September 11, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Augstmatthorn, Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried - 07:36 train up from Brienz. Cold up at Rothorn this morning. First hour (approximately Brienzer Rothorn to Briefehornli) was me moving fast to stay warm. By the time I got to Balmi, the day was warming up nicely though. Steinbock were a little sparse this pass, none sighted until Augstmatthorn where a small group seemed a little wary about 50 metres below the ridge. I put that down to some idiots flying drones, one of which buzzed me on the trail. Drone flying is not allowed up here, but rules written to protect this area and the Steinbock that live here seem to regularly be ignored in favor of that amazing Instagram shot by drone flyers and illegal campers. If you love this place, respect it. Please.
Under five hours from Rothorn to Augstmatthorn, six to reach the Niederried path public hut for a well deserved break and just over seven all told back to my door. Some days I wonder what the hell I am doing up here, but then the light, the moment reminds me why. My legs cramped a little after this one, perhaps again with the pacing problems I keep having if I do the first section too fast. I ate and drank enough, bringing extra supplies just in case, but a couple of light cramps on the way down and afterwards remind me I need to pace better and maybe take more breaks. I met some groups on the climb to Augstmatthorn who were heading towards Rothorn. None had accurately considered how long it might take to get to Rothorn (five to six hours from Augstmatthorn with moderate hiking) and were already too late to reach there and catch the last train down at 17:40. I advised they consider exiting at Ällgäulücke. I get that completing the ridge is the goal, but some days, timing makes it just out of reach, and taking the exit options are a very solid choice.
This was my 24th full ridge pass, and my 26th time up and over Tannhorn. I won't be back up here for a couple of weeks as I have travel plans, but I am hoping to get a couple more full passes in during October. Last season I managed four full ridge hikes in October. I have a feeling the winter will be back fairly soon, but hopeful for a couple more good days up there before that happens.
September 3 - 4, 2022
Oberried - Bitschi - Tannhorn - Balmi - Tannhorn - Oberried - The weekend forecast was mixed, so I opted to spend Saturday night up at the berg hut near Gummhoren and Sunday, to meet up with some fellow hikers somewhere between Ällgäulücke and Tannhorn. Saturday evening I made it to the hut just before the rain arrived and got a warm fire going. The night wasn't as clear as I had previously experienced up here, but was surprisingly warm even into the early hours with barely any wind and just a few passing squalls of rain. Nice. The next morning I set off from the hut towards the huts at Bitschigrind and Bitschi. I had a little project to do, and once done, wandered on up to Ällgäulücke and after a coffee break, continued on up Allgauwhoren towards Tannhorn.
I hadn't climbed Tannhorn in this direction since late last year, so I took my time and found it fairly straightforward, a few muddy patches after last night's rain, but otherwise good conditions cooled by the mid morning fog up there. I made the peak before 11:00 and sat for another coffee and considered where I might find the family I was planning to meet. They had asked me for some guidance about the trail and I looked forward to meeting up with them finally. After about an hour, I realized that they might be taking a little longer than I anticipated so I decided to walk down the narrow ridge side of the mountain and see if I could assist with getting them back up there.
I caught up with them at Balmi and am glad I did, they had some struggles with the exposure on the Tannhorn ascent (seriously, it is not for everyone), but all of them made it safely to the top. I must note here that as we were climbing, a fellow hiker coming down the ridge took a seat safely away from the path (not many places to do that) and waited for perhaps 15 minutes until we were all safely past. In 24 ascents of this peak, I have rarely come across such a great example of support and consideration from a fellow hiker, and wish I had caught his name or Instagram handle or something. He had a long way to go to reach Rothorn before the last train down, and he patiently waited until we all passed him. I so appreciate moments like that. I do hope he made his train.
By the time we reached the peak of Ällgäuwhoren (the next peak in the chain after Tannhorn), it was clear that for any of the group to complete the trail to Harder Kulm, two would have to exit at Ällgäulücke as they were struggling with the relentless nature of this path. This is what a lot of people underestimate. 1100 vertical metres of elevation gain doesn't sound a lot, but when you have to climb nine peaks in a row, each around 100 to 150 metres up and 100 to 150 metres down, it takes a serious toll, and requires serious effort and stamina to complete. About half of those ascents also require actual climbing using all fours, not just walking. That often comes as a surprise to many hikers up here. I accompanied the two who were struggling and made sure they got down to Oberried to catch a train home while the other family members continued on for the long haul to Harder Kulm. They made it, and completed a trail they had dreamed of completing for some years. Their determination and resourcefulness turned a long day into an epic adventure they will never forget. They may have underestimated it a little, but they had trained hard for it and were as prepared for it as one could be, so I was happy to help. I played a small part in helping them get there and I'm so glad to have met such a fantastic group of people with a shared passion for this crazy ridge. This counts high among my favourite weekends up here, because I got to share it with people who thoroughly enjoyed it too. I also got to climb Tannhorn twice in one day, which somehow felt like another milestone for me. Brilliant Brienzergrat weekend!
August 27-28, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Niederried via Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Pure magic. The last night of operation for the Brienzer Rothorn Kulm Hotel for the season (an early closing for renovation work) I was lucky enough to spend one more night to catch the sunset and hike with the sunrise. The Steinbock herd were back in good numbers on the slopes of Schöngutsch and later nearby the hotel. The day had been a little foggy up here but late in the evening the low clouds parted and revealed a stunning sunset.
Early the next morning I set off around 06:15 and immediately found the path above the steam train station blocked by a Steinbock. I waited for a while, but he wasn't moving, so I hiked up towards the peak of Schöngutsch to get around him then back down to the trail. It was a good omen. I found Steinbock at every section of the ridge today. Two little ones guarding Chruterepass. A family on the slopes to Briefehornli, a larger group on the approach to Tannhorn and more at Gummhoren, and on the last stretch towards Augstmatthorn. Absolutely perfect conditions up there today. The light rain we had during the week firmed up the soil nicely and for the first 3-4 hours of the hike there was no discernable wind at all, just still cool air warming with the rising sun. I feel very privileged to be up here on days like this, super clear after the rains cleared the air and dramatic light all around. I did not pass a single other hiker until the very last stretch of the trail between Gummhoren and Augstmatthorn. One fellow hiker joined me around Gummhoren for the ascent to Augstmatthorn and that made the last climb easier, always does when I hike with someone else. I need to find more people daft enough to do this regularly like me! Truly the best of the ridge this weekend, my 23rd full pass along the trail. I was a little slower than usual, just over five hours to Augstmatthorn, but I always stop for Steinbock, and there were a lot to stop for on this pass! This late season, while it is often tricky to find the weather windows needed, when you do find them, the trail really shines. Can't wait for the next time, who's with me?!
August 20-21, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Bitschi/Bitschigrind - Egg - Rys (Riedergrat) - Oberried Am Brienzersee - This would have been a tough hike with a normal pack - 1900m ascents, 1900m descents over 15 km - but this weekend I was carrying power tools, lumber and weekend overnight supplies. Probably added 10 or 15 kilos to my usual carried weight, but I had some work to do. I repaired a bench at one hut, added some screens to the second one and then hiked across the slopes to the Weisstannen hut where I spent the night. Even though the pack was a little lighter by this time, it was still hard going but I was lucky with the weather and enjoyed a sublime night looking over Brienzersee just beneath the Gummhoren peak.
