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Grindelwald & The Eiger

Sunday, May 5, 2013

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The decision not to pack up the tent was a good one as the rain lasted all day and most of the night, finally ceasing in the early morning of the next day. I wasn’t concerned about letting the tent dry out and setting off a bit later from the campsite, as my next destination Grindelwald was a mere 20km away. I wasn’t sure how much of that was climbing, but it meant I could take my time.

The weather remained dull and overcast, with a hint of another storm coming in so I didn’t dally and stop for photos this time. It was raining again as I reached Grindelwald and promptly found the tourist information office, where a map of the town with campsites on was handed over. The nearest campsite (Camping Gletscherdorf) was directly underneath the imposing mountains I had come to see…

Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau

The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau

The tent was quickly erected in what was now becoming heavy rain and high winds before I signed in. Both the tourist office and the campsite had told me the weather was due to change tomorrow and we’d have some sunshine and warmer temperatures. After waiting (too long) for the weather to change in both Lucerne and Interlaken I was hoping they were right, the walking season was already well behind schedule and many of the paths were still closed due to snow. We would see tomorrow.

I woke at 6:00 a.m. and had a quick look outside the tent, the air was still full of clouds but I could see clear patches of sky. I decided to return to the sleeping bag for another hour or so. When I finally decided to start the day proper, I was greeted by blue skies, white wispy clouds and best of all, sunshine! It had always been my plan to go for a walk on the Eigertrail and so after a hearty breakfast I set off up the mountainside…

The trail leading to Alpiglen

The trail leading to Alpiglen

I wasn’t surprised when I came across a sign saying the path was closed with red and white tape barring access. At this point there was no sign of snow, so I ducked under the tape and carried on my way. My initial destination was to be Alpiglen, but this turned out to be well above the snowline. There was still much climbing to be done though and I passed a stunning gorge which had it not been out of my way I would have investigated.

The impressive gorge I passed on the trail.

The impressive gorge I passed on the trail.

As I climbed higher and reached the clearings, I looked back down the mountain to Grindelwald in the distance. It’s amazing how quickly I was gaining height, as I was certainly taking my time. Maybe it was the unrelenting steepness of the climbing?

The view back down to Grindelwald

The view back down to Grindelwald

The trails in this area of the Bernese Oberland are by far and away the most popular in the whole of Switzerland, which explains why they are so well signed and kept. I had them all to myself today and only met another walker who’d also ducked the tape on my way back down. After about an hour of climbing I reached the first shelter on the trail, a beautiful wood hut complete with guestbook, which I duly signed.

The first shelter hut.

The first shelter hut.

When I reached the next clearing I got my first close up view of The Eigerwand (North Wall). Way back in the height of my climbing days (in the 80’s) I had always wanted to climb it and when I did finally visit Grindelwald I decided that I did not have the experience to tackle such a challenge. I’m pretty sure I had the skill though, but discretion being evident I opted for the easier way up via the West Flank and West Ridge, one of my best ever climbing experiences and the reason for my return today.

The Eiger North Face

The Eiger North Face

As I continued climbing upwards the snow was becoming more evident, still only in patches but getting more regular and larger. I reached the next shelter hut and decided to call it a day as it would have been foolhardy to carry on without proper equipment, in particular a pair of snow shoes.

My high point on the trail.

My high point on the trail.

One of the great things about an ‘out and back’ walk like this is you don’t have to worry about missing views because you haven’t looked back! I took more photos on the way down than on the way up and as the weather was actually improving it was really getting quite warm. I stopped to chat with the other walker who once I told him the trail was closed higher up decided to retreat himself. I simply enjoyed taking in the many views as I slowly made my own way down.

The cable car taking tourists up to 'First'

The cable car taking tourists up to ‘First’

I’ll leave you with some more of the images of one of my favorite places on Earth and the reason I went out of my way to visit Grindelwald. Next up I’ll be heading over a few enormous passes tomorrow as I make my way back east and up to Liechtenstien. Thanks to the fast connection here at the campsite I’m now up to date at last. Stay tuned and I hope you enjoy the images…

Classic view from near the campsite

Classic view from near the campsite.

 

The Wall of Death - Eigerwand

The Wall of Death – Eigerwand

 

The Bernese Oberland

View from the Bernese Oberland

 

The Shrekhorn, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau

The Shrekhorn, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau

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2 Comments
Sam
Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 8:39 pm

yahoo, Derek, Top of Europe indeed, I ran the Jungfrau Marathon 3 years ago, most beautiful in the world (my world until now), so glad to read about your walk there, stay in good health, my friend, Sam

    Derek
    Monday, May 6, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Thanks everyone for the kind comments and good wishes, it’s really good to know my efforts are being appreciated! The rain has returned, but I’m now on my way to yet another country – 🙂

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