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Mountain magic

Imagine a high, secluded Alpine village deep in the heart of Switzerland. Now picture Grindelwald, stretched across a magnificent valley, surrounded by hand-hewn chalets, and overlooked by an awesome chain of mountains, including the infamous Eiger North Face.

During the summer period from May to November, Grindelwald is transformed into an elaborate tapestry of wild Alpine flowers, spruce fir, mountain maple and grazing cattle complete with bells. Add to all that charm 300km of waymarked hiking paths, and you have yourself a magnet for walkers.

The Eiger is one of the most talked about mountains in the world, its fame helped by events that have taken place on its North Face. Atmospheric changes at different times of the day, generated by the mountain’s own weather pattern, cast a spell on every nature lover.

It had been my intention to take the cogwheel train from the valley at Grund station to Eigergletscher (2320m), and hike back down to Alpiglen (1615m) along the Eiger Trail, which runs along the shadow of the Face, but at the time of my visit the route was closed due to unseasonal snowfall, which had made conditions too dangerous for trekkers.

Never mind, there were still plenty of other options available. I took an early train to Kleine Scheidegg (2061m) in order to hike back down to the valley via Alpiglen and Brandegg (1332m). I arrived at Kleine Scheidegg amidst flurries of snow, and a noticeable drop in temperature. Well above the snowline, I donned a lightweight duvet and downed two coffees before joining the clearly visible waymarked trail.

Despite the odd slushy section, it was a pleasant descent, and after half-an-hour I was below the snowline and peering at stunning vistas. I had passed only four other hikers on the trail. I stopped for lunch on the terrace of the Restaurant Alpiglen, with dramatic views across the valley.

The descent takes on a distinctly steeper line from here, all on a good, zigzagging track. I was accompanied by the tinkling of cow bells as the animals grazed lazily in the colourful Alpine meadows. It was hard not to stop glancing over at the brooding Eiger, with cloud constantly scurrying across its face.

My next rest stop was at the Restaurant Brandegg, and from there I followed the pleasant, winding road back to Grindelwald. I had enjoyed a steady descent of 1018m/3668ft in a stunning landscape when, just above the village, I stopped in my tracks as I heard rock avalanches going off like pistol shots on the southern side of the Schreckhorn, a stunning mountain tucked behind the east wall of the Eiger. There is little wonder that this mountain has such a fierce reputation – yet it has a magnetic draw. I will be back soon to walk the Eiger Trail. The North Face can wait a little longer.

Info: Grindelwald
Hotel Restaurant Bodenwald

The hotel and restaurant has a sundeck, from where you can gaze upon the Eiger North Face. An excellent place to eat, it stands right next to the campsite, and has an appealing personal ambience
Camping Eigernordwand

The campsite is set in a quiet and sunny location at the foot of the Eiger North Face, four minutes’ drive from the village centre and five minutes’ walk to the Railway Station, or the aerial cableway. The site is ideal for hikes and walks during summer and autumn

Grindelwald Tourismus

Grindelwald is located in the Bernese Oberland, 25km south east of Interlaken, in the heart of the Jungfrau region. By car Grindewald lies 2 hours from Zurich and Basel airports, and 21/2 hours from Geneva. By rail, international express trains as far as Interlaken, followed by a scenic 35 minute ride to Grindelwald

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16/05/2006 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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