2022 July: Swiss Via Alpina trek (National Route 1)

From July 19–August 4 in 2022, our group of five trekked ten stages of the beguiling Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1) plus nearby hikes. Surprising wonders were revealed along the journey: the valley that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein’s magical Rivendell in “The Hobbit”; the striking waterfall where fictional Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty tumbled to their deaths; the proud hometown of legendary William Tell; and more. We traversed the Glarus, Uri, and Bernese Alps, ending in Grindelwald under the Eiger’s North Face and beautiful Lauterbrunnen Valley at the base of icy Jungfrau.

From Berghotel Faulhorn, we hiked the spectacular trail to Schynige Platte (6.9 miles, 400 feet ascent, 2660 ft descent) in Switzerland, Europe. Then we took the scenic Schynige Platte cog train down to Wilderswil, where a train took us to Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof and adjacent Hotel Silberhorn. Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice with great views especially at sunset and sunrise, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers' tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut's roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter didn't remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls. For this photo’s licensing options, please inquire. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Our group jumps for joy in the Bernese Alps, during a hike from Berghotel Faulhorn to Schynige Platte (see Via Alpina alternative Stage 10b further below).

Below: On Via Alpina Day 1, rays of morning sun spotlighted the vista of Mels, Sargans, and the Rhone Valley as we walked along manicured grape vineyards. As we ascended the pastoral Wiesstannen Valley, the urban outlook transitioned into rural farms alternating with lowland forest.
On the first day of our Swiss Via Alpina 1 route, we walked through grape vineyards above Mels (near Sargans) in Switzerland, Europe. We hiked from Hotel Schweizerhof in Mels to Hotel Gemse Wiesstannen (6.5 miles, 2200 feet up, 600 ft down). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Our itinerary of 5.5 weeks in the Alps included trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc, recharging in Saas-Fee, then hiking the Via Alpina. From June 28–August 5, we walked 200+ miles and ascended 56,000 vertical feet. Alpenwild.com sponsored my photography and booked our epic Self-Guided packages. Luggage transfers provided between comfortable hotels lightened our day packs every day (except for three overnights in refuges). See Tom’s abridged gallery “2022 Alps favorites: TMB, Via Alpina, Saas Fee“; or full portfolio “2022 Alps: all TMB, Via Alpina, Saas Fee

In our 17-day Via Alpina itinerary across central Switzerland, we hiked a total of 90 miles, ascending 22,000 vertical feet and descending 20,000 feet. Aided by lifts and rides, this modified Via Alpina sweated uphill about 40% easier per day than our Tour du Mont Blanc.

Upon afternoon arrival in Sargans in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, record heat reached up to 96 degrees Fahrenheit! Stifling air in the high 80s F. made sleeping uncomfortable in rooms without air-conditioning at Hotel Schweizerhof in Mels. The next day, rising heat caused a very sweaty hike on Stage 1 of the Via Alpina. Fortunately, most ensuing days at higher elevations were more temperate for hiking, in the 50s through 70s F.

Day 1 (Stage 1): We hiked from Hotel Schweizerhof in Mels to Hotel Gemse Wiesstannen in Switzerland (6.5 miles, 2200 feet up, 600 ft down).

The Counts of Montfort-Werdenberg-Sargans built Sargans Castle in the 1100s (Schloss Sargans / Château de Sargans) in the village of Sargans, in the Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Europe. Since 1899, it has been run by the local church and now houses the Sarganserland museum. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: The Counts of Montfort-Werdenberg-Sargans built Sargans Castle in the 1100s (Schloss Sargans / Château de Sargans) in the village of Sargans. Since 1899, it has been run by the local church and now houses the Sarganserland museum.

Below: Watch out for gnomes!
A gnome enlightens the route. Swiss Via Alpina 1, Day 1: hike from Mels (near Sargans) to Hotel Gemse Wiesstannen. Switzerland, Europe. (© Carol Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 2 (Stage 2): From Hotel Gemse in Wiesstannen, we arranged a taxi to save 4.2 miles of walking to Alp Walabutz, from where we hiked over Foopass to Elm (9.1 miles, 2840 feet up, 4100 ft down). Upon arrival in Elm in mid afternoon, we bought groceries then skipped around Stage 3 via PostBus to Schwanden and train to Linthal Braunwaldbahn Talstation, to catch the funicular to Braunwald, where we walked 0.6 mile with 340 feet ascent to Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel. Below: we ascend foggy Foopass from Wiesstannen:
Swiss Via Alpina 1, Day 2: ascending foggy Foopass from Wiesstannen in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 2: From Hotel Gemse in Wiesstannen, we arranged a taxi to save 4.2 miles of walking to Alp Walabutz, from where we hiked over Foopass to Elm (9.1 miles, 2840 feet up, 4100 ft down). From Elm, we rode a PostBus to Schwanden then train to Linthal Braunwaldbahn Talstation, to catch the funicular to Braunwald, where we walked 0.6 mile with 340 ft ascent to Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Skipping Stage 3 of the Via Alpina avoided a strenuous hike of 15 miles from Elm via Richetlipass to Linthal, which would have required a punishing 4900-foot ascent and 6000-foot descent.

Day 3 (Stage 4): From Braunwald, we walked to Urnerboden (8 miles, 1080 feet up, 1000 ft down). From Urnerboden, we rode the PostBus up to Hotel Klausenpass (saving 6 miles of walking).