As the sun set and the night cooled off, the lights of Interlaken, Niederried and Oberried far below struggled to compete with the myriad bright stars in the clear skies above. Just 1600m above where I live, the improved clarity of the night stars was stunning with no light pollution up here, I could clearly see the milky way and more stars than I've seen since I camped out in Africa over 30 years ago. Magic. I do need to learn more about getting decent night sky shots, none of those I took really did the majesty of the night justice.
The following morning, I descended to about 1000m then climbed back up to the last hut on the Blasenhubel route and did the work I needed to do there before resting and heading back down to Oberried. Lovely clear morning for it too. The trails on this side of the ridge are settling nicely now, with the storm debris of recent weeks becoming less of a problem. I hardly saw any hikers on the ridge itself this weekend, the preceding heavy rains likely put a lot of people off (for good reason) and Saturday's forecast wasn't the best. Sunday warmed up nicely, enjoyed the hike down after a long weekend up there, though my feet hurt a little more than usual after all the weight carried. Job done though!
August 14, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Blasenhubel - Ällgäulücke - Bitschi/Bitschigrind - Oberried Am Brienzersee - Technically, this hike is identical in length and vertical metres to the full Brienzergrat to Hardergrat trek, and if I don't do that one, I do this one. This weekend I had some maintenance work to do up at the huts, so a leisurely pace and an enjoyable hike on a hot August day. I am beginning to be concerned about the condition of the ridge itself. Approach paths as I have mentioned before are a little harder to negotiate due to still deep layers of storm debris layering the paths through the forests, but now after a long dry spell, the ridge is changing. Rocks once deepset into the soil are now loosening and entire climbing sections are becoming more and more precarious. Sometimes you can step on a dirt section and it separates entirely from the rock it used to be stuck to.
These conditions aren't the worst I have seen up there, but with the ridge dried out like this, we have forecast heavy rains coming this week and I have concerns that the dry soil and rocks will start to come apart if saturated and even cause landslides in places. I am not particularly concerned about some of the best parts of the ridge (Balmi-Tannhorn, for example), those are in good shape, it is those tricky western flank steep sections that are muddy in wet weather and currently very loose and dry - the stretch between Ällgäuwhoren and Ällgäulücke, Schnierenhireli to Gummhoren and a few parts of the climb to Augstmatthorn are all quite loose at this time of year. I am watching these sections carefully each pass now, rocks I used to count on for hand and foot holds on technical climbing sections I now have to double check, because many are no longer secure like they used to be.
I have recently spent a lot of time up along the Riedergrat section of the ridge (the bit in the middle, approximately Blasenhubel to Tannhorn) as well as the approaches on the Riedergrat/lake side. Some of the paths are tough going, but all have public huts somewhere along the way which really changes things for me, those huts and their mountain water supplies make hiking that side whether in descent or ascent a much more pleasant and rewarding experience. So much to explore every week that I can!
August 7, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Niederried via Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Brienzergrat to Hardergrat #22. I almost didn't go up today. Having already hiked the ridge twice this week, I was second-guessing my motivation, but decided to go for it anyway. A cloudy cool morning at the lake, I took the early 07:36 steam train from Brienz which broke through the clouds at about 1900m and revealed a breathtaking panorama. The ridge in these cloud conditions takes on the appearance of islands in the ocean. It was stunning to see the level clouds as far as the eye could see at around 1800 - 1900 m with all the peaks standing proud above them. Magic.
Excited by the views I did the first section (Rothorn to Tannhorn) a little faster than usual, but the light and clouds change so quickly up here that I wanted to be sure to see this cloud effect all the way, particularly at Balmi. I wasn't disappointed, and in fact the clouds stayed the same for most of the hike. Conditions were excellent after a little light rain in the week and as I began my descent from Suggiture, I could already feel the air getting cooler as I entered the cloud layer. It was a refreshing change for the air to get cooler as I descended into the valley after a month of temperatures getting hotter and hotter as I descended. This was another exceptional Brienzergrat to Hardergrat day. True perfection in the Bernese Oberland. Under five hours Rothorn to Augstmatthorn, seven and a half hours all in to my door.
August 3, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Oberried via Blasenhubel - Brienzergrat to Hardergrat #21. A very special long-planned hike for me, I was taking two friends along the ridge and both had done a fair bit of preparation by increasing their uphill exercise regimen and also reading my book and posts about the trail. Both were strong and fit hikers and after another fantastic overnight stay at Berghaus Rothorn Kulm, we set off at 06:30 on what was going to be a very hot day, 30 degrees at the lake, an average of 20 degrees on the ridge. They handled Tannhorn in solid form, and we were only about 15-20 minutes off my usual time at that peak. Good going. But after descent from Tannhorn, the problems started.
The first was a blister on one hiker's foot just as we were descending towards Ällgäulücke. On the break at Ällgäulücke we discussed levels of energy and water supply, and while one water supply was running short, elected to continue up Schierenhireli onwards towards the climbs to Gummhoren, Blasenhubel, Wytlouihoren and Augstmatthorn. However, the heat of the day was really getting strong as we got to the top of Schierenhireli, and both found it a very difficult climb. Knee problems were next, and both fellow hikers had started to develop knee pains after all the descents, which are often more difficult due to their steepness and frequency on this long trek. I should have given them the option to exit at Ällgäulücke, but the subject of exit, despite low water supplies, did not come up until we were climbing Gummhoren. We were a good hour and a half short of my usual time at this point and getting slower, and the pains for both of them (plus new blisters) were getting more and more hard to manage. I offered Blasenhubel as an exit option and we all agreed better that long and tortuous descent than two more long climbs to get to the next exit with a similarly steep descent. Blasenhubel is tough going on a good day, and both found it excruciating. For me it was just painfully slow. We got to the Ryswäldli hut (a public hut managed by Oberried Am Brienzersee Council) about an hour later and took a well earned long rest and replenished water supplies. We made it home around 16:00, almost 10 hours since setting off. It was a tough one and made me realize my times are only possible because I do this or the equivalent of this whole ridge every weekend in season. I need to offer first timers more exit options, all of which are long, but they do provide water replenishment sources and ample resting places. I am doing this again with two more friends in a couple of weeks. I will really focus on their wellbeing this time, rather than trying to help them achieve their goal of completing the ridge, that becomes unimportant when the relentless trek becomes too difficult. Lesson learned! An interesting side note here. One of my friends, after reading my book said it had the potential to make people afraid of the ridge. That was not my intent. What I set out to do was present the wonders and the dangers of the ridge in equal measure. It is a ridge to be respected and not underestimated. It isn't for everyone, but it is not extreme by any means. I am not a thrillseeker, I merely choose to celebrate this wonder of nature as often as possible, and in that experience have found that caution is the smart approach, not fear, but simple respect for the awe inspiring scenery and experience. This pass, the going was too tough for my friends, but they will complete it another time, I know it. Some days I wonder what the hell I am doing up here, but then I find a Steinbock, or the light hits the ridge just right and I remember why.
July 31, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Niederried - Brienzergrat to Hardergrat #20. Spectacular day for it, trail conditions on the ridge almost perfect though a little muddy on the Southwestern slopes. Caught the early 07:36 train up from Brienz so a reasonably early start at Rothorn 08:36. I took it easy, as yesterday I did the equivalent hike in distance and elevation gain as the whole ridge but today I still made Tannhorn in under two hours. When I am hiking alone, that is my speed. Not at all running, just a moderate to fast-paced walk. Just after Ällgäulücke I encountered a couple of first timers heading towards Rothorn who were advised that Tannhorn was too dangerous today. I was surprised, Sunday conditions on the Tannhorn ascent were almost perfect. No mud, little wind, no problems at all. Not sure what the people who advised to avoid it were thinking. Maybe they were first timers, but these conditions were as good as it gets up there.
