Trip Number: 13630A
Staff: Hurston Roberts
- Hike in the Swiss Alps under the Eiger and the Jungfrau
- See snow-covered peaks, high alpine meadows, and cascading waterfalls
- Enjoy warm Swiss hotels, hot showers, and delicious food
- All lodging, most meals, on-trip transportation, and gratuities
Photo: Dale and Joan Weston
The Alps! So famous in European history: from the Iceman of 5,300 years ago,
to Hannibal's elephants, to the climbing of the Eiger's North Face in Clint
Eastwood's The Eiger Sanction. The highest peak of the Alps is round-shouldered
Mont Blanc at 15,780 feet, but many others are even more spectacular with their
jutting rock faces and icy glaciers. The Matterhorn is probably the most famous,
with its four-faced, curved peak, but the Eiger is a close second.
We will be walking in the Bernese Oberland, one of the most spectacular areas
of the Swiss Alps. We will make use of gondolas and cog railways to get to our
trailheads in the mornings and to reach our next hotel in the afternoons. We
will stay in Swiss hotels each night, with our baggage transferred between hotels
while we are walking. We will also take the cog railway up to the legendary
Jungfraujoch ("Top of Europe") and a gondola to the top of Mt. Schilthorn,
famous for its panoramic views and the filming of a James Bond movie!
Day 1: We meet at our hotel near the train station in Interlaken
West at dinnertime. Interlaken, as the name implies, lies between two lakes,
Thun and Brienz, and is the entryway into the Alps of the Bernese Oberland.
Day 2: After a hearty Swiss breakfast, we make our way to
Beatenbucht along the Thunersee (Thun Lake), and take the gondola up the steep
cliff to the Niederhorn. The panoramic view from the Niederhorn gives us a distant
view of our Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. From there we will take a "warm-up"
walk of about three-and-a-half hours from the Niederhorn toward the Gemmenalphorn
and back, eventually returning via gondola to Beatenbucht and continuing on
to our hotel in Interlaken.
Photo: Dale and Joan Weston
Day 3: Today, after sending our luggage on, we ride the cog
railway to Schynige Platte to visit the Alpine Garden, which displays over 560
labeled species of flowers. It is one of only a few gardens in the world to
hold to the criterion of a "natural environment." We take another
“warm-up” walk along a ridge that looks down on the Brienzersee
on one side and over to the many snowy peaks of the Bernese Oberland on the
other side. Then we take the train to our next hotel in scenic Grindelwald.
Day 4: Just out the door of our cozy hotel, we ride the gondola
to First, with its magnificent view of the famous Eiger North Wall. We stroll
through flowering meadows to Balchalpsee, a lovely alpine lake, a hike of approximately
four hours, depending on which route we choose and how long we relax over our
picnic lunch. Many trails lead back to Grindelwald, and if anyone is tired,
there’s always the lift! Serious hikers, however, will hike on to Grosse
Scheidegg and ride the bus back to our hotel.
Day 5: Today, after shipping our luggage on, we ride the train
to Grund and the gondola to Männerlichen, where we hike steeply uphill
to the Gipfel for spectacular views and then enjoy an easy walk to Kleine Scheidegg
-- commonly called the Grandmother Walk. After lunch, we take the train to Eismeer
and walk down on a glacial moraine to Wengenalp. Then, we take the cog railway
to our next hotel in the small village of Wengen, high on the plateau. Wengen
does not allow cars, but relies on walking, gondolas, and cog railways. It is
a well-known center for skiers in winter and a pleasure to explore.
Day 6: This day, we head up on the cog railway to Kleine Scheidegg.
There, soaring above us, are the three: the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau.
We then take the famous Jungfrau train high up to the snow-covered Jungfraujoch,
the "Top of Europe" at 11,333 feet. The train stops twice along the
route to allow for photo opportunities, to check the view, and to show how climbers
of the North Wall of the Eiger might be rescued in an emergency. At the top,
we can visit the Ice Palace (a must see!), the Scientific Station, and the Sphinx
for incredible views in all directions. Some may choose to walk to the nearest
mountain hut for lunch (at least an hour one-way walk on the glacier). Some
may choose to ski, take a short dog sled ride with the polar husky dogs, or
ride the Zip Line (all are optional and at your own expense). Also at the top
are two restaurants, an area for picnicking, and a gift shop (of course). After
a full day at the “Top of Europe” we return by cog railway to our
quiet hotel in Wengen.