Below: See the snow-capped Tödi massif (11,854 ft) and Ortstock peak (8,914 ft on right) from Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel in Braunwald.
See the snow-capped Tödi massif (11,854 ft) and Ortstock peak (8,914 ft on right) from Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel in Braunwald, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 3: From Braunwald, we walked to Urnerboden (8 miles, 1080 feet up, 1000 ft down). From Urnerboden, we rode the PostBus up to Hotel Klausenpass (saving 6 miles of walking). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Blue ridges in upper Linth Valley, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 3: From Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel in Braunwald, we walked to Urnerboden (8 miles, 1080 feet up, 1000 ft down) in Switzerland, Europe. From Urnerboden, we rode the PostBus up to Hotel Klausenpass (saving 6 miles of walking). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Blue ridges in upper Linth Valley on Day 3 (Via Alpina Stage 4).

Below: Seen from near Braunwal, the snow-capped peak of Bifertenstock rises at the head of the Linth River Valley, carved into a deep U shape by past glaciers.
The snow-capped peak of Bifertenstock rises at the head of the Linth River Valley, seen from near Braunwald. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 3: From Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel in Braunwald, we walked to Urnerboden (8 miles, 1080 feet up, 1000 ft down) in Switzerland, Europe. From Urnerboden, we rode the PostBus up to Hotel Klausenpass (saving 6 miles of walking). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Urnerboden and Klausenpass seen from upper Linth Valley in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 3: From Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel in Braunwald, we walked to Urnerboden (8 miles, 1080 feet up, 1000 ft down). From Urnerboden, we rode the Postbus up to Hotel Klausenpass (saving 6 miles of walking). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: we hike towards Urnerboden and Klausenpass in upper Linth Valley.

Below: Hotel Klausenpass provided comfortable, modern rooms and good meals.
Hotel Klausenpass in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 3: From Alexander´s Tödiblick hotel in Braunwald, we walked to Urnerboden (8 miles, 1080 feet up, 1000 ft down). From Urnerboden, we rode the PostBus up to Hotel Klausenpass (saving 6 miles of walking). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 4 (Stage 5): From Hotel Klausenpass, we hiked to Unterschächen, in Uri canton (6.25 miles, 115 feet up, 3070 ft down). From Unterschächen, a PostBus spirited us to Bürglen, where we walked from the William Tell Museum to Hotel Höfli in Altdorf (1.1 miles, 280 ft down).

Below: we descend steeply from Klausenpass:
Descending from Klausenpass. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 4: From Hotel Klausenpass, we hiked to Unterschachen (6.25 miles, 115 feet up, 3070 ft down) in Switzerland, Europe. From Unterschachen, we rode the PostBus to Bürglen, where we walked from the William Tell Museum to Hotel Höfli in Altdorf (1.1 miles, 280 ft down). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Stäubifall (aka Stäuben or Staublifall) at the hamlet of Äsch, near Unterschachen village, in Uri canton, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 4: From Hotel Klausenpass, we hiked to Unterschachen (6.25 miles, 115 feet up, 3070 ft down). From Unterschachen, we rode the PostBus to Bürglen, where we walked from the William Tell Museum to Hotel Höfli in Altdorf (1.1 miles, 280 ft down). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above and below: Stäubifall (aka Stäuben or Staublifall) punctuates the idyllic hamlet of Äsch, on the way to Unterschächen.

Stäubifall (aka Stäuben or Staublifall) at the hamlet of Äsch, near Unterschachen village, in Uri canton, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 4: From Hotel Klausenpass, we hiked to Unterschachen (6.25 miles, 115 feet up, 3070 ft down). From Unterschachen, we rode the PostBus to Bürglen, where we walked from the William Tell Museum to Hotel Höfli in Altdorf (1.1 miles, 280 ft down). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Swiss history and the myth of William Tell

William Tell Museum, in Bürglen, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 4: From Hotel Klausenpass, we hiked to Unterschachen (6.25 miles, 115 feet up, 3070 ft down) in Switzerland. From Unterschachen, we rode the Postbus to Bürglen, where we walked from the William Tell Museum to Hotel Höfli in Altdorf (1.1 miles, 280 ft down). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: The William Tell Museum in Bürglen is worth visiting to contemplate popular myths and moral dilemmas.

Tales of William Tell speak of a Swiss hero who defied a tyrannical Austrian overlord and inspired the creation of Switzerland more than 700 years ago. Despite no evidence for his existence, Tell’s stirring story spread widely in folklore. You may recall the story of him shooting an apple from the head of his son, and also Rossini’s William Tell Overture (popularized as the “The Lone Ranger” theme tune of a US television and radio series). In the early Romantic era of nationalist revolutions, the legend of Tell depicted as a national hero spread worldwide through the evocative 1804 play “Wilhelm Tell” by the German dramatist Friedrich von Schiller.

According to legend, William Tell was a proudly accomplished crossbow marksman who lived under a tyrannical bailiff named Albrecht Gessler, an agent of the Hapsburg duke of Austria, based in Altdorf. One day, risking a penalty of imprisonment, Tell proudly refused to bow to foreign Hapsburg authority represented by Gessler’s hat perched symbolically on a tall pole. After Tell’s arrest, Gessler slyly proposed that William could win freedom by shooting an apple from atop his son’s head in one arrow shot. After doing so and being released, Tell admitted that a second arrow was reserved to kill Gessler if his son had been hurt. Enraged, Gessler rearrested Tell. On the way to prison by boat across Lake Lucerne, Tell escaped and later assassinated Gessler from a sniper position.

Up to this point, the apple story is remarkably close to an earlier tale from Denmark involving the historic figure King Harald Bluetooth in the 900s. But Tell’s legend goes a step further, claiming that Tell incited rebellion and conspired on Rütli meadow with three other men to form a defensive alliance of their three rural communes against foreign influence.