I made the peak at Augstmatthorn in under five hours, again, wasn't hustling it, but perhaps my pacing and conditioning has improved enough that this is the time it takes me. It was exceptional conditions again, too. It was sunny for the most part but it remained under 20 degrees up there the whole hike. It wasn't until I got below 1500 m on the descent from Suggiture to Niederried that it started to get hot. The trail conditions off the ridge are still really tough, particularly in the forested sections. After the destructive storm we had a couple of weeks ago, the paths are buried under a lot of loose debris and most annoyingly, pine cones. It makes the 2 hour descent from anywhere on the ridge slow and treacherous going. I have encountered the same problem on every path up to the ridge on the lake side, but I know what to expect now, so I am giving myself extra time on ascents to and descents from the ridge. 25km hiked today with about +1000 metres elevation. On the descent to Niederried I chose to walk back to Oberried along a nice gradual route which avoids further steep descent. I tend to prefer this even though it adds an hour or so to the hike but by the time I reach this road, my legs are so done with steep descent that I elect to take the easy walk back rather than walk all the way down to the train station at Niederried.
July 30, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Bitschigrind, Bitschi - Planalp - Brienz - Outstanding day for wandering about on the lake side of the ridge. I had a little work to do at three of the mountain huts, so I stopped at Weisstannen first, then back along the Ällgäulücke path to the huts at Bitschigrind and Bitschi. Job done and rested at the Bitschi hut I decided to continue on along the path that follows the ridge toward Rothorn but at about 500 metres below the line of the ridge. Fantastic path as it winds around the slopes of Ällgäuhoren and Tannhorn, then slowly descends towards Planalp and Brienz.
This path (from Bitschi to Planalp) is a good contender for when the wind or weather conditions force a reconsideration of the ridge path. You can access this route from Rothorn, from Chruterepass and from Planalp/Brienz. All in, 24 km hiked and +1350m elevation. A good Saturday. This route was relatively free of storm damage unlike the approach paths from Niederried and Oberried which are thick in forest debris at the lower elevations at the moment (from about 1000 metres up to about 1600 metres). All routes passable, just a little tricky with all those pinecones and soft debris to negotiate!
July 23, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Blasenhubel - Ällgäulücke - Oberried - I got going a bit late today, starting at the lakeside at 08:00 and it was already warm and increasingly humid as the day progressed. The trails were much tougher going than last week due to large amounts of debris covering the path all the way up to the tree line. We had a serious storm with hailstones this week and the difference up there was incredible. New landslides, tons of loose debris, but it really just made the going slow as opposed to being more difficult or dangerous.
By the time I reached the ridge at Blasenhubel after a little work at the first hut (Ryswaldli) the hot sun had disappeared in fog and the entire ridge from Blasenhubel all the way to Ällgäulücke was blissfully cool. It was almost cold in parts, and made for an extremely pleasant ridge walk. I replenished water supplies at Bitschi, saw a few Steinbock off in the distance at Gummhoren, as well as a herd of Chamois near the same place and later in the forest on my descent towards Oberried. All in about an hour longer than last week's walk due to the slower pace of the mountain paths, but still a very enjoyable Saturday hike.
July 16, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Blasenhubel - Ällgäulücke - Oberried - Some work to do up at the mountain huts operated by the Oberried Am Brienzersee community today, a little light trimming and a few things to install and fix. I started early, around 05:45 to take advantage of the morning's cooler weather. It was easy going, though the climb to Blasenhubel remains the toughest of the numerous trails I have been exploring up to and from the ridge this year. It's not exposed, but the last 200 metres elevation are switchbacks on very steep grassy slopes. It is hard work, but the views from that peak at the ridge are worth it.
After starting so early, I was for the most part alone on the ridge though before Ällgäulücke I did run into a few early starters that had come from Brienzer Rothorn. The huts that I visit and volunteer to help maintain are all within 20 minutes or up to an hour from the ridge. Each has a mountain spring water source and makes an excellent place to shelter in inclement or weather or to take a shady break in hot weather. I'll write a comprehensive post about them eventually, well worth getting to know if you spend as much time on this ridge as I do. I think I was home within about 8 hours or so of starting. It takes almost as long as the whole ridge doing these partial hikes due to the increased elevation gain, pretty much all in one go! Today's hike was over 22 km with +1500 metres elevation gain. I made a good speed, though wasn't in any particular hurry except to catch the Oberried Dorfladen shop for an ice cream on the way home, they close early on Saturdays!
July 9, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Tannhorn - Augstmatthorn - Suggiture - Niederried - The evening of July 8th, I took the steam train up to Rothorn and after depositing all but my camera at the Berghaus Rothorn Kulm, I went wandering looking for Steinbock. Within minutes the first pair of horns rounded the ridge at Schöngutsch. Then another, and another until I was surrounded by 30 or 40 Steinbock all making their way in my direction. It was spectacular, I walked with the herd slowly and carefully and thoroughly enjoyed every moment as we wandered in the direction of the hotel. The herd split not far from the Rothorn Bahn, some going lower, others going higher closer to the hotel. They were heading for a salt lick just beyond the hotel. I watched as two males less than a few metres away from me started challenging each other with head butts and jostling. Amazing sight as the sun set over Brienzer Rothorn. The next day's sunrise was equally spectacular.
Very early the next morning, I wandered in the same direction to begin my 19th pass along the ridge. Conditions were cool in the early morning light despite the strong sun rising behind me. The path was dry and easy going. At the peak of Tannhorn I was disappointed to encounter a large group of campers up there. It is illegal to camp anywhere up here along the ridge, being a federally protected wildlife preserve. I am seeing more and more incidents of campers this year and it upsets me because it spoils the place for everyone when people disregard the rules. I am experiencing a lot more flies on the peaks and the Steinbock are simply not as close to the path or the peaks as I have witnessed in the previous two seasons. I stepped over their sleeping bags and carried on making Augstmatthorn in good time and heading down from the ridge before noon. Fantastic day up there.
July 4, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Chruterepass - Tannhorn - Ällgäulücke - Oberried Am Brienzersee - After the dramatic thunderstorms all along the ridge and around the mountain all night, conditions early the next morning were not ideal. If I am honest, it was about the most treacherous conditions I have encountered up there. But I know the ridge well, and I know where I need to be and how long it takes to get there. I do not recommend anyone attempt this trail after or during heavy rains like this, and also with storms forecast for later in the day. It wasn't about getting wet, that was going to happen somewhere today, I just didn't want to be somewhere exposed when the forecast high winds returned or the lightning storms came back, both forecast no more than five or six hours from now. I elected to set off at 7 am, just before the current front passed the ridge. It was wet, muddy and bloody dangerous up there. But I took it slow. Not 30 minutes into the hike, I came across a Steinbock just as I was about to descend the steep stone stairs to Chruterepass. We sort of surprised each other, he seemed a little embarrassed at having been caught using the stairs. Nice to know Steinbock take the stairs as well!
After Chruterepass, the sun came out which wasn't expected, but did make the rest of the hike more pleasant because most of my gear started to dry out, as did some of the mud, but it was still extremely difficult going. I was super slow and cautious, hardly a single footstep felt secure. Just after Tannhorn, I checked the forecast again, and the next front was coming in about three hours, exactly the time I would be at the top of Augstmatthorn, but with the mud worsening and my pace slowing, I decided to exit after Tannhorn at Allgäulücke.
