Bernese Oberland trek and Wildstrubel climb • June 24 -30, 2011

Matt Croy and his wife Carrie, along with two friends Andrew Rosenfeld and Adria Linder, came over this June for a trek through the high country of the Bernese Oberland with Kathy. They also took in an ascent of the glaciated Wildstrubel, and an all-too-quick visit to the spa at Leukerbad.

Other Trips with Matt Croy

Mont Blanc - August, 2009
Mont Blanc - July, 2010

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Here we all are near the end of our adventure. From left to right are Matt, Carrie, Adria, and Andrew.


Our first day, we hiked up from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg, among pastures either bursting with wildflowers, or where those flowers were being mown down by the livestock. At one point a sociable goat "bonded" with us and accompanied us for about an hour, before finding another group of hikers she liked better!

Matt Croy photo


As near as I can tell, no one does vegetable gardens better than the Swiss!


Our first night's lodging was at the gracious, historic Hotel Bellevue des Alpes at Kleine Scheidegg. Located at the railway junction between the Jungfraujoch "Top of Europe" line and the connecting trains to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, this hotel served as a base for the climbing teams making the first attempts to climb the notorious North Face of the Eiger, as well as for the classic film "The Eiger Sanction" by Clint Eastwood. You can still follow climbers on this difficult route from the balconies of the east-facing rooms. If you have a good pair of binoculars that is. The face is visible glowering in the background in this photo.


The interior of the hotel still looks much as it did in its heyday. Upgrades and renovations have managed to preserve the beauty of the original while modernizing comforts such as lighting and plumbing. It's clear this building has been handled with love and attention to detail.


The dining area, looking westward to the slopes of the Jungfrau.


The next morning our trail headed off downhill toward Lauterbrunnen, and ultimately up again to Murren, our next night's stop. The flowers were amazing along our path as we started off under gloomy skies.


While parts of our route were more rugged and even primitive, here in proximity to Kleine Scheidegg the trail engineers provide plenty of information!


These calves sport a diabolical-looking "weaning" device. I imagine it doesn't take them long to get the picture that mum no longer welcomes nuzzling!


As we approached Wengen we stopped in at one of dozens of artesanal cheese factories we saw along this trip. This one was particularly homey and rustic. We interrupted the workers eating their lunch around a rough wooden table, but they graciously tolerated our visit, our poking around taking photos, and naturally were willing to sell us a nice fat hunk of "berg-käse". It was delicious.


By evening we were settled in a comfy hotel in Murren, a small train-access-only village perched at the edge of the enormous vertical cliffs, streaming with endless waterfalls, that overhang the Lauterbrunnen valley. At sunset, the skies cleared, treating us to amazing color and texture in dissipating clouds over the Eiger (left) and Mönch (right).

Matt Croy photo


The next morning we were at last treated to absolutely perfect weather. Sunshine, flowers, blue skies and sun-drenched mountain vistas beckon as we leave this charming town.


Our climb this day is a tough one over the 2600+m pass called the Sefinenfurgge. Our path heads up through meadows and cold alpine tarns before turning to steep scree and snow patches at the pass.


Facing a long descent to our next night's stage at Griesalp, we allowed ourselves only a brief rest at the pass before heading down the other side. Swiss engineering again saves the day as this amazing length of stairs helps secure the steepest part of the rather loose slopes of scree and talus.


Nearing treeline and the hamlet of Griesalp, rather footsore hikers enjoy the soft grassy trail.


Our next day brought us up over the Hohtürli (high gate? help me out, Swiss friends!), an even higher pass than the Sefinenfurgge, and just as rugged. Hikers here approach a narrow ridge crossing called "Uf der Wart", after which the going gets genuinely steep.


Adria and Matt get ready for the next stage of the climb.


Andrew keeps his nose to the grindstone here on the steep zig-zags below the Hohtürli. Sections of stairs again keep the loose scree sections safe, if still rather nerve-wracking!


Once we finally reached the Hohtürli, it was just a short detour to visit the dramatically situated Blüemlisalp hut, below the trilogy of peaks seen partially here; the Morgenhorn, Wissi Frau, and Blüemlisalphorn


After another delicate descent on scree slopes (amazingly, we watched a very skilled and self-confident mountain biker negotiate this section, mouths agape!), we reach gentler trails and can enjoy the impressive view. Here dwindling lobes of the glacier cling to steep cliffs, carved into graceful curves by gravity and by their own melting processes.


At last our night's goal appears below; the beautiful glacier-fed Oeschinensee.

Matt Croy photo


Our lodging this night is rustic but charming: the Berghaus Oeschinensee, located just above the lake itself. Traditional house carving expresses homey sentiments in rhyming verse.


After dinner, we savor the warm summer evening over cards and drinks until the growing dusk and beverage-induced torpor force us to bed.


After dinner a couple strolls beside the lake.


The next day was also beautiful and very hot. We descended to Kandersteg, but stayed only long enough to visit the train station to exchange some clothing and pick up some gear for our upcoming glacier climb on the Wildstrubel. The astoundingly efficient Swiss Rail company, its corresponding bus service and the fact that just about every town of any size has a modern station equipped with a baggage room, means that you can send baggage or gear ahead to stations along your route. This allows you to re-stock from time to time with fresh clean clothes or whatever you might need. Here we are during our afternoon continuation above the Daubensee, en route to the Lammeren hut, our jump-off point for our climb.


The glacier-fed stream of the Lammerendalu rushes along its bed of tilted limestone rocks. The Daubenhorn behind.


Though it looks like little more than a large boulder in the distance here, the dark object among the rocks here on the left is our home for this night, the Lammeren hut. Afternoon cumulus clouds gather as evening approaches.


The next day we are up very early to beat the forecast thunderstorms, as well as to get down to the spa in Leukerbad after our climb! Here some of our crew take their first steps in crampons as we make our way up the glacier ice of the Wildstrubel.


The snow-covered upper glacier slopes give way to rocks just below the summit of the Wildstrubel. We are just in time to beat the gathering clouds.


Safely back down to the glacier's edge, we pause to soak up the sun as the clouds dissipate once more.


After a relaxing evening in Leukerbad, we head back into the hills on a squally, very windy morning. We took a cable car back up to the ridge and into the teeth of the storm.


We did get wet and spent a couple of hours in very thick fog. But in the end we popped out above the clouds and back into the blue. We were in and out of cloud most of this, our last day however.


Adria manages a smile as we complete what was probaby the most rugged and remote passage of the trip, up the Rote Chumme and across the very wild and deserted Tälli, a high valley and lake only recently liberated from below the retreating Tälli glacier. Stones, snow and rushing water.


After another couple of hours descending a tough trail through boulders, snow and fog, we at last re-enter the land of living things and a welcome patch of sunshine. We stop to have our picnic within sight of the end of our journey, the hamlet of Engstligenalp.


In winter this place is a little ski area with a handful of surface lifts and great access to the back country. In summer it is home to herds of cattle, and the homes and dairies of their owners, like this one.

From here, a cable car brought us back to the road, and we had a quick drive to our start point in Grindelwald and a final evening together before we went our separate ways.


It was a tough but beautiful trip, full of surprises, discoveries and small pleasures to compensate for the effort. Though it's aways hard to break up the party after a trip like this, it was wonderful exploring this corner of the Alps together.

Matt Croy photo