Tell’s story wasn’t recorded on paper until 1569–70 (250 years after the events) by historian Aegidius Tschudi, who among other mistakes gave the wrong year of 1307 for Tell’s rebellion and meeting on Rütli meadow. Much later, in 1758, the original Oath of Rütli was rediscovered on paper, documenting the representatives at Rütli meadow, but none were named Tell! Now corrected to “the beginning of August 1291,” events in the old legend had to be moved 16 years earlier. Today, Uri (where Tell was ostensibly born) remains the only Swiss canton which stubbornly clings to the discounted date of 1307, which they proudly inscribed on the Tell Monument in Altdorf back in 1895 (photo below).

The Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848 established the country of Switzerland as we know it today. Established officially in 1891, Swiss National Day is now celebrated with bonfires and flags every August 1, honoring the famous meeting at Rütli meadow in 1291. The Federal Charter of 1291 agreed between the cantons Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden is now considered the Swiss Confederacy’s founding document (although similar alliances probably existed decades earlier).

Below: Altdorf proudly displays Swiss national flags (with a white cross on red background) around the William Tell Monument. The Uri canton flags display not a bull, but an aurochs, a now extinct European bison, thought to have been plentiful in Uri and domesticated by the locals, hence the nose ring.
William Tell Monument in Altdorf, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss national flags (white cross) & Uri canton flags (where the bull is actually an aurochs, a now extinct European bison, thought to have been plentiful in Uri and domesticated by the locals, hence the nose ring). Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 4: From Hotel Klausenpass, we hiked to Unterschachen (6.25 miles, 115 feet up, 3070 ft down). From Unterschachen, we rode the PostBus to Bürglen, where we walked from the William Tell Museum to Hotel Höfli in Altdorf (1.1 miles, 280 ft down). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 5 (Stage 6): From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down) which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg.

Below: we ascend high above Lake Lucerne:
Swiss Via Alpina 1, Day 5: Lake Lucerne, on hike up Surenenpass from Brüsti lift, in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 5: From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down) which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Ascending towards Surenenpass from Brüsti lift, in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 5: From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down), which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg, Switzerland. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above and below: We climb towards Surenenpass.

Ascending towards Surenenpass from Brüsti lift, in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 5: From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down), which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg, Switzerland. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Mt. Titlis seen below Surenenpass, in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 5: From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down), which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above and below: Mt. Titlis seen from the trail below Surenenpass.

Mt. Titlis (far right) seen below Surenenpass, in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 5: From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down), which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Hikers walk by cows below Mt Titlis (10,623 ft), near Fürenalp, Engelberg, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 5: From Altdorf, we rode the PostBus to Attinghausen Seilbahn, a cable car which ascends to Brüsti, from where we hiked over Surenenpass to Fürenalp cable car (8.8 miles, 3360 feet up, 2340 ft down), which we rode plus PostBus to reach Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: we walk through a herd of cows in view of Mt Titlis (10,623 ft), near Fürenalp, above Engelberg.

Engelberg

Swiss Via Alpina 1: Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg, Switzerland, Europe. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: for a rest break, we enjoyed three nights at comfortable Hotel Sonnwendhof in beautiful Engelberg (seen here at sunrise), in the Swiss Canton of Obwalden.

In Engelberg, Switzerland, we rode the Titlis Rotair, the world's first rotating cable car (completed in 2014). The Titlis cable car system connects Engelberg (996 m or 3,268 ft) to the summit of Klein Titlis (3,028 m or 9,934 ft) via stations at Trübsee and Stand. At Klein Titlis, we visited the illuminated Glacier Cave and Titlis Cliff Walk, the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, opened in December 2012, giving views across the Alps. We enjoyed walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee, a circuit where six play stations for kids make an ideal family excursion, suitable for strollers. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: We rode the Titlis Rotair, the world’s first rotating cable car (completed in 2014). The Titlis cable car system connects Engelberg (996 m or 3,268 ft elevation) to the summit of Klein Titlis (3,028 m or 9,934 ft) via stations at Trübsee and Stand. At Klein Titlis, we visited the illuminated Glacier Cave (shown below) and Titlis Cliff Walk, giving impressive views across the Alps. We then descended to enjoy walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee.
In Engelberg, Switzerland, we rode the Titlis lift, the world's first rotating cable car. The Titlis cable car system connects Engelberg (996 m or 3,268 ft) to the summit of Klein Titlis (3,028 m or 9,934 ft) via stations at Trübsee and Stand. At Klein Titlis, we visited the illuminated Glacier Cave and Titlis Cliff Walk, the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, opened in December 2012, giving views across the Alps. We enjoyed walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee, a circuit where six play stations for kids make an ideal family excursion, suitable for strollers. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Swiss Via Alpina 1: sharp blue ridges of the Alps seen from atop Mt. Titlis, near Engelberg, Switzerland, Europe. In Engelberg, we rode the Titlis lift, the world's first rotating cable car. The Titlis cable car system connects Engelberg (996 m or 3,268 ft) to the summit of Klein Titlis (3,028 m or 9,934 ft) via stations at Trübsee and Stand. At Klein Titlis, we visited the illuminated Glacier Cave and Titlis Cliff Walk, the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, opened in December 2012, giving views across the Alps. We enjoyed walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee, a circuit where six play stations for kids make an ideal family excursion, suitable for strollers. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: sharp blue ridges of the Alps came into broad perspective from atop Mt. Titlis.

