Hiking in the Bernese Oberland

Feb 10th, 2009, 12:02 PM
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Hiking in the Bernese Oberland

Hello Everyone,
We will be in Lauterbrunnen for one week this September. We want to take several hikes. Do you think we need to bring our own hiking boots with us or should a sturdy pair of walking shoes with a thick sole with good traction do the job.

I will list the potential hikes and if you see any we should avoid due to difficult hiking situations please let me know. We backpack and hike a lot here in California, but I don’t quite know what to expect in Switzerland.

Also, your opinion on which are the best hikes for scenery would be appreciated. I know they all have beautiful scenery, but are there any that are just “musts”.

Kleine Scheidegg - Lauberhorn - Kleine Scheidegg
Kleine Scheidegg - Grindelwald
Eiger Glacier - Alpiglen
Männlichen - Bustiglen - Alpiglen
Glacier Gorge - Alpiglen
Wengen - Kleine Scheidegg
Eiger Glacier - Kleine Scheidegg

These are specifically listed as “easy” on the website:

Schwendi—Grindelwald Grund
Burglauenen-Grindelwald Grund
Schynige Platte
First-Grosse Scheidegg
Kleine Scheidegg-Mannlichen

Obviously we are not taking all of these hikes but I just want to know what are the best ones in your opinion and what kind of hiking shoes are required.

Thank you again,
michele_d is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 12:05 PM
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I have done most, but not all, of those hikes perfectly well with my athletic shoes.

wet weather can make things rather slippery at times so i avoid that if possible

Most europeans i see there however have heavy hiking boots with the ubiquitous walking sticks
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 12:18 PM
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Thank you PalenQ,
I just didn't want to lug our big hiking boots halfway around the world when good hiking shoes would do the job.

Do you think I can pick up a walking stick rather easily and cheaply in that area? I use one here in California for hiking on uneven ground since I had back surgery last year. My left leg is still not back to normal regarding strength. Just seems to help with balance and all too.

Thanks for your help,
michele_d is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 12:25 PM
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walking sticks are sold everywhere in the hills - cheap? Nothing in Switzerland i come across is cheap or anything resembling it.

I hope others give their opinions because what one finds adequate others do not - but some of the hikes i took were rather rugged - from boulder to boulder, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 12:31 PM
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I walked in my athletic shoes and only once encountered a problem on loose shale (on a remote trail above Murren), and I don't know how heavy hiking books would have been an improvement.

My favorite "hike" in the area turned out to be the Lauterbrunnen Valley -- and not because it was flat. I just found it more fantastic to be on the rich and lively valley floor looking up at the impossibly magnificent it mountains than on the windswept stony peaks looking at other windswept icy peaks.

zeppole is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 02:07 PM
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I can go into specifics on the hikes you listed (we've done most of them) but need a bit of information from you. When you say you backpack and hike a lot in California---can you name some hikes in Yosemite that are just about right in terms of length and elevation gain. In other words, how strenuous a hike do you like?

Some of the ones you listed are level strolls on a wide trail (almost a road). Grutschalp to Mürren is one of these. Others are more rugged, and can be hiked either uphill or down. Which do you prefer? (For example, we prefer to hike uphill and ride a lift down, so for the Eiger Northface trail we would start at Alpiglen and hike up to Eigergletscher, and catch the train).

There are some hikes in the upper Lauterbrunnental and above Mürren that I would consider "musts" if you like moderate to strenuous hikes.

As for footwear---it is personal choice. I always take my hiking boots, but they are "lightweight" boots. I put them in the bottom of the knapsack that I use as my carry-on. We check a bag with our hiking poles inside (they can't be carried onto the plane). If you prefer to purchase a hiking pole over there, they are readily available at every sportshop.

My husband takes his Keen hiking shoes, not boots. My sister, her husband, and all our teenage kids hike in trail runners.

The big difference I have found with Swiss trails (compared, say, to the Sierras) is that they can be quite wet or muddy. So there have been times that I in my boots was much happier than family members in running shoes that got very wet.

But if you take sturdy hiking shoes, as opposed to light trailrunners, you should be fine. I think Merrill even makes some in Goretex.

enzian is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 02:53 PM
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Hi enzian,
What I would like to do is different from what I can do anymore. Since my left leg was paralyzed last year in a freak accident, it is not back to where it used to be and never will. We used to hike to 11,000 ft elevations in the Sierras with a 40 lb pack for 7 days out, but now...that is out of the question.

