February 19, 2023
Niederried - Suggiture - My goal today, despite a moderate wind forecast was to reach the ridge again and maybe if conditions allowed, pop along the ridge to the Graagetor exit. Goal completed :). Getting to the ridge was comparatively easy compared to the last couple of attempts, but the ridge was still heavy in snow. Normal for this time of year, though actually a little lighter than the last couple of years. Came across a nice group of Steinbock on the way up, made the ridge in less than two hours which was a record for me (from Niederried station) and felt good in the sun up there.
February 18, 2023
Oberried - Riedergrat - Glorious sunny day, and no snow worth mentioning all the way up to the mountain hut. Actually ran into a few other hikers today, some on motorcycles heading to a private hut just below the one I visit. They seem courteous, but I don't like encountering vehicles of any kind on mountain paths, they kick up rocks and generally make things a little difficult for passing hikers. However these were experienced locals who weren't going at dangerous speeds, and gave way to ensure safe passage. Good enough. Some Gamsen at high elevation and a few in the forest along the way. No snow to speak of, just a few slippy bits as the melted snow turns the trail to mud in places.
February 12, 2023
Oberried - Riedergrat - Encouraged by yesterday's deep snow ridge hike, I decided today to pop up to the mountain hut for breakfast. It was a lot easier than last week and I was able to sit in the sunshine with fresh coffee and breakfast. No Steinbock today, but a few curious Gamsen crossed the path but all too fast for me to get the camera out.
February 11, 2023
Ringgenberg - Roteflue - Suggiture - Niederried - This was a perfect though difficult day on the Hardergrat Ridge. With warmer weather, much of the snow below 1500m had melted, but last week it was so deep and drifting at 1600m, I wasn't able to reach the ridge. Today, I decided to go for the lowest section of the ridge this side of Ällgäulücke, and walked from Ringgenberg up to Roteflue with the idea that I might at least be able to make the ridge. That was a great walk, and I even met a Steinbock along the way. Once I reached the ridge, in perfect sunshine, the snow was deep and in parts I sank up to my waist. It was slow going, but I decided to at least try for the ridge exit via Graggetor back to Ringgenberg. It wasn't too difficult, so I elected to keep going, and try to make the base of Suggiture. That was tough, the spine of Suggiture displayed a knife edge of fresh snow drift, and just making the elevation of the exit towards Niederried was extremely difficult. However, once there, the slopes beneath the ridge had plenty of sunshine and while still fairly deep in parts, my spikes kept me with solid footing and I reached the first hut easily. After that, passing the mess of snow I got stuck in last week, it was an easy and warm descent. Crisp blue skies all day, and no wind at all. Perfect!
January 29, 2023
Oberried - Riedergrat - Deep snow from about 1000 metres on up. Fresh, dry snow that made going slow but I still made the mountain hut in just under 2.5 hrs. Forecast was for sun above the clouds this morning, but unfortunately the fog stayed until much later in the day. A good Steinbock encounter on the last stretch at around 1600 m. Considerably warmer today up at this elevation, though I did bring additional warm layers this time! Sun came out finally just as I was getting back into Oberried am Brienzersee. I kept my phone in my leg pocket this time and also stored it in a sort of insulated outer layer. That worked, no problems with battery this time. Temperature, though noted as considerably warmer than yesterday, was still -10c!
January 28, 2023
Niederried - Wyssenflue - Plan, despite a cloudy forecast, was to go as far as I could in tough snowy conditions with the primary goal of reaching the Wyssenflue hut and make a decision there if I could continue further. Getting up there wasn't so bad, snow was ankle deep for the most part, but once I got to the hut, the wind gusts picked up and the temperature really dropped quickly. I had extra layers which I quickly put on but I still couldn't warm up enough to enjoy resting up there. I elected to head back down and set a very fast pace mostly to warm up. That worked well, I was away from the wind and made a very fast descent to the high road which I walked all the way back to Oberried am Brienzersee. Encountered one Gamsen close up at the hut, but wasn't quick enough with the camera to catch him. Also my phone died very quickly due to the extremely cold temperature up there. I had kept it in my vest pocket which is where it usually is, but I need to carry it closer to my body in these conditions in future to avoid the temperature killing the battery.
January 14, 2023
Oberried - Riedergrat - I had to go up this morning as the winds and snow were due back later in the day and for the rest of the weekend. Plenty of Gamsen along the way and a couple of Steinbock just before I reached the mountain hut at 1650m. Lovely day. I also found more Lynx tracks in the snow, second time I have seen them on this path.
