20 Nov, 2011
The Tour of the Jungfrau Region is simply stunning. The pair of us have bimbled about in the Alps a reasonable amount (considering we live in Brighton) and we consider this to be equal to the finest routes we’ve done. Not just in terms of the “configurability” of the route but also in terms of the breath-taking scenery. Kev Reynolds has our sincere thanks for putting together not just (another!) first rate guide but the whole concept of the TJR itself. We met several others with a copy of the guide book along the way.
The route is circular, (though oddly ours looks like a fat Ibex – see the link to the Spot tracks below) but since it occasionally goes up and down valleys there are often places that can be short-cut should the weather close in or if you decide that you want a shorter day. I could go on and on about how good we thought it was but if you’re someone that likes to walk in the Alps you already have an idea of what it can be like. And if you’re not, then, as I tweeted in reply to Alan Sloman, you should probably consider finding out before: A) the glaciers melt again (as the guide book says, there was far less glaciation there in Roman times), B) absolutely everyone comes, C) world economic melt down (oh – maybe too late by summer 2012 then? ;) ).
Although we broadly followed the guidebook, the below paragraphs on our itinerary should give anyone that’s considering the route a flavour of what to expect. I’d point out that the days may look small but are more strenuous than you might imagine if you’ve not done any Alpine walking. As I’ve said before, we’ve come across more than one walker who was trying to double-up guidebook stages because they looked too easy – but who were regretting it. Mainly because it was harder than they expected but also partly because it’s such a shame to rush this kind of journey. The main purpose is not reaching the end (more than once on the GR5 helpful souls pointed out buses that could take us to Nice – seriously).
We built-in easy days and one full rest day (two nights at Berghaus Bäregg). Which was perfect as some of the crew took those opportunities to rest and write journals whilst those of us made of duller material could blunder onwards on day walks (day walks; just out-and-back. Really, what was the point of them? Maybe there were buses that we could have caught).
I’ve put up a Google Map using the way-points created by the Spot tracker. You’ll need to scroll down on the left hand side to see the next page containing the remainder of the way-points since Google Maps only show 200 points at a time. Or else download them as “KML”, from the link under the description, and view them all at once in Google Earth. (Note this is just the main route – the extra day we did out of Interlaken after we’d finished the TJR isn’t shown).
Edit Sep 2012: Note from the guidebook p. 26: “Try to avoid walking Stage 5 on the first Sunday in September when this section of the tour as far as Trummelbach becomes part of the Jungfrau Marathon course.”
So, the TJR itinerary:
Berghotel Schynige Platte
Arrived at Geneva airport and changed trains in Bern. There’s a large Migros supermarket nearby Bern station for stocking up on dried sausage, cheese, nuts and excellent Swiss chocolate. (Out of the station, turn right down the hill to the junction at the bottom, turn left. There’s a deceptively small door with an escalator down to the supermarket in the basement). There’s almost no chance on the route itself to stock-up until Mürren – which is off-route. We arrived in Interlaken and grabbed a bus (far end of the platform) for the two or so kilometres to Wilderswil (We could have walked but needed to ensure we caught the last train. Note there’s another little Migros opposite the train station). Then the cog railway up to the Berghotel Schynige Platte and the start of the TJR. You could do it on foot but you’d need to allow a day. It would also be heck of a tough start to the holiday.
Eye-popping views and a long but relatively easy day passing a lake towards the end (where we had a welcome and very refreshing skinny-dip). First is a large, very plush ski station but friendly and with good food, rather like all the places we stayed!
Utterly astonishing views with a very easy (not technical but steep) and quite exposed approach which is effectively up a lower face of the Wetterhorn. We were lucky enough to see Ibex right outside the hut where they were attracted by the guardian placing salt on the wall (they don’t come very often apparently). Also had a hot shower to our astonishment (it was 5CHF each but heck – they have to helicopter the gas in and it had been a broiling hot day).
Planned to finish the day at the Berghaus Bäregg but were diverted by a bridge being out (damaged when melt water within the glacier released as a huge torrent) and some poor local advice (there actually is another bridge slightly further down stream) to the comfortable Downtown Hostel in Grindelwald. Supermarket nearby and good catering standard kitchen!