Below: Opened in 2012, Titlis Cliff Walk is the highest-elevation suspension bridge in Europe.
Swiss Via Alpina 1: Titlis Cliff Walk, above Engelberg, Switzerland, Europe. In Engelberg, we rode the Titlis lift, the world's first rotating cable car. The Titlis cable car system connects Engelberg (996 m or 3,268 ft) to the summit of Klein Titlis (3,028 m or 9,934 ft) via stations at Trübsee and Stand. At Klein Titlis, we visited the illuminated Glacier Cave and Titlis Cliff Walk, the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, opened in 2012, giving views across the Alps. We enjoyed walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee, a circuit where six play stations for kids make an ideal family excursion, suitable for strollers. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Swiss Via Alpina 1: Mt Titlis rises above Trübsee, near Engelberg, in Switzerland, Europe. In Engelberg, we rode the Titlis lift, the world's first rotating cable car. The Titlis cable car system connects Engelberg (996 m or 3,268 ft) to the summit of Klein Titlis (3,028 m or 9,934 ft) via stations at Trübsee and Stand. At Klein Titlis, we visited the illuminated Glacier Cave and Titlis Cliff Walk, the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, opened in December 2012, giving views across the Alps. We enjoyed walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee, a circuit where six play stations for kids make an ideal family excursion, suitable for strollers. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: We enjoyed walking 2 miles around scenic Trübsee, a circuit where six play stations for kids make an ideal family excursion, suitable for strollers.

Below: Dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels, Engelberg Abbey (Kloster Engelberg in German) is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1120 in Engelberg at the head of the Nidwalden Valley.
Engelberg Abbey (Kloster Engelberg in German) is a Benedictine monastery that was founded in 1120 in Engelberg, at the head of the Nidwalden Valley, in Canton of Obwalden, Switzerland, Europe. It is dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. Scheduling 3 nights in Engelberg provided a well-needed rest break in the middle of hiking the first ten stages of the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 6 (Stage 7): From Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg, we again rode the Titlis gondola lift to Trübsee, where a 0.7-mile walk reached a chairlift which whisked us through heavy fog to Jochpass, where we walked down to Hotel Engstlenalp, nestled in mountain pastures high above Innertkirchen, in Bern canton (2.3 miles with 1250 feet of descent, our shortest Stage on Via Alpina).
Pretty purple and pink flower pots greet visitors at Hotel Engstlenalp, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 6: From Hotel Sonnwendhof in Engelberg, we rode the Titlis gondola lift to Trübsee, where we walked 0.7 mile to take the Jochpass chairlift to the top, where we walked down to Hotel Engstlenalp (2.3 miles with 1250 feet of descent). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Colorful flowers greet visitors at Hotel Engstlenalp.

Below: The Bernese Alps are lit by sunrise seen from Hotel Engstlenalp.
The Bernese Alps are lit by sunrise seen from Hotel Engstlenalp, Innertkirchen, Bern canton, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 7: From Hotel Engstlenalp, we hiked along Erzegg Ridge to Planplatten (6.7 miles, 1990 feet up, 750 ft down). From Planplatten, we rode 4 lifts down to Meiringen [via Gondelbahn to Mägisalp (Eagle-Express), Bidmi, and Reuti then via Luftseilbahn to Meiringen], where we walked to Hotel Victoria (0.4 miles). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 7 (Stage 8): From Hotel Engstlenalp, we hiked along Erzegg Ridge to Planplatten (6.7 miles, 1990 feet up, 750 ft down). From Planplatten, we rode 4 lifts down to Meiringen [via Gondelbahn to Mägisalp (Eagle-Express), Bidmi, and Reuti then via Luftseilbahn to Meiringen], where we walked to Hotel Victoria (0.4 miles), in the valley of Haslital, in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland.

Below: Rays of sunrise highlight the peak of Titlis over Engstlenalp:
Swiss Via Alpina 1, Day 7: Titlis mountain seen at sunrise over Engstlenalp in Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 7: From Hotel Engstlenalp, we hiked along Erzegg Ridge to Planplatten (6.7 miles, 1990 feet up, 750 ft down). From Planplatten, we rode 4 lifts down to Meiringen [via Gondelbahn to Mägisalp (Eagle-Express), Bidmi, and Reuti then via Luftseilbahn to Meiringen], where we walked to Hotel Victoria (0.4 miles). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 7: From Hotel Engstlenalp, we hiked along Erzegg Ridge to Planplatten (6.7 miles, 1990 feet up, 750 ft down) in Switzerland, Europe. From Planplatten, we rode 4 lifts down to Meiringen [via Gondelbahn to Mägisalp (Eagle-Express), Bidmi, and Reuti then via Luftseilbahn to Meiringen], where we walked to Hotel Victoria (0.4 miles). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: On our way to Planplatten lift, walking the airy Erzegg Ridge hogsback was one of the highlights of the Via Alpina.

As the last ice age melted 10,000 years ago, the impressive Aare Gorge (German: Aareschlucht) was carved by the river Aare through a limestone ridge, near the present town of Meiringen, in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, Europe. A reasonable fee is charged to access this elaborate walkway, a series of tunnels and cantilevered boardwalks open to the public since 1889. The Entrances (aboveground West and underground East) are each linked to stations on the Meiringen-Innertkirchen railway. Walking to Aareschlucht from our Hotel Victoria was worthwhile as a 3-mile addition from 3-5:00pm on our Day 7 of hiking on the Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1). Day 7 began with hiking from Hotel Engstlenalp along Erzegg Ridge to Planplatten (6.7 miles, 1990 feet up, 750 ft down). From Planplatten, we rode 4 lifts down to Meiringen [via Gondelbahn to Mägisalp (Eagle-Express), Bidmi, and Reuti then via Luftseilbahn to Meiringen], where we walked to Hotel Victoria (0.4 miles). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: As the last ice age melted 10,000 years ago, the impressive Aare Gorge was carved by the river Aare through a limestone ridge, near the present town of Meiringen. Walking to Aareschlucht (its German name) from our Hotel Victoria was worthwhile as a 3-mile addition from 3-5:00pm on Day 7. A reasonable fee is charged to access this elaborate walkway, a series of tunnels and cantilevered boardwalks open to the public since 1889. The Entrances (aboveground West and underground East) are each linked to stations on the Meiringen-Innertkirchen railway.