January 7, 2023
Niederried - Suggiture - Graaggetor - Ringgenberg - Once more up to the ridge, this time to the peak of Suggiture for the first time this year. Fantastic clear weather once I got above the clouds at around 1500m, though ground conditions were solid frozen. The climb to Suggiture was quite difficult, with many sections frozen and very slippy. Once at the top I walked to the ridge section that connects with Augstmatthorn but while parts of the walk to that peak looked passable, the short climb down to the ridge was under thick ice and snow so even though I had my spikes, decided to leave that for later in the year. Walked to the longer descent route via Graaggetor which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite ways off the ridge. Pefect conditions underfoot all the way.
January 2, 2023
Niederried - Suggiture - A lone steinbock along the way up, Gamsen one or two. As I headed back towards my path down to Niederried I met the Widhüter (Game Warden) for the Augstmatthorn Wildlife Reserve. I talked to him about my awareness campaign for Friends of The Ridge, which was good. So good to meet more of the people who take care of this wonderful place. Their job is so difficult because so many people try to break the rules up here particularly those intent on camping, bivouacking or drone flying, all of which are prohibited in the Widlife Reserve. The sun came out on my descent and made it a little warmer as I took the same route down back to Niederried.
December 28, 2022
Lombachalp - A meeting with the Swiss Rangers who protect this area (Lukas and Matthias, pictured above). Fantastic day hiking in the snow across the beautiful Lombachalp Moorland. Hearing stories of how long the Swiss Rangers and the Game Warden have had to police the Hardergrat Ridge because of people ignoring the rules (Camping, Bivouacking and Drone Flying is Not Allowed anywhere up here). It is a very frustrating situation and I am glad to try to help increase awareness of the rules with my Friends of The Ridge Campaign. I hope we can make some difference this year. I look forward to working with the Swiss Rangers in the 2023 Hiking Season.
December 4, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - Graaggetor - Ringgenberg - After yesterday's cold and windy experience up at Bitschi, I decided I would go for the snow line once again, this time on the Niederried to Suggiture route. It remains my favourite way up to the ridge and today, once I reached the snowline at the Wyssenflue hut, the going underfoot was a lot easier than last week. In fact the snow was quite frozen even compared to yesterday's climb to Bistchi, so I kept going. I was following fresh Steinbock and Gamsen (Chamois) tracks in the snow like last week, but conditions were much easier, with no fog causing visibility/orientation problems. I reached the ridge in good time (less than 2.5 hrs) and looked around for any wildlife. I had seen some Steinbock and Chamois off in the distance in a number of places, but none were close at the ridge. I walked towards the forest along the ridge and through the snow thought I could make out a group of Steinbock on the path below. They turned out to be a bunch of rocks, but I kept going, deciding to go for the Graagetor route down to Ringgenberg, which would make for a good day's hike. The path was deep in snow through the forest in the direction of Harder Kulm, and I also found fresh hiker footprints along the way. I caught up with a couple of hikers at the Graaggetor exit. They were considering the path but hadn't done it before, I told them it was a great path, and, seeing their equipment and noting that they had made it up here too, I knew they were up to the challenge of this route, even in snow. I led the way down and just after the spectacular rock wall that is Graaggetor, we encountered a fast-moving group of Chamois traversing the cliffs. It was mesmerizing, only lasting a few seconds but I managed to get off a few shots (above). The moment made my day, and hiking with another experienced pair made the descent much more rewarding. The sun even came out when we stopped for breaks. A magical day up there.
December 3, 2022
Oberried am Brienzersee - Bitschi - Speculative more than anything, I wanted to see how far I could get towards Ällgäulücke today. Forecast was good, very cold, but dry and no strong winds forecast until late in the day. Going was straightforward until I encountered the open snow-covered grassy slopes above Spycheren. About knee deep, the snow was soft and easy to maintain grip on (I was wearing my spikes of course), but where the slopes opened up, things started to feel a bit hairy. At one point as I stepped past a snow bank I heard the crack of a shifting snow bank above me. It stopped me in my tracks, I could see the crack appear at my left and quickly looked right to see what kind of slope I was on. Not too steep. Any steeper and I would have immediately turned around. This is an easy ascent, but in these conditions, if I am shifting enough snow to cause deep snow banks to move, I should not be here. However, the slopes are gradual enough that the snow was just settling and I was able to continue without causing any more shifts in the deep snow. Once I reached Bitschi, the wind picked up dramatically. I was considering walking on to Planalp, a very nice path in hiking season, but it traverses much steeper slopes than the climb I just completed. I could see large snow accumulations above the path on extremely steep grades so I decided against that due to serious avalanche danger, and due to the cold, decided to turn around and head back the way I came. I was cautious again on the open section, but no more snow banks shifted and I made it easily back to below the snow line. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. I kept telling myself that as I headed back down. I know these slopes, and knew to avoid the really steep open sections because of the avalanche danger, but encountering such shifts in deep snow even on the more gradual slopes reminded me this is not a place to underestimate.
