For rent: Private snow cave with Alpine views and running water.
I spent much of yesterday traversing the slopes of the mighty Eiger, walking its length along the base of the famed North Face. It was one of my mountain-groupie moments, where I got to touch a true rock star.
Even after a full summer, snow packs remained plastered against the Eiger’s cliffs, including this stunning bit of natural architecture. The snow had been eroded from within by the flow of a melt stream seeping down the walls of the North Face. Standing inside, the ‘window’ opened to a view across the Grindelwald valley to Schwarzhorn and Faulhorn.
The traverse was something of a side journey I made on my final day of a hike between Engelberg and Lauterbrunnen. Over four days I’ve walked about 80 kilometres and, with my pathological need to take the highest route, climbed and descended more than 5000 metres. My knees suddenly creak like rusty hinges.
The hike I’ve been doing is the self-guided Alpine Pass Route trip operated by UTracks (I get to walk alone, they get to cart my bag to the next hotel – win/win, as far as I’m concerned). It’s been a stunning walk in every regard – who couldn’t be happy with the Eiger, Wetterhorn and Jungfrau as hiking companions? Thoroughly recommend it.
Back in my snow pack on the Eiger, the melt continued. The stream rolled on through the cave, and water dripped from its ceiling, soaking me in minutes – this private bit of snow real estate even came with its own shower.
As I write this, I’m in Switzerland, walking across a chunk of the country, beginning in Engelberg and ending several passes away in Lauterbrunnen.
So much of the walk is about mountains, and famed ones at that. Titlis is now behind me, the Wetterhorn has been my near-constant companion, and yesterday came my first view of the mighty Eiger and its north face. Monch and Jungfrau lie ahead.
As I savoured my first view of the Eiger yesterday afternoon I was also drawn to one of its adjacent mountains, Schwarzhorn. Only after a few minutes did I realise why my eyes and mind were so taken by this ramped summit – 16 years ago, on my last visit to Switzerland, I’d climbed this mountain. Memory isn’t always my strong suit.
But this hike hasn’t all been mountains. For a time out of Engelberg it was a walk connecting the dots – the high alpine lakes that offer such a gentle contrast to the glaciers and rocky summits. Trubsee led to Engstlensee, which led to Tannensee, each one as still as paintings.
This shot is of Engstlensee, just a few minutes’ walk from where I bedded down on the first night of the hike. Titlis rose high above its shores and a shaft of momentary light lit a small peninsula and its farmhouse.
Within minutes the mountains, the farmhouse and the lake were swallowed by cloud. I wandered back to my home for the night into a whiteout.
* Adventure before Avarice is hiking the self-guided option of the Alpine Pass Route with UTracks.
The Tour du Mont Blanc – No 5 in the list of my 10 favourite mountain treks – takes me back to my origins, to my first real extended hike. It was an accidental kind of journey that sprang from the desperation of the ABC – Another Bloody City – of my European backpacking days. This walk truly cured all, introducing me to one of the world’s classic mountain hikes and seeding my passion for mountains and the outdoors. Continue reading