Day 8 (Stage 9): From Hotel Victoria in Meiringen, we walked 0.8 miles to Reichenbachfallbahn, a funicular which ascends to a viewpoint between the lower and upper Reichenbach Falls, a striking series of cascades. Then we hiked uphill to Schwartzwaldalp (6 miles, 2000 feet gain), where we caught the PostBus over the pass of Grosse Scheidegg to reach Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald.

The death of Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls

Reichenbach Falls, in Meiringen, Haslital, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 8: From Hotel Victoria in Meiringen, we walked 0.8 miles to the Reichenbachfallbahn, a funicular which ascends to a viewpoint between the lower and upper Reichenbach Falls. This impressive series of cascades plunges 820 feet. Then we hiked uphill to Schwartzwaldalp (6 miles, 2000 feet gain), where we caught the PostBus over the pass of Grosse Scheidegg to reach Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald. Fictional Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty died after falling while fighting from a ledge near the 320-foot upper falls. After 10 years of reader complaints, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes in a short story where the famous detective reappeared and told his astonished friend Dr. Watson about faking his own death to fool his enemies. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Fictional Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty died after falling while fighting from a ledge near the 320-foot upper Reichenbach Falls, shown here. After 10 years of reader complaints, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes in a short story where the famous detective reappeared and told his astonished friend Dr. Watson about faking his own death to fool his enemies. Below: Rychenbach stream cascades in the upper steps of Reichenbach Falls:
Reichenbach Falls, in Meiringen, Haslital, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 8: From Hotel Victoria in Meiringen, we walked 0.8 miles to the Reichenbachfallbahn, a funicular which ascends to a viewpoint between the lower and upper Reichenbach Falls. This impressive series of cascades plunges 820 feet. Then we hiked uphill to Schwartzwaldalp (6 miles, 2000 feet gain), where we caught the PostBus over the pass of Grosse Scheidegg to reach Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald. Fictional Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty died after falling while fighting from a ledge near the 320-foot upper falls. After 10 years of reader complaints, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes in a short story where the famous detective reappeared and told his astonished friend Dr. Watson about faking his own death to fool his enemies. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Rosenlaui Glacier and Klein Wellhorn, Meiringen, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 8: From Hotel Victoria in Meiringen, we walked 0.8 miles to the Reichenbachfallbahn, a funicular which ascends to a viewpoint between the lower and upper Reichenbach Falls. Then we hiked uphill to Schwartzwaldalp (6 miles, 2000 feet gain), where we caught the PostBus over the pass of Grosse Scheidegg to reach Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: From Reichenbach Falls, we followed Rychenbach stream upwards via roadway and paths to views of Rosenlaui Glacier and Klein Wellhorn, heading towards Schwartzwaldalp Postbus stop.

Below: We enjoyed apricot kuchen dessert served with coffee at Hotel Rosenlaui during our 6-mile hike to Schwartzwaldalp.
Swiss Via Alpina 1, Day 8: apricot kuchen dessert & coffee at Hotel Rosenlaui, Meiringen, Switzerland, Europe. Swiss Via Alpina (National Route 1), Day 8: From Hotel Victoria in Meiringen, we walked 0.8 miles to the Reichenbachfallbahn, a funicular which ascends to a viewpoint between the lower and upper Reichenbach Falls. This impressive series of cascades plunges 820 feet. Then we hiked uphill to Schwartzwaldalp (6 miles, 2000 feet gain), where we caught the PostBus over the pass of Grosse Scheidegg to reach Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald, Switzerland, Europe. Fictional Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty died after they fell while fighting from a ledge by the 320-foot upper falls. After 10 years of reader complaints, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes in a short story where the famous detective reappeared and told his astonished friend Dr. Watson about faking his own death to fool his enemies. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Grindelwald

The Eiger at sunset seen from Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald, Switzerland, Europe. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Admire the Eiger at sunset from Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald.

Staying two nights in Grindelwald allowed options for rest or more hiking.

Rebecca and I chose a steep hike to Gleckstein Hut (Glecksteinhütte), a steep hike high above Grindelwald (6 miles round trip, 3000 feet up and down). Run by the Swiss Alpine Club, the hut is at 7600 feet elevation, with great views of the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. Climbers use it as a base for the ascent of the Wetterhorn and the Schreckhorn. It makes a wonderful goal for hardy hikers or overnight trekkers. A couple of adventurous families brought their children, with everyone roped and harnessed. Beware of cliff exposure which may frighten those who are afraid of heights. What was exciting for me was scary for others. Cables are provided to hang onto for security. A fun feature was walking behind a small waterfall, where metal gratings provided secure steps. Directions: From Grindelwald, take the PostBus towards Grosse Scheidegg and stop at Abzweigung Gleckstein at 1557 m elevation, halfway between Hotel Wetterhorn and Grosse Scheidegg pass. (Note: hiking from Hotel Wetterhorn trailhead at 1275 meters elevation will add 900 feet of climb for 3900 ft total gain.)

The Schreckhorn and Upper Grindelwald Glacier seen from Glecksteinhütte above Grindelwald, in Switzerland, Europe. Gleckstein Hut (German: Glecksteinhütte) is a steep hike (6 miles round trip, 3000 feet gain and loss) high above Grindelwald in the canton of Bern, Switzerland. Run by the Swiss Alpine Club, the hut is at 2,317 meters elevation, above the Upper Grindelwald Glacier in the Bernese Alps. It's a popular goal for hikers, and climbers use it as a base for the ascent of the Wetterhorn and the Schreckhorn. From Grindelwald, take the PostBus to Abzweigung Gleckstein stop at 1557 m elevation, halfway between Hotel Wetterhorn and Grosse Scheidegg pass. (Hiking from Hotel Wetterhorn trailhead at 1275 meters elevation will add 900 feet of climb for 3900 ft total gain.) (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Admire the Schreckhorn and Upper Grindelwald Glacier from Glecksteinhütte above Grindelwald.

