One of the first things many people suggest when I ask for their “must see” parts of Switzerland is “Grindelwald”! With so many people – both city lovers and mountain explorers – telling me I had to visit this area I decided to make it a stopover on my way to my WorkAway in Gryon. On my way I stopped in Interlaken, another “ooh, you should go to…” suggestion, for an afternoon + night. Honestly, if I did it again, I’d just skip Interlaken all together. Maybe I didn’t do the right kind of exploring in the area, but it felt like just another tourist city and full of distracted tourists. [granted, I did not visit Harder Kulm or spend much time near the lake, so I may be biased]

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— looking down at the sprawling city of Grindelwald from the trail just above Pfingstegg —

I arrived in Grindelwald on Thursday morning by train and since none of the nearby yellow trail signs had any words that looked even remotely similar to “Schreckhornhutte”, my destination, I headed for the tourist office for a map + advice. The lady behind the desk was great and a few minutes later I was off, headed for the Pfingstegg cable car. I could take a quick ride up for 16CHF, or I could make the trek on foot in about an hour — I’m not exactly making 16CHF/hour while roaming the country so I was in no position to give up an hour of my time + effort for that price. A hiking I would go!

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— the start of my early afternoon trek, not exactly threatening…but I was paying attention to the clouds —

The trek up was actually pretty awesome. It was stupid steep with the European version of “switchbacks”…they switched back, but in a short zig zag that was only slightly less intense than hoofing it straight up the mountain side! For whatever reason I’ve gotten quite good at hiking straight up the side of the mountain — it’s not unlike the hikes I’ve taken up 14’ers in Colorado but I always whine so much more on a 14’er. Hmmm, I may have a regional attitude problem.

About 90 minutes or so into my uphill trek the weather got weird. Or maybe it was just being Grindelwald-eske weather? Either way, I got a little uncomfortable watching dark clouds form of Eiger — my Colorado hiking experience tells me afternoon storms = electricity = death. I had been told the Alps are a bit different but I was still on edge. This is what went down on the my up to Schreckhornhutte…

…approximately 37 seconds after I finished capturing the weird on my phone it thundered, loudly. Off the mountain I went. Once I got back into the town and under the protection of a roof I did my best to regroup. Looking back, my regrouping sucked and involved a lot more pouting than planning. I ended up spending the night in a hostel at the edge of Grindelwald where I drown my sorrows in knock-off-yet-ridiculously-expensive ramen and leftover hike bread.

The next day I was back with vengeance, determined to get my night in a mountain hut…possibly even if it did involve getting struck by lightning [maybe they wouldn’t charge me?!]. I left the hostel around 9am and started the long trek up to Glecksteinhutte. Still stuck in my stubborn will-not-pay-when-I-can-walk ways what could have been a 3 hour hike became a 7 hour hike — but I saw some pretty awesome stuff! And in hopes of giving all that awesome stuff the love + photo space it deserves I’m saving all the details for later!

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— the view of Eiger, about half way back down the mountain after the thunder/lightening started —

As for my decision to turn back? I stand by the fact it was the right one — thunder boomed sporadically throughout the afternoon/evening and on multiple chats throughout the rest of my Interlaken/Grindelwald stay many people mentioned how uncommon electrical storms were. I’m glad my Safety Squirrel ways kicked in just enough to over power the desire to stay in a hut. Plus, the trek up to Schreckhornhutte is very technical with ladders and rope assists — not something worth attempting in stormy weather! Next time…


4 Comments

Charles Pilton · August 26, 2018 at 6:18 am

Great photos, film and article. Weird and ominous weather. You were definitely correct in turning back. You do not want to be holding metal cables and/or ladders during lightning!
It’s a shame you didn’t make it to the Schreckhorn hut. I have been trying to find out just how difficult the so-called “rots gufer” portion of the trail to the hut is before my trip to Switzerland in September. I have hiked as far as just below this section, but never then climbed up it. As far as I am aware, this is the only difficult portion of the trail. Certainly the section I have hiked, which is from Pfingstegg all the way to the base of the “rots gufer” part, was pretty easy and not scary.
Slightly worryingly, I have heard that roped parties on not uncommon on the “rots gufer” section, but I do wonder if that is overkill. It might be enough to hire what is called “via ferrata” gear and use that – this is a harness with a short section of rope attached which you can clip onto the fixed cables. I suspect that plenty of people do it without either types of gear.

