Travel Blog Archive – Part 19, Grindelwald and the First-Faulhorn Hike

After a too-short stay in Murren, we took an early morning gondola to a small train to a bigger train to a regular train to another train to a bus to our hotel in Grindelwald, where we dropped off our stuff and headed to the gondola from Grindelwald to First in order to hike from First to the top of the Faulhorn. It was as exhausting as it sounds. This plan was an ambitious one, but the forecast for the next 2 days of our visit to Grindelwald was rain, so if we wanted to catch the view from the Faulhorn, this was the only day to do it.

Rewind to planning this hike: It pays to have a spouse with high standards. Brian grew up hiking, and loves all parts of it. Because of that, he’s happy to take off through the woods and hike for hours without seeing a single vista. Laurel, however, would like at least a little reward for her efforts. If those efforts are going to be an all day endeavor, then the reward should probably be a little more than a little. Given that, she did some research on the best hikes in the world. Turns out, we’d already done a few of them (including Fitz Roy this past spring), and the hike from First to Lake Bachal to the Faulhorn lodge promised to be gorgeous and accessible.
The hike has two possible beginnings. One starts from Grindelwald and begins in a serious ascent. Something like 5,500 feet. Option two is to take the gondola to First then hike the 1,700 feet/7.5 mile round trip and gondola back down. We opted for the second choice given the time/weather restraints and the fact that we’d done a bit of hiking in the previous days.
Though getting to the top was a slog, and we had to rush to make the round trip before the last gondola departed, the view was spectacular. Around us in every direction were snow covered jagged peaks, and the Faulhorn ahead of us was alternately visible and obscured by misty clouds. We also rediscovered something we hadn’t felt since our Colorado trip – thin air thanks to altitude. By the time we reached the lodge at the top we were exhausted but mesmerized by the panorama before us. Standing that far above the clouds felt magical, and neither of us had ever seen such a stunning view. It was suddenly easy to understand why Switzerland is always neutral. What’s there to fight about when you live in heaven? We reluctantly headed back to First in order to catch the gondola and not have to hike the 5,500 feet back down in partial darkness, and we made it back to the hotel as the clouds and thunder rolled in.
Grindelwald was much bigger than Murren, and certainly touristy, but it made for a perfect base camp to rest for the following few days after a lot of exploring and hiking. We caught a glimpse of “local Grindelwald” by venturing to a semi-dirty little laundromat, and we learned that “centrifuge dryer” is Swiss for “steals all your clothes”. After digging around the hidden inner panels of the centrifuge to retrieve all of our lost socks and shirts, we decided to use up our last swiss francs on some authentic Swiss hot chocolate. We followed our noses to an adorable cafe that, even in the middle of summer, resembled a ski lodge, and we eagerly ordered two $5 hot chocolates. A few minutes later a rushed waiter slapped down two cups of hot milk and two packets of hot chocolate mix- the same mix we’d seen in the grocery store for $2.50 for a box of ten. Lame. Defeated, we retreated to our hotel where we had way more fun sitting on the roof trying to figure out which beautiful mountains next to us was Eiger and which was Jungfrauch. What we learned in Switzerland: Go for the scenery, not the food. Unless it’s fondue. Then eat it all.

Hang gliders everywhere

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From the Gondola heading from Grindelwald to Firstimage

Beginning the First to Faulhorn hike, with the Faulhorn Hut on top of the peak off in the distance

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Not a strenuous hiking trail…

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…until the last part.  (It was steeper than it looks in this picture.  I swear.)

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Alpine Cows

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More people jumping off of mountains

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From the top of the Faulhorn

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From the Faulhorn Summit
From the Faulhorn Summit
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