November 27, 2022
Oberried am Brienzersee - Riedergrat - A much warmer day up here, though the ground was hard frozen as I started up the path towards Ällgäulücke. Today I planned to have coffee and breakfast up at my favourite mountain hut, and compared to yesterday's deep snow at Suggiture, this was much easier. The snow was quite frozen but only ankle deep at 1650m as I reached the hut. Snow on the roof was already melting and I sat outside for the rest of the morning enjoying the warm sun, coffee and spectacular view. I love it here, so much beauty just two hours hike up from my home. Magic. I saw a few Steinbock off in the distance towards Augstmatthorn, and while most of the Chamois are a little lower at this time of year, I saw a few of them around and heard a lot more somewhere nearby. Didn't see anyone else all day. My kind of day :)
November 26, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - After a relatively easy hike up from Niederried this morning, I started to find deeper and deeper snow at around 1500m. It was easy going, soft and dry snow, but I really needed my spikes as it was drifting quite deep in parts. About 100m below the ridge, the clouds closed in and became fog which really make things difficult in snow, particularly orientation. I had to rely on the Schweizmobil app to relocate the path and direction on multiple occasions. For the most part, I was able to follow Steinbock and Chamois tracks, as they often follow the paths themselves even in snow, but I did follow one set of tracks off the path for a few minutes before realizing my mistake. I also discovered that the Chamois don't particularly like deep snow, they tend to stay on the less drifting parts, as most of the tracks I followed while staying on the path always seemed to find the smartest path through deep snow. Good tip!
Once at the ridge, at the foot of Suggiture, the clouds cleared and produced a spectacular view, though I wasn't able to see much of the lake below for most of the hike today. I didn't venture further up Suggiture as the drifting snow was quite deep at this elevation and the path well obscured. As I descended from the ridge, I did encounter a single Chamois who wasn't as nervous as they usually are which was a nice moment, but today the Steinbock were far below me on unreachable slopes below the peak of Suggiture. By late Sunday, as I could see from the other side of Suggiture, much of this snow had melted, but it'll remain here on the northwestern flanks until spring.
November 13, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - Augstmatthorn - Graaggetor - With the snow briefly melted for the most part, today was a perfect day to get back up to the peak at Suggiture and along the ridge to Augstmatthorn.
It was fairly busy up there, though the path from Neiderried was empty, always quiet on that side of the ridge. At the peak at Suggiture I met a couple who were sorting out their drone equipment, and I explained to them that drone flying was forbidden up here. Anywhere up here. I pointed out the sign that now shows this clearly at the foot of Suggiture and at the entrance to Hardergrat at every hiking route that leads up here. This, however does not seem to discourage people. I have talked to the local ranger, who agrees this (drone flying) and illegal bivouacking and camping (also forbidden anywhere along this ridge) are the largest problems faced here. The couple later flew their drone despite me pointing out the rules and they scared off a Steinbock that was happily sunbathing between Suggiture and Augstmatthorn. These selfish people really need to stop behaving like this. Rules are in place to protect the wildlife, yet they think their videos for social media are more important. I do not understand this mentality. They post how beautiful this place is, but then break the rules to get their shots and in sharing this, encourage more and more people to do the same. It is very frustrating to see.
Later, two more groups of people were flying drones. I again pointed out the rules and they lied and pointed at other people in the same group as if it were them flying drones. I do not get this behaviour at all, who do they think they are fooling? This is a federally protected wildlife preserve. Signage is clear. If you see people flying drones up here, please point out the rules, and help us keep this place a peaceful sanctuary for wildlife!