I got home just before the next storm front arrived, an hour earlier than forecast. A ferocious electrical storm with a ton of driving rain. It has cleared now, but I would have been still up on the ridge on my planned original hike, so I am glad I took the exit!
All in this weekend over 50 km since Saturday with well over 3000 metres total elevation gain. That is what I call a good weekend's hiking!
July 3, 2022
Brünigpass - Brienzer Rothorn - In my mission to join all the dots on the maps on my wall, I decided for Sunday to walk up to Brienzer Rothorn (2349m) from Brünigpass, a total climb of about 1350 metres over 13.5 km. Very beautiful walk, and even came across wild horses in the forested section on the way up! Well, I am calling them wild horses because as I was sitting for my first snack break after about an hour, three beautiful and very large horses lumbered down the trail from behind me. I was trying the walk because I have encountered hikers along the Brienzergrat to Hardergrat trail that have started at Brünigpass and include that in theur full ridge trek. After doing it, I suppose it is possible to do both in the same day, though I don't particularly want to, the trail is tough enough for me without at additional 13 km and 1350 metres to start with!
Lovely mountain moment. I found a number of Steinbock around the Rothorn peaks, a family of them at Schöngutsch and a lively pair nearer the Rothorn Kulm. The storms arrived in force around 21:00, with lightning and heavy rain for most of the night.
July 2, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Blasenhubel - Ällgäulücke - Oberried - Saturday. The beginning of an epic weekend. Perfect weather for a full Brienzergrat to Hardergrat hike, but today I wanted to map out all the available berghütten (Mountain huts) along the Brienzersee side of the ridge, so today was the day to wander up and down the mountain trails to visit all of them. There are five in all, one at Rys on the Oberried - Blasenhubel route, and four on the Oberried - Ällgäulücke route. Each provide a water source, fireplaces and a place to rest overnight on the way to or from the ridge. This hike was in itself a great loop trail. All in, Saturday's hike involved almost 1750 vertical metres over 22 km, lots of ups and downs on a hot day, but damn satisfying.
June 25, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Chruterepass - Tannhorn - Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried Am Brienzersee - Hello again Brienzer Rothorn Bahn - same 08:36 train for an 09:36 start. A dramatic view on the way up of a lone Steinbock atop the craggy ridge of Dirrengrind. Too far away for a photo, but still, nice to see. I elected to continue the pacing and approach I did last week, no stopping, just occasional rests where ascents required a bit of breathing catch up. Perfect crisp, clear day for the hike. A lot cooler for the most part than last week, and the views were more spectacular than usual due to storms clearing the haze out of the air all week long. Steinbock sighted fairly close up at the Rothorn end, but none towards Augstmatthorn. In my experience, the herd tend to be more active at Augstmatthorn much later in the season. Not sure why, perhaps it is the fact that it is quite busy up at the Hardergrat end of the trail on nice days. I did meet a couple of farm goats high up between Brienfenhornli and Balmi, not their usual spot, but they do get around a bit up here. I made Suggiture within five hours from the starting point again. No real hustle, just a very manageable pace all the way. Water supply management better this week, didn't finish my supply until I was within a few minutes of replenishment along the Niederried descent route. Good stuff. I met and kept pace with a few other people along the way, always good to have people at the same starting point with likely the same goal to help you manage your pace. These guys were a fair bit faster than me for the most part, but we kept pace because they stopped for a number of breaks while I kept going at my usual slower pace. Nice to share the ridge, as always!
June 18, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Chruterepass - Tannhorn - Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried Am Brienzersee - Back up to the Brienzer Rothorn Bahn on the 08:36 train for an 09:36 start. Really hot weather in the valley and up on the ridge all week so I was a bit concerned about my pace and water consumption but somehow this was a really easy pass this week. I think the conditioning of doing this full ridge every week is beginning to pay off. Somehow I shaved about two hours off the total hike, arriving at Suggiture in under five hours. I wasn't going fast, not pushing at all, in fact I purposely slowed my pace on several occasions. This was a hike about water management and slowing my pace to make it manageable on a very hot and sunny day. The big change this time was not stopping. Anywhere. Usually I take a short break at the top of Tannhorn, Schnierenhireli and Gummhoren or Blasenhubel, but last week, I took all those breaks and was bitten all over my ankles by swarms of nasty flies. Today, I wasn't in the mood for that so I simply didn't stop. Perhaps that fact helped me maintain a better or more consistent overall pace. Whatever happened, I was back down by the lakeside hours earlier. No idea where the Steinbock are hiding. Next week going to try a dawn hike, see if I can find them!
June 11, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Chruterepass - Tannhorn - Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried Am Brienzersee - A glorious day which was accurately forecast and to be honest, with a forecast like that, the ridge is irresistable to me, I simply have to go. I arranged to meet a couple who had been asking about some of the trickier parts of the trail and met them at the early train from Brienz to Brienzer Rothorn Bahn. Being their first time along the ridge, we took our time which was a blessing after I pushed so hard last week.
At Tannhorn, the reality of what they were facing set in, and after a momentary freeze at the start of the difficult climb up Tannhorn, I got them to the top. I think it helps that I remember my first time at this place, and how I had to take a leap of faith in my own abilities and self confidence to approach something so difficult. They were rock stars on the climb, and we made the peak not far off my usual time to there from Rothorn. They exited the ridge a little while later and took a nice route down to Bitschi and returned to Planalp, which I think is a little easier on the downhill than the long hike from Bitschi to Oberried Am Brienzersee. I continued on to do my usual route as far as Augstmatthorn and Suggiture and then on down to Niederried and home. Along the way I caught up with another first timer on the ridge and a first timer at Augstmatthorn who joined me on the descent to Niederried. The chats and shared experience of hiking with good people like this make the tough parts seem easier, and the repetitive downhill parts become shorter. I love sharing this ridge, and will take the opportunity to share it with people any time that I am able. Glorious day. Said that before, but that is the sort of day it was up there.
June 4, 2022
Planalp - Chruterepass - Tannhorn - Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried Am Brienzersee - Idiot. After getting lost in the fog last week, this weekend I decided to improve my time from Planalp to the ridge. I did so, by about 15 minutes but pushed way too hard for that sort of elevation gain (about 800 metres) before the hike really started on the ridge on a hot day. By the time I reached Allgaulucke my legs were already cramping. Every ascent after that was very difficult.
It was a beautiful day for it, very lightly populated for such a lovely day, but it was hot, and I had to replenish water supplies from the remaining snow twice along the way. Water supply and management is crucial up here, though since I started exiting the route after Suggiture and taking the path down to Niederried, I have found two mountain huts with fresh water supply within 20 minutes and 35 minutes of the ridge, the closest place to resupply along the entire ridge. It comes in very handy to make the descent a little more comfortable. On that point, at Bitschi is another fresh water source, easily reachable about 20 minutes from the lakeside exit at Allgaulucke. Point being, while supply is critical on this long trek, there are a couple of places to resupply if you don't mind the extra hiking to get down to and back up from these places.
