Walking in the Bernese Alps
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Making a loop around the Lauterbrunnen valley, the week-long Grindelwald Circuit enjoys magnificent big-mountain scenery without treading glaciers or major screes, and is ideally suited to keen walkers. The paths are mostly good, but with some very long and steep slopes to negotiate – both in ascent and descent – and you’ll need to be fit. With an abundance of accommodation along the route, each stage could be shortened or lengthened to suit personal preference, and there’s the option of staying either in major resorts or in more peaceful lodgings in idyllic surroundings. The map LS 5004 (1:50,000), and the paperback The Bernese Alps, a Walking Guide by Kev Reynolds (see “Books”), are both essential companions.

Start by riding the rack railway from Wilderswil outside Interlaken to the tremendous viewpoint of Schynige Platte and set out on what many consider to be the classic walk of the area, the high route to Grindelwald by way of the Faulhorn and Bachsee. Instead of going all the way to Grindelwald though, it’s better to spend the first night at the hotel on the summit of the Faulhorn in order to enjoy sunset and sunrise over the mountains. On day two descend past the tranquil Bachsee lake before the crowds gather – there are stunning views directly ahead to the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and witch’s-peak Finsteraarhorn (4274m) – and from there continue down to Grindelwald.

Below Grindelwald head southwest up steep meadows at the foot of the notorious North Face of the Eiger to Kleine Scheidegg and one of the nearby inns. Crossing the saddle on day three a track leads down to Wengernalp and Mettlenalp from whose meadows you can safely watch avalanches pour down the face of the Mönch and Jungfrau. Either take the easy way to Wengen, and steeply down from there to Lauterbrunnen, or for preference tackle a knee-testingly steep path via the little alp of Preech which descends through the Trümmelbach Gorge into the Lauterbrunnen valley. Wherever you reach the valley, wander upstream to Stechelberg and continue on into the secluded upper valley where several rustic mountain inns provide peaceful lodging with romantic views from every window.

On day four take the path which climbs steeply above the Berghotel Obersteinberg to gain the crown of the Busengrat at an astonishing little meadow known as the Tanzbödeli (the dancefloor). The pasture plunges dizzyingly to great depths on two sides, but a 360° panorama will hold you in its spell. On the north side of the Busengrat the path descends to the wild Sefinen valley (also with accommodation), then climbs to Gimmelwald and Mürren. Next day go up into the Blumen valley and follow a gentle trail across pastures to Grütschalp, and then through forest to the Soustal before tackling a final climb that leads to the Lobhorn Hut (Tél. 033/855 30 85). The hut enjoys a privileged view of the Jungfrau – unforgettable at sunset. Day six is spent climbing to the Ballehochst viewpoint, then descending to Saxeten and finally all the way down to Wilderswil to complete the circuit.

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