Below: Gleckstein Hut is a good place to spot ibex (Capra ibex, steinbock, or bouquetin), a species of wild goat native to the European Alps. Ibex were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s but were successfully reintroduced and protected.
Capra ibex / steinbock / bouquetin at Glecksteinhütte above Grindelwald, in Switzerland, Europe. The ibex, a species of wild goat in the European Alps, was hunted to near extinction in the 1800s but was successfully reintroduced and protected. Gleckstein Hut (German: Glecksteinhütte) is a steep hike (6 miles round trip, 3000 feet gain and loss) high above Grindelwald in the canton of Bern, Switzerland. Run by the Swiss Alpine Club, the hut is at 2,317 meters elevation, above the Upper Grindelwald Glacier in the Bernese Alps. It's a popular goal for hikers, and climbers use it as a base for the ascent of the Wetterhorn and the Schreckhorn. From Grindelwald, take the PostBus to Abzweigung Gleckstein stop at 1557 m elevation, halfway between Hotel Wetterhorn and Grosse Scheidegg pass. (Hiking from Hotel Wetterhorn trailhead at 1275 meters elevation will add 900 feet of climb for 3900 ft total gain.) (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Stage 10, the Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald portion, was hiked downhill by Tom in 2016. However, he instead recommends replacing Stage 10 with two superior hikes: 1) from First to Schynige Platte (optionally via Faulhorn overnight) and 2) from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg (further below).

Overnight stay at Berghotel Faulhorn

Day 9 (alternative Stage 10a) from Bort to Faulhorn: The fantastic hike from First to Schynige Platte makes a spectacular alternative to Via Alpina Stage 10 (to get from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen). We enhanced further by stay overnight at Berghotel Faulhorn to experience the impressive vistas in magical light at sunset and sunrise. Directions: From Grindelwald, we took the First gondola to Bort, then hiked via First to Berghotel Faulhorn (6 miles with 3650 feet ascent, 130 ft descent). (Or you can save effort by starting at First instead of Bort.)

Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers’ tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut’s roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter failed to remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls.

Hiking near First gondola, Grindelwald, Switzerland, Europe. From Grindelwald, we took the First gondola to Bort, then hiked via First to Berghotel Faulhorn (6 miles with 3650 feet ascent, 130 ft descent) to stay for an impressive sunset and sunrise.. (Or save effort by starting at First instead of Bort.) Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers' tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut's roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter didn't remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Easy, wide paths atop First gondola give sublime panoramas of the Bernese Alps.

Below: Escape crowds at Bachalpsee and find good mountain reflections (if no wind) by proceeding to the lake’s northwest end, where I found purple flowers of Aconitum genus blooming (also known as aconite, monkshood, wolf’s-bane, in the family Ranunculaceae.
A purple flower of Aconitum genus (aka aconite, monkshood, wolf's-bane, in the family Ranunculaceae) at Bachalpsee. From Grindelwald, we took the First gondola to Bort, then hiked via First to Berghotel Faulhorn (6 miles with 3650 feet ascent, 130 ft descent) to stay for an impressive sunset and sunrise, in Switzerland, Europe. (Or save effort by starting at First instead of Bort.) Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers' tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut's roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter didn't remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Sunset seen from Berghotel Faulhorn, in Switzerland, the Alps, Europe. From Grindelwald, we took the First gondola to Bort, then hiked via First to Berghotel Faulhorn (6 miles with 3650 feet ascent, 130 ft descent) to stay for an impressive sunset and sunrise. (Or save effort by starting at First instead of Bort.) Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers' tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut's roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter didn't remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Berghotel Faulhorn provides a scenic platform for photographing sunset (above photo) and sunrise (below with purple monkshood flowers):
A purple flower of Aconitum genus (aka aconite, monkshood, wolf's-bane, in the family Ranunculaceae) at sunrise, seen from Berghotel Faulhorn, in Switzerland, the Alps, Europe. From Berghotel Faulhorn, we hiked the spectacular trail to Schynige Platte (6.9 miles, 400 feet ascent, 2660 ft descent). Then we took the scenic Schynige Platte cog train down to Wilderswil, where a train took us to Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof and adjacent Hotel Silberhorn. Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, making it one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice with great views especially at sunset and sunrise, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers' tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut's roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter didn't remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 10 (alternative Stage 10b): From Berghotel Faulhorn, we hiked a spectacular trail to Schynige Platte (6.9 miles, 400 feet ascent, 2660 ft descent). Below: A delightful cliff walk near Schynige Platte affords impressive views over Lake Thun, Interlaken, and Lake Brienz (Brienzersee).
Lake Thun, Interlaken, and Lake Brienz (German: Brienzersee) seen from a ridge near Schynige Platte, Switzerland, Europe. From Berghotel Faulhorn, we hiked the spectacular trail to Schynige Platte (6.9 miles, 400 feet ascent, 2660 ft descent). Then we took the scenic Schynige Platte cog train down to Wilderswil, where a train took us to Lauterbrunnen Bahnhof and adjacent Hotel Silberhorn. Berghotel Faulhorn was built in 1830, one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps. Earplugs are recommended for sleeping, as the old walls are thin. Perched on a remote precipice with great views especially at sunset and sunrise, Berghotel Faulhorn has flush toilets, but no drinking-water supply, nor guest showers. To save money, carry extra liters of drinking water from Grindelwald. In 2022, Berghotel Faulhorn charged 4 CHF per liter for hikers' tea, and 12 CHF per 1.5-liter bottle of drinking water. The hut's roof-gathered water is undrinkable (and our squeeze-filter didn't remove the bad taste). For personal hygiene, cold water is provided in the dormitory washroom, and the private rooms have nostalgic water jugs and bowls. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Lauterbrunnen

We stayed three nights at comfy Hotel Silberhorn in gorgeous Lauterbrunnen, the valley which may have inspired the invention of fictional Rivendell, a magical elvish sanctuary featured in “The Hobbit” (1937) by J.R.R. Tolkein, who visited Switzerland in 1911.

