Before I started this trip, Switzerland was one of the places that I was most looking forward to visiting. I am happy to report that this amazing country met all of my expectations and more, the natural beauty of the whole Bernese Alps region is breathtaking. I’ve been here for eight days and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this place. Switzerland is definitely a place that I will be coming back to in the future.
The day that I checked out of my hostel in Interlaken, I left my big bag at the hostel so I could go explore the Grindelwald Valley with three Canadians that I met in Munich. We caught the train from Interlaken up to Grindelwald, then after having a quick look around the town we caught the cable car all the way up to the top of a mountain called First. The views from the cable car back down over the valley were pretty awesome, really green grass with mountains stretching up into the clouds.
The weather wasn’t the best that day, so instead of views looking across to the other mountains we had a white background of clouds for most of the day. However when the clouds did clear slightly there were some cool views of the snow covered landscapes. We hiked up from the cable car station to a lake called Bachalpsee, it was pretty much entirely frozen over but still a nice area to sit and look around. Walking down back to the cable car station there is a metal walkway leading around a cliff face. Walking right up to the end we came across a viewing platform with a great view of the clouds, I’m sure it would be an awesome view on a nice day.
After picking up my bag from Interlaken I took a train, a bus and then a cable car to get to Gimmelwald, where I would be staying at the Mountain Hostel for a while. This place is really amazing, it’s perched on the edge of a huge cliff and only accessible by cable car or a hiking trail. The town has a population of less than 200 people and the nearest supermarket is in the next town up the mountain (about a 30 to 40 minute hike away). It’s such a peaceful place, sitting in the hammock outside the hostel and relaxing, only being able to hear birds and waterfalls. Most of my time staying in Gimmelwald there were clouds covering the top of it mountains, but on my last night they all cleared up and we had a great view of the mountain tops being lit up by the setting sun.
My first morning in Gimmelwald was spent doing washing and relaxing as I recovered from my busy few days in Interlaken and Grindelwald. Then in the afternoon I walked up to Murren to grab groceries and check out the town, only about a half an hour walk up and some good views along the way. The weather was pretty nice so I sat and looked down over the valley watching paragliders.
Just down from where I was sitting I could see base jumpers heading down to the edge of the cliff. So I headed down to see where they were going to be jumping from, surprisingly it was right below the town of Murren and I could walk right up to the fence just a few meters from their platform. Throughout this trip I’ve found my fear of heights actually going away, probably due to a combination of flights, bell tower climbs, paragliding and other stuff. But standing a couple of meters from the edge of this cliff and watching people run and dive off the edge still made my stomach drop.
On my second day up in Gimmelwald the weather wasn’t looking too bad so I decided to do a hike up further into the mountains. I talked to one of the girls that works at the hostel and she recommended one of her favorite ones, although she did warn me that the uphill section would suck (she was completely right about that). So starting just before 9am I set out on the road out of Gimmelwald, whether it was because of that thick fog or lack of attention I missed the trail leading back up the mountain and ended up in the next valley over… whoops. Looking at my map I decided to keep heading up this valley and then loop back around to the correct trail, this was quite a nice detour as it lead me to several tiny villages which appeared out of the fog.
After looping back to the right track I started on up that valley that would have the hard uphill, after already doing three hours hiking before I got to this I knew it would be a battle. I managed to push myself up to Rotstockhutte which sits at 2039m and is pretty snowy even at this time of year. At this stage my GPS watch ran out of battery, telling me that I had already done 17km, and I wasn’t even at my highest point of the hike! After a lunch stop and a rest I pushed on to the top of the Wasenegg Ridge, getting up here was probably the hardest I’ve ever had to push myself on a hike, I literally crawled up to the final bench at the top.
At my highest point of the day I was at 2288m, felt a huge sense of achievement getting to the top especially given that I’d done an extra three hours before even starting my planned hike. From here on it was mostly downhill as I walked right down along the ridge line, even with the clouds it was still a cool hike and when I managed to get a clear glimpse the views were spectacular. Eventually I made it all the way back down to Murren where I picked up some well deserved beers, and then walked the rest of the way back to the hostel. Since my watch cut out halfway through I don’t have exact stats on my hike, but I worked out that it would have been at least 30km long and close to 2000m climbing. Needless to say, coming down the stairs the next morning was quite the challenge.
On my last day in Switzerland I caught the cable car back down the into the valley. I checked into a hostel in the town of Lauterbrunnen then went out to explore the area a bit more. About 3km out of Lauterbrunnen are the Trummelbach Falls, a series of ten glacial waterfalls running through one of the canyons on the valley wall. The water running through these falls comes straight from the glaciers on Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. You can take a lift up into the canyon and then follow the illuminated walkways to each of the ten waterfalls. The rocks which make up the canyon walls have been eroded over many years and have a smooth and rounded look to them. The sound of the waterfalls when you are standing near them is deafening, you can really feel the power of the water as it surges through the canyon.