The final day of Jungfrau Region, Season 6 had arrived. When I woke up Thursday morning, the day after my Reichenbach Falls hike, I felt a little different than the final day from previous years. I have been thinking for a while that this might be my last year in the Jungfrau Region, at least as a solo hiker. It is getting harder to create new hikes without retracing my steps, so I have started to explore the idea of visiting some other regions.
If there ever was a day where I wanted a hike to exemplify everything I love about this region, it was today.
What I Love About Hiking the Jungfrau Region
1. Cable car/train supplements
If you like to stay in the valley like me, the cable cars and trains can take some of the sting out of the hikes and allow you to really focus on the part that you want to enjoy. I don’t always want to start a hike from the doorstep of my Airbnb. Whether you are in the Lauterbrunnen area or the Grindelwald area, there are plenty of ways to supplement your hikes. But, this is Switzerland, so you will pay a premium for them. On this day, I took the cable car from Stechelberg to Mürren. Roundtrip around 25 euros.
Relieved to get out of the packed cable car full of masked hikers, I headed up the path from Mürren towards my next waypoint. The way up brought me in full view of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger.
When in the Swiss Alps, you are never completely alone. Somewhere along the way, you will find social distancing a problem amongst the locals.
2. The Locals
No, I am not talking about the friendly Eschler family from my Airbnb. I mean the goats, sheep, and cows filling the otherwise peaceful serenity with the constant tinkling of bells, mooing, and bleating.
Not long after passing the rowdy gang of sheep, I reached the first waypoint.
3. Swiss Mountain Huts
Mountain huts aren’t only unique to this region. Anywhere in the Alps you will find them. But for sure, they make the hikes here more enjoyable. Some are both challenging and reachable by the casual hiker. Meanwhile others are intended only for the experienced Alpine hiker. I guess I would consider myself somewhere in between. On this hike, I would reach the Schilthornhütte which is one of the easier ones to get to.
My visit to the Schilthornhütte was short-lived as the clouds were rolling in. I was hoping to get to the next waypoint before the view was obscured.
The next segment would be the main ascent of the day.
4. Peaks of All Levels
Not every peak in this region requires a guide, rope, crampons, and advanced Alpine skills. The hikes that I would consider “peaks” that I have achieved in this region without any kind of special skill other than endurance include the Schwarzhorn, Wildgärst, Faulhorn, Schilthorn, and Uf Spitzen. The target on this hike was the Beitenhorn.
The Beitenhorn at 2756m is a minor peak and normally would be one of the best viewpoints for not only the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau but also in the other direction across the Soustal and beyond. Alas today was not one of those days. If you are wondering about the difficulty, just know that Jack the dog, belonging to one of four Swiss lasses who were hiking up ahead me, made it without so much as a slobbering pant.
I quickly lost interest in standing inside the clouds and I was eager to get a headstart over Jack, who was content to hang out a little longer. The descent over the loose rocks was steep and slightly treacherous, but each step down brought me closer to the lush, cavernous valley.
5. It’s Not Just About the Peaks
In this region, the mountains are not relentless in all directions. You have several mountain passes that give access to incredibly beautiful valleys which allow one to unlock completely new and expansive views. This hike would lead to the Soustal Valley which may be the most impressive “hidden” valley that you will find in this region.
The descent from the Beitenhorn brings you into a meadow surrounded by ridges on two sides with the Schilthorn and Chilchfluh facing you. It is like being inside a vast bowl where you almost feel like a tiny being under the curious gaze of the otherworldly beings looking down from the Schilthorn Plz Gloria. You cannot get a sense for the depth of the scenery from the photos. Just not possible.
The Soustal valley is impressive. A frothing stream roars past you while wildflowers color your vision. I found myself so intrigued by them that I started to take pictures of as many different varieties as I could. The path descends at an easy slope making it possible to keep one’s attention focused on this kaleidoscope of nature.
6. The Swiss Palette
There were many varieties and colors of wildflowers. Purple, blue, pink, yellow, red, white. I made it a point that next time, wherever I am in the Alps, I would do a better job at documenting them. While it is hard to pick a favorite, the Blue Gentians have a blue color as rich as lapis lazuli.
7. Scenic Variety
One of the most amazing characteristics of this region is how your mind can never fully grasp what to expect next. The scenery changes here are surprising, dramatic, and just when it seems like you have seen it all, some new masterpiece of nature is revealed.
As you are descending the Soustal valley, you reach a point where the earth just completely falls off. What you thought was a valley suddenly takes on a new perspective. The real valley lay open below and beyond with indescribable dimensions.
After a glorious descent thru the Soustal valley, I finally reached the intersection where I would leave the valley and make my way around to the front side of the range I was following. This put me back on the side above Lauterbrunnen, which faces Wengen and the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. If I was too tired at this point, I could end my hike a little early, but the good thing is, there are options.
8. Round Trip Possibilities
Very similar to point #1. When you combine the impressive trail system with the public transportation possibilities of the cable cars and trains, there are so many possible ways to create round trip excursions without much effort. It is as if all roads lead either to Stechelberg, Lauterbrunnen, or Grindelwald. And that is no lie. Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald are easily connectable by train. Stechelberg is connected to Lauterbrunnen by a very regular bus service. Lauterbrunnen and Mürren are connected by a cable car (to Grutschalp) and train. The connections make hikes so easy to plan. In the case of this hike, I could hike the Soustal and around to Grutschalp and catch the train back to Mürren where I could then finish my roundtrip by cable car down to Stechelberg or I could just continue my hike and loop around back to Mürren by foot. If this was going to be my last hike in the region for the foreseeable future, then I was going to do it by foot.
The path back to Mürren was swarming with butterflies. Most were orange and black or white and a few fleeting ones that were grey with a blue sheen. At this point, the hike was in complete cruise control. My legs were tired, but my heart was bursting.
|Starting Point||Mürren Cable Car Station|
|Ending Point||Mürren Cable Car Station|
|Moving / Total Time||5 hr 3 min / 7 hr 22 min|
|Eating Place||Schilthornhütte, Mürren|
When I arrived back at my Airbnb, you could forgive me for already feeling the home-away-from-homesickness that was already welling up inside me. I casually asked the Eschlers if the apartment was available for one more night, but I knew deep down after today’s hike, if I tried to hang around one more day, I would never leave Stechelberg with this great sense of fulfilment as I had at that moment.
In the end, my count ended at 8, but I can assure you there are more than 8 things I love about hiking in the Jungfrau Region. This hike had everything. Peaks, valleys, bubbling mountain streams, waterfalls, sheep, cows, wildflowers, butterflies, views from all directions, views of the Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger, and Schilthorn, easy grades, steep grades, a hut, a roundtrip, and even a patch of snow in the summertime. I couldn’t have summarized all the things I love about this region any better than this hike.
As I sit and finish this post, I still have some holidays coming up and believe me, I have had a tempting peek at the Eschler Airbnb, but it is booked. It is time to explore somewhere else. I know this deep down. I have many heartfelt memories from Season 6 that I will carry with me always. From my abbreviated Scaredy Bear excursion to the Rottalhütte, to the humble branch that supported me all the way to the top of the Schilthorn, to coming face to face with a literary hero, and then observing the astounding beauty of the smallest members of the Swiss scenery. Not to mention all of the memories from the previous five seasons. I can only hope my posts have done justice to a remarkable place. So long for now, Jungfrau.