Hiking the Eiger

October 4-5, 2014

Dan and I don’t need an excuse to get out into the mountains, but sometimes it is nice to have one. Our friends were visiting from the States and had been touring the country without us while we went to work. But then the weekend came and we jumped at the chance to meet up with them “mid-tour”. I arranged hotel rooms at the Oberland Hotel in Lauterbrunnen and we planned to meet there for lunch on Saturday.

Our train arrived at noon and Ron and Sue were waiting for us, sitting the bright autumn sun outside the restaurant. We had a quick bite and then took advantage of the unusually clear weather to get closer to the mountains.

Despite being October, the train was crowded with “tourists” (because no one ever wants to admit to being a “tourist”) as we climbed slowly passed the village of Wengen and up to Kleine Scheidegg.


Ron and Sue, enjoying the view


Getting closer to the top


The Eiger

People poured out of the train, ourselves included. I had assumed that we’d ride up and then wander back down the trails to Wengen, enjoying the views from trail instead of the train. But Ron and Dan had a different idea and we immediately started to head towards Eigergletscher, the stone buildings nestled against the mountain’s base.


View towards Grindelwald


Ron and Sue enjoying the view


A couple of newlyweds enjoying the view


Walking up to Eigergletscher

I wasn’t prepared for the immediate hike up, especially at this elevation, and made my usual complaints. But as always, I rewarded with amazing views in exchange for my labors. I have to keep this in mind, as it is what gets me motivated to keep on moving.

Ron was thrilled to be this close to the Eiger, as he is an enthusiastic climber. The plaques of various famous climbers who had summited the Eiger were posted along the trail. Me, not knowing much about climbing lore, walked right by and didn’t bother to capture any photos.


Our path down from the Eiger


On the left if the lake and Kleine Scheidegg station, where we started


Trail marking


We had a long way to go

The trail was easy and we had a nice chat as we slowly descended. Kleine Scheidegg disappeared behind us and the Eiger hid playfully behind the clouds. It was disappointing not to see the North Face, but there were still peeks of the peaks around us.


Excellent fall colors


Grindelwald in the distance


Looking back. Our starting point is on the far slope towards the right


Playful cairn field


Starting to head down more quickly

The trail was lightly traveled and we saw less than a dozen people along the way. We had left the tourists at the rail yard! But now I was starting to rue the hike. Downhill is tough on the knees and I had an unpleasant jolt when my toenail was shoved roughly against the front of my boot. It made for a very uncomfortable descent.


Late-season waterfalls


Entering the treeline – our goal was the cluster of buildings below: Alpiglen

We caught the next train and headed for Grindelwald. It was getting late and as we strolled across the street for a refreshing beverage a light rain started to fall. It felt good to get off my feet and we relaxed until our connecting train arrived. It was a dark and surprisingly long train ride back to Lauterbrunnen, but that was due to an unfortunately long change halfway there.


Grindelwald in the dusk

We expected rain to move into Lauterbrunnen mid-afternoon so decided to just walk down the valley and enjoy the cascading waterfalls. Unfortunately it was late in the season and there weren’t as many waterfalls as typical, but fortunately we were having brilliant weather.


Morning in Lauterbrunnen


Shadowed valley


More cairns!

The weather was irresistible. I had expected clouds to move in but instead the sky was even clearer than yesterday. We had to take advantage of this, and our walk took us to the base station of the Schilthorn/Piz Gloria cable car located at the far end of the valley. We were going to ride all the way to Piz Gloria (where part of James Bond’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was filmed) but the cashier was kind enough to point out the live webcam behind her: clouds. We could go to the top but we wouldn’t see anything beyond the windows. Instead we decided on Schilthorn, where the clouds were thin enough to give us a worthy view.

The cable car was uncomfortably full of tourists who didn’t need as much personal space as we would have liked. I stood near the operator and with my encouragement, he explained features of the various buttons on the control panel. One can never have too much information. I was fortunate to have struck up a conversation with him though, as he made sure to point out the four chamois feeding on the grassy slopes below us. After a couple of cable car changes it was good to finally get out and move away from the pressing crowd. We quickly went outside and took in the view.


The Eiger from the other side


Mürren down below


The open-grated overlook. Not for the faint of heart!

The clouds came and went, but never fully left. We watched ant-like people hiking some of the trails that spider-webbed out from the cable car stations. The previous night’s rain had left the seats wet and eventually there was nothing left to do but to head back down the mountain. The cable car didn’t seem quite as crowded, but that could be because I made sure to get a corner spot in order to try and shoot the chamois on the way back down.

They were still in the same area and with a bit of post-production zooming, I managed to get them big enough to recognize for what they are.


Chamois in the wild

We only went down as far as Mürren, planning to take advantage of the town’s position high over the valley and the views across to the snow-covered peaks. We walked the length of the town before deciding on a place to eat. We enjoyed the view as much as the food and were happy with our choice.


Mürren


Lunch at the Edelweiss Hotel

After lunch we walked to the train station and took a short ride on the Lauterbrunnen–Mürren mountain railway/cable car to get back down into the valley. It was a beautiful ride and a perfect end to our stay.


Returning to Lauterbrunnen

3 comments

  1. Uncle Don says:

    I presume you’re in Switzerland, not Germany. Correct? Wonderful photography and commentary, as usual. Speaking of “usual,” hadn’t heard from you for some time and it was a pleasure catching up with you.. Sort of. Love to you both from Uncle Don.

Tell me what you think! I want to know!