May 28, 2022
Planalp - Chruterepass - Tannhorn - Augstmatthorn/Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried Am Brienzersee - Foggy and potentially wet day, but it was my 13th pass at Brienzergrat Ridge - first full pass of the 2022 season - and I had to get it out of the way. As the steps at Chruterepass were still iced over, I decided to avoid that portion (Brienzer Rothorn to Chruterepass) and take the steam train up from Brienz to Planalp at about 1350m. Walking up to the ridge from Planalp should be easy, and it generally was but in the fog I took the wrong trail twice and then the path disappeared entirely in mudslides and snow banks for a couple of hundred meters. I made sure to locate where I needed to be using the Schweizmobil App which I highly recommend for conditions where the path might be hidden or the signposting not clear, it's critical to know where one should be in these conditions. I made the ridge in an hour and a half and headed for Tannhorn. I did encounter a number of Steinbock along the way, but the fog was so heavy I wasn't able to get any decent shots.
After a surprisingly warm break at the peak of Tannhorn, I continued on via Ällgäulücke and up to Schnierenhirelli. It was here I spent some time with a group of male Steinbock in close quarters, a fantastic encounter on an otherwise unscenic day for photography. After parting with the Steinbock, I continued on towards Augstmatthorn. My legs were aching by the time I got up Gummhoren, but I needed to complete this pass so at Blasenhubel, instead of exiting towards Oberried Am Brienzersee and home, I carried on to Augstmatthorn, the last climb of the day. Always a tough one that, and today was a little tougher than usual, because I had already climbed more than 1500 meters and this one was hard. I didn't see many people up there this weekend, it was foggy and a wet forecast after all, but I rather prefer that way, it's more peaceful. After a second good break at the peak of Suggiture, where the sun came out for the first time that day, I headed down to exit the ridge for Niederried. Seven hours hiking from Planalp to the ridge exit past Suggiture, then another two hours home. I took my time. Trail conditions on the ridge itself were excellent. Dry for the most part underfoot and no snow or ice on the path at any point.
May 8, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - A little more positive weather outlook today, and with time to spare, I did the same route again. My catch up with the Steinbock family happened in exactly the same place as it did the day before, but I could see and photograph them more clearly this morning as the fog was a little lighter at ridge elevation.
I decided after a break at the top of Suggiture to see the conditions for approaching Augstmatthorn and beyond to Wytlouihoren and Brienzergrat. At the first descent to the Augstmathorn path the snow conditions still covered the actual stepped path and conditions felt too dangerous to traverse the snow field on the steep grassy slope, and indeed to cross the snowfield which was partially off the ridge entirely, a large avalanche waiting to happen. With conditions like that, I decided against continuing in that direction because it was likely that the longer descent from Augstmatthorn to Brienzergrat would be even more precarious. I am looking forward to returning up here in a couple of weeks when there should be a lot less snow and more to explore again. Same time notes as yesterday, 2.15 hours up, 1.5 hrs down.
May 7, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - The weather forecast wasn't good, but I wandered up to see how things looked at the ridge. It was easy going, with the snow fields on the ascent now mostly disappeared and cool air in the shade of the forest all the way up.
At the ridge the wind picked up a little, and it was shrouded in fog, so there wasn't much opportunity to comfortably rest in the cold air, though I did spend some time with a family of Steinbock at the ridge along the path towards Suggiture. I didn't attempt the route to Augstmatthorn, it was too foggy to really enjoy that route, but the Steinbock encounters in the fog made the trip worthwhile. 2.15 hrs up from Niederried to the ridge, then a further half hour to the peak at Suggiture. 1.5 hrs back down.
May 1, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Allgäuwhoren - It was a toss up between returning to Suggiture and Augstmatthorn on the trail I climbed last week or heading back across the slopes to see if I could get as far as Ällgäulücke this time. I decided on the latter, and with an early start in the morning fog, made the ridge at Ällgäulücke in under 3 hours from the lakeside. Like my last pass up here, I came across a number of Chamois on the ascent, tough to photograph as they are a lot more nervous of people than steinbock, but I found one curious enough to get a little closer this time.
At the ridge it was a little chilly and, reluctant to just head back down, I wanted to see if Schnierenhireli to the south or Ällgäuwhoren to the north might open up the ridge a little more. First I tried Schnierenhireli (below left) and made it almost to the top with the snow fields for the most part away from the known path. But, with mud clogging my boots, and a last stretch of snow before the peak completely obscuring the path, I decided to head back down, it was getting a bit precarious up there. As you can see from the photo below, Ällgäuwhoren (center) was completely free of snow so I headed up that one instead. From the peak I could get a good look at the approach to and climb to Tannhorn to the north and, while mostly snow free, there was enough frost and ice visible on the higher slopes to discourage further exploration. After a lunch in the clouds at the top of Ällgäuwhoren (2047m), I headed back down the way I came up. It's a pleasant route, somewhat more gradual than others this side of the ridge, and will come in useful later in the season I think. Trail conditions were still tricky. Mud at this time of year caused by a few days of heavy rain and snow melt, well, it was sticky and slippy going. A landslide had obscured the path not far above Bitschi, but conditions in general improving. 3.5 hrs to the top of Ällgäuwhoren, 2 hrs down.
APRIL 22, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - With the weather forecast for the weekend looking a little wet and potentially snowy, I got up early, got six hours of work done then hopped on the 15:12 train for the short two minute ride to Niederried from where there is a direct route up to Hardergrat and Suggiture, my goal for the day. From the train station at Niederried it's two hours of hard uphill hiking to reach the ridge, then another 30-40 minutes or so to the peak at Suggiture. There were still a few snowfields in awkward shady places on the way up, but the exposed ridge and climb to suggiture were snow free. I made the peak at 18:00 and enjoyed the view. Augstmatthorn looked accessible from here, as most of the remaining snow at the ridge was not covering the path, but as I couldn't see any Steinbock in that direction, I chose to save the remaining daylight for the return to Niederried. On the way down, I was glad of saving the light because I had my first close up Steinbock encounter of the season at around 1450m. As usual, I sat and was patient and was rewarded with some fantastic photos to kick of my 2022 Steinbock ridge hiking season! An hour and a half later, I was down at home lakeside in Oberried enjoying the photos.
APRIL 17, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Bitschi - Ällgäulücke - This trail is a little longer than the previous day's hike, but it is more gradual, and offers a little more varied terrain. It's a nice walk, about 3 hours all in from Oberried to Bitschi and Ällgäulücke with a number of excellent viewpoints and rest stops along the way. I took a 20 minute diversion to find a hut at 'Egg.' Splendid hut, also managed by the Oberried Am Brienzersee community, and well furnished with bunk beds and a nice sized kitchen and living area. The hut is in a spectacular position overlooking the lake and the ridge from a dramatic position high up at around 1400 meters. After Bitschi a number of snow fields still obscured the path to Ällgäulücke so after attempting to negotiate around them for a while I once again elected to leave that for another day and head back to Bitschi for a rest. 3 hours up (approx) and an easy 2 hours down.
APRIL 16, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Blasenhubel - The snows of the previous weekend were nowhere to be seen. The hut at Rys my first stop was a welcome break and also has a great view of Suggiture. From there, the climb gets a little tough zig zagging up a steep grass meadow all the way to the top, another 300 to 400 meters. The difficulty I have with sections like this is that there is little to stop any slip or trip on these exposed slopes. It takes a lot of concentration and effort to keep going up. Came across a herd of Steinbock in the distance once I got to the top, though I still wasn't able to make the ridge due to a 3-5 meter wall of snow and ice at the top. I edged around it a little, to see if ther was a way to get to the ridge, but it started taking me further from the known path, so I elected to stop there and enjoy the view. Three hours up to the ridge, two hours back down to Oberried Am Brienzersee.
