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Published: September 16th 2011
HIKING HEAVEN IN WENGEN, SWITERLAND
Summer travels this year took us back to the delightful, car-free village of Wengen in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland. Situated high above the Lauterbrunnen valley, Wengen enjoys the most spectacular mountain views, including the emblematic Jungfrau massif. During the Summer season (May to October) Wengen is a hiker’s paradise with 500km of stunning mountain trails to explore. In Winter (December to April) Wengen becomes a thriving community to 10,000+ skiers, snowboarders, tobogganists, snow-shoe walkers and hikers. Wengen famously hosts the Lauberhorn Downhill Ski Race - the longest and most exciting on the world-cup circuit.
We stayed at Hotel Caprice, a charming chalet style hotel, with stunning views overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The hotel gave us a perfect base to share and enjoy this amazing environment with our two children.
Whilst both children are keen skiers, hiking was a bit of an unknown entity - which turned-out to be the most enjoyable Summer holidays we have shared as a family. With so much to do, see and explore in and around Wengen, every day was a new opportunity of adventure and discovery.
Arrival in Wengen (1274m) is through the enchanting Lauterbrunnen Valley (796m), a U-shaped canyon, where waterfalls tumble down sheer cliff faces to feed the raging Weisse Lutschine river. The single track train journey from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen is spectacular with panoramic valley views and snow-capped mountain peaks penetrating the sky-line. The train ascends at a pleasurable pace taking about 15 minutes to arrive in Wengen!
Hotel Caprice is conveniently located about a minute’s walk from the train station. As you open the door to the hotel you know you have arrived somewhere truly special. The mountain peaks and valley views are nothing less than majestic. The views can quite literally overwhelm you and capture part your spiritual being.
First Day Hiking
On the first day of our hiking holiday, we opted for something light and easy, so took the trail from Wengen to Trummelbach Falls via the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It’s a steep descent into the valley, but flat from thereon in (took about 1 hour and 15 minutes). In Lauterbrunnen, we took the river path to Trummelbach Falls, which is a futher 30 minute hike.
The trip to Trummelbach Falls was hugely enjoyable and far exceeded any expectations raised by brochures/tourist information. The waterfall is accessed from an underground lift and a network of galleries, tunnels, paths and platforms. As you disembark from the lift you are greeted by the thunderous roar of glacier melt-water, which cascades down through the mountain wall with a force like none other! Trummelbach drains the glacial walls of the Eiger (3790m), Monch (4107m) and Jungfrau (4158m) of up to 20,000 litres of water per second.
With two sensible children, this was an immensely pleasurable trip. The entry cost to Trummelbach Falls is very reasonable at: CHF 11 adults, CHF 4 children. Just remember it‘s wet and cold inside the mountain, so a waterproof jacket and sensible footwear are essential.
From Trummelbach, we took the upper path back through the valley to the Staubbach Falls. Gushing from the cliff face, Staubbach Falls are the second highest in Switzerland, at 300m. Accessible via a narrow path and rock balcony, Staubbach Falls are one of 72 waterfalls in the enchanting Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Entry to Staubbach Falls is FREE, and well worth the climb for a close encounter with nature, and to enjoy the amazing valley views from under the spray of the falls (round trip took 30 minutes).
With the weather not looking brilliant, we decided to enjoy warmer valley temperatures, so took the train from Wengen to Zweilutschinen, where we disembarked to walk the remaining distance to Interlaken.
We have done this trip many times in Winter by train, so it was a real treat to have the opportunity to walk part of the trail to Interlaken. Interlaken is extremely well sign-posted, so getting lost is virtually impossible, however, the children and I managed to take the wrong path and ended up at Matten/Interlaken West instead of Bonigen/Interlaken Ost. Our mistake was disappointing but nonetheless interesting and quite an adventure (took 2 hours and 30 minutes).
Interlaken is situated on an alluvial plain between two lakes; Brienzersee and Thunersee. It’s one of the oldest resorts in Switzerland and is well known for its majestic snow-capped views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. We had a picnic lunch at Hoheweg Green where we watched the skillful paragliders as they landed in the centre. As well as hiking, swimming, sailing, biking, Interlaken is a gateway to adventure sports for every level of adrenaline junky, or thrill seeker!
We took the train back from Interlaken Ost to Zweilutchinen and walked the final leg to Lauterbrunnen along the Weisse Lutschine. This section of the trail was the most rural and had a wonderful wildness about it (1 hour).
On our third day, we had the good fortune of being taken on a scenic tour of the Bernese Oberland by a friend, who had a special licence allowing us to drive on mountain tracks normally only permissible to farmers. Unfortunately, the cloud line was fairly low, so visibility was somewhat impaired. An enthralling stop at Grosse Scheidegg was followed by a leap back in time to Hotel Rosenlaui. At an age of 230 years old, Hotel Rosenlaui is a nostalgic haven for remote hikers, or couples, wanting to get away from the tourist crowds and explore the wild surroundings of the Rosenlaui Valley. A truly stunning location.
