Grindelwald to Kleine-Scheidegg

A surprisingly challenging climb.

Seeking to maximize our final weeks in Switzerland, Pam and Andy and I headed off for another overnight trip.  On Thursday we took a sequence of trains to reach Grindelwald, a delightful tourist town in the heart of the Jungfrau region, surrounded by stunning alpine peaks.  Pam and I were last here in December – a quick trip on a stunningly beautiful winter day – and I hiked into Grindelwald after the incredible Faulhorn trek last fall. Check out the gallery and read on.

A field of wildflowers below the north face of the Eiger.

After a quick lunch we parted ways – Pam took the luggage up one gondola and down another, to reach the little village of Wengen; Andy and I headed out on foot to spend the afternoon climbing over the same hill.  I’d seen this hill from Faulhorn, at sunrise after the undercast had released it from obscurity; at the time, it seemed like a gentle slope and a minor feature of this impressive landscape.

Grindelwald, seen on the hill heading out of town.

Anything looks small, of course, in the presence of 4,000-meter peaks like the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.  Andy I quickly discovered that this hill, despite its steady slope, paved farm paths, and pastoral landscape, is not a trifle.  From the bottom at Grindelwald Grund to the pass at Kleine Scheidegg was a climb of 1,112m (3,648’).  Kleine Scheidegg is at 2,061m (6,614’).  Even New Hampshire’s highest point, Mount Washington, is only 1,917m (6,288’).

Still, it was a beautiful walk up past farmhouses, pastures, and meadows filled with wildflowers.  The main attraction – the famous North Face of the Eiger – was elusive in its cloud cover, occasionally tantalizing us with peeks at some of its higher cliffs.  Waterfalls poured off the mountain as the winter’s snows melted in the June heat.

View of the lower slopes of the north face of Eiger., from the climb up to Kleine Scheidegg.

When we reached Kleine Scheidegg we looked back to find the Eiger’s face finally clear – just barely – and behind it, the impressive summit of Mönch and the intervening glacier. This mountain pass is a meeting point of three railways, and there were plenty of tourists there to share the views.  One train comes up from Grindelwald to the east, another comes up from Lauterbrunnen to the west, and a third begins here and takes an astounding path along the slopes of and then through the rock of the Eiger, to reach Jungfraujoch – the pass between Mönch and Jungfrau.  (Marketed as the “Top of Europe”, it is the continent’s highest train station at 3,454m (11,332’), an astonishing place for a hotel, restaurant, and weather observatory.) It was not visible from Kleine Scheidegg today, due to clouds.

Kleine Scheidegg view of Eiger (left) and Mönch (right).

Tired, we decided not to walk down to Wengen, and decided instead to hop the train that winds its way down the steep slope toward Lauterbrunnen.  Wengen is a small village, focused on tourists and farming, perched (literally) at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Lauterbrunnen valley.  We tucked ourselves in at the Hotel Edelweiss, which (despite the clichéed name) was a lovely place to stay; rooms with balconies to take in a grand view of the Jungfrau and Silberhorn peaks, and with a restaurant that served affordable and delectable meals in an elegant fashion.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery.

Hike stats: 10.1km, gain 1,112m, descent 95m, moving time 3h19, pause time 0h47 (for ice cream at a lovely terrace restaurant half-way up the hill!). Low elevation 952m, top elevation 2,061m.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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