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Trekking in the Jungfrau
Posted by PeterD on October 11th, 2012 in '12 - Jungfrau, Switzerland, Hiking/Trekking

Truly amazing! I can only attempt to describe in words our experience in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. I say attempt, because in this case, we’ll let the pictures do the talking – with thousands of words…

A bit of context and background… We started planning our trip/hike in Switzerland nearly a year ago – researching on the net, collecting maps, reading blogs, lots of great information out there.

After various early ideas, we settled on arriving in the Jungfrau region on a Friday evening in early September, in a little town called Wilderswil – just outside Interlaken in the Germanic section of Switzerland (so pronounce the w’s like v’s). The plan was to stay the weekend, begin our trek on Monday morning on a Cog Railway to Schynige Platte, with four days trekking and three overnights:

Faulhornmonday night
Hotel Wetterhorn (outside Grindelwald)tuesday night
AlpiglenWednesday night
WilderswilThursday night

Back to our hotel (the Hotel Baeren) in Wilderswil thursday night, followed by a train to Paris on Friday for 3 nights in the city of lights.

We’d been accustomed to hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains – were there’s a great many trails, but we were astounded at the number and quality of the trails in the Jungfrau. To give you an idea of the number of trails, the picture covers all the trails we were on, and then some – all the green lines are trails (check out this Map website and search for Interlaken).

Lauterbrunnen Valley
Lauterbrunnen Valley

After a beautiful weather weekend, which included cheering the runners in the Jungfrau Marathon (!) and some bike riding and site-seeing, we set of Monday morning on our adventure.   The first two days hiking were beautiful weather – mid 60’s, few clouds.   Wednesday, some rain came into the area, so we cut some our planned route short.   Thursday’s weather? Well, you’ll see for yourself…

Ok, onto some of the pictures…

View from Schynige Platte toward Schiltorn and the Lauterbrunnen valley

Monday morning, we left a duffle bag at the hotel, strapped on our packs, and headed off to the Cog Rail station (in Wilderswil).  The Cog trip was nearly an hour, from the valley floor at about 1900 ft elevation to the ‘plateau’ at nearly nearly 6900 ft.   The train was nearly empty – this was September 10th, so the kids were all in school!.  The air was crisp and the scenery, breathtaking.

Very quickly, we left the valley town of Wilderswil behind – the gingerbread houses and the lush green grass.  As the train climbed out of the valley, the terrain got a bit more rocky; as much of civilization was left behind. Here you see a little farm house we passed as we made our way up the valley wall.  You could hear the cow bells in the distance.  Nice view out the kitchen window!

We arrived at the Schynige Platte rail station, not much around (besides the cows, of course), though there was a hiking boot factory demo ‘store’ in the station.  It had just opened for the day when we arrived, so we stopped in.   Since we arrived in the region, we discovered that Paragliding was very popular – lots of updrafts from the mountains and all.  So, it was only a mild surprise to find out the woman working at the hiking store, took the Cog to work, and Paraglided home!  nice commute 🙂

The Cog railway station at Schynige Platte – and the trail ahead. Our night’s destination – Faulhorn – in the far distance!

Not too much else around the rail station, other than the cows and the trail.  The few others we’d shared the train with vanished pretty quickly.  There is a Berghaus and an Alpine Garden nearby, though from the station area, we couldn’t see them.  We had a long day ahead, so opted to just get on our way.

Now remember, we’re accustomed to hiking in the whites, where there’s rocks – lots of them – all over the trails – often it’s rock hoping, from one rock to the next.  To our pleasant surprise, these trails here were “civilized” – wide open, gravel things, nicely suite for walking, even two abreast, and yup, you guessed it, suited also cows (detecting a pattern here?).

Oh, and trail signs, everywhere!    Signs telling you time to the next destinations/trail or whatever (“std” is short for “stunde” – hour – in german).  Civilized – that’s all we could say.

Trail signs – well marked, with time to destination

On the first day, we were headed from Schynige Platte to Faulhorn.    After being treated to many fine views of Lake Brienz and enjoying a lunch break at a Berghaus (mountain house) along the route, we arrived at Berghaus Faulhorn – our destination for Monday night.

