My first day in Grindelwald was supposed to involve a long hike up to Steckhornhutte with a relaxing night surrounded by mountain views. Instead, the city welcomed me with rain and eventually storms that drove me right off the mountainside and into a “meh” hostel on the edge of town. The hostel’s kitchen was laughable and I didn’t even bother with the shower…but I did get a 6 bed dorm room all to myself and celebrated with a full 9 hours of drool-on-my-pillow sleep. Yup, I know how to have a good time!
When my second day in Grindelwald dawned the weather was much nicer — not quite sunny, but the clouds were thinking about wandering off to other parts of the world. I packed up my gear and hit the trails around 9am. Rather than head up the same trail toward Steckhorn I diverted a bit to Glecksteinhutte, where I had made reservations for dinner + dorm + breakfast. I spent the next 8 hours hiking, mostly uphill.
Now, there was a much easier way to get to Glecksteinhutte that would require maybe 3 hours of hiking but I was too disorganized to wait for the bus…and why bus when you can just as easily hike for a few extra hours? I know, makes perfect sense!
And rather than taking a direct route from Grindelwald to Hotel Wetterhorn to Glecksteinhutte I opted to venture along the river to Marmorbruch then Pfingstegg before I dropped down to Hotel Wetterhorn and hopped on the trail that took me up, up, up the mountainside to Glecksteinhutte. So, if you’re reading this because you’re doing research for your Glecksteinhutte adventure…there are easier ways than mine! I was just doing what I could to make the most of my day, or something like that.
The trails were all quite easy during the first half of my day — sure, I spent a lot of time hiking up hill but I have gotten quite accustom to that. My body doesn’t even whine on the ascents anymore, it just goes with it. These mountains are well on their way to giving me the strongest climbing legs in the history of Heidi, and I’m not complaining!
As I hiked along the edge of the valley Grindelwald is snuggled into I was surrounded by green. Everything was so incredibly green! The trees were bright green, the shrubs and undergrowth was nearly florescent, even the scattered fallen trees were covered in moss! And the forest floor…it was carpeted in tiny ferns, not basic grass. I really did feel like I was hiking through a Midwestern forest, until I caught a glimpse of the tower mountains above me.
The actual Glecksteinhutte trek starts at Hotel Wetterhorn [and I think there is an option to take a bus up the road to cut off ~1 hour of hiking]. The 45 minutes or so are spent hiking up steep pastures, squiggling your way to the base of a steep mountain wall. This was when the fun started.
When I made an impulse reservation for this hut online the description did state that the route to the hut was exposed and unsafe in poor weather conditions. That description was not lying. As soon as the path crossed a small ravine it started to snake it’s way up the side of this massive rock wall, following a ledge that averaged about a meter wide [~3 feet] as it climbed over roots and rocks. The exposure was real and there was risk…but there was also a cable to help guide you and plenty of hand holds to assist with your uphill scramble.
As I made my way up the more technical sections of the trail I dilly dallied. I kept stopping to take photos as the clouds dissipated, I plopped down on a grassy ledge for a snack, I babbled at the GoPro as I recorded my climb and I just took it all in. I was in no rush. My departure from Hotel Wetterhorn pegged my arrival at Glecksteinhutte near 4:30/5pm but dinner wouldn’t be ready until 6:30pm so I had time to soak up the sunshine and mountain air.
The trail followed the rock face of the mountain up and around until it flattened out a bit in the valley on the opposite side of the mountain as I had started. In front of me towered the mountains I had only seen glimpses of earlier in the day, steep, rugged peaks surrounded by snow and glaciers. It was truly impressive, no photo I post will ever do it justice.
My legs frolicked along the smooth trail, loving all the sunshine and beautiful weather. The trail lead me under a waterfall [so cold!] and then back onto a precarious ledge that zig zagged up to an open meadow full of sheep. Yup, Switzerland really does fulfill all of those crazy stereotypes! I was hiking up a gnarly trail and when just leveled out to a grassy meadow scattered with purple flowers where a herd of sheep + lambs grazed as their bells tinkled, all against a backdrop of jagged mountain tops and shiny white glaciers. Add this moment to my growing list of “if I don’t come home, this is why…”, it was that stunningly perfect.
The flat, easy trail in the meadow was short-lived, moments later I was back on the ledge, focusing on where my next step would take me rather than the mountains around me. As I climbed this wall of rock I spotted the hut on the horizon, white striped shutters bright against the blue sky. I was nearly there!
But my hiking didn’t get faster…instead it slowed down as I stopped to stare at the glacier that had appeared opposite the hut. It wasn’t like the glacier I saw at Cabana d’Orny or Cabana du Trient, it was more jagged and intimidating. The other glaciers I had seen in Switzerland and France were either snow-covered or dirty, this one felt more alive. And it was, huge chunks of snow + ice would fall from the main glacier creating a snow slide and echoing through the valley like thunder.
Eventually I did make my way up to the hut where I laid claim to my bed [bottom bunk, FTW] and settled in with a book about Switzerland’s 4000m’ers – much like Colorado’s 14’ers – and a tasty cup of “welcome tea” while I waited for dinner.
That night the hut was not very fully, only about 20 people had made the trek with at least 10 of them were there to snag some mountain summits clad in mountaineering boots with packs full of climbing gear and crampons. A few of us were just hikers, out there to explore the mountainside for a day or two…that’s the crew I settled in with. We chatted previous treks, tomorrow’s plans and shared stories from the farm. Clearly we’re the cool kids. No, really. I like being this kind of cool kid!
After stuffing ourselves with soup, salad, pasta and cupcakes we lazed our way toward our bunks. But first, I dug up my sleeping bag, pulled on my puffy layers and headed outside to watch the sunset. During my last SAC hut trip [Cabana d’Orny] I fell asleep before the nearly fully moon rose — there may not have been a full moon this time around but I was determined to watch the night roll in! I plopped my puffy-clad self down on the porch rocks and waited for the sun to disappear as I watched some steinbock goats clamber around on nearby rocks. I was loving life. I am loving life.
The true beauty of mountain huts, especially on the weekdays, is the type of people you’re staying with — they are there for the mountain and they’ve taken time away from work and family to be there and take in the mountain. That means they are usually early risers chasing sunrises or beating afternoon storms and truly understand the beauty of a good night’s sleep. I am yet to have a rough or noisy night in a mountain hut [#knockonwood]. Glecksteinhutte did not disappoint. The Canadian sharing my room was up at 4am for a sunrise summit — I barely heard him!
My morning started later than his but I did manage to snag a mountain summit, even if it was a mini mountain! But more on that later…when I manage to pull the photos off the GoPro as I had conveniently left my phone [and subsequently, my go-to camera] in the hut on my little day trip up the mountain.
Basically…I stand by my very strong recommendation to go find a SAC mountain hut and stay in it! It’s an amazing experience! And if you can do it on a weekday, even better! On my Friday afternoon hike up to Glecksteinhutte I saw one person. On my Saturday morning hike down the mountain I met at least 20-30 people headed to that hut. Weekdays are better, unless you really like big groups of people…which I obviously do not.