One almost gets the impression as if the Swiss had turned away from one of their most spectacular landscape stages and left the village of Grindelwald entirely to tourists from Korea, the Emirates or the US. Only at the mountain, high above the beautiful Bachalpsee, one meets them again and enjoys with them a painting of glaciers, peaks, legends and tragedies.
While searching for new „Escapes“ for my travel blog, this time I became aware of the Boutique-Hotel Glacier, which was completed in April 2018 after extensive renovation and offers wonderful rooms with a view of the famous Eiger north face.
Already in the early morning, the snow dome of the 3,970 m high Eiger is bathed in soft light and looks so challenging and inviting that you can’t understand that the 1,800 m high vertical is one of the most dangerous steep slopes of the Alps. On the other hand, Ueli Steck’s record is just 2 hours and 22 minutes on the famous Heckmair route, which took three days at the time.
Not much longer than Ueli Steck the tour to the Faulhorn should keep me on my toes today and although the degree of difficulty is clearly at the lower limit, the landscape is one of the most beautiful routes in the Bernese Oberland. I take the Grindelwald bus, which departs directly in front of the Hotel Glacier, to the valley station of the First in order to sweeten the first 1,000 metres of altitude with the gondola. This day is simply too beautiful to stake up for hours, when the picture-book panorama on the „First Cliff Walk“ can hardly be more sensational.
The artificially built summit circular path consists of a narrow rock footbridge, a suspension bridge and a viewing platform that literally ends in nothingness and looks directly onto the triumvirate of Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch. Even if the wire ropes seem stable, the view downwards, through the partly transparent ground, is dizzying and one has to keep one’s nerves when a group of wildly-photographing Asians passes the narrow footbridge again. Still in the large crowd, it then continues to the Bachalpsee, about 50 minutes away, that Alpine jewel, in which the Schreckhorn with its strong character has immortalized itself with its mirror image.
The slopes are teeming with tourists, so that the wandering fox looks as perplexed as I do, but in the end everyone finds his place in the sun to enjoy the perfect scenery. Those who think that it can hardly be more beautiful should look forward to the now following 400 vertical metres up to the Faulhorn, as from now, the hikers are among themselves and the panorama is so extra-large that it can hardly be grasped by the human eye.
We don’t only look at the famous triumvirate around Jungfrau, Eiger, Mönch but at the same time at the gallery of horns from Wetter-, Schreck- to Finsteraarhorn, which spiral into the steel blue sky. In addition, there are the lush green slopes, which the dry summer could not even come close to, as well as the turquoise shimmering Lake Brienz. More is not possible and so I enjoy after about 60 minutes additional hiking time with a piece of apple tart with cream this wonderful day.
Then I descend 800 meters to the Bussalp, where the tricky decision of bus or „hike down“ is pending. But considering that the trip costs about 24 francs, I decide for the 90-minute walk through lush green meadows down to the village of Grindelwald. „What a day“ or better „what a life“. This saying of an American tourist from Vail, has meanwhile become my life motto and so I let the day end stylishly in the outdoor Jacuzzi of the Glacier Hotel. Everything goes well and sometimes even better, as the crispy duck at dinner in the Glacier Restaurant proves, which made it into the Top15 of the TripAdvisor guest ranking within a very short time.
The next morning I talk to Anke, who is something like the right hand of the owners Jan and Justine in Glacier and has helped with the project „repositioning“ from the beginning. Since the opening in April, the 28 rooms are almost fully booked and it takes a lot of intuition to conduct the mostly international audience and to provide them with the right tips for the day trip.
She examines me from top to bottom and says dryly: „I have looked at your blog very carefully. I like it very much. I wouldn’t have sent you up to the First. You need something more special“. Say it and recommend the farewell tour to the Glecksteinhütte, which goes up from the parking lot at the Hotel Wetterhorn to the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. What follows should lead me to the limits of my fear of heights, whereby the returning American couple tunes me in early to the following passages. From „exposed areas“ to „steep-downward“ there is everything you would wish for as a Vertigo patient.
The head cinema starts immediatly and my knees begin to tremble, as the path leads almost continuously along the steep abyss and offers little time for relaxation. However, the landscape is enormous, as the massive rock faces of Wetterhorn, Mettenberg and Schreckhorn meet here directly and leave only little space for the waterfalls plunging into the valley, which one even has to pass on the path.
After the welcome shower, I partly cling on wire ropes, partly without security along the vertical steep walls up to a small clearing that allows a direct view to the Grindelwald glacier. From here it is maybe 20 minutes up to the Glecksteinhütte, but considering the critical way back, I use the time to regenerate mentally. All in all, the way is a pleasure for mountain lovers who are free from giddiness, while I will probably only enjoy the beauty of this tour on my smartphone in the evening.
But one thing I can say with certainty: there are two outstanding landscapes for me in Switzerland that are so kitschy and beautiful that they are unparalleled in the Alps. One is the Matterhorn area around Zermatt and the other is Grindelwald with its famous Trinity of Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch. I will come back and I will try again to get all the way up to be as close as possible to the last glaciers of this earth. And until then, dear Grindelwalders, you can still provide the way to the Glecksteinhütte with a trustworthy wire rope at the few exposed points. Just in case…
This article was written with the kind support of Hotel Glacier in Grindelwald.