Uphill strolling from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg31st December 2017
Flushed with satisfaction after a spellbinding day spent around Zermatt, another Swiss walking excursion became inevitable, and the weather held up for this one too. My destination became Grindelwald and the lure was a possible sighting of the Eiger. Quite how I selected this is lost to recollection now but I suspect that a BBC television documentary about the first successful ascent of the mountain’s north face might have had something to do with it.
On the way there, I took the chance to see Bern again and my time there this time around proved short but it was good to potter about the city in sunshine rather than the greyness of the preceding Saturday. Just as on the way to Zermatt, the sunlit surroundings enlivened the train journey all the way to Grindelwald and not just my flying visit to the Swiss capital.
When I finally arrived at my destination, a bit of bumbling around the place ensued. It was an unplanned affair probably caused by my own inattention or an unwillingness to lose height at the start of my walk but it handily got me oriented. With my bearings obtained, I then set off downhill towards Grund and it was all uphill walking after that.
There was no doubt about the way ahead once the course of gaining height had begun. Swiss efficiency regarding signposting and continued attention to the map saw to that. The mix of road and off-road walking was heavily swayed towards the latter. There never was any recourse to threading on bare pasture like what you would find in Britain or Ireland. The investment in path maintenance bested what is found in those other places and the views over Grindelwald opened out more and more as I continued higher and higher. Even so, steady progress ensured that I was going strong until at least Alpiglen.
Though it was the Eiger that may have drawn me, it was the rocky pinnacles of the Wetterhorn and the Mättenburg that held much of my attention as long as I had sight of them in pleasant sunshine. Wisps of cloud graced the mountainsides as if to foretell the way that the skies would fill with them in the afternoon before breaking up again at evening time. Seeing such craggy fastnesses as I did among landscape that is much tamed was no contradiction. All appeared to fit together surprisingly well.
As I continued higher, other views began to attract my notice. The north side of the valley leading to Grindelwald was green in appearance in spite of its steep slopes and cragginess. On the other side of this lay Brienzersee and its environs, though all of that lay out of sight. My hike never was to take me above the altitude of the intervening summits and I was surprised to spot a mountain hut (more like a hotel really) perched on a mountain top around 2500 metres above sea level in a photo months after my Swiss escapade.
The railway line never was far away on this stroll and often provided chances for stopping early if the need arose. There are those who probably use it to gain height before walking downhill again, the reverse of what I was doing. Steep inclines mean that it is a cog railway but they did not scare me at all when I eventually used the train to return to Grindelwald, quite unlike what cable cars can do.
Cloud started to take over as I plied the woodlands between Brandegg and Alpiglen, so my cloudless views of the Eiger were not to be. All I got were glimpses through wisps of cloud before then and that was to be my lot. Beyond Alpiglen, my memories are of overcast skies and barer countryside with views of Kleine Scheidegg ahead of me. Its buildings looked so near that the thought of their being my final destination felt unreal.
Having set aside the idea of finishing my walk at Alpiglen, I was now to go along the track as far as I had intended to travel. With the sunshine absent, there was a certain chill in the air and my course was to take me past idle cable car stations. The out of season feel lent an added sense of desolation to this part of my saunter.
Height was being gained all the while and I noticed a certain shortness of breath descending on me. Unlike the previous day around Grindelwald, the altitude was making its presence felt. Progress just had to slow to what my lungs would allow. That my legs still were more than willing did not help matters. A pair of walkers coming down from Kleine Scheidegg shared words of encouragement and I was well in time for the next train down to Grindelwald.
The views that I hoped to enjoy were denied me and the lack of metalled streets surprised me. The chill in the air was enough to stall any thoughts of dallying and places felt closed down when I might have liked to stop somewhere for a while if I were to hang about the place. In the end, catching the next train was my priority and I got on the next one once I had a ticket for the journey.
Once in Grindelwald, I stayed a while instead of taking the next train to Interlaken Ost. Aside from the fact that the cloud cover was breaking to all some evening sunshine, I also needed time to collect myself after being over 2000 metres above sea level and ascending over 1000 metres to get there. Though I was flying back to Manchester the next morning, what I did not need was any rushing about and it had been a great introduction to where I was. It is true that I learned a little life lesson about what altitude can do to you, but there was much satisfaction too, so that is how I will remember my day in Berner Oberland.
Unfinished Business and Other Possibilities
There is much to savour around Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg and I still fancy seeing the sight of the Eiger uninterrupted by cloud cover. Other lofty eminences like Mönch and Jungfrau are nearby and there is the prospect of a railway excursion as far as Jungfraujoch, a costly escapade with views to match the outlay. Less outlandishly, other hiking possibilities are there to be savoured and it helps that nearby Lauterbrunnen also is well served by trains. Enjoying a longer walk would less in the way of height gain or more altitude acclimatisation sounds more than a good thing to me.
Return train journey between Geneva and Grindelwald with changes at Bern and Interlaken Ost. Train from Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald.
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