Trip Reports: Hut Tour Around Grindelwald, Switzerland - September 2018

In mid-September after our treks in the Bernina Range and Val Masino in southeast Switzerland and north Italy, Claudia and I traveled north to the famous Jungfrau region near Interlaken in Switzerland. I've visited these mountains in the winter and spring, but this would be the first time I've been hiking here in the summer season. We opted to hike a 5-day hut-to-hut circuit along the mountains surrounding the town of Grindelwald, via the Faulhorn, Gleckstein, and Bäregg huts, to Kleine Scheidegg, and ending in the Lauterbrunnen valley.

Bernese Alps, Faulhorn, Jungfrau, Switzerland, Bernese Oberland, photo

Jungfrau (4158m) emerges through a break in the clouds.

We started our trek in ease, riding the cog train from Wilderswil up to Schynige Platte where we were immediately greeted with a massive view of the Bernese Oberland mountains with almost our entire 5-day trek around Grindelwald laid out in front of our eyes. From Schynige Platte we hiked along the mountain crest until reaching the Berghotel Faulhorn, a hut perched right on the 2681m summit of the Faulhorn! We were fogged in most for much of the evening but fortunately I caught a glimpse of Jungfrau in a break in the clouds at sunset.

Bachsee, Bernese Alps, Finsteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, Switzerland, reflection, wildflowers, Bernese Oberland, photo

Schreckhorn (4078m, left) and Finsteraarhorn (4274m) reflect in Bachsee at sunrise.

In the morning I awoke early and walked down to Bachsee for sunrise. The view from this lake is one of the classic iconic vistas in the Alps!

In the distance above you can see the pointy spire of Finsteraarhorn; see my photo of Finsteraarhorn from the other side here.

Bachsee, Bernese Alps, Finsteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, Switzerland, reflection, wildflowers, Bernese Oberland, photo

Morning light at Bachsee, with Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn beyond.

Claudia came down from Faulhorn and met me at Bachsee later in the morning and we continued our hike around the Grindelwald valley. Our next destination was the Glecksteinhütte, located in a deep side valley below Wetterhorn.

Bernese Alps, Eiger, Switzerland, Bernese Oberland, Grosse Scheidegg, Grindelwald, photo

Eiger (3970m) towers above the valley of Grindelwald, as seen from near Grosse Scheidegg.

The hike around from Bachsee past Grosse Scheidegg was just eye-wateringly spectacular the entire way with panoramic views some of the most massive mountains in the entire Alps.

In the photo above, you can much of our trek: on this Day 2 we hiked around to and up the first valley on the left side (Glecksteinhütte), on Day 3 we hiked up the second valley in front of the Eiger (Bäregg), and on Day 4 we hiked to the broad saddle to the right of the Eiger (Kleine Scheidegg).

Bernese Alps, Eiger, Switzerland, cows, Bernese Oberland, photo

A cow framed by Eiger.

The hills are alive with the sound of cow bells!

Bernese Alps, Grindelwald, Switzerland, photo

Grindelwald still looking green in mid-September.

Though our route circumnavigated Grindelwald and we had views of it every day, we never actually walked into the town on this trek.

Bernese Alps, Eiger, Switzerland, hiking, Bernese Oberland, photo

Hiking up the precarious ledge trail to the Glecksteinhütte, with Eiger off in the distance.

The hike up the side valley to the Glecksteinhütte was thrilling, mostly on a narrow ledge trail with massive exposure the entire way.

Bernese Alps, Switzerland, hiking, Bernese Oberland, photo

Hiking the awesome trail towards Glecksteinhütte, above the deep gorge carved by the Oberer Grindelwald Glacier.

Bernese Alps, Schreckhorn, Switzerland, hiking, Bernese Oberland, photo

Basking in the glory of the scene near the Glecksteinhütte, with the Oberer Grindelwald Glacier behind.

With the uber-scenic route around to Grosse Scheidegg, followed by the fun and exciting trail up to Gleckstein, Claudia and I agreed that this hike from Faulhorn to Glecksteinhütte was definitely one of the all-time awesome hiking days we've ever done.

Bernese Alps, Glecksteinhütte, Schreckhorn, Switzerland, beer, Bernese Oberland, photo

Goodies at the Glecksteinhütte. You can oftentimes accurately judge the quality of an alpine hut by its hot chocolate; as you can see the Glecksteinhütte is dialed.

One thing I always find interesting about the huts in the Alps is that no two are the same; they each have their own unique layout and character. And every time we trek in the Alps there's always one or two standout huts that have that perfect combination of extraordinary setting and top-notch hut character. The Glecksteinhütte was one of those huts, easily earning a spot in the official Brauer Alpine Hut Hall of Fame.

Though I was thoroughly relaxed on the patio at the Glecksteinhütte after a long day of hiking and two Hefeweizens, I willed myself to put my boots back on and trudge over for a sunset shoot at these waterfalls I'd seen earlier. I missed dinnertime, but the hut keepers were kind enough to serve me warm plates of dinner anyways once I got back.

