Day 1:  Drove from Milan, Italy, over St. Goddard pass and Grimselpass into Interlaken, Switzerland.  We were stunned to see the color the lake water (a pure chalky blue color that would compare to the shallow parts of Lake Tahoe).  We also prepared for our hiking adventure by renting backpacks and purchasing maps of hiking areas.  We were surprised at the high cost of the detailed TOPO maps ($30 US each).

Day 2:  Bought half price rail passes and hoped on the train in Wilderswil.   Made a connection in Interlaken station on our way to Meringen. Took the Die Post bus up a windy road to the town of Rosenlaui and came across a neat old bus parked at 7,000 feet!  Our journey officially begins and we hike for three hours from Rosenlaui to Grosse Scheidegg, staying overnight at a mountain hut with bunk beds.  Along the path, we came across cows with huge bells around their necks and caught our first glimpse of big peaks, stunning waterfalls and the town of Grindelwald.  If only we knew what was yet to come.

Day 3:   We woke up at the mountain hut in Grosse Scheidegg and were socked in by clouds and rain.  We spoke to some people who came up from Grindelwald on the bus and they told us that the weather was much clearer at lower elevations.  We made our way down the mountain to the valley floor and hiked up to some glaciers that were only accessible via steep wooden steps build into the side of sheer granite.  As the weather began to clear, we had views of the Wetterhorn, Maddenhorn, and Schreckenhorn peaks.  We hiked to Pfingstegg and then up to the Monch glacier where we saw 1000 foot waterfalls jetting out of the side of the mountains.  What an incredible sight!   We returned to Grindelwald for the night and both took a long hot bath.  At dinner, Hugh ordered a $45 dollar cut of veal and Chris had a $38 dollar piece of salmon.  Did we mention how expensive Switzerland is?

Day 4:  We woke up early in Grindelwald and opened the curtains to a glorious day.  We jumped on the bus and headed up to Grosse Scheidegg to begin our hike to Faulhorn.  The day turned out to be absolutely perfect!   Not a cloud in the sky and the entire Jungfrau mountains range was in view, including the famous Eiger.  During our uphill hike, we came across beautiful wildflowers.  Thankfully, we did not have a baby stroller with us on this hike!!  We both agreed that Faulhorn is the most beautiful place on earth on a clear day.  We could not believe our eyes. 

After Hugh checked out the accommodations at Faulhorn, we decided we better head out for a better bed or we would be in for a long night.  It was a very step decline hiking down from Faulhorn.   In total, we hiked over 15km (mostly uphill) and it took us over 9 hours to complete.  The views coming into Schynige Platte were amazing and we could see clouds forming in the distance. Once we reached our hotel, we practically collapsed.  Suddenly, a huge thundershower hit.  We made it out just in time.

Day 5:  We woke to a rainy, miserable day.  Thankfully, we made the decision to leave Faulhorn, otherwise, we might have been stuck at a cold hut for a few days.  We headed into Interlaken to check our email and met a local guy who told us about some incredible waterfalls in the valley.  Since it was raining, it would be a great day to check out the waterfalls.  We entered the most surreal water tunnel structure we have ever seen with tens of thousands of gallons of water falling per second.  Later in the day, we took a tram up the Murren, a town where downhill skiing was invented.

Day 6:   We left Murren late (at 10am) and decided to hike over Sefinerfugge pass and down to the small town of Greisalp. The sign said it would take approximately 5 hours 45 minutes.  We’re not sure who decided on the "timing" for these hikes but they must be psychopaths.  For every hour on the sign, one must add an addition 30 minutes because the hiking trails are straight uphill.  If you are not going uphill, you find yourself on slippery downhill slopes.  One wrong step, and you’re history.  The views of Jungfrau, Europe’s highest point, were amazing.  We also caught a glimpse of the Shilthorn, although it was mostly shrouded in clouds.  Crossing the pass was quite challenging due to the huge rock slides.  After about 8 hours of hiking, we finally collapsed at place called the Golderli.  The food was great but the cold shower for $175 per night was not ideal.

Day 7: We intended to hike over a steep pass into Kandersteg, however, the previous day's hike to Greisalp had us exhausted.  We changed our plans and decided to take it easy and hike down the valley and catch the train to Kandersteg.  We saw some amazing waterfalls along the valley.  Once we arrived in Kandersteg, we checked into a hotel and took a tram up to one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland, Lake Oeschiness.  We got a real kick out of a guy trying to cross the large lake in a row boat facing the wrong way.  At one point, the guy actually stood up in the row boat and began rowing.  Chris almost fell down laughing hysterically when she saw this.

Day 8:  We hiked up into a beautiful valley outside of Kandersteg. We then took a bus back to Kandersteg and caught a train to Zermatt.  Along the way, we traveled by rail through small towns and saw some amazing old wooden houses with slate roofs.  We arrived in Zermatt late in the day and checked into an amazing five star hotel called Riffelapp. We immediately headed to the spa and took a much needed steam bath.

Day 9:  The weather in Zermatt was cold and wet.  Instead of hiking in the morning, we decided check out the main town square.  We took a tram to Sunnegga, and as soon as we reached the top, the weather cleared.  We walked back to Riffelapp and along the way caught our first clear glimpse of the Matterhorn.

Day 10:  We decided to hike to Gonergrat (3130 meters) from Riffelapp (2222 meters).  That’s almost 1000 meters and over a half mile straight up!  We were blessed with a warm day and enjoyed seeing paragliders flying in the sky directly above us.  We had heard from the hotel front desk folks that people often come to Zermatt and stay for an entire week and never have the opportunity to see the top of the Matterhorn.    Boy, what luck.  And Chris was even able to scale the Matterhorn!

Day 11:   For the second day in a row, we woke up to a beautiful clear day.  We decided to hike from Zermatt to Trift.   What started out as an "easy 5 hour hike" turned into a grueling 7 hour struggle.  Part of the hike turned out to be straight uphill for over 2 ½ hours.  Look at how high we were above one of the mountain huts.  As promised, the views of the Matterhorn’s north face were spectacular.   We also saw some cool looking mountain sheep along the way.   After 7 hours of hiking, we finally made it back to Zermatt.  Just as we were climbing into bed, a huge lighting storm hit.  Again, we escaped the storm just in time!

Day 12:  Hiked for two hours down the valley from Zermatt to Randa.  Spent 5 hours on the train getting back to Interlaken.

Day 13:  Spent the day lounging around and taking it easy.  Took a one hour walk to Interlaken to our favorite Internet café, Dolce Vita.

Day 14:  We’re off to Prague via Munich, Germany.



           copyright © chris & hugh hempel 2004                                                      last modified on Monday, 12. January 2004