Sorry for the rant, but it upsets and disappoints me to see som many people do this sort of thing. Anyway, back to the hike, and after finding a wonderfully relaxed group of Steinbock just on the other side of Augstmatthorn, I wandered back and this time took the Graaggetor route down from Horetalp. Fantastic route, some wonderful rock formations along the way. I will do that route again soon! NOTE: The slopes of Augstmatthorn towards Wytlouihoren and the Brienzergrat Ridge are completely covered in snow and ice and extremely dangerous this time of year. The entire ridge with the exception of comparatively easy to reach sections of Hardergrat up to the foot of Suggiture and Ällgäulücke should not be considered at all until June. I go up only as far as the ridge, then if the path is visible, I will continue to Suggiture and Augstmatthorn, but only if I can see the path.
November 6, 2022
Niederried - Suggiture - Harder Kulm - Fresh snow above 1500m and the game changes again for any hike near or on the Brienzergrat to Hardergrat ridge. I walked up from Niederried this morning with the hope of finding Steinbock, and found them as soon as I reached the ridge at the foot of Suggiture. I am glad I did, because the first and closest Steinbock to me was right at the point where the trail divides, one way up to the peak of Suggiture, the other across the slopes of Suggiture towards Lombachalp. It is a lovely spot on the ridge and today was the last safe place to be, any higher and the path all the way up to the peak and from Suggiture peak to Augstmatthorn was hidden under fresh snow. Not necessarily the worst conditions I have experienced up there, but I know the trail, and most importantly where I should be. In order to continue climbing Suggiture would mean constant checking to make sure I was on the path, and I simply wasn't interested in testing myself in these conditions. I have done it before in snow, and will not attempt if I cannot see the path.
After hanging out watching and photographing Steinbock for a while I wandered back down and decided to take the path all the way to Harder Kulm. I am glad I did, not because of the path — that was as muddy, icy and miserable as I remembered — but because of the amount of people who thought they could still make Augstmatthorn and even the full ridge today. I advised a number of groups to take either the Niederried exit or the Horet Lager exit to Habkern. I had considered exiting via the path to Ringgenberg from near Roteflue, but that path takes some precarious turns near a cliff edge and I was not certain how easy that path was to negotiate in snowy conditions.
Augstmatthorn and Suggiture were possible today, but extremely dangerous. Anything further at this time of year would be somewhere between inadvisable and suicidal. Even when the snows melt on the sun-facing slopes, many of the descents, particularly the descent from Wytlouihoren towards Blasenhubel (T5 rated in good weather). That descent is almost vertical and with no sunlight on it this time of year, the snow and ice will stay until May and make it very, very dangerous. The Blasenhubel descent gets a lot of sun, but the grassy and steep part of that descent has nothing to prevent avalanche and is very scary this time of year. At the other end, the Tannhorn northern flank would be insane to consider in the snow, and the steps at Chruterepass will likely hold their ice and snow until late spring. So, while many sections of the ridge are reachable even in snow, to attempt to trek it in any direction leads to much increased danger not to mention time to complete, and daylight hours are shorter.
I'll be back up through the winter, but will focus my time on the Niederried to Suggiture and Augstmatthorn path as well as reaching the ridge via Ällgäulücke/Bitschi. The highest 500 m of all these approaches will be under snow, but I know these paths and I also carry crampons this time of year. I saw people coming from Harder Kulm today wearing training shoes and carrying no additional gear. I really think Harder Kulm and Rothorn Kulm should do a better job with signage to explain to people how difficult these trails can be and what precautions should be taken. None of the people I talked to on the ridge today had the Schweizmobil app - the only mapping app that shows all the trails properly and your position accurately as well as has all the latest closures. I highly recommend it! On that note, I didn't ask, but it was quite likely many hikers today also were not REGA patrons. For CHF 40 a year, this membership is crucial in case of alpine emergency. Don't hike anywhere in the alps anytime before you get this!
