An afternoon in the shadow of the Eiger north face
Eiger Trail: Basic Info
Route: Eigergletscher to Apiglen
Descent: around 900 meters
Distance: approx. 6 km
Direction: Choose your poison, Uphill or downhill – clearly I went downhill, however, it is not all downhill.
Getting to the Eiger Trail
At Interlaken Ost board the R159 to Lauterbrunnen, then change to the R359 to Klein Scheidegg. On this 45 minute journey to Klein Scheidegg nothing can prepare you for the scenery. This is stuff that has inspired poems, art, and Disney movies. Deep velvet green valleys, pounding waterfalls, all watched over by the silent sentinels of the Bernese alps. Alight, at Klein Scheidegg (you are almost there) and join the R559 to Jungfraujoch. Warning: during peak summer periods, the station is packed! As you will be boarding the Jungfrau “express” you may need to wait a while to get on the train to Eigergletscher.
Travelling up and up, the train line itself is an impressive feat of engineering,with construction beginning in 1896 – carving through the heart of mountains, and up some ridiculously steep inclines (if you want to read up on the construction of this railway take at a look at this
Eigergletscher, is one stop away from Jungfraujoch aka “the highest railway station in Europe”, for £140 you too can have the delight of popping up to the viewing platform and jostle for space with the hoards of selfie-taking tourists (there are better, and cheaper places to get similar views, I’ll cover these in later posts). The journey to Eigergletscher from Klein Scheidegg with a Swiss Pass only cost 22CHF (50% discount for Swiss pass holders).
Alighting at Eigergletscher, ready to see a massive glacier …..Where the fuck is it? I thought. Staring the valley that has been carved out over the centuries by this supposed impressive glacier……peering to my left, I could see it. Indifference was replaced by alarm, you could see how much this glacier had retreated – at this point an older lady who I’d been speaking to on the train sidled up to me – “is this normal?” “no, 15 years ago the glacier came down to there in the summer” and pointed towards the valley below. Hmmmm, Climate change is real, and this is one of the obvious signs that the weather across the globe is warming.
The Eiger Trail
Now for some hiking.
NOTE: for those with a bit more stamina and calf muscle than I – you can take the trail in theopposite direction – all uphill.
The weather is glorious, the sun beating down on my pasty limbs I set off down from the trailhead, congratulating myself on taking the downhill direction I caught the first tantalising glimpses of the fairy tale village of Grindelwald in the valley far below.
The north face of Eiger is your constant companion for the first third of the trail, you are taken within touching distance of it. It is truly awe-inspiring. My pace for the first section was stalled simply by being distracted by the sheer wall right next to me. Living in one of the flattest towns in the UK where a speed bump is the highest thing around for miles (aside from the buildings) so this was truly something else.
If you have binoculars handy you may be able to glimpse climbers on the north face.
The Eiger trail is well marked, and nigh on impossible to get lost – no map is required. It is however incredibly busy in both directions on weekends, used by locals for an afternoon stroll and of course the rest of us.
The Eiger trail in small sections can be quite steep, there are wire ropes installed to assist hikers through these sections. It is worth noting here that proper footwear should be worn (ie hiking boots) due to the trail surface (loose grave, rocky sections, and of course mud) – speaking of which…
Why is it when hiking there is always that one person who is hiking in double denim and cheap leather dress shoes? I think I’ve seen this on every hike I’ve been on year – it this a thing? or it is just a wee bit odd?
And then I heard them…COWBELLS….
One of the classic images in my mind of Switzerland, are the wee caramel cows with bells around their necks, lazily munching on the grass.
A QUICK ASIDE: Now, if you are familiar with the run-ins with cows/bulls (yes there was more than one) I had on Hadrian’s Wall [ read about them here and here] I’m not a fan of animals of the bovine variety.
Following the syncopated symphony of cowbells, my initial excitement was replaced by apprehension, why I thought these cows would be smaller than their UK mates was ridiculous. These are full-size bovines and it seemed at this moment despite the trail being busy I was completely alone.
As I approached, one of the cows (unsurprisingly) seemed to take offense at my presence (why this keeps happening to me, I have no idea – can they smell fear?!) – I mean look at its face.
So I waited for some folk to come along the trail, 10 mins later two local gentlemen much to their extreme amusement provided an escort past the highly offended cow (“Swiss cows are friendly and they like people” they said), and I was on my way again.
Despite congratulating myself earlier on selecting the downhill route, my knees at this point were taking exception to the descent, also too, it seemed so was my bladder.
20 mins to the end! yesssssss….
On arrival, bladder relieved, I‘d had enough walking.
my knees had voiced their unhappiness of trudging downhill for 3 hours. Bugger it, it’s time for an ice-cold beer. Apiglen, never have I had a nicer view with a pint.
This is a great wee hike, Its very easy to get distracted by the spectacular views.