Bernese Alps, Schreckhorn, Switzerland, waterfall, Bernese Oberland, photo

Glacial waterfalls below Schreckhorn and the Oberer Grindelwald Glacier.

Bernese Alps, Glecksteinhütte, Switzerland, hut, Bernese Oberland, photo

The Glecksteinhütte.

Bernese Alps, Switzerland, Bernese Oberland, glacier, sunrise, photo

A fiery sunrise over the Oberer Grindelwald Glacier.

Bernese Alps, Grindelwald, Switzerland, hiking, Bernese Oberland, photo

Hiking down from the Glecksteinhütte towards Grindelwald.

On Day 3 we descended one deep side valley of Grindelwald down from Glecksteinhütte, traversed above Grindelwald, then ascended another neighboring deep side valley to the Berghaus Bäregg.

Bernese Alps, Switzerland, hiking, Bernese Oberland, photo

A lovely path above Grindelwald.

Berghaus Bäregg, Bernese Alps, Fiescherhörner, Switzerland, hut, Bernese Oberland, photo

Berghaus Bäregg and Fiescherhörner.

The owner of Berghaus Bäregg was super friendly and we chatted about photography and their long-ago travels through Colorado. Funnily enough, the hut keeper at Glecksteinhütte had phoned Bäregg to warn them about me, advising them to not let me wander off during dinnertime! Haha... So I was expressly forbidden from shooting sunset here (though let's be honest, I still would have gone out anyways if the light was good!).

Bernese Alps, Fiescherhörner, Switzerland, moonlight, Bernese Oberland, photo

Moon rising above Fiescherhörner (4049m).

Bernese Alps, Grindelwald, Switzerland, hiking, Bernese Oberland, photo

Hiking down from Bäregg back towards Grindelwald.

In the morning we hiked back down towards Grindelwald then along the base of the north face of the Eiger to Alpiglen, where we cheated and hopped on another cog train up to Kleine Scheidegg.

Bernese Alps, Jungfraubahn, Kleine Scheidegg, Mönch, Switzerland, train, photo

Kleine Scheidegg is the lower terminus of the Jungfraubahn, the cog train that goes up through tunnels inside the Eiger and Mönch to the Jungfraujoch, the highest point reachable by rail in Europe.

Kleine Scheidegg is a saddle below the Eiger with a commanding front-and-center view of the major peaks of the Bernese Oberland: Wetterhorn, Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. It's a popular tourist destination and the lower terminus of the Jungfraubahn, the cog train that ascends through tunnels inside the Eiger and Mönch to the Jungfraujoch, the highest point reachable by rail in Europe (and the starting point of a week-long ski tour over the glaciers behind Jungfrau that I did back in April 2011).

Bernese Alps, Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland, Wetterhorn, Bernese Oberland, photo

An awesome view of Wetterhorn (3692m) towering over Grindelwald, as seen from our hotel window at Kleine Scheidegg.

At Kleine Scheidegg we stayed in a real hotel and I enjoyed the best meal I had in Switzerland (braised deer with spaetzle and wild mushrooms, in case you were wondering).

Bernese Alps, Eiger, Jungfrau, Kleine Scheidegg, Mönch, Switzerland, reflection, Bernese Oberland, panorama, photo

Sunset light illuminates Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau as seen from Kleine Scheidegg.

In the evening, being the reflection-hound that I am, I managed to find a nice little reflection pond and was lucky to catch the best sunset of the trip here! Wow, what a way to cap off the last night of trekking on our Swiss trip!

Bernese Alps, Eiger, Kleine Scheidegg, Mönch, Switzerland, reflection, Bernese Oberland, photo

Sunset light illuminates Eiger and Mönch, as seen from Kleine Scheidegg.

Bernese Alps, Lauterbrunnental, Switzerland, Wengen, cows, Bernese Oberland, photo

A festive atmosphere in Wengen as the cows are brought down from the mountains at the end of summer. Notice the decorative headdresses the cows are wearing!

The next morning we continued our walk down to Lauterbrunnen. As we walked through the village of Wengen there were big crowds of people waiting around and a lot of the side streets were taped off. We asked someone what was going on, and they told us there was a celebration parade about to happen when the cows are brought down from the mountains at the end of summer. So we waited around for a while and sure enough the cows came down festooned with elaborate headdresses (along with their beer-drinking herders).

Bernese Alps, Lauterbrunnen, Lauterbrunnental, Staubbachfall, Switzerland, waterfall, Bernese Oberland, photo

Staubbach waterfall plunges into the vertical walls of Lauterbrunnen.

Once down in the spectacular valley of Lauterbrunnen, like the cows down from the mountains we celebrated the end of our time trekking in Switzerland. Including our previous treks in the Bernina Range, this capped off 20 straight days of hiking!