Rupert Parker survives summer snowstorms in this alpine region which has peaks rising to 4000m including the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
I’m expecting good weather in the mountains in August so I’ve chosen a series of treks above Lauterbrunnen, staying in mountain huts, and climbing the Schilthorn peak at just below 3000m. Unfortunately, when I arrive in Mürren, it’s snowing, so I’m temporarily forced to abandon my plan.
Although the weather prevents me from climbing this mountain on foot, I can take the Schilthorn Cable Way to its 2970m summit from Mürren. This is where scenes for the 1960s James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were in the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant at the top.
Deep snow lies everywhere and there’s larger than life cut-out of 007 George Lazenby greeting me in the mist. Inside there’s a Bond World exhibition plus a cinema showing clips.
I go back down to Mürren and retreat to the comfort of the Hotel Eiger but, by early afternoon, the rain begins to ease. I’m longing to get out so decide to take the well-signed Northface Trail, a walk of just over two hours. It’s an easy trudge up to Pension Sippenalp, now covered in snow. My original plan was to stay here, so I pop my head in and present my apologies.
From here it’s a fairly level path with stunning views of the Bernese Alps when the cloud lifts momentarily. Along the trail, twelve information panels detail the history of alpine climbing in these mountains. At Spielbodenalp, where they’re making cheese, I start to descend and loop around back to Mürren, still with a thin covering of snow.
Next day is fine and I’m due in Lauterbrunnen by the evening so I take the Mountain View Trail. Leaving Mürren, I climb up to Allmendhubel, an attractive meadow full of flowers. From here the route is gently undulating across pastureland high above the Lauterbrunnen valley. I make frequent stops to pick bilberries and gaze across to Wengen on the other side, just below the north face of the Eiger.
At Pletschenalp the Mountain View Trail drops down but I decide to extend the walk and carry on to Isenfluh. I’m enjoying bursts of sunshine and I soon turn the corner into the delightful Soustal valley, dotted with dairy farms. It’s a pleasant descent through forest to the village of Isenfluh where it’s possible to take the bus. Instead, I carry on up the valley, the sides getting ever steeper, to Lauterbrunnen and my hotel for the night.
It’s my last morning so I decide to explore the valley with its 72 waterfalls. Just outside Lauterbrunnen is the Staubbach Falls, one of the highest free-falling waterfalls in Europe, with a drop of 300m, and there’s a lot of water today. Wooden alpine chalets line the valley floor, some selling cheese, and snow-capped mountains shimmer in the distance.
Continuing on, I get to the Trümmelbach Falls which lie hidden inside the mountain. A labyrinth of steps and galleries takes me upwards to see these underground waterfalls, thundering down over ten cascades. They’re carrying the meltwater of the Jungfrau glaciers, around 20,000 litres every second.
The hike continues on past the Mürrenbachfall, the highest waterfall in Switzerland, and then along the icy blue Lütschine River to Stechelberg. You can board the Schilthorn Cable Way up to Mürren or Piz Gloria. My time is limited so I take the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and get on the train bound for Zurich airport.
Of course, as luck would have it, I’m leaving when the sun is shining and there are glorious mountain views at every turn. I can only hope to come back and fulfil my original plan of tackling the higher trails, walking from hut to hut. For those who like to take things easy, there’s a network of cable cars and mountain railways to whisk you up high with no effort or ease your tired legs on the way down. Even better, there are paths for all abilities, all well signed so you won’t get lost.
Tell Me More About Hiking The Jungfrau Region
My Switzerland has information about the country.
Hotel Eiger is a luxurious four star base in Mürren with a heated pool and excellent food.
Hotel Steinbock, in Lauterbrunnen, is convenient for the station.
Cicerone’s Tour of the Jungfrau Region has more walk suggestions.
Jungfrau Region has information about the region.
SWISS offers weekly flights from the UK to Zurich and Geneva. One way fares start from £80.
From the airport, it’s a train journey to Lauterbrunnen on the Swiss Travel System network with a Swiss Travel Pass offering unlimited travel for £186 for 3 days in second class. The Lauterbrunnen-Mürren Rail & Cableway links Lauterbrunnen with Mürren.