When I got into hiking at uni I got a bit hooked on reading mountaineering books. One book in particular, The White Spider, by mountaineer Heinrich Harrer is still a firm favourite. The book is all about the first successful attempt at the Eiger’s North Wall.
(Warning – photo heavy post). The White Spider also details other successful and unsuccessful attempts at this epic challenge. Where every person who wants to climb the Eiger (north face or otherwise) starts their adventure is a place in Switzerland called Kleine Scheidegg. So naturally when we headed to Switzerland it was top of my ‘places I must visit’ list.
Now, let me start by saying trains in Switzerland are expensive. There really isn’t a way around it, even booking in advance doesn’t do much these days. We looked at this journey a month before our trip, but they catch the tourists by not really offering cheap tickets from Grindelwald onwards (beware the price if you continue to Jungrfaujoch viewing station. Luckily Dr W spotted this amazing SBB day pass for 100 CH. The only thing, you have to buy the night (or 30 days) before your travel day. To do this we used the SBB app and actually it was pretty easy (the app works well in English). If you don’t want to rely on your phone for the ticket, you can print it as well. But a lot of Swiss trains have plug points so you don’t have to worry too much. A word of warning, be careful when you order, do not get tempted by the cheaper ‘halb fare’ option. You can only purchase these if you have an SBB season ticket (i.e. you live in Switzerland). We met a conductor on every train we took, so you cannot get away with being ticketless either (even the very late train home).
An early start – From Lenzburg to Interlaken and on to Grindelwald
Because we were staying all the way in Lenzburg, we had a hefty journey to our destination. Luckily our friends who we were staying with dropped us at the station and we picked up lunch from Migros (a supermarket chain in Switzerland). As we’d already spent a bomb on train tickets, buying lunch from the supermarket was a sensible idea. I also bought chocolate for the journey, because why not?! It was a long day ahead, but the journey was pretty and well worth it. When we neared Interlaken the mountains started appearing. When we got to Grindelwald, it was even more stunning and I instantly knew the couple of hundred quid I was gonna spend that day was worth it. Especially as the first snows of the season had fallen!
Through the mountains to Kleine Schiedegg
At Grindelwald we had to buy our Kleine Scheidegg tickets, these were 62 CH return (approx. 190 CH if you go all the way to Jungfraujoch, but the low cloud meant that we didn’t bother with that). We jumped on the next train and it meandered through the mountains up to the ski/mountaineering resort. It was an incredible journey and one I won’t forget anytime soon. Going mid week meant we were pretty much by ourselves in the carriage, meaning I could walk around to soak in the views. It was just incredible, especially when we were greeted with our first sight of the big boy himself, The Eiger. Getting off at Kleine Scheidegg we watched most of the others grab the train further up to the Jungfraujoch viewing station. If you note the cloud in my pics, that’s why I didn’t bother. I will return one day to venture further up and get the train to the viewing platform (the train goes inside the mountain!)
I actually got a bit emotional when we started walking. The snow, the mountain air, the incredible views and the foreboding presence of The Eiger was quite an experience. Seeing as we’d chosen not to take the train further up, we went for a walk. Let me just say I was a happy Emma because I’d packed winter kit. Even the snow, which looks like an average day in Scot winter for me, was a bit different at this height. There was a lot of ice, so winter or sturdy boots are a must if you want to go higher. We decided to walk from Kleine Scheidegg up to Eigergletscher, which I think originally the glacier came down too (hence the name). From here we got a bit closer to seeing the north wall, we could also see better views of the valley below and the glacier above. It was quite a steep walk, 250m or so in a very short distance! So you need to be fit if you’re walking. FYI there is a path from Grindelwald all the way up to Kleine Scheidegg if you don’t fancy the train. If we weren’t pushed for time, I’d have walked back to Grindelwald to pick up the train home.
Dinner in Interlaken
We decided purely for ease of getting trains home, that we’d head to Interlaken for dinner. This is somewhere definitely on my list to return too. Sadly we didn’t have more time to explore. Dr W and I found a lovely restaurant based in Hotel Interlaken, which I’m glad we did. Not only were we lucky to get a table (it was packed not long after we arrived at 6pm). It was serving traditional food, which meant I got tick rosti off my Swiss food list. Having just googled to find a link, it’s nice to see they update the menu. So exactly what we ordered isn’t available, but I can assure you the food is delicious. And just look at that rosti, isn’t it awesome?!
Honestly it may seem like a mad day out, with most of it being train travel. But it was incredible and worth it. I also really enjoyed spending time with Dr W. We have a habit of going on holiday with friends, so it was nice to get a day together doing something we enjoy. I’ll never forget those mountains!
Have you ever thought about visiting Kleine Scheidegg? Are you a snowy mountain fan like me? Let me know in the comments,
P.S. If you want to see what Berner-Oberland/Jungfrau region looks like in summer, check out Chloe’s post about her trip to Switzerland.