I’ve enjoyed walking for a long time, and this summer I’ve had the wonderful chance of being able to do lots of hikes in the Swiss Alps, both on programme and on my days off. When I was little I would always complain when my parents took me out for hikes, but oh, how that’s changed! Here is a list of my top 3 hikes of the season, and maybe you’ll be inspired to try some of them if you come and visit Our Chalet.
This 16km, high level hike takes you from Schynige Platte, above Interlaken, to First, above Grindelwald. It was one of the hardest hikes I think I’ve ever done, and it was my favourite of the whole season.
The beginning of the hike is deceptively easy, but it gets a lot harder after a couple of miles when you’re into the real alpine walking on the route. It’s a varied walk; from high alpine pastures, to snow coverage even in August, to boulder strewn passes and rocky peaks, it has it all. Amongst many other things, I had great views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungrau with beautiful views down passes into deep alpine lakes. I also spotted not one, but SIX marmots!
After you drop down to the busier Bachsee, the route is completed by a gondola down from First to Grindelwald. You can get a special ticket that allows you to ride the cog wheel train up, the gondola down, and the train back to Wilderswil, which makes this route very practical on public transport.
I thoroughly enjoyed this hike despite the challenge, and it’s great if you’re looking for a full day hike in the Bernese Oberland.
Early on in my season, I went with fellow volunteers Susan and Katie to the Gastertal, a valley just off of the Kandersteg Valley. I knew it was scenic, but nothing prepared me for how stunning it was when we got there. I have a massive advantage of having brought a car to Chalet, so we drove up the road into the valley to Selden. The road is literally hewn straight out of the rock, and is so narrow that it has a one way system which means you can only go up it at certain times past the hour.
We aimed to hike from the village of Selden, further up the valley to the Kander Glacier. Sadly, partly due to the receding glacier we didn’t make it all the way up, but the whole valley was so completely stunning it didn’t matter!
Again, this was a challenging hike but all of us enjoyed it, and it was fun to be pushing myself as part of a group with a similar hiking speed and ability to me. At some point, I’d love to come back and complete the hike, but due to global warming it’ll have to be soon.
As part of the summer Swiss Challenge programme, the chalet runs an overnight hike up to a peak that sits in the mountain range just behind us, Bunderspitz. It was cold, and dark, and steep, but it was 100% worth it for being able to see the stars as we got up in the middle of the night, and watch the mountains lighten around us before the sun rose.
In the evening, we climbed up to Bunderalp to stay in the house of a local cheesemaker, which takes around an hour and a half. After a very fitful ‘night’s’ sleep, we woke up at 2:45am to start our climb to the peak. After another hour and a half and 39 switchbacks we reached the cow shed, which was our breakfast spot. I was very glad at this point that I’d brought lots of extra layers, since it was super cold. At this point it was still really clear, and the stars were stunning. Having grown up and always lived in cities, I always relish the opportunity to really see the stars when I’m in the countryside, but on this night I could see the whole glow of the Milky Way.
After we left the cow shed, it slowly began to get lighter until we finally made it up to the peak for the sunrise at 6:20am.
Lastly, here are a few of the highlights from the many other walks and hikes I’ve completed this season.
- The Klettersteig in the Adelboden Valley, up to Engsligenalp. This is one of the few places in the Engslige Valley that you can find Edelweiss.
- The Lucerne City Walk. I love exploring cities and this was super easy to do in Lucerne. I took in museums, their famous and beautiful bridges, the city walls, parts of the lake, multiple churches, and a shop with free chocolate!
- Exploring in the beautiful Kiental, home of Europe’s steepest bus route!
Although the hikes in my top 3 are all quite challenging, several in the other highlights were a lot easier. I hope that this will inspire walkers of all levels to come to Switzerland and explore some of what this amazing country has to offer.
Emma, UK – Chalet Assistant, Summer 2018