APRIL 10, 2022
Oberried Am Brienzersee - Rys - First approach to the ridge this season and it was in deep snow from about 1500m. I stopped at 1450m at the Ryswaldli Hutte at Rys, well-maintained by the Oberried Am Brienzersee Community. From there at the edge of the forest you have a magnificent view of Augstmatthorn and Suggiture. It's about an hour and a half to make the top of the ridge from there, but after a good look at the steep snow field I would have to cross soon after the hut, I turned back. A beautiful day for a hike up there!
20 November, 2021 - Augstmatthorn
Habkern - Augstmatthorn - Niederried - With the snow for the most part melted after a few warmer days, I had to have one more climb to the peak of Augstmatthorn. It was perfect. Still a little snow on the shaded side of the ridge, but warm and clear of snow at the top with a nice group of steinbock met just the other side of Augstmatthorn. Conditions were so nice up there I walked to the edge of Wytlouihoren to see if I could make Blasenhubel and from there descend to Niederried. Unfortunately, at the edge of Wytlouihoren, I could not see the climbing path down to the ridge as it was still frozen under snow on that side, so I decided against risking that descent and instead walked back to the foot of Suggiture and from there, descending to Niederreid via a rather pleasant path on the sunny side of the ridge which I'll definitely use again perhaps later towards early spring as soon as the currently heavy snow up there begins to melt. The descent to Niederried is a lot easier and a fair bit shorter than the one from Allgaulucke down to Oberried am Brienzersee. It's not much help if you're already long past Suggiture, but it is certainly a good option for getting directly to Suggiture and Augstmatthorn and avoiding the long forest trek part of the ridge from Harder Kulm. I have hiked up the Habkern - Horet trail more times than I can count now, and while that remains my favourite route at that end of the ridge, Niederried-Suggiture will definitely be a factor early in the 2022 season due to it being on the sunny side of the ridge.
Back to Augstmatthorn - November, 2021
Habkern - Augstmatthorn - Based on my experience in the winter of 2020, going into early spring 2021, when I spent a little too much time in dangerous conditions climbing the ridge, I wanted to be sure not to have to deal with heavy snow and ice on the ascent side from Habkern (in the shade for the most of the day during winter). On the 11th of November, there had been a day or two of snow, but after checking local webcams, I could still clearly see paths at the higher elevations, and there was no snow yet at the lowest elevations (around 800 metres) so I went for it. Glorious day up there, with crisp perfect snow and an excellent test of my ice/snow spikes which worked a treat. Key for me was my winter rule (again, based on difficult conditions experienced last year) that if I could see or make out where the path was (where I should be) I could continue. If the path's location was obscured by deep snow, it was time to turn around. On this day, the path was clear to see even in the deep snow, as it was well trodden before me.
October 24, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - October 24th was the last day the cable car and train service to the starting point at Brienzer Rothorn were open. I went for it again, and found conditions (weather and underfoot) absolutely perfect for my twelfth and last full ridge hike of the season. On the climb to Tannhorn, for the first time I sat and enjoyed it a short way from the climbing section, rather than pushing myself to get it over with. I have become more accustomed to its dangers - and my limits - and this ascent was one of the most enjoyable of the lot.
I’ve managed to get everything I could out of this trail this season and still it calls me. This path is part of me now, and I cannot spend enough time here. The snows returned in earnest this week, and though I can still return to the Augstmatthorn end of the ridge through parts of the winter, I’m already researching some lower level hikes to keep me fit enough to come back as soon as spring allows.
October 17, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - By October 17th, Chruterepass was now firmly iced over, and quite treacherous. Many climbing sections on the western flank of the ridge were still frozen, and others on the eastern and southern flanks were turning to mud. The last climb to Augstmatthorn from the Blasenhubel side was solid with ice, the most difficult I’ve encountered there. It was tough going, but again, preparation got me through. I had plenty of layers to change depending on the temperature and food and water supplies to spare.
October 10, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - October 10th, after another week of snow, I went for it again, as the ridge had cleared of most of the snow after a few days of sunshine. Both this and the previous hike were a little light in the Steinbock department, but nonetheless satisfying and spectacular hikes. There was a little snow and ice underfoot at Chruterepass, but otherwise perfect cool autumn hiking days. I started at the usual time and made excellent time to Augstmatthorn, the cooler weather and perhaps experience now affording a faster pace. Caught the 15.36 bus from Habkern.
October 2, 2021
Habkern to Brienzer Rothorn - After the first snow blanketed the ridge in late September 2021, I felt the days were numbered for safely completing the ridge again, but in October, I completed four more full hikes of the ridge, bringing my total to twelve times along this incredible ridge in one season.
On October 2nd I had not planned to do the full ridge due to a high wind forecast for later in the day. I was heading up to Augstmatthorn from Habkern when I met a young New Zealander at the top of the ridge. He was planning to complete the hike in the opposite direction from Interlaken to Brienzer Rothorn. I walked with him and told him about why I wasn’t planning on it due to the wind forecast, but by the time we got to Augstmatthorn, that forecast had changed, conditions were perfect, so I decided to accompany him heading north along the ridge.
It was very hard going at my fastest pace, which was needed because the last transport from Brienzer Rothorn was leaving at 17.15. That direction is exactly double the vertical elevation change of my usual approach. For the second time this season I heard “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done” at the end of the hike. He did appreciate that I got him there on time, and I appreciated the opportunity to explore the ridge from a different direction. Descending Tannhorn’s exposed backbone (as opposed to climbing it) was breathtaking, and not quite as difficult as I’d imagined it would be.
September 26, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - Overnight at Rothorn and this was spectacular again. September 26 2021, I scheduled my eighth full hike of the ridge for an early Sunday start, after another night at Berghaus Rothorn Kulm. The weather forecast didn’t look great, but I had a good enough window to get past Tannhorn before the rain that was forecast to arrive there around lunchtime. I started before sunrise, and came across my first Steinbock of the day in the dark. They were everywhere along the way, a spectacular day for Steinbock, the most I’d ever seen in a single day, all close up at every point along the trail. But I almost turned back after just an hour or so into the trek.
As I got to Briefehörnli, the wind picked up rapidly, and powered a bank of wet fog over the ridge. It blocked out the rising sun and changed conditions from calm, warm sunrise at my back to high winds with driving rain and zero visibility within seconds. I had no choice but to edge myself off the exposed ridge and hunker down in the lee of a rocky outcrop and hope it would pass. After about ten minutes, I could see the lake below me again and the winds dropped significantly. I had weighed my options, and had at least two good choices for leaving the ridge if conditions didn’t improve. I was, in fact, exercising option one (back to Chruterepass and down to Planalp/Brienz) when I found the narrow path blocked by a large Steinbock who apparently did not want to give way. We had a stand off in the fog for a while, which is when the wind dropped and the sun reappeared so I elected to turn around continue on before the weather changed again.
It worked out well. I did get caught in some rain a little before the final climb to Augstmatthorn, but trail conditions remained manageable and the wind gusts didn’t return until I was long off the ridge. It was an extraordinary weekend up there, with such dramatically changing weather. Ideally, not to be witnessed while actually on the ridge in future. That, I’ll leave to the Steinbock, who don’t seem to mind the weather at all. I am just a visitor.
