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In June 2015 - and June is a wonderful time to visit if you are into alpine flowers and walking - we stayed in the Lauterbrunnen Valley for a week's walking in the Bernese Oberland. This area of the Swiss Alps, just south of Interlaken, is dominated by the massive bulk of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, and offers spectacular hiking and plenty of easy walking trails.

flowers

Wetterhorn

There are plenty of guides to this area. As usual, we took a Rough Guide for general information, and then depended mainly on local maps and guides provided at the Tourist Information centres.

 

 

Although it seems expensive, the best investment you can make when visiting the area is the Bernese Oberland Pass, which gives you free travel on trains, cog railways, cablecars, gondolas and post buses throughout the region. We bought a 6 day pass for our 8 day trip.

The advantage of having a pass is that you can travel up to the higher alpine pastures without effort and start your walking in spectacular scenery.

There are three walks that I would heartily recommend:

1: Go up to Mannlichen (on train and gondola via Wengen if going from Lauterbrunnen, or on the cablecars from Grindlewald), and then walk to the Eiger. The path gives spectacular views of the North Face before turning westwards and head down to Kleine Scheidegg and on, if you wish, to the foot of the Eiger glacier. Along the second part of the walk there are also lovely views over the Monch and Jungfrau. You can return by train to Wengen / Lauterbrunnen or Grindlewald.

2. Take the cablecars up from Grindlewald to First, and then walk back down. You have wonderful views across to the Wetterhorn and the Eiger, and across to the Jungfrau in the distance.

3. For a quieter walk, escaping from most of the tourists, go up to Murren on the gondola and railway, and then to Allmendhubel. From there you can walk through the best of the alpine meadows - ablaze with flowers if you go in June - across to Schiltalp and then back down to Murren. All the time, if you can drag your eyes up from the flora on either side of the path, you have views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau across the great chasm of the Lauterbrunnen valley.

 


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The Swiss Alps

Alps7

A new reservoir, on the tract up from Kleine Scheidegg to the Eiger glacier, provides reflections of the north face of the Eiger and, away in the distance, the massive Wetterhorn. There is a small museum (shown on the right of this photo), giving information about the various routes by which the north face has been climbed.

lauterbrunnen

There is no valley like it! The small resort of Lauterbrunnen nestles in a valley that is typically glacial, with sheer cliffs on either side, down which streams from the high alpine pastures pour their cascades.

lauterbrunnen2

Going up on the gondola to Mannlichen, you get wonderful views down, with the ski and walking resort of Wengen in the lower part of this photo and, far below, the little town of Lauterbrunnen. What you can't see in this image, but can guess by looking at the other side of hte valley, in the drop between the meadows below Wengen and the floor of the Lauterbrunnen valley. You get more of an idea by walking the track up to Wengen; very pleasant it is, if you have the energy and an hour and a half to spare - otherwise get the train!

glacier

Compacted layers of snow and huge chunks of ice about to topple from the foot of the Eiger glacier. I last saw this glacier 26 years ago, and the shrinkage over that time is remarkable - another sign of global warming that is gradually changing the face of the alps.

flowers

Yes - these are wild orchids, in the meadows of Blumental and Schiltalp, above Murren.

Eiger

The walking track from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, with the Eiger north face in front of you all the way, and the Monch just behind.

alps

Kleine Scheidegg - from which the cog railway goes up through the Eiger towards the top of the Jungfrau, and a good place to stop for refrechment, taking in the spectacular views across to the Jungfrau.

lake

The boats that run between Interlaken and Thun on Lake Thun are included in the Bernese Oberlander Pass, and well worth taking as a day out from walking. Here we are passing the old town of Spietz.

mountains

Paragliding just has to offer the most amazing, silent and environmentally clean ways of getting up there into the alpine environment. These lucky people are gently circling above the village of Grindlewald.

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flowers

Blumental, on the slopes above Murren, is the place to go for spring flowers. Bursting into life in the first weeks after the snow melts, they are at their peak in June. Soon enough they will die down and be scythed to feed cattle.

 

 

 

signs

You hardly need a detailed map in the Bernese Oberland. Easy walking paths are signed yellow (with yellow diamond signs to help you keep to the route as you go) and the more challenging - although far from difficult - mountain tracks are signed with red and white stripes.

To make things easier still, times are shown rather than distances, where two routes lead to the same desstination, it is easy to spot which will be the easy option.

path sign

If you stay down in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, you can save all the hard work of getting onto the high alpine meadows by taking mechanised transport up the steep sides - to Wengen or Murren, for example, and start walking from there. Expensive if purchased separately, there a a number of cheaper options if you opt for a pass covering a number of days.

 

After walking on a quiet path, it is quite a shock to reach a transport hub such as Kleine Scheidegg, below the Eiger, where trains disgorge thousands of tourists on their way up to the 'top of Europe' station high above the snowline on the Jungfraujoch - a place astonishing views, prices, and unforgettable 'selfies'. Everyone should do it once in their life for the exhilaration of being liberated into the thin, pristine air above the showfields. Just make sure, before you part with your cash for the ticket, that the weather is set fair.