October 29, 2022
Brienzergrat to Hardergrat #27 - No more steam trains up for the rest of the year, so I decided to try out one of the many routes I can take up to the ridge from here in Oberried Am Brienzersee. I have walked every route up to the ridge from here before, but this was the first time I was trying to complete a full ridge hike while also walking up from and back to Oberried without the assistance of the mountain train. I walked first along the path from Oberried to Niederried, then up to the foot of Suggiture to start the hike. I made the ridge in less than 2.5 hours from my door, which wasn't bad going at all. Augstmatthorn and Suggiture were very busy, as they always are on a beautiful day (usually with people making the hike from Lombachalp in the Habkern valley), so I didn't stop to rest, I just continued over Augstmatthorn and on towards Blasenhubel and Gummhoren. I took my first well-deserved break at Gummhoren before continuing on down to Ällgäulücke and back up towards Tannhorn. I reached Tannhorn peak in under seven hours all told, again, not bad for a Saturday stroll, but it was tough going. Conditions were excellent all the way despite some rainy days recently, the ridge trail was for the most part completely dry though the northern facing sections tend to stay a little muddy in places as they get no sun at all this time of year. The descent from Tannhorn to Balmi was beautiful, the light (by now around 16:00 hr) was so nice, and the low winter sun was still warm at my back. I made a few small footing mistakes on the way down, but the descent was otherwise uneventful and I was at Wannepass to exit the ridge before 17:00. The walk back to Bitschi was very pleasant, though the waning light made the forest descent from there to Oberried a little darker than I would like. A long, long day. This route added around 3 km to the usual full ridge hike distance, and more importantly more than doubled the vertical climbs needed to around 2,100m. It was tough on the legs, but a steady pace and decent food and water supplies made it doable. All told around 11 hours back to my door.
October 23, 2022
Brienzergrat to Hardergrat #26 - On the Brienzer Rothorn Bahn's last day of operation for the season, I had long planned to make a ridge pass. Today, however, extremely strong wind gusts were forecast and as I started the hike at 09:36 up at Brienzer Rothorn, the powerful gusts were already changing the game. It took some time to warm up this morning, ground conditions were very good for the most part, but the constantly shifting strong winds really made the exposed sections very precarious. So, as I got to Wannepass (Between Briefehörnli and Balmi) I decided to avoid the most exposed trail section - the climb to Tannhorn. It was disappointing, that is always my favourite peak along the ridge, but it is already extremly risky to make that ascent, and the high winds were simply more than I was interested in pushing through. I saw a number of people continuing on with no problems, but I just wasn't interested in doing it with such an additional risk factor, so I took the white/blue alpine trail that descends steeply from just before Balmi down to the lower route that traverses the slopes of Tannhorn and returns you to Bitschi/Ällgäulücke about an hour or so later. I rejoined the ridge trail at Ällgäulücke and continued on over Schnierenhireli, Gummhorn, Blasenhubel before making the final ascent of Augstmatthorn just under five hours after I started. That diversion around Tannhorn didn't add any time to the hike, in fact it is about equal in distance and elevation gain, it remains an excellent option if the weather or ground conditions make the ascent and descent of Tannhorn too risky. A couple of times I had to hunker down to shelter from high winds, but after avoiding the most exposed section, they weren't much of a factor. As I made the ascent of Augstmatthorn, I recognized a guy that I had seen leave the bus way back at Brienz West. He had walked up from there to Brienzer Rothorn and still passed me by the time I reached Augstmatthorn. Quite an accomplishment! I have a lot of experience with this ridge, and even knowing the trail like I do, I questioned what the fuck I was doing up there with such dangerously shifting winds. Nobody else I saw up there seemed to care, but it is a huge safety factor on exposed trails. I won't be doing it again in such conditions, it is simply not worth the risk.
October 19, 2022
Riedergrat - Avoiding the crowds across the lake at Axalp for the Axalp 2022 Flugvorführungen der Schweizer Luftwaffe, I wandered up to Riedergrat to see if that amazing vantage point would offer a decent look at the show across the lake (Brienzersee). It sort of did, a little better than the view from my balcony at the lake 1 km below, but I simply don't have a long enough lens to do the amazing aerobatics justice from this distance. It was a beautiful summer-like autumn day up there, crystal clear skies and warm, even up at 1650 m. I could see a few hikers higher up on the ridge from my vantage point, though it was a lot quieter than last weekend up there. Besides underwhelming aerobatics shots, I did have one golden moment up there when an eagle swooped into view, circling my position for a few minutes as if to say 'look at me, I can fly too, much better than those guys across the lake.' I got my favorite shots of the day before he flew off into the distance!
October 16, 2022
Riedergrat to Tannhorn - Decided to spend the weekend up at the mountain hut. Gorgeous weather, perfect for ridge hiking with little wind and clear blue skies. I left the hut around 10 am Sunday and was up at the peak of Tannhorn around 2 hours later. Quite a few people up there this morning, these late autumn beautiful weather weekends tend to get fairly busy and there was a constant stream of hikers coming up Tannhorn from both sides. Well, by Brienzergrat standard, anyway. Maybe a dozen or more, but that counts as a busy day up there! Ground conditions were excellent, no wind, clear skies and a perfect day to be up there. The night was also clear, but alas even though I had the good camera with me, my astrophotography attempts still not acceptable. I need to actually drag a tripod up here sometime and try it properly.