Anyway, if you did go back and make it to the Schreckhorn hut, please let me know what the “rots gufer” was like.

Your post has encouraged me to look into staying in one of these mountain huts especially the Schreckhorn hut. But reputation the hike to the Schreckhorn hut is amongst the most spectacular in the entire Alps.
I actually turned back on the hike to the Gleckstein hut. I did not like the beginning of the trail at all, as it had no cables to hang on to when I was there. One bad stumble and you would be over the edge.
The Schonbiel hut hike is great too isn’t it?

By the way, there are tons more stuff in the Grindewald/Zermatt areas that you might enjoy – there are lots of relatively easy 4,000M mountains around Zermatt and lots of “via ferrata” too which are networks of cables and ladders running through the mountains.

    Heidi Kumm · August 28, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Hey! This is awesome to hear — you should definitely head up there to at least check it out. I have not been back since tho. That said, I have done via ferrata routes in other areas. It may not be a bad idea to have something like that available if it makes you more comfortable. Of course, if a route isn’t set up for via ferrata it may not be secure enough to take the full pull of a via ferrata fall, just something to keep in mind so you’re not putting too much faith in the harness hook-up.

    There are definitely some sections on both routes that I was on that did not allow for much error — if you got lax with your footwork you’d have a bad day.

    Please, please let me know how it goes when you get there! I’d love more things to add to my ‘to do’ list in the future!

Charles Pilton · August 28, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Hello Heidi, thanks for this. I did send another reply with 3 “top tips” in it, and then my browser went wrong! Maybe you got it anyway? If not, let me know and I will send them again!

Charles Pilton · October 5, 2018 at 4:57 am

Hello Heidi, well I am back from Switzerland and I have discovered a few things!
(1) I am an unfit fatbody 😉

(2) I spoke to some people locally in Grindelwald and the Schreckhorn hut hike is pretty challenging, at least at one point where it goes up a cliff. If a British guy I spoke to is accurate, it sounded quite dicey. There are some streams that can be a problem if there is sudden rainfall and at one point you seemingly have to cross a section of cliff on iron rungs. You would definitely want to attempt it after and during a nice dry period of weather. It’s interesting that it is rated more difficult than the Gleckstein hut path which is pretty challenging already. You don’t need any special equipment for the Schreckhorn hut path apparently, but I am not sure it is one to attempt alone. Although to be honest if you fell on the cliff section you probably wouldn’t need rescue anyway.

(3) I did get to the Glecksteinhut but only by “air” – see enclosed Go Pro video. This was one of the top tips for Grindelwald which I mentioned. The tandem pilots there are really excellent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=370jXuEXCMc

(4) There are two good via ferrata in the area, one at Murren and one on the Eiger itself. They are probably best done in August when there are plenty of groups about that you can join. This year there were very few people going on them in September. The bonus on the Murren via ferrata is that sometimes you see the base jumpers jumping off. It is quite a sight.

(5) My other two favourite hikes in Grindelwald were; the walk which goes up the side of the gorge on the opposite side form the hike to the Schreckhorn hut. This trail is spectacular but hardly used. It joins the much better known “Eiger trail” and then you can follow this all the way to Kleine Scheidegg where you can get the train back to down to either Grindelwald or Wengen/Lauterbrunnen. The other great hike is up to the old mountain hotel at Faulhorn. You can do this hike either from the cable car station at First or, if you want a longer walk from Schynige Platte.

(6) The Grindelwald/Lauterbrunnen/Interlaken area is a hub for great hikes and all sorts of activities such as canyoning, paragliding, hand gliding, rafting, kayaking, climbing, skiing, via ferrata and all sorts of stuff.

(7) I spoke to an American couple and they were staying in Kandersteg which is an hour or so away from Grindelwald. They said it was incredibly beautiful with a lake a bit like Lake Louise in British Columbia.

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