In the valley of Hasli, we took the unmissable opportunity to visit Aareschlucht. The Aare Gorge is an amazing wonder of nature where you can walk above the the raging river torrent on network of platforms and rock tunnels for 1.4kms.
Hiking today started by taking the cable car from Wengen to Mannlichen. At Mannlichen we took the easy trail (33) to Kleine Schiedegg (took just over 1 hour). This trail is wide (push-chair friendly) with stunning views of Grindelwald, and the Eiger, which emerges to meet you face on. It’s quite a spectacle! The children had great fun exploring all the minor paths trodden by past adventurers, and leaving their mark by adding to the growing number of rock towers.
With the glorious sunshine, we arrived at Grindelwaldblick where there is a viewing tower to explore and small play park for younger vistors. It was perfect alpine day, so we decided to continue our hike to Eigergletscher and enjoy a sun terrace lunch. The restaurant at Eigergletscher is excellent and the terrace views are quite exceptional. It's situated below the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, almost at the tongue of the Eiger Glacier, creating a wonderful opportunity to be at-one-with-nature. If you are lucky, you might even see a distant avalanche. It's quite an incredible location! We took the new Jungfrau Eiger Walk (trail 37) to Eigergletscher, which was hard-work, but tremendous fun! The trail is scattered with sculptures and points of interest to keep you going, as well as the historic Mittellegi Hut which makes an interesting diversion!
We headed away from Eigergletscher on trail 38 towards Wengernalp. This trail is fantastic and was probably one of the most exhilarating we did during our holiday. It’s tricky in places - but with every step comes a sense of achievement and an over-whelming appreciation of the beautiful mountain scenery.
From Wengernalp we took the quick trail back to Wengen (41), which is basically the ski-run back to the village in Winter. It’s an easy trail with continuous views overlooking Wengen.
This was a truly special day! Having spent many Winters in Wengen and visited Jungfraujoch (3454m) twice before, I was a bit reluctant to do the journey in Summer. However, I conceded on the basis it was a perfect day and great opportunity to take photographs. On previous occasions we have headed straight to the ice-palace, or the viewing platform at the Sphinx, however, this time we visited the Snow-Park! It was immense fun. The children had an absolute ball on the donut and sledge runs and really did not want to stop playing! The zip-wire also looked thrilling with a continuous line of shreiking passengers rocketing by. Glacier skiing is another option in the Snow-Park but the run is extremely limited.
When I finally managed to pull the children away from their sledges/donuts, we hiked to the Monchsjoch Hut. At an altitude of 3454m and with low oxygen levels, it’s a very hard (45 minute) uphill climb to the hut, however, the effort is well worth the magnificent scenery rewards! A couple of things to remember: sun lotion, a bottle of water, snack (not essential, but good for waning energy levels), a camera and most importantly safety! Never leave the trail! Crevasse danger is seriously real in this environment with some measuring up to 800km in depth. It's essential that you stick to the path. Hold onto your children and don’t follow fools!
The sight of the Aletsch Glacier, the longest ice stream in the Alps, is overwhelming and an exceptional privilege to be in the presence of.
We arrived at the Monchsjoch Hut exhausted, and in dire need of some refreshments. The restaurant is very expensive, but when you consider its location, you soon realise it is actually exceptionally good value!
Easier and equally as beautiful, the hike back to the Snow-Park and Jungfraujoch Station takes about 30 minutes.
There are many other attractions at Jungfraujoch, and having been a reluctant guest, initially, I would of loved to have spent more time exploring here and taking photographs. However, it was Swiss National Day (1st August) and we wanted to enjoy the festivities back in the Village. I will definitely return to Jungfraujoch in the future.
On day six of our holiday, we took the Felix Weg hike from Mannlichen to Grindelwald, which was fantastic fun. We choose this hike mainly for the childrens’ enjoyment as it encompasses a number of attractions, including: a cabin, look-out tower, animal carvings, climbing wall, a zip-wire hidden in the forest, bunny dens and hidey holes.
The Jungfrau scenery was spectacular and the constant jingle of cow bells made the hike to Grindelwald even more heavenly. Not long into the hike, just above the reservoir, we spotted a family of marmots on the bank (to the right as you look down into the valley). They were really fascinating to watch, but way too fast for the children to catch! This was a long, leisurely hike (took about 4 hours) which gave us immense enjoyment. We stopped for lunch just as the rain started at Jagerstubli and indulged ourselves with a very yummy cheese fondue!
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