Respect the Cliff. Respect the Mountain. I climbed the Alpen.
Another fantastic site to check out where to stay when you want to hike the Alps is Map.Wanderland, a Hiking in Switzerland website.
We were hiking a National Route called the Via Alpina. From Griesalp to Murren is considered a section. We went from Griesalp, where we stayed at the Naturfreundehaus Gorneren (considered not to be in Griesalp but Kiental, the next city over.. however only a two-mile walk from town center Griesalp and right on our trail) and climbed the saddle Sefinenfurgge to get to Mürren for the evening. We found Hotel Regina in Murren just as the rain was coming in over the west pass of mountains.
Ah, but lets start at the beginning of our day.
The cow bells stopped ringing about 3am. I can still feel our foamy bed covered in a picky warm sheet. Welcome to real Switzerland, where the Alps are your neighbors. We woke up very early for the first week of our honeymoon, adjusting to the time. Outside of our warm room the hallway was cold. Breakfast downstairs; the coffee, the sweet muesli in milk, toast and jam was good and filling before we prepared for a hike that was to compare in difficulty to Mt. St. Helen, the one that we did last year. ‘Watch your footing,’ Bob from Bend said. I made sure the 64oz of water in my backsack was centered. We said goodbye after potted pictures and started our journey.
This is a look back to Griesalp once we began to climb the saddle.
Hiking from Griesalp to Murren over the saddle, ‘Sefinenfurgge’ took approximately 8 hours. We began about 9 and arrived before 5 in Murren, just in time for the rain showers -with a beer stop for about 45 minutes mid way. I give this hike ‘The Best Hike in the World Award.’…160lb woman climbs Die Alpen!
I will describe it.
We began at Neufrenhaus, two miles outside of Griesalp, which is on the Via Alpina hiking trail. We walked toward a cork in the landscape -a circular part of land that looked like it’s raised portion had popped up out of the earth. From our chalet it took forty minutes to get to. This hike, which took us into the next town of Steinbergh began on a paved road, past alpacas (buy Alpaca wool signs said!), which led to a gravel drive, then terminated in a suisse country house. There was a blonde 3 1/2 year old who was outside playing in the sawdust pile in his goloshes -we told him hallo. At the house there was a latched gate that we assumed to be the way of the trail. Later confirmed by the white, red, white, stripping painted on a rock to show us we were on the trail, going in the proper direction. As the grass wore out, we crossed heather and pebbled streams. There were black friendly sheep crossing too. Sheep had climbed up very steep mountain sides that amazed us. Then we came to black shale, some fist-sized black rock, large bolders on switch back trails which eventually lead us to a barren -oil spill landscape. The sky was clean, the air crisp, and we were in a cold sweat.
You could see small people way above and I was leery of actually seeing the check-marked saddle because on other hikes, where mountains are involved, there are many false peaks. Outside of the black landscape we were hiking through, we came closer to the rigid order of mountain tops we could see from our chalet porch the day before. They were much wider, flatter, and snowier when seen at a closer vantage point. They were beautiful and stark on this side of the saddle. The sun reflected directly off the shiny back ground and warmed us plenty.
We saw wooden steps, 1-2 hundred of them that were to bring us to our passage into the second half of our hike down.
(This photo looks back at where we were coming from.)
We walked hand in hand up to the ridge and saw the most beautiful world ~ three sister peaks of Eiger, Munch, and Jungfrau faced us. A spine of land -Poganggen ran just down from where we sat into the alpine view. To the left our ridge rose above us and circled back into a cove -our view, on top of which a 007 scene was filmed in a Bond get-away scene. There was a restaurant built up there somehow.
Surprisingly, there were a lot of people up there. Many people we crossed paths with on our way down were from the U.S. west coast, D.C. people… We earned our lunch and view, so enjoyed sitting for a while on the saddle. At that point you realize that it’s cold, when you have stopped moving and your sweaty shirt isn’t insulating against the wind anymore. It is amazing to think we were sitting at a desk only four days ago, in a world that is six hours younger than we are, as we are standing in the Switzerland alps now.
We had to move again, so started down the steep dark rocky side, going east. We walked down in the grass, the trail sunken into the ground, a soft mud path. There were beautiful small flowers, the sun, the underside of a small looking hill from one angle became grand as we steeped closer into the panoramic.
Our breath being taken away at the size of the rock, we could see the start of a gorge we’d be spending the night on the cliff of – in Murren. Slowly the mighty and high alps gave way to less dramatic peaks, and became over sized stalagmite hills, pronounced from the ground in even orders, working their magnificence down from the grey alpine rock, the black faces of huge mountains, and then snow-capped peaks. Something that looked so close -a town, a mountain, a rock, was so far.. maybe 1 1/2 hours of walking sometimes.
Can you see the check marked place which is the saddle passage?
As our path veered and our easy hike traveled down, east and north, we came to see the Rock-Stock-Hut.. or at least we think that’s how you pronounced it. Say it at least two times… it’s fun. Our bodies were tired, but this beer bungalow was a day hike for people staying in Murren or Gimmewald. Two hours from each we thought. We had a self-serve brew out in the picnic table area and stripped down to a few layers for the remainder of our decent into Murren.
As we could see Murren in sight, we could also see a storm. Black clouds in the west, over the ridge we were now on the other side of. We hurried down the face in Brindli -this rock, crooked and cragged hill with a trail you couldn’t even tell was there, except for what was five to ten feet ahead of your step.
This is a view of Brindli, where we just came down the hill.
This really was hard on my knees, you had to bend down as far as you could, reach the next worn earth path and do that again in about five steps in the opposite direction. We were hurrying because we weren’t familiar with mountain fog or the Swiss mountain storms. We stopped after crossing through a farm’s front yard just below some high pines. There was a wooden bench there where we pulled out our rain covers. Thankfully, because nor arrival into Murren was a rainy one.
The small mountain town had streets that were pretty desolate! Hotel Regina looked like an old school-house. It had a tall brown face that could have been a bell tower -large open rooms on the bottom floor and had a large central stair with terrazzo poured floors. It was empty, echoing but the curly blonde girl at the desk was so sweet. She suggested a close place for dinner. We were wet and staving, but showered in a tiny square room and settled in our peach colored, high ceilinged room before venturing out again into the rain. My legs were tired and we were both sleepy. We carried with us our language translation book and found everyone in this swiss town spoke English. We had our first taste of Rosti, a swiss potato hash brown smothered in cheese with an occational veggie atop for kicks.
(Not actually my dinner.. but pretty close)
The wooden chairs were carved and hard. The restaurant was empty. We were able to witness a four-some coming in.. one woman plunging to the back of the restaurant to where we sat saying ‘I don’t think this is it.’ She asked our waitress ‘Is this a Rick Steves restaurant?’ and our confused waitress didn’t know ow to respond and this was when Phil and I began to understand the Rick Steves phenomenon. Everyone in Italy is carrying a Rick Steves book! But, when they determined this restaurant was not recommended by him, the left.. us in peace.
It was dark with fog outside and the rain was cold. We bought post cards and admired the 3D topographic terrain map of the Alps on the wall of the restaurant before walking out to town in the rain. We’d seen the hotel on the edge of town when we were walking into Murren. We guessed this place was amazing through the winter months, more full of people. Maybe hiking season had passed too, but it was great for us.
Here is some of what I wrote that night in my journal… I am so glad we walked from Griesalp to Murren and not the other direction. It was difficult going up but I thought it could have been much worse, especially with a 30lb pack. It has been the best ten miles in the world.
Below I show a photo rendition of where we hiked in the Alps. Tomorrow we will go down to Gimmewald from Murren and walk into the gorge.