The most recent hike we went on in California that is probably a good comparison hike is the Little Lakes Valley above Rock Creek Lake above Tom's Place in the Sierras.

That used to be a very easy hike for but now is just a bit challenging, which is okay.

I just really want to experience the beautiful scenery and try to regain that feeling that hiking gave me prior to the accident. It just makes you feel so strong and proud when you complete a long difficult hike.

Gradual climbs up or down are fine. I cannot scurry over boulders like I used to or climb constantly. Anything where I have a chance of falling or slipping are a no no also. I use a walking stick to act as a third leg for balance and strength especially with climbing, both up and down.

Even if the walks are technically several hours I would like to do them as I can sit and rest when needed. The only thing I really am restricted from doing is consistent uphill climbing or even consistent downhill climbing.

Before the accident I could have hiked anything but now I really need a good guideline of what is feasible, and not having been there before...well.

That is why I thought that good hiking shoes would probably be okay since we really won't be doing anything that strenuous.

Thanks for the help,

michele_d is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 03:46 PM
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OK, I understand now. I am sorry to hear about your accident. I am sure that must be hard for you if you are used to backpacking journeys.

The good news is that in Switzerland you will find some lovely walks with gorgeous views that are not technically difficult. The ones that come immediately to mind that are nearly level on a good path with no tripping hazards would be:

Kleine Scheidegg to Männlichen (skip the ascent to the Männlichen Gipfel (peak) if it looks too tricky)

Top of First Gondola to Grosse Scheidegg, or in the other direction to Bachalpsee for a classic view over a lake

Pfingstegg to Steiregg for a close-up view of the Grindelwald glacier

Schynige Platte along the Panoramaweg as far as you feel comfortable, then return

Gimmelwald to Kilchbalm and back (some elevation change, but the grade is not steep, at least as I recall)

Some of the others you list have quite a bit of elevation change, but may be on a good well-graded path---no big rocks or boulders to contend with.

Between Eigergletscher and Alpiglen, whether you go up or down, there are some steep sections, and also a long nearly level traverse. This one might be questionable for you. Maybe start at Alpiglen and ascend as far as you feel comfortable. At least that way you will have a full-on view of the Eiger northface.

Have you tried hiking with two poles instead of just one? That is what many people use in the Alps. They have saved me from tripping on many an occasion. . . Also, they can take quite a bit of stress off your legs.

enzian is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 05:18 PM
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Thank you enzian,
I will follow up on your suggestions. You gave great details about the hiking options. I really appreciate your help with this.

I have used only one walking stick to add strength to my one leg, but maybe two would work even better. I am just so happy that I am walking at all, I will make any adjustments necessary. Switzerland is going to be one of the high points of our trip. I can't wait!!!

Thank you again,
michele_d is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 08:34 PM
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You are most welcome.

I know some of what you are experiencing---I thought my hiking days were over after knee surgery and re-injury. But using poles got me hiking again, and now I am back to long strenuous hikes with no trouble at all (things like Half Dome in a day, or rim to rim at the Grand Canyon in two).

I think using two poles makes a big difference---with two you are balanced and more surefooted, especially if the terrain is at all uneven. It may actually help you strengthen that leg, because you will feel more confident on the ups and downs, and less likely to slip and fall.
enzian is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 10:01 AM
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Hi enzian,
I have incorporated three of your suggestions into our itinerary: Mannlichen to KS, Top of First Gondola to Grosse Scheidegg, Gimmelwald to Kilchbalm and back.

Additonally, we will hike from Allmendhubel to the farms in the area up there, and back to the funicular, and from Murren to Grutschalp, which I heard is very easy. I will check out the Pfingstegg to Steiregg hike when we get there, I can't find any info on that one right now.

I really appreciate your help. I know what to expect now when we get there and won't be afraid I'm getting in over my head. I can't wait til September. I've actually added two more days onto our stay just because it sound so beautiful.

Thanks again and take care,
michele_d is offline  
Feb 14th, 2009, 04:34 PM
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While staying in Murren we rented, for a very minimal sum, hiking sticks from the local sporting goods store. We kept them for four days and returned them.

I bet it was under 10 euros/dollars
eurogals is offline  
Feb 15th, 2009, 07:14 AM
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Thank you eurogals,
We will rent them the day we get there for the week. Well worth whatever the cost. I have a great one I use here but obviously it's just a bit too big to take on the plane!

Thank you,
michele_d is offline  

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