Swiss Rösti or rööschti is a dish made mainly of potatoes sautéed in a pan. It was originally a breakfast dish, commonly eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but is now eaten all over Switzerland and around the world. The French call it röstis bernois, which refers to the dish's origins. Many Swiss people consider rösti to be a national dish. This Rösti (Swiss potato cake) dinner at the Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen village, in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland, Europe. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
In Lauterbrunnen, Hotel Silberhorn features a great breakfast and superb restaurant. For dinner, one of us ordered a delicious Swiss Rösti (above photo), the national dish, made mainly of potatoes sautéed in a pan. Rösti was originally a breakfast dish, commonly eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but is now eaten all over Switzerland and around the world, for any meal of the day. It’s also known as rööschti, or röstis bernois in French.

Below: My “Fitness Trout” dinner was exquisite!
Fitness trout dinner at Hotel Silberhorn, Lauterbrunnen village, in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland, Europe. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

From Kleine Scheidegg we took the Wengernalpbahn train to Lauterbrunnen in the Berner Oberland of Switzerland, the Alps, Europe. Wengernalpbahn is the world's longest continuous rack and pinion railway; runs from Grindelwald up to Kleine Scheidegg and down to Wengen and Lauterbrunnen. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: After a favorite walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg, we rode the Wengernalpbahn down to Lauterbrunnen (2,631 feet elevation), shown nestled between cliffs under the Lauterbrunnen Breithorn (12,402 feet). Wengernalpbahn is the world’s longest continuous rack and pinion railway — running from Grindelwald up to Kleine Scheidegg and down to Wengen and Lauterbrunnen.

Below: In Lauterbrunnen Valley, don’t miss seeing Trümmelbach Falls (German: Trümmelbachfälle), a series of ten glacier-fed waterfalls plunging inside the mountain, ingeniously made accessible by stairs, illumination, and a tunnel-funicular built in 1913. The creek called Trümmelbach drains the northerly glaciers of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks. To avoid crowds, arrive in the morning a few minutes before first opening. Walking the stairs both up and down avoids lines of people waiting for the optional lift.
Trümmelbach Falls (German: Trümmelbachfälle) are a series of ten glacier-fed waterfalls inside the mountain made accessible by a tunnel-funicular (built in 1913), stairs, and illumination, in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, Europe. In the Lauterbrunnen Valley, the creek called Trümmelbach drains the northerly glaciers of the Eiger (3967 m), Mönch (4099 m), and Jungfrau (4158 m) peaks. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Views of Sefinenfurgge Pass (or Sefinafurgga) from the Schilthorn, in Berner Oberland, Switzerland, Europe. We rode the Schilthornbahn cable car from Stechelberg via Gimmelwald and Mürren villages to Birg station and the Schilthorn (2,970 metres or 9,744 ft), which overlooks Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Bernese Alps. The panoramic revolving restaurant at the summit, Piz Gloria, was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," the first and only Bond film starring George Lazenby. After considering a number of locations, the stalled construction of the sports bar atop the Schilthorn was adopted when the film's producer financed the completion of the now-famous revolving platform for the right to use it for his film. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: On a clear day, the Schilthorn offers fine views of Sefinenfurgge Pass (aka Sefinenfurke or Sefinafurgga), seen on the upper right. Hikers labored on steep slopes far below. Stage 11 of the Via Alpina goes from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren then over Sefinenfurgge Pass and very steeply down to tiny Griesalp village.

Below: Looking the other direction, southeast from Birg station of Schilthornbahn cable car, we contemplated the stunning array of Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and other peaks framing the entire Lauterbrunnen Valley.
View Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and other peaks of the Bernese Alps above Lauterbrunnen Valley from Birg station of the Schilthornbahn cable car, in Switzerland, Europe. We rode the Schilthornbahn cable car from Stechelberg via Gimmelwald and Mürren villages to Birg station and the Schilthorn (2,970 metres or 9,744 ft). (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Day 11 (Stage 11 softened): Taking the easy way up in summer 2022, we rode the Schilthornbahn cable car from Stechelberg via Gimmelwald and Mürren villages to Birg station and the Schilthorn (9,744 ft / 2,970 m), which offer grand views over Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Bernese Alps.

Back in 2005, Carol and I day hiked part of the spectacular Stage 11 area, from Mürren via Wasenegg Ridge to Birg (3500 ft gain in 4 or 5 miles), and descended on the Schilthornbahn (avoiding the Schilthorn top due to obscuring clouds). This time in 2022 the clouds partially cleared atop the Schilthorn, making the pricey ride round trip worthwhile.

Piz Gloria, the panoramic revolving restaurant at Schilthorn summit, was featured in the 1969 James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” After considering a number of locations, the stalled construction of the sports bar atop the Schilthorn was chosen when the film’s producer financed the completion of the now-famous revolving platform for the right to use it for his film. In 2022, the James Bond exhibits at Piz Gloria were mostly hokey and passé, but the short video about making the 1969 Bond film was fascinating, albeit cringe-worthy for its sexist 1960s sensibilities.