October 13, 2022
Planning again - Weather is still holding for late season passes along the ridge, but I have noticed some high wind forecasts this weekend. A little rain in the forecast too, but so far the snow is holding off and I am hopeful to make at least two more full ridge hikes before the winter closes in. If you are planning to hike here this autumn, please pay attention to the wind forecasts as well as the rain and snow. Wind conditions on the most exposed ridge hike in Switzerland are critical and anything over 30 KPH up there is very dangerous. Check SRF Meteo forecasts for Augstmatthorn, Tannhorn and Brienzer Rothorn daily before your planned hike to make sure conditions are safe. If there has been significant rain in the days before your planned hike, consider postponing it if you can until after a few dry days. Once the snows close in, the ridge is not accessible due to the heavy snow and ice coverage between Augstmatthorn and Wytlouihoren and at the other end the descent at Chruterepass is always the first to ice over and last to melt. Watch the webcams too and do not attempt the full ridge in snowy conditions, it is simply too dangerous.
October 5, 2022
Brienzer Rothorn - Augstmatthorn, Suggiture - Niederried - Oberried - 08:36 train up from Brienz. Very cold after crystal clear night but the sun was up and not a cloud in the sky. I couldn't resist this weather forecast after a week of solid rain! We had a few days of dry weather, and with the clouds returning this weekend, today's completely clear forecast, well, it had ridge written all over it. This time of year, the yellow gold slopes with a sprinkling of red-gold trees are pure alpine magic.
Again I probably pushed a little hard on the first section from Rothorn to Tannhorn, mostly just to warm up, but by the time I was past Chruterepass I was quite comfortable in the warm sun. I met a few fellow hikers along the way, one or two coming in the opposite direction and perhaps half a dozen in the same direction as me. No ice or snow anywhere along the trail and beautiful clear views all around. Steinbock, not one seen all day. I need to start coming up earlier, perhaps some Augstmatthorn morning hikes as the full ridge will soon be under snow.
This was my 25th full ridge pass, all in under five hours hiking from Rothorn to Augstmatthorn, then another three from Suggiture down to Niederried, Oberried and home.
October 1, 2022
Oberried - Riedergrat - Rys - Egg - Oberried - Having spent a couple of weeks away, despite a very wet forecast, I wanted to at least visit the mountain huts near the ridge so I headed up early morning to try to beat the downpour. Managed to get to the first hut (Ryswaldli) before it rained and added a new sign to the exterior, then walked back down to the trail junction that leads to Ällgäulücke and wandered on up to the next hut at Egg. Didn't see any Steinbock in the mist today, but I could hear them not far away through the rain. Amazing sounds. Also came across a deer in the forest on the way down too.
I got quite wet on the way but I got a fire going in the hearth and made some fresh coffee and started drying my gear. My original plan was to spend the night here, but with very high winds forecast and no let up in the rain, I decided to pack up and head back down to Oberried while it was still light. I didn't try for the ridge at all this weekend, with forecast gusts over 50 kph, it just wasn't worth the risk. Over 1500 metres elevation gain on this hike, though. No problem keeping warm!
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 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 mountain 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 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 hear Gummhoren 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 Hut 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!
If you have further questions about the Brienzergrat to Hardergrat trail, please ask me. I live at the foot of the ridge, and have hiked it over two dozen times as well as hiked every route to and from the ridge from Oberried, Niederried, Interlaken, Habkern, Brünigpass and Brienzer Rothorn. I have often helped people complete the trail or exit safely when the need arises. I am up on the ridge or on nearby trails most weekends and would be glad to advise and guide. Just ask! And don't forget to buy my book! It is quite good (I have been told). :)
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 usually 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 managed well with the Lowepro Flipside Trek which I have now carried on almost all my hikes up here but I recently switched to a Lowepro Runabout BP. It is incredibly lightweight and I have stuffed this thing with power tools, heavy camera gear, food and clothing layers and it just keeps going. The only drawback with it is its thin and unpadded non-waterproof construction, I stuff a dry bag in there with clothing contained in that and also contain my camera gear in a smaller packable waterproof case that fits inside. 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. 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.
I hope you find this site and information useful as you plan your Brienzergrat to Hardergrat trek. Please remember to check with weather forecasts carefully for Brienzer Rothorn, Tannhorn and Augstmatthorn before setting out, you do not want to be in a storm up here. And please read my trail warning page.