9/8/10 (Day 7)
The weather forecast was right. Today is cloudy and rainy. Still, we kept with our plans and left the hostel at 6:30am to catch our 6:50 train to Wilderswil where we transferred to the Schynige Platte train. This cog train went almost straight up the side of the mountain for about 50 minutes. I think at some points we were almost 45 degrees to the ground. We were definitely greater than 30 degrees.
At one point the engine driver needed to stop the train to go shoo a cow off the railway. Other than that, it was a fairly uneventful ride up. This was one of the only times today when we had a view into the valley below and the 2 lakes on either side of Interlaken.
Upon arriving at the Schynige Platte rail station, we headed straight for our path. Today we planned to hike about 6 hours (according to the map and signs) to First. The gondola down the mountain at First closed at 5pm, so by the time we started the hike we gave ourselves about 8.5 hours to get to First. That should be enough to hike 6 hours and stop for the rest of the time.
We passed through several cattle gates before it started to rain/sprinkle. The rain jackets came out and the camera and electronics got put away in the dry bags in the backpacks. This is pretty much were everything stayed the entire trip.
We found out that the salamanders and the snails love this kind of weather. We saw probably a hundred or so salamanders on the trail and many snails.
I’m sure the views along this ridgeline hike were marvelous, but as it rained, the clouds surrounded us and we had very limited visibility. I could just imagine the view, though. =) The first two thirds of the hike was a gradual and then steeper climb up the peak of Faulhorn. To get there, we hiked in our cloud for a couple hours until we hit the Berghaus Manndlenen. We got here around noon and we were the first hikers in. In fact, up until now, we hadn’t seen another person yet. It was raining hard, so we were happy to take off our coats and head inside the hut for lunch. As we ate, more people started to arrive, and we realized we weren’t the only crazy people out hiking in the rain. Oh, and did I mention that it stayed between 40 and 45 the whole hike as well?
Along the way, we passed several shelters along the trail that offered us a place to sit and take photos from under a roof. Sometimes we couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us, and other times the clouds cleared enough so we could see for about 100 yards or so. We never did get to see down into the valley or see the beautiful Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains.
The final climb to Faulhorn was steep and rocky. When we got to the top and spotted the Faulhorn hut up here were backpackers sleep in the dorm rooms and eat in the restaurant, we were amazed that they were able to build a hut up here. I’m sure the views would have been fantastic from here as we were 2686 meters up.
After the Faulhorn, we went down to First. This last leg seemed fairly easy compared to the climb up and it was neat to see the Bachalpsee lakes again as we had on our first day in Grindelwald. This time, we found a colony of marmots near the lakes that we missed last time we were here. Mark chased after a few trying to get a photo with our little camera, but didn’t have much luck. The clouds did clear so we could see the lakes, but once we were past the lakes, the clouds became so dense that we had trouble following our path. We figured First had to be right in front of us, but we just couldn’t see it.
It is fun to walk in the clouds, but after 11.5 miles through the rain, we were ready to put on some dry clothes and warm up. We arrived at First a full hour before the last gondola down, so we had plenty of time. The gondola ride down was surreal as visibility might as well have been zero through the clouds. We were all alone in our gondola. The cable above us was just barely visible.
Back in Grindelwald, we took hot showers and then headed back to Rendez-vous for dinner. We wanted their cheese fondue and then dessert. The cheese fondue was delicious. They even provided a dipping cheese. The goal was to swirl the bread in the fondue, then dab it in the dipping cheese, then eat it. This combination made for a unique taste. We might have to see if we can get cheese fondue in Lauterbrunnen before we leave Switzerland.
I would have preferred a sunnier day for this hike, but it was raining everywhere in the Bernese Oberland, so anything we would have done today would have been wet. Luckily our rain gear works and the dry bags keep the camera dry.
Tonight is our last night in Grindelwald and tomorrow we will head to Lauterbrunnen.