An account of some walks, mostly in the Bernese Alps, serving mainly as a framework on which to present photographs of mountain scenery.

See the introductory remarks for general information about cameras and conditions.

Click on the links in the text or on the thumbnails to see the pictures. They have been resized to 1024 pixels width for the most part, so make your browser window big enough!

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Giferspitz

2542 M. 8340 ft.

Difficulty: T3

Giferspitz 03 Sep Mild late-summer weather returned during the first few days of the month, so I called the Walking Friend in Montreux and arranged to do something in Gstaad, a location which involved us in journeys of roughly equal tedium, rail in his case, road in mine. Given that we were going to set out from the town, there was really only one peak of interest within reach, the Giferspitz (2542 M.). The intention was to follow a walk described in the SAC walkers' guide to the region, crossing the summit and continuing on over high country as far as Lenk in the next valley if conditions looked good.

We started with a mistake by following the numerous signs for the peak within the village; we would have been better off instead to have looked for the first hamlet listed in the guidebook. To avoid carrying the extra weight, I had memorised the relevant route description, so I was puzzled that the trail didn't correspond to my expectations. Rather in the manner of the curate's egg, this path was well marked in many parts. We had to guess our way across a couple of roads before following some marker poles up a grassy slope. Soon there were no more markers visible, but the direction had been clear, so we pressed on upwards on steep grass. About a hundred metres higher it was obvious that, wherever the track was, we weren't on it. A traverse across cow pasture fixed that; however, we still weren't on the guidebook path, and now we had acquired a herd of placid goats who followed us up the mountain for a remarkably long time. Finally we did encounter a signpost mentioned in the guidebook, but by this time the route to the summit was obvious anyway. Above 1900 metres, the tedious grass gave way to a stony ridge, which continued all the way to the summit, a fine viewpoint across the nearby Lauenenhorn to the Wildhorn and the main Bernese Oberland chain. The cairn fairy had been at work here too. All that fooling around lower down had cost time, however, and my time to the summit was a full half hour slower than the signpost time, an occurrence so rare I couldn't remember when it had last happened. The WF was even worse, arriving another thirty minutes later, so plans to continue further were abandoned, and we spent a luxurious couple of hours at the summit in near-perfect weather. While the 4000-metre peaks were partly obscured by cloud, there were fine views of Gstaad's manicured alpine pastures and of numerous Fribourg prealps like the Dents de Folliéran and Brenleire. Going down the way we had come up, we were able to find the track intended by the guidebook (more tedious hardly-trodden grass), and we returned to Gstaad through Oberbort and its monster chalets.

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Stockhorn from the Gurnigel

2190 M. 7185 ft.

Difficulty: T3

Stockhorn 06 Sep A string of warm late-summer days was drawing to an end and I decided to get out before the weather turned. Given that the arrival of rain was a possibility late in the day, it was wise not to go too high. As I was relatively late starting also, I decided to make a conservative choice and do something in the Stockhorn chain. Given that I had done the two main peaks so often, it needed to be something else, but what? Well, a well-defined path exists between those two peaks, so, even though they are more than seven Km. apart in a straight line, the return journey from the usual starting point for the Gantrisch looked worthwhile.

So I parked the car in the usual spot near the Gurnigel and set off up what is for me a very well-trodden path indeed. Just beyond the little Schibespitz and its crumbling army pillbox, I turned away from the last short stretch to the summit of the Gantrisch in favour of the long traverse to the Stockhorn, on the extreme right in the photo. The path stays high on the sides of the intervening peaks, passing through a series of alpine pastures. Some of the work to clear the path near the chalets looked almost like the start of a rock garden. In other places, it was just a pleasant track through the uppermost scraps of forest, never dif ficult. At the little alp of Kuhlauenen, the view of the peak was already much better. Only the final ascent of the Stockhorn's rocky summit tower was at all strenuous. From there, the view back to the Gantrisch (the rounded and tilted summit at centre) can be seen, as well as much of the trail. On the long walk back, the sky was becoming duller and rain threatened, so I skipped the bit across the Schibespitz and the Morgetepass and cut across the Leiterenpass between the Gantrisch and the Nünenen, a quicker route back to the road and the car. The latter peak, to the right of the pass in the photo, is at the outer limits of walkability and I haven't tried it yet; people do get killed there occasionally.

