Hiking in the Swiss Alps Part Two: A Hut Hike
When we started the hut hike in the Swiss Alps it was cold, rainy and foggy. A lot like the ending of the Eiger trail, which was Part One in this series of hikes (Check out our Eiger Trail adventure here). However, this time I had fresh legs and one Swiss mountain under my belt already. The Eiger trail was quite the adventure but the hut hike would prove to be even better.
Backpacking is one of my favorite things to do. When you walk into the mountains and forest for days you see things you often times don’t see otherwise. This hike was no different.
The plan was to take a train to Grindelwald and then take a bus from there to the trailhead. Everything was good until we boarded the city bus and discovered it would cost Karl and I twenty-eight Swiss Francs to get to our stop. We only had thirteen Swiss Francs.
The hike didn’t start as planned.
Since we’re on a budget (which is hard to do in Switzerland), we decided to save money and take the bus to an earlier stop (only twelve Swiss Francs). This would add an extra mile to our hike but looking back on it, it was worth saving the money.
The hike started out just like the Eiger Trail, we walked through a field of cows ringing their bells. Once we rose above the cow field, we came across a sign in German with a picture of an ibex. Since none of us can read German, we didn’t know what to expect. The ibex is a breed of wild mountain goat that live in the European Alps. I immediately said “I hope we see the ibex.”
After the ibex sign, the hike started to climb pretty quickly.
It was soon into the hike we were holding onto metal hand holds and chains that lined the rock wall. I was glad it was foggy, so I couldn’t really see how steep the cliff was below. At some points on the trail there were only a few feet between me and the cliff. I was glad for the hand holds drilled into the rock face.
Even though we couldn’t see anything we knew the east side of the snow-capped Eiger was off in the distance. We never did see the top of the Eiger that day but we would be in for a treat once we reached the hut.
Towards the middle of the hike there was an overhang where a waterfall flowed over the trail. You had to cross under the waterfall as it flowed over you. I had never done that before. That was a cool experience.
After the waterfall came the steepest incline yet. The trail curved north and then straight up hill to the east. These switchbacks weren’t easy but it was worth the fantastic views of a glacier as we got closer to the top. We could hear the roaring thunder as parts of the glacier broke off and slid down the mountain.
Still ascending we were finally able to see our hut in the distance. We were getting closer.
“What is that by the hut?,” I said. We could barely make it out due to the fog. As we got closer we were fairly certain we could see the silhouettes of the European mountain goats. It’s the ibex!
Although tired and sore, I switched gears and hurried to reach the top. I WANTED TO SEE THE IBEX. One of my favorite things in life is seeing new wildlife in the actual wild.
Reaching the top we quietly watched a herd of fifty or more ibex grazing the land right next to our hut. We had arrived and they continued to stay and pose so beautifully for pictures.
I couldn’t leave these beautiful creatures. The others took a few pictures and went into the hut to warm up with some hot tea. I continued to snap more photos. I was stunned at both their beauty and how close they would let me get. Karl came out and warned me my tea was getting cold but I didn’t care.
After entertaining myself and snapping a lot of photos, I finally joined the others inside for some tea and a few board games before dinner. Our dinner consisted of four courses; a delicious soup, a salad, meatloaf and macaroni and a chocolate mouse for dessert. It was filling and incredibly delicious. I was not expecting this.
The hut itself was very clean and comfortable. We took our shoes off at the door and were provided with Crocs as we walked through the hut. I’ve never worn Crocs before, but to tell you the truth, they’re pretty comfortable. They served tap beer and we shared a bottle of wine for dinner. The Swiss know how to hike.
After a good nights rest we were ready to tackle the descent.
Guess what?? The sun was shining and we could FINALLY see the Eiger! The ibex were still out to greet us on our descent. We passed a black salamander was bathing on a rock and my favorite, we saw the elusive and enormous snail!!
The hike to the Gleckstein Hut started out much like the Eiger hike but turned out to have even better views, more wildlife and a greater opportunity to get away from civilization. I
never would’ve thought hiking to 8,300 feet in elevation, I would’ve had the opportunity to eat a great meal and share a bottle of wine! This was just the type experience Karl and I are hoping to get as we continue to travel the world.