Kathy and Mark on the West Berner Oberland ski tour • March 21-23, 2011

We have always wanted to explore the ski touring possibilities in the Western Berner Oberland. With 3 days off, and a sunny weather forecast, we thought we would check it out.

The "Little Haute Route" as it is occasionally called, runs from the ski area at Les Diablerets, near Aigle, eastward, over the Wildstrubel and the Wildhorn, and eventually ends in Kandersteg. There are, as usual, many variations, but the most typical itinerary overnights in the high alpine refuges; the Gelten hut, Wildhorn hut, Wildstrubel hut, Lammeren hut and, usually, out from there.

With only 3 days off, we had to accelerate the pace a bit. Also, we wanted to include a traverse of the Wildstrubel, which, on the map at least, looked too "interesting" to miss. Our "revised" itinerary was rather taxing, and for the first 2 days, we staggered into the huts with barely enough time for a beer before dinner. But once the pain subsides, it is always worth it.

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Our trip begins in the village of Les Diablerets. The great lifts of the Glacier 3000 ski area lie above and gave us quick access to the mountains. We are waiting for the ski bus, the first of which was at the relatively leisurely hour of 9 am.


The cable-car to the summit of the Scex Rouge.


From the ski area, we have a long gentle glide down (or mostly down) to the Col du Sanetsch. From the Col, we start our first big climb, the Arpelistock. The route follows a ridge for almost its entire length. At times the wind whipped up a maelstrom of blowing frozen pellets. Not much fun.


Normally, from the top of the Arpelistock, one would descend directly down to the Gelten hut, and order a well-deserved beverage of choice. However, our speedy itinerary called for us to soldier on. In this photo we are traversing across the glacier on the north side of the Arpelistock, heading for the Col du Brochet, the high pass between the Arpelistock and the Wildhorn.


The wind, blowing hard from the east, and moving much snow with it, started to worry us a bit. Those little gully above can pick up a lot of accumulation in a hurry.


Fortunately, the wind died as the sun begins to get a bit lower in the afternoon sky. In this photo, we are rounding the corner of Mont Pucel, approaching the somewhat delicate passage to the upper Wildhorn. In the background on the left is the summit of Les Diablerets, and the start of the day's festivities.


Crossing around the east side of Mont Pucel.


On the high plateau of the Wildhorn. All downhill from here to the hut.


We arrived at the Wildhorn hut in time for dinner! This photo was taken the following morning, as we set out.


Looking back at the Wildhorn, as we traverse a minor obstacle on the ascent of the Schnidehore. This was our first big climb of day two.


Our route had us passing by the Wildstrubel hut, but not spending the night. We did, however, stop long enough to have a cup of tea and a fine nut pastry.


The warden of the Wildstrubel hut advised us to climb up to the military radar installation on the summit of the nearby Wisshore to maximize the downhill glide across the rather flat Glacier de la Plaine Morte. On the way down we found a pocket of nice snow that the wind had somehow missed.


A couple kilometers of rather tedious flat brings us to the Wildstrubel. Roll over the image to see the route up the peak.


Finally, arriving at the summit of the Wildstrubel. Its getting tired out.


The traverse of the summit ridge of the Wildstrubel, however, was exceptionally beautiful. A nice distraction from painful feet and overused muscles.


Beautiful touring along the narrow section of ridge between the Mittelgipfel and the Grossstrubel. (yes, there are 3 s's in Grossstrubel)


We descended rather steeply down to our overnight accommodation in Engstligenalp. We even had enough time to take a shower and, again, have a beer, before dinner was served.


On our last day, all we had to do was make it to Kandersteg. Quite helpfully, the T-bar lift of the Engstligenalp saves us some 300 meters of climbing, and also forces a somewhat more leisurely start to the day, as the lift only opens at about 9 in the morning.

From the top of the lift we skinned up to, then crossed, the Chindbettipass before descending a bit into the lonely valley northeast of the Steghorn. As per a guide's recommendation, we then traversed the Rote Totz to finally gain the main drainage which would lead us down to Kandersteg.

This photo was taken almost on the summit of the Rote Totz.


Though the snow was getting heavy in the intense sunshine, we did still fine a few good bits here and there.


Back in civilization as we pass the Hotel Schwarenbach. Now only about 4 kilometers of snowy road to the cable-car lift down to Kandersteg.

Even though we were at the lift by lunch time, the remaining travel to home (bus, then train, another train, then drive back to Chamonix) was at least as tiring as the day's ski.