September 11, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - After a second overnight stay at Brienzer Rothorn, a bit of a wet hike to start with, but it cleared up quickly. This was the most difficult trek along the ridge for me because just as I approached Tannhorn, below, I started to feel dizzy and nauseous. In the last few hikes, I'd made sure to balance my water intake and my food intake quite well because usually, if I felt anything less than 100%, it was likely because I hadn't eaten enough or drank enough water. I stopped before attempting the tricky climb to Tannhorn's peak and loaded up on some carbohydryates and added electrolyte powder to the rest of my water supply. That got me to the top but still I wasn't feeling too good, and had started to wobble a bit as I walked, a particularly dangerous thing to do up here. I realized then, as I kept veering to the left on a path less than a metre wide with over 1000 metres of steep drop either side, that it wasn't my food or water intake, it was that damned vertigo again. In the last 20 years or so, I have had intermittent episodes of what is more precisely known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. They don't last long and are generally nothing more than annoying, but to have an attack of it up here with no margin for error was incredibly dangerous as not only was my balance off, I was not able to walk in a straight line. This could become really serious.
I kept going, as I didn't really have a choice at that point, I'd passed the exit points and felt that I was better on familiar ground than on untried exits from the ridge, so I headed for Augstmatthorn. I slowed my pace, took regular rests and walked as carefully as possible. Once I'd reached the top of Augstmatthorn, it settled down a bit, and allowed me to easily make the descent from the foot of Suggiture to the village of Habkern where I caught the bus to Interlaken and home. Exiting the bus at Interlaken, it hit me again, and I was all over the place as if drunk (haven't had a drink in 19 years, fyi), and if that level of disorientation had happened up on the ridge, I would have had to call REGA (Swiss Mountain Rescue), there was no way I could have made it otherwise. By the end of that day the episode was over, I saw a doctor the following day and all was good, but it reminded me that you can't really prepare for everything that might happen on a long hike. There's really nothing I can do to prepare for that anyway, but I can make sure to keep my food and water supplies well stocked so that if I have to take my time, I have everything I need for the long haul.
August 29, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - Neither rain nor fog nor common sense... it was a bit on the rainy side for late August, but, well, I was here, might as well get the job done. In inclement weather the Steinbock tend to be close by the trail, but I take a lot less photos when the views are impacted by fog, cloud and rain. Despite the good amount of Steinbock I found, this was somewhat of a lonely hike. With views impacted by constant light rain, I barely saw another soul all the way to Augstmatthorn. By the time I got to Gummhoren, the last checkpoint before making the tough climb to Augstmatthorn the rain was a lot heavier making the steeper parts of that climb a bit on the treacherous side. At the peak of Augstmatthorn, I found a few hardy hikers who had arrived from Harder Kulm through the mud. One of them was asking about the trail from Augstmatthorn back to Blasenhubel, and from there down to Oberried Am Brienzersee. Having just arrived from that direction, I recommended that as a solo traveler, today wasn't the safest conditions for that hike, particularly as I was at the time unsure of how steep the Oberried Am Brienzersee descent was. It was primarly the descent from Augstmatthorn that concerned me, tough in dry weather but potentially deadly in rain. She agreed with me and elected to exit the trail my way, via Horet Lager and on down to Habkern, thus avoiding the long muddy trek back to harder Kulm. It made for a very pleasant hike with the sun eventually making an appearance. My time to Augstmatthorn was pretty quick, around six hours or slightly less, but I took my time down to Habkern, catching a later bus and enjoying the pace and the sunshine.
August 21, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - This was a spectacular pass, with Steinbock all over the place. It also marked the first time I’d stayed overnight at Brienzer Rothorn. Staying overnight at Brienzer Rothorn’s Berghaus Rothorn Kulm I thought might be an excellent way to get some sunset/sunrise shots, and start the hike with the the rising sun at my back, hours earlier than I had previously. I had high expectations, but the reality of it I am still digesting, it was an incredible experience.
The hotel offers group bunk accommodations as well as comfortable single/double rooms. I got myself a single room with a view over the ridge and Brienzersee. It was a little cloudy on arrival, but the clouds opened up to reveal a spectacular sunset. I wandered in the general direction of the Brienzergrat trail with the idea of shooting sunset over the ridge from the peak of Schongütsch, just a few minutes walk from the hotel overlooking the entire ridge. I was pleasantly distracted by Steinbock sightings all over the slopes. I must have taken hundreds of shots of them enjoying the last rays of sunshine, heading to where I assumed they would be spending the night. I also captured some dramatic sunset shots over the ridge, what I came here for. That’s sort of the thing with Steinbock. When they show up, it really makes for a wonderful experience. They are always around here somewhere, and some days I am lucky enough to find them close by. This was truly one of those days. I feel like I am getting to know them a little now. I’d only come across them grazing before, and seeing them in their element, springing up slopes and down rocky ledges was mesmerizing.
Messing about with Steinbock and shooting sunset until well past 9 pm, I missed out on the dinner I was looking forward to as the restaurant stops serving most nights at 9 pm. Instead, I was able to help myself to ample supplies from the breakfast room and turn in. Up at 05.30, after a good breakfast, I headed up to Brienzer Rothorn to shoot the sunrise. As hoped for, it was a glorious morning with views across hundreds of peaks toward the rising sun. I decided to head off towards the trail at 06.45, hoping that I might find the Steinbock where I’d seen them last night. I wasn’t disappointed, the herd was right where I left them, and they were a lot more active in the morning. They headed in turn for the ridge, and leapt over and down to a rocky outcrop where they played and gathered together before wandering off for the day. I sat with them for quite a while, enjoying their morning antics before heading for the trail myself.
The trail was blissfully empty in the morning light, and I took my time, savouring every moment as the sun warmed up and rose behind me. I made Tannhorn in just over two hours and rested there as a few other early bird hikers caught up. At the other end of the trail, after a long but leisurely hike, I had time to rest at the foot of the ridge and cool my feet in a mountain stream before heading for the bus to Interlaken. I had hoped this would be a good experience and it was exceptional, the ultimate hiking day. With the setting and rising sun, this place truly becomes magnificent, the mountains shining in all their majesty, while the wildlife revel in their spectacular surroundings. This is why I come here. This is why I do what I do. And with luck, I’ll be doing it again soon.
August 13, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - Almost every time I start this thing the big benchmark or milestone for me is the magnificent Tannhorn. It's the highest peak along the ridge after you leave Rothorn, and it's also the most exposed, thinnest part of the ridge as you climb to its peak. Each time I approach it with caution and absolute concentration. I have to, every footstep is critical on this ascent and I rarely stop to take pictures as it is simply too dangerous to mess about with cameras. The last few passes, I have paused and really took in my surroundings and it really is breathtaking what you can put your mind to as you do this. What I have pushed myself to do on this ridge should easily transfer itself to help me push through everyday life issues, but sometimes it is hard to remember what I managed to do on the trail, and keep going through mundane work issues and bill paying drama. All that disappears as I climb Tannhorn, and at the top, there is nothing on my mind but what I have done, where I am and where I am going next (Augstmatthorn). Here I find myself, forget the bullshit that holds me back in life, and do what I love.
July 21, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - A glorious summer day for my third pass, and this time I took two friends with me, an experienced Swiss hiker and his nephew. With the usual starting place and time, we took our time on this pass. It was perfect conditions all the way, the nicest I'd encountered up here. Convincing my hiking partners of the need to keep moving was crucial on this pass. It is hard going up here, and the last climb to Augstmatthorn is very hard work, particulary for first timers after a long day's hike. At the top of Augstmatthorn I had been watching the clock and really had to hustle them off the peak and down the steep trail to catch the last bus from Habkern at 19.36. The signposted 2.5 hrs from the foot of Suggiture to Habkern took less than two hours. It had to so we could make that last bus!