Panorama of the Eiger (Ogre 13,026 feet on the left), Mönch (Monk), and Jungfrau (Virgin 13,600 feet on right) above Lauterbrunnen Valley, seen from atop Männlichen gondola station, Switzerland, the Alps, Europe. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Since 1981, one of my favorite viewpoints in the Alps is the area around Männlichen gondola station, featuring a superb panorama of the Eiger (Ogre 13,026 feet), Mönch (Monk), and Jungfrau (Virgin or Maiden 13,600) above Lauterbrunnen Valley.

With world-class wonders around every bend, a delightful path goes from Männlichen Gipfel to Kleine Scheidegg under the looming Eiger North Wall (Nordwand). Grindelwald Valley drops to the left and Lauterbrunnen Valley to the right. The world’s longest continuous rack and pinion railway (Wengernalpbahn) serves the area from Grindelwald up to Kleine Scheidegg and down to Wengen and Lauterbrunnen. A gondola (gondelbahn) connects Grindelwald with Männlichen, where a cable car goes down to Wengen (Luftseilbahn Wengen-Männlichen). From Männlichen station, first walk northwards uphill to Männlichen Gipfel (0.4 miles, 335 ft gain) for a stunning summit view, then walk to Kleine Scheidegg (for a total of 4.6 miles, 400 feet ascent, 900 ft descent). This is a spectacular side trip from the Via AlpinaStage 10, or worthy replacement.

Stage 12 of the Via Alpina was day hiked by Carol and I in the direction from Kandersteg to Griesalp in 2016. Starting with a lift from Kandersteg, we followed cliff trails above the beautiful turquoise lake of Oeschinensee, then traversed steeply over Hohtürli Pass (highest point of the Via Alpina 9,114 feet) and down to Griesalp in the remote valley of Kiental, Switzerland. The ascent of 3670 feet (1120 m) and descent of 4500 feet (1380 m) over 8 miles (13 km) was challenging due to steep, exposed scree slopes, assisted by stairs and ladders. It was an epic adventure! (You can optionally stay overnight at Hohtürli Pass in Blüemlisalp Hut to spread the effort over two days instead of one.)

Stages mentioned in this article are from the excellent book by Kev Reynolds (Third Edition 2017):
Swiss Alpine Pass Route — Via Alpina 1: East to West across Switzerland [Amazon]

Created in 2000, Europe’s Via Alpina covers five international trails through eight countries (Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Monaco) over 3100 miles and 342 stages. The National Route 1 Via Alpina spans Switzerland from East to West, from Liechtenstein and the Rhine Valley to Montreux and the shores of Lake Geneva, covering 230 miles in 19 stages, of which Carol and I have walked eleven stages.

Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, near Brienz

An excellent cultural side trip from Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, or Interlaken is the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, near Brienz (1.5 hours one way via train and bus, seen on our way to Zurich Airport). Founded in 1978, Ballenberg displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country, making it a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Over 100 original buildings have been transported from their original sites. Farmyard animals are raised, and some of the buildings give live demonstrations of traditional rural crafts, techniques, and cheesemaking.

This 1797 farmhouse, originally from Ostermundigen, is now building #331 in Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, near Brienz, Bern canton, Switzerland, Europe. Founded in 1978, Ballenberg displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country, making it a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Over 100 original buildings have been transported from their original sites. Farmyard animals are raised, and some of the  buildings give live demonstrations of traditional rural crafts, techniques, and cheesemaking. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: This 1797 farmhouse, originally from Ostermundigen, is now building #331 in Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum.

Below: Back in poorer times in rural Switzerland, this 1800s bridal wagon publicly paraded the proud newlywed couple’s cherished wealth of bedding and furniture.
1800s bridal wagon at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, near Brienz, Canton of Bern, Switzerland, Europe. Back in poorer times in rural Switzerland, this 1800s bridal wagon publicly paraded the proud newlywed couple's wealth in bedding and furniture.  Founded in 1978, Ballenberg displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country, making it a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Over 100 original buildings have been transported from their original sites. Farmyard animals are raised, and some of the  buildings give live demonstrations of traditional rural crafts, techniques, and cheesemaking. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

Half-timbered walls are filled with wattle and daub in this 1750-1800 public laundry structure (originally from Ruschlikon, Zurich canton), building #612 at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, near Brienz, Bern canton, Switzerland, Europe. Founded in 1978, Ballenberg displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country, making it a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Over 100 original buildings have been transported from their original sites. Farmyard animals are raised, and some of the  buildings give live demonstrations of traditional rural crafts, techniques, and cheesemaking. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)
Above: Half-timbered walls are filled with wattle and daub in this 1750-1800 public laundry structure (originally from Ruschlikon, Zurich canton), building #612 at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum.

Below: This 1780 vintner’s house with half-timbered walls was originally from Richterswil in Zurich canton and is now building #611 at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum.
This 1780 vintner's house with half-timbered walls filled with wattle & daub, was originally from Richterswil in Zurich canton and is now building #611 at Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum, near Brienz, Bern canton, Switzerland, Europe. Founded in 1978, Ballenberg displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country, making it a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Over 100 original buildings have been transported from their original sites. Farmyard animals are raised, and some of the  buildings give live demonstrations of traditional rural crafts, techniques, and cheesemaking. (© Tom Dempsey / PhotoSeek.com)

The above photo highlights are excerpted from my trip gallery “SWITZERLAND: Via Alpina“. Click any image to load into my Portfolio where images can be added to your cart for licensing.

We were ecstatic to return to Europe since our last visit five years ago (in 2017 to the UK).
I previously visited the Alps in 2016, 2013, 2011, 2005, & 1981.

To plan your next trip, see Tom’s online guide to the Alps.

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