This Berghaus is pretty amazing – no doubt about it – it’s a hotel on the top of a mountain – at about 8800 ft elevation!  While there’s paths to/from the Berghaus, there’s no car transportation, so supplies are ferried by helicopter, stuff goes out by helicopter – a regular supply service.  At the Berghaus, we had a full evening meal (Stroganoff Rosti), including a bottle of wine, along with about 20-30 other people who were also staying overnight.    Nice meal, but what we didn’t have was running water, the jug and basin in our room was about it.

We were up early the next day, Tuesday, grabbed a quick bite for breakfast, assembled our gear and were all set to head out, BUT were asked to wait inside – for what?  For the helicopter to deliver supplies on the roof and cart away the trash, of course!  After that bit of excitement, we headed back out on the trail for the day.  Looking back at the Faulhorn, we were treated to quite the view – truly a beautiful and memorable location!

View of Berghotel Faulhorn – as seen from the trail headed toward Grosse Scheidegg

Leaving Faulhorn, we descended through alpine sections and within a mile or so, were treated to one of the more picturesque lakes in the region – the Bachsee. Nearly still, no wind, it made for some beautiful reflections.    And yes, that’s our (civilized) trail off to the left of the lake. Directly ahead, off in the distance, the Oberer Grindelwaldgletscher with the Schreckhorn peak in the distance. As we came to discover later that day, that glacier was viewable right outside our hotel window (at the Hotel Wetterhorn).

Bachsee – with the Grindelwald glacier in the background
Chatting with one of the locals.  Quite the friendly sort!   You can also get another glimpse of the trail quality – wide open, easy grade – with a few day-trippers off in the distance.

One of the many surprises for us was the number of people (and cows!) on the trails.  The region is laced with trails, with many ‘access points’ – easy ways to get on/off – such as a gondola, a bus or a train.

This makes the region very accessible, even for the less athletic types.  A short ride from the valley, puts you on a trail for some outdoors walking for a few hours, where you can decide to return or continue to another access point.    We saw many ‘day-trippers’ – those with a little shoulder bag, a plastic water bottle – not much more for gear, and certainly nothing like the 25lbs we were carrying!

The Wetterhorn – looking west toward Grosse Scheidegg

After a lunch stop at Grosse Scheidegg, we headed toward Grindelwald, but not before stopping for more pictures of the Wetterhorn. Another pleasant discovery for us was the frequent restaurants and Berghaus’ along the way. It seemed that there was always food (and good food!) never more than an hour or two away. Maybe catering to the day-trippers, but for us, it meant we didn’t have to carry food, and even the dozen or so granola/energy bars that we did pack weren’t really necessary.

Hotel Alpiglen

Wednesday was the rain day, so we took cheated a bit and took a bus from the Hotel Wetterhorn down to Grindlewald itself. From there, just a short walk to the Berghaus Alpiglen – our accommodations for Wednesday night. The photo above is the Berghaus on Thursday morning – overcast skies, temperatures in the high 30’s and snow (!) just off in the distance. The hillside there is the bottom slopes of the (famous) Eiger – rising to over 14000′ – though much of it was obscured by the clouds.

Besides the tourist industry (though there were only 3 others at the hotel that night), the Berghaus Alpiglen was home to many cows. In the late evening, we were treated to a cacophony of cow bells, as the herd dogs brought the cows in for the night. Great to watch (and hear!), though for a short time, we were worried the cows (and us!) might not sleep at night – thankfully, they do!

Thursday’s hike brought the weather surprise. Yes, you saw the clouds and dampness. With that, we had a choice of routes to our next destination – we chose one that was a bit lower elevation. Even so, as we headed toward Kleine Scheidegg, and then through to Mannlinchen, we found ourselves moving above the snow line. Fortunately, the wide open paths, which were mostly gravel (and sometimes shared with paved roadway) were free of snow. We’d come equipped with long pants and outer shells/wind-breakers, so the cold wasn’t a problem.

Kleine Scheidegg
A lookout post at the little restaurant stop just 5 mins north of Kleine Scheidegg

Männlichen, and ultimately Wengen via gondola, were our destinations – the last piece of our trekking in the Jungfrau.  From Wengen, we’d planned to travel by (the oh-so-reliable) train to Lauterbrunnen and back to our hotel in Wilderswil – the one we’d left Monday morning – a million spectacular views and an amazing adventure ago.

…  but not before one last photo from passing day tripper – the two of us, looking out over the Grindelwald valley, with the partially-obscured Wetterhorn in the distant east.

Us, on our way to Cable car at Männlichen to Wengen and into the valley