July 11, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - My second complete pass along the ridge, and the weather outlook was even worse than the first. It was foggy and wet, and the few Steinbock I came across were hiding in the fog. The photo below, taken at the place I call the Chasm of Doom, was the only glimpse of Brienzersee I had the whole day. One advantage of the wet and foggy conditions is there were no distractions and nowhere really to stop and rest for a long period of time. After starting at the same time and place (Brienzer Rothorn 09.28) I made to Augstmatthorn by around 15.00 this time, and was able to catch the 17.36 bus at Habkern.
July 5, 2021
Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern - Since I started hiking this ridge in July 2021, I have accumulated over 25 gigabytes of images — not including the hundreds of gigabytes of RAW source files — I have worn through one pair of trail running shoes and completely changed my preparation and approach to hiking. It's not the only place I hiked in the 2021 season, I made it all the way up to Säntis twice and also to Altmann in Alpstein, but this place, this ridge and every step that gets me there is where I find myself drawn every time. I thought I'd write a bit more about each experience, which might help explain why I keep coming back here.
A week ago I headed for Brienzer Rothorn from the peak at Augstmatthorn and only made it as far as Ällgäulücke. This time, I set off from Brienzer Rothorn Cable Car Station at 09.28. It was a bit damp and muddy underfoot, but just at the steps to Chruterepass, only 20 minutes into the trail, the Steinbock below sat guarding the entrance to the pass, a wonderful start to the hike. The steps down, just past the Steinbock were icy, and the bottom of the pass still covered in snow as it is in the shade most of the day year-round. This first complete pass was an eye opener for me and quite difficult going in wet and muddy conditions, but the rain forecast for later in the day kept me moving, I wanted to be off the ridge if it really started coming down. I made Augstmatthorn around 15.30 and was able to catch the bus to Interlaken at Habkern at 18.36.
I've completed this trail in both directions, from Habkern/Augstmatthorn to Brienzer Rothorn and from Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern or Harder Kulm. It is much easier north to south (Brienzer Rothorn to Habkern/Harder Kulm) mostly due to double the vertical elevation you have to climb heading from Harder Kulm to Rothorn. You also have to rush the last two hours to make sure you catch the last cable car or train (17.15 and 17.40 most days). In over a dozen complete hikes of this ridge, I have encountered perfect sunny conditions, mud, wind, fog, rain, and trekked over ice and snow, though if I can see snow already on both sides of the ridge, I do not attempt it. The ridge is difficult enough without the additional hazard of snow underfoot. My snow/ice encounters have been at either end of the ridge on the west side of the ridge, either at the foot of Chruterepass or en route to Harder Kulm/Habkern. If I can see green grass from webcams at both ends of the trail, and the wind/rain forecast is good, I'll have a go. Muddy conditions were the most hazardous, as that stuff tends to clog up your shoes and affect their grip on the trail, so you have to be extra careful on the muddy/wet days. High winds were the only weather conditions to date that have made me consider turning back, or exiting the ridge. With such a narrow exposed hike for over seven hours, watch the forecast wind conditions carefully.
Please consider buying my book, it is a great celebration of the ridge and contains a ton of great images. I have also added a print shop to buy some of my favourite images taken while hiking the Brienzergrat to Hardergrat Trail. Check it out, I will add new ones as the season continues!
Equipment and supplies
I have tested a number of combinations of equipment, clothing and supplies on this trail. The Hardergrat/Brienzergrat trail is really an excellent field test for just about anything because it is a full day requiring strenuous activity with a fair degree of difficult and varied terrain. First, water. I carry about 1.5 litres of water most days unless it is winter, when I can replenish supply from the ample snow up here. I also carry a coffee flask, but that's a personal preference as I do like a coffee when I reach the first peak :). I recommend at least two litres of water, three if you can carry the weight, I have mentioned on this page and in my trail diary the few places you can replenish near the ridge, but it does save some uphill work if you carry enough for a full day. I also carry electrolyte powder or tablets to add to the water if needed. Food, I tend to travel a bit light in that department. A few protein or power bars and some nuts and raisins and various local snack items tends to do the trick for me. In early and late season I carry some tangerine oranges which are a welcome addition to the mix.
Clothing I have again tried a few approaches but have found that nothing beats the comfort, light weight and breathability of Merino layering t-shirts. Long or short sleeved. My absolute go-to for this hike is the Mons Royale Icon Air-Con Merino t-shirt, amazingly hard wearing, and really takes the weekly punishment of this trail. Extremely comfortable and always on for this hike, lightweight enough for hot summer days, too. You can also find some cheaper but equally comfortable and durable merino wear at Decathlon. Good stuff. Merino takes the sweat and lets it evaporate right through without the smell of more engineered material. I also carry a Mammut lightweight long sleeved t-shirt designed for summer, but working well in intermediate weather, too. Fast drying, no smell (treated material), very durable. Always in the bag. Socks, again with the merino, Rohner and Decathlon have some great options for merino socks for all seasons.
Since starting hiking this trail, I have been very aware of how my grip on the trail in varied conditions from ice to mud to rocky and dry affects my performance and confidence, and in fact my enjoyment of the trail. You have to get the footwear right. I have done it in winter boots off season, and also worn heavy duty traction spikes up here due to snow and ice, but for the most part, I hike up here in shoes designed for trail running. I am a fairly fast hiker, but not a runner. The key for me is the grip, and light weight and flexibility of these shoes. Every step up here is crucial, and lightweight trailrunning shoes give me the most solid grip and great feel for the trail. My first season up here I used Salomon Alphacross shoes, and the grip and overall feel was outstanding. Unfortunately I wore these out after a full season. Not the soles, but the uppers, where there isn't much in the way of material to protect the front of the shoe from scuffing and eventually tearing on rocks. This year I am using Salomon Supercross trail running shoes which most importantly have exactly the same ultra-grippy tread pattern as the Alphacross, but they also have more to protect the uppers from damage. So far, one month into the season on these and I am really happy with them. I also add a pair of Salomon Trail Gaiters which help prevent small stones and debris getting in the shoes on a long trek.
Shorts or pants. I would say that is a subjective preference, but depending on the season I tend to prefer the shorts. I have a couple of pairs of Vaude Hiking Shorts that are outstanding for comfort and durability. I have worn these every hike up here except in winter or very rainy conditions, and the punishment they have taken so far without damage is amazing.
My backpack is actually a photographer's backpack, which doesn't leave a huge amount of room for supplies, but it is enough to carry my Leica CL or my Nikon D750, both of which have moderate zoom lenses. The backpack has outer pockets for water and coffee and room for enough snacks for the day and a spare top layer. I tend to prefer carrying the lighter Leica, but sometimes I feel the need to have the full frame DSLR on hand. I manage well with the Lowepro Flipside Trek which I have now carried on almost all my hikes up here. My rain protection gear or warmer clothing tends to have to be attached to the outside of this backpack, but its a small price to pay for the small size and durability of this backpack. Most days I carry a cheap lightweight waterproof and wind resistant outer layer from Decathlon that folds up nicely to attach outside the bag. Only had to use it two or three times so far, but more than adequate for my needs.