was tethered to the gate I needed to pass through and was getting one of its feet bandaged with what appeared to be duck tape or something similar.
Once beyond the gate, the path wound its way up the gully to the north of Muttlerenhoren. Here a mountain biker passed me but I later spotted him carrying his bike. As I approached the Schilthornhutte, a hut and restaurant owned by the Murren Ski Club, I decided to stop for lunch as the route ahead was a rocky gully and at this point I had good views into the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
It had been mainly sunny although at times high cloud floated around the high tops. Navigation wasn’t a problem as the route was well signposted and included times. On the higher sections the red and white paint markings found on Alpine routes kept me on the correct path. In addition, from above Allmendhubel, there were kilometre markers for the Schilthorn Half Marathon with the finish at the summit. Some endurance race!
With lunch over I entered the barren valley of Engital where there were warning signs in respect of rock falls with plenty evidence of such and some appeared fairly recent. Beyond a wide track was reached and wound its way above Lake Grauseeli towards the final climb. A marked path was followed south as it headed over rock and loose stones before turning west and narrowing considerably to become quite exposed. However this section was made easier with fixed wire cables.
The path then widened and as I made my summit approach the mountain biker I saw earlier was preparing to head off downhill. Better him than me especially on the top section. Finally a steel ladder led to the Piz Gloria and its revolving restaurant. Although cloud was floating around the top I remained on the summit until I think I got views in all directions. I later returned to Murren on the Schilthornbhan cable car.

Time taken - 4.5 hours.
Distance - 7 kilometres.
Ascent - 1340 metres.

Photos taken on ascent.