In 1997, I joined my family for a vacation in the Berner Oberland. After an unhurried drive through Switzerland, we left the freeway in Interlaken and immediately were presented with a magnificient view of a snowy summit, which peeked through a cloud gap just at the right time.
The road to Grindelwald then wound up along a torrential mountain stream, and we reached our holiday house. Next morning, the clouds had gone and the Eiger's summit with wisps of snow was clearly visible from our terrace.
For a start, we went up to the First using the cable railway. The walk to one of Grindelwald's must-see attractions, the Bachalpsee, was a slow one. Every few minutes we had to stop, turn around, and marvel at the icey summits across the valley, or glance down on Grindelwald's upper glacier.
For the second hike, we went up to the Große Scheidegg using a bus of the Swiss postal service. Because the street is mostly too narrow for two oncoming cars, the driver sounded the horn before each blind curve, imitating the melody used on old postal carriages.
The hike from the Scheidegg down to the Schwarzwaldalp went along alp huts, flowery meadows and murmuring streams, and offered a good view of the tremendous rocks on the other side of the valley. At the Schwarzwaldalp, I shot one of my best cow pictures while waiting for the bus back to Grindelwald.
After these two walks, I chose Mount Männlichen as the destination of my first real hike. Starting at our holiday house above Grindelwald, I had to climb about 1100m to the Kleine Scheidegg, where I encountered the tourists who used the railway to get up there. To the left the Jungfraujoch station was clearly visible, behind me the Wetterhorn towered high above Grindelwald, and to the right the Männlichen's summit (another 300m) was waiting for me.
In contrast to the scaling of Mount Männlichen, the hike to Rots Gufer was mainly level, and went far into the valley formed by the glaciers between the Eiger and Mount Schreckhorn.
The first part took me to the Stieregg hut on a broad and busy path, which offers a nice view down into the narrow gorge formed by Grindelwald's lower glacier:
Behind the hut, which sits atop a rapidly eroding gravel slope above the glacier gorge, the path got rougher for a while, and the hikers got fewer. Although I had not gained much height, I was surprised by a spectacular view when the path bent to the left at one point. Suddenly I could see a broad U-shaped valley, a couple of glaciers, waterfalls and the summits of the Finsteraarhorn and Schreckhorn. On the opposite side of the valley, a large avalanche was going down. The path continued on the grassy slopes above the ice streams, and walking in this secluded, grandiose valley was quite an experience.
Not being lazy, I chose the Faulhorn as the destination of my last day in Grindelwald, with a side trip to the Hühnertäli. This peculiar valley is shielded to the north by a mountain range, which reaches from the Bachalpsee to the Schwarzhorn (2928m). To the south, the terrain steeply falls off toward the Brienzer Lake.
Shortly after leaving the main trail at the Bachalpsee, I encountered a small slough. It certainly attracts less visitors than its famous neighbour, but still offers a nice view of the Schreckhorn.
On my way through the valley, I was guided by a marmot which hopped along the path some
hundred meters in front of me, from time to time stopping and
looking back. (I still wonder who of us was more curious.) Shortly
after it vanished, I was surrounded by a herd of mountain goats,
and arrived at the destination of this side trip.
The Brienzer Lake and a network of little streams far below, ahead of me the summit of the Schwarzhorn with some hikers visible on it, and to the right a wall of rocks hiding the majestic Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn. And in the middle of all this: a lonely signpost. I had seen this signpost on a photo in a hiking book, and made it the destination of the side trip. (The signposts in the Swiss mountains are something special. Swiss constitution requires the government to place them along the hiking paths, and therefore you find them at the remotest of places.)
In 2008, I went back to Grindelwald for a short weekend. In the eleven years that had passed since my first visit, one of the mountain huts I had been to fell into the gorge of the lower glacier, and a massive rock pillar from the Eiger joined it from the other side.
On the first day, I went up to Jungfraujoch, taking the second train in early morning. Seeing how crowded the Jungfraujoch was when I later returned from my hike to Mönchsjoch, this was a good decision. It also gave me enough time for a walk from the Eigergletscher station back to Kleine Scheidegg.
The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms for Sunday afternoon, so I only went into the gorge of the lower glacier, and afterwards took the cable car to Pfingstegg. From there, i visited the Bäregg hut, which replaced its ill-fated predecessor at Stieregg. In 2005, extreme erosion took the Stieregg hut down into the gorge.
The photos on this page are © 1996-2014 Carsten Clasohm. You are free to use them under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.