Another fairly high hut with astonishing views of the glaciers but this time without such an exposed approach. We got to the hut by lunch time and then walked about two thirds of the way to the Schreckhorn hut. We pushed past the end of the easy path some little way but it is exposed (we were all climbers but it was just beginning to push our comfort zones) and requires help from the chains and fixed cables. It really requires a full day for a round-trip to the Schreckhorn hut and back to Berghaus Bäregg.
The Eigergletscher is closed permanently (see the Updates tab). The Alpiglen was closed for the last part of the 2011 season for refurbishment so we pressed on, along the North Face of the Eiger (yes, really, it’s very easy up to the bottom of the climbs) all the way to Kleine Scheidegg and the Grindelwaldblick Hotel. A couple of the party went down to Alpiglen and took the cog railway up to Kleine Scheidegg for a shorter day.
A big descent day (lightweight footwear helping everyone there) that turned out much longer than expected since the path to the valley had been closed (it was damaged and unsafe). So we traversed further along and descended into Wengen, then down to Lauterbrunnen and then back up the valley into Stechelberg. The hotel is small and very friendly with excellent food (especially the breakfast – boiled eggs from hens in the garden).
As we left Stechelberg we passed cows with decorated with fir tree branches in celebration of the end of the summer grazing in the alpine pasture above. Rain set in late in the day. We did the full route around the back of the valley to the hotel which is spectacular. Again a couple of the party made an easier day of it by going straight to the hotel. Wonderful old hotel without electricity but with its own dairy! Far more like a high level mountain hut than a hotel in many ways. Food was served by candlelight making for a very restful stay.
It rained for much of our approach to the Rotstock hut but then it turned to snow which was far more pleasant. We had a very warm welcome and ate excellent hot lunches. I spent the afternoon snoozing as the snow built up outside.
We had hoped to go over the Schilthorn (the highest point on the route, and visible above you from the hut) but there was ankle deep snow at our level and we knew it was far deeper, icy and also very exposed, with fixed cables, on approach to the summit (two walker with axes and crampons had made the descent the day before and said it was getting a little technical). So we chose the bad-weather variant and descended into Mürren where we grabbed a coffee, missed the Coop supermarket (closed for lunch!) and headed up to the excellent Pension Suppenalp for a hot lunch and drinks.
The sun returned for an easy day through yet another new and gorgeous valley into the Suls-Lobhorn hut. In among a set of welcoming, stunningly located accommodation serving delicious food this place managed to become our favourite. Mainly because of the lovely Lisa the guardian who couldn’t do enough for everyone. Some of us then headed up to the Lobhorn itself for a good afternoon walk in fairly deep snow at the top.
Hotel Rugenpark B&B, Interlaken
Sadly the end of the TJR. But still another new valley to ogle at. We descended to Saxeten, had a tasty lunch at the Hotel Alpenrose and bid a sad goodbye to a couple of the party (the same ones!) who caught the post bus to Wilderswil, and on to Interlaken and the train home (arriving home later that night). The three of us that were still standing headed for Wilderswil; the official finish, but veered-off north shortly after leaving the hotel to climb again before descending towards Interlaken West station. The hotel is on the road leading to the station (as we discovered from the excellent Google Map app on the iPhone). Tasty and reasonably priced dinner at the Restaurant Bären where we looked back on a simply excellent route.
Hotel Rugenpark B&B, Interlaken (again)
We had originally considered taking the train up to the Jungfraujoch but without any discount card it was around 180CHF. Besides, we wanted to keep walking! Both Lisa at the Lobhorn hut and Ursula, the owner of the Rugenpark (both of whom were incredibly kind and helpful), advised taking the bus from the station to the cable car up to the Niederhorn and walking back around to Habkern. It was a great route and we didn’t much fancy the bus so we walked the extra seven or so kilometres to the hotel. Another tasty, reasonably priced dinner, this time in the Des Alpes where the staff were friendly and funny.
Home via trains, planes and an automobile. Next time we’d very much like to visit the old town in Bern on the way back.
More pictures are coming…