Mountains. Where my heart lives and where I come alive. No matter how much I suffer climbing those hills, I love it. It is part of the experience.
Not many people enjoy spending their holidays scrambling on all fours with 25 kilo backpack. I do. And luckily so does my husband.
September is my birthday month and as I’m slightly obsessed with Eiger, the direction for our annual hiking trip was pretty obvious since I read Extreme Eiger back in February.
Kleine Scheidegg. Schynige Platte. Alpiglen. Grindelwald. Lauterbrunnen. Read all about it and now I’m going to be there? Sounded unreal. With very little planning (including buying new backpack day before we left) and loads of excitement we decided to leave the guidebook at home and follow A4 map with Eiger Trail. It proved to be good (and easy to carry) choice.
Eiger Ultra Trail is 101km long wih 6,700m altitude gain. Not sure how you can run the whole thing in 12h 45min (female record held by Caroline Chaverot) with such beautiful stunning views all around you as we hiked the trail and stopped every 5 minutes to take pictures.
With only 3 days and Mountain Festival awaiting us at the end of our journey we haven’t covered the whole distance, but still did a good portion of it (about 60-70k) finishing in Lauterbrunnen on Thursday night.
Day 1 aka Tuesday morning.
Bit unwell after the lovely local red wine, we packed our monster backpacks and set off. With style. From Interlaken at 567m to Schynige Platte at 2068m. 7 kilometres only. 4,5 hours as per the signs at the start of the trail (Wilderswil). Shouldn’t we take the train? was my quiet suggestion. Suggestion that was laughed at and ignored. Up and up and up. And up. Got to Schynige Platte just on time as most of the tourists were about to catch the last train down to Interlaken. No people. Just views. Views which words can’t describe. Mountains and peaks as far as your eyes can see. The soft light on the beautiful green meadows. The rocky mountains you have to pay respect to. The sound of marmots all around you. View on Brienzersee where we were just yesterday playing on the ridge. The smell of nature. The rocks and dirt under your shoes. The soft ground bouncing back with every step you take. The beauty that gets under your skin and makes you shine. The feeling that you are so small in this world and that nothing else matters. Just be. Breath, smile, talk, be quiet, smile some more, stop and look around, move free and be thankful. The mountains are yours. And you belong to them. Crossing another beautiful green meadows with those happy Swiss cows with views of Sägistalsee, it crossed my mind, that it would be reasonable to camp here. But no worries, just turn around the next corner, there will be plenty of opportunities too. Sure. It was getting darker and with some 30 minutes spare before the sunset we realised how much the environment around us changed. Rocks. Plain bare rocks. No vegetation. Even chamois wouldn’t fancy living here was my first thought. Thanks nature for proving me wrong yet again. Getting closer and closer to Männdlenen at 2344m we realised we are pretty much doomed. Rocks on right, rocks on left, rocks in front of us, rocks behind us. Yes, you get it right. There were rocks everywhere. Found some little piece of vegetation in the end and we sat down waiting for the sun to go to bed. It is not really legal to camp wild in Switzerland, especially not when you are under (about 50-100 metres) from mountain hut. Sure, we could have stayed there but didn’t fancied paying 100 franks for 1 night and also if you carry tent, sleeping bag and mat all day long with you, you somehow feel obliged to use them. It got finally dark and we pitched the tent somehow with lights from our Suunto and Garmin. Luckily our beloved and hated TNF Hyerdahl is dark green which makes it invisible (as soon as you find some green patch). Invisible for mountain hut and very visible for chamois, ibex and other scary animals which decided to explore our tent as soon as we get into it. I slept with baguettes packed deep in the sleeping bag and woke up every 3 minutes just to listen hysterically to all the sounds around us. Oh. The stars. The sky above us was worth it. Milkyway. Falling stars. The whole universe watching you from above. Somehow it was finally 4am and I was never happier to wake up at the stupid o’clock. We packed the tent and quietly climbed uphill leaving the Berghutte behind us. How much I fancied coffee.. Wearing all the layers we stopped on the way to Faulhorn at 2686m (with the most unreal location of hut at the very top) and enjoyed some breakfast with the rising sun.
Good morning Day 2
We were rewarded with Bachalpsee. What is more beautiful than mountains? Reflection of mountains in alpine lakes. That. That’s what we had for second breakfast. Happy cows jumping around and posing for pictures pretending it is the most boring place on the earth. Took about 5 million pictures and with heavy heart we headed down to First. Again just on time to meet the first tourist who arrived with the cable car and their selfie sticks. Cliff walk and coffee! Obligatory postcard and down to Grindelwald. The weather was very generous and I felt like melting under the backpack. It is a very long boring way down. You can take a cart and ride it down but as long as you don’t own selfie stick and don’t hike with handbag, you are not allowed. We reached Grindelwald after few stops and decided to call it a day and go to camping rather than continue climbing to Alpiglen and die from the heat on the way. This time it was no wild camping but camping under the north face of Eiger. Can’t get better than that! We fresh food supplies and plan for next day we fall asleep around 9pm and woke up after 10 hours. Felt so good. Until I opened the tent and realised some sneaky fox got into the front compartment and managed to get our bag with food out, dragged it to the field and ate it all. Including tofu (?) and chocolate. Vegan foxes in Grindelwald. Interesting. With no food and pissing rain it seemed like the plan we made last night was about to get changed.
Day 3 started with train to Alpiglen.
For once we (read ‘me’) decided to skip the first climb (Michael is still complaining it was cheating actually) and enjoyed breakfast in one of the prettiest mountain huts I ever been to. In Alpiglen. Heavy rain turned into drizzle so it was time to get out of the comfortable warmth and get back on the trail. I got so excited when we reached Kleine Scheidegg. I was rushing to find where the telescopes were. It didn’t really matter we couldn’t see much of the Nordwand of The Eiger, it were all the stories from past that happened there. “..swung the telescope upwards, following the line of the climbers’ ascent. I was viewing a spot close to the White Spider, a steep, narrow icefield, its ‘legs’ radiating into the black rock around it, when a figure, dressed in red, entered the frame. It was stretched out, falling, turning as it fell. It feels to me now as if it hung there for ever. In reality, it can have been in my sight for no more than a second before it disappeared from the bottom of the frame…” Shivering and excited we explored the area, soaked up the views through mist and climbed bit more on our way to Wengernalp. It wasn’t with heavy heart as I knew I will be back and much closer to the north face just in two days. Walking through the mist, picking up blueberries we get on the track for Ski World Cup. I’m not a skier but the description of the route on the boards gave me shivers yet again. Another meadow, another rain shower and we made it to Wengen. Short break and decision to finish the route the same day was on. You can see Lauterbrunnen in the valley surrounded by the waterfalls and cliffs from each side. It looks like ‘welcome to fairy tale’ The fairy tale then continues with zigzag route with 24 bends. Yes, someone counted them and wrote the numbers on each corner. Hello Lauterbrunnen. Eiger Trail, it is not a goodbye, I will be back, with my trail shoes on.