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Schynige Platte and Oberberghorn

2069 M. 6788 ft.

Difficulty: T2

Schynige Platte 11 Sep The next walk was an exception, in that the date was fixed. A Running Friend was doing the Jungfrau Marathon on the eleventh of the month. This wasn't something I would ever try; my back might not stand the amount of running on asphalt involved in the early stages, but the RF's family owned a chalet almost beside the route in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and I intended to be there for the party afterwards. I didn't want to walk in the direction of the finishing line in Kleine Scheidegg; it had been crowded and tawdry the previous year. That left just one good choice, the path on the hill behind the chalet leading up to Schynige Platte, so I dropped my stuff off at the chalet and went back down to start the walk at Wilderswil. I was late enough starting that this meant walking down the road against the runners. Nobody seemed to mind.

The ascent is just a little over 1400 M. and it's through pine forest much of the way, so the main attraction was the exercise. Nevertheless, there is a short stretch of open ground with a fine view over Lake Thun from above the chalet at Schönegg, plus the occasional sight of the cutesy little Schynige Platte train heaving yet another set of customers up the hill. The uplands behind the railway and restaurant complex are a paradise for tourists, but not the worse for that, as there is plenty of space for everyone. A mountain trail leads east past the Laucherhorn (on the left) and the Winteregg to the Faulhorn and First and all the way down to Grindelwald. The whole trip from Wilderswil makes a splendid long day for those in condition. Today, however, was for wandering around the high meadows in the sunshine and going up the little Oberberghorn for the panoramic view down to Lake Brienz and up to the Oberland Peaks; a ladder is needed to reach the summit, so this bit might reasonably be classed as grade T3 unlike the rest of the day. There was time for a beer in the restaurant by the railway terminus before taking the same path down just in time to meet the RF arriving back at the chalet from another successful marathon run.

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Three Frutigen Peaks

2398 M. 7868 ft.

Difficulty: T4

Frutigen Peaks 15 Sep This walk is ideal for those without their own transport, since it starts and ends at the Frutigen railway station car park. The three peaks are part of a long ridge which begins at the Niesen summit and extends in a relatively straight line above 2000 M. as far as the Albristhorn west of Adelboden, a distance of more than twenty Km. dotted with interesting summits all the way.

Routefinding isn't a problem at first... simply head straight for the rightmost of the three peaks directly above the town, the Steinschlaghorn (2321 M.), higher up following a ridge until above Gunggalp. Here the path becomes poorly formed on steep grass slopes, and care is necessary. The Steinschlaghorn summit is the least pronounced of the three, but an adequate spot to stop for a snack. From it, a marked route (blue and white markers) runs along the ridge to the Tschipparellenhorn (2398 M.), the highest point of the tour. While marked as a route rather than a trail, it is perfectly safe for competent walkers, the only aid being a piece of cable to help in crossing a notch at the summit. From here, as from all three summits, there is a fine view down to your starting point a mile below. Also visible is the old Lötschberg railway line curving elegantly over the northern portal of the new Lötschberg Base Tunnel and crossing the Kander river on the original stone arch bridge and a newer concrete structure. Though overcast by this stage, the weather remained fine and calm. After a brief stop, the route continues below the crest on the western side to approach the Mäggisserenhorn (2346 M.), whose grassy summit was badly fouled by the droppings of the flock of goats visiting from the slopes between it and the Tschipparellenhorn. From here, the path was a marked walking track once again, which continued a little further along the crest before making a dogleg down more iffy grass slopes. It then became, by the high standards of the Bernese Oberland, quite unpleasant, dispensing with hairpins and heading straight down the steep alpine pastures, in many parts barely discernible in the grass, with sporadic markers often hidden by the contour until you were nearly on top of them. After about eight hundred metres of this knee torture, more normal conditions resumed, and the three peaks were still visible as I descended through the outskirts of Frutigen.

Thus was completed the last successful walk of a relatively modest year.