Photo: Otto Spielbichler
Day 7: We take the cog railway to Eismeer and hike the famous
Eiger Trail. This trail is situated just at the base of the North Wall and is
used by all climbers of the Eiger North Wall. We will see their departure point
as we head down to Alpiglen, where we will have lunch. Then by cog railways,
we descend down low to Lauterbrunnen and take the steep ascent to Grutschalp.
From there we take an easy, but long walk to Mürren, tucked away in the
high alpine pastures -- referred to as the Grandfather Walk. We may want to
explore this quiet town -- no vehicles allowed -- with its outstanding views
of our favorite mountains. We may choose to visit a small museum or take a swim
in the community pool after checking in to our hotel in Mürren.
Day 8: Today, the gondola takes us high up to the Schilthorn,
with its panoramic view of range after range of mountains and its restaurant,
Piz Gloria, where the James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
was filmed. There, we can walk out on a ridge affording spectacular views and
see a film about the James Bond movie. Returning, we ride the gondolas all the
way down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley and walk "the valley of waterfalls"
stopping to enjoy and explore some of nature’s wonders, and return to
Mürren for our farewell dinner at our Hotel.
Day 9: After our normal hearty breakfast, we cast a last look
at the glorious mountains where we have walked and lived for the last eight
days, and say good-bye to our new friends as we begin our return journey back
to the hustle and bustle of our normal lives.
Please keep in mind that this itinerary may be altered for any reason, such
as weather, trails closed for repair, or the safety of the group.
Photo: Otto Spielbichler
Many airlines fly to Zurich International Airport. The trip actually begins
in Interlaken and ends in Mürren, both easily accessible by train at the
lower level in the airport terminal. The leader will send detailed instructions
to trip participants.
Accommodations and Food
From our welcome dinner in Interlaken west to our final breakfast in Mürren,
all breakfasts, one lunch and all dinners are included -- breakfast and dinners
are at our hotels. One group lunch will be provided at a restaurant on the trip.
On other days, you may purchase lunch materials for picnic lunches at local
grocery stores. Excluded are alcoholic beverages, extra snacks, and any meals
not taken with the group.
We will be staying at simple but very comfortable Swiss lodges and hotels every
night. We will sleep in two-person rooms with hot showers, warm duvets on the
beds, and friendly Swiss service. Participants travelling alone will be assigned
a same-sex roommate. Both breakfast and dinner are included at each hotel. Since
we will be walking in the mountains every day, you can purchase: bread, cheese,
fruit, Swiss chocolate, etc. from local grocery stores for a picnic lunch. It
is advisable to bring one or two good water bottles that can be filled up at
the hotels. The drinking water in Switzerland is excellent. If you request water
in a restaurant you will likely be served a bottle of seltzer water, not always
popular with Americans; many times, bottled water in restaurants is very expensive,
and those many plastic bottles are an environmental disaster. The Swiss, however,
do recycle everything.
All train, gondola, and cog railway travel that we take during the trip as
part of our itinerary are included in the trip cost. The Swiss train packages
that we use may also reduce the cost of your travel before and after the trip.
Every once in a while changes may occur in the schedule, either in advance or
during the trip. Please be aware that we will make every attempt to stay within
this schedule. However, if weather, equipment, or any other condition causes
a change in itinerary, please be flexible and respect the decision of the leaders.
The safety of the group is our number one concern.
Photo: Otto Spielbichler
This trip will include daily walks of varying lengths which will proceed at
a slow to moderate pace. Our walks will involve approximately 3-6 hours on the
trail and elevation gains and losses ranging from 500 to 2,500 feet. On some
days participants will have an option of hiking in a more leisurely or somewhat
faster hiking group. The trails are generally in good condition, but some will
have a few steep grades up or down, with mixtures of soil, rocks, and roots
making them uneven. The pace will generally be leisurely -- the purpose is to
enjoy the scenery. Anyone in good physical condition who enjoys walking in the
mountains can make the trip, but pre-conditioning on similar terrain can help
you determine if you are comfortable with the length and type of hiking. Alternatives
to some of the hiking are available since the Swiss have many gondolas and trains
in the area. These can sometimes be used to shorten walks, or to take alternate
Equipment and Clothing
Lightweight hiking boots with good ankle support are the preferred footwear,
since some trails are rocky, "rooty," and occasionally steep. Hiking
sticks may be very useful for the rougher patches. The weather may be variable,
from warm, short-sleeve temperatures (particularly in the valleys), to quite
chilly, fleece-and-jacket (mittens and bonnets) temperatures, such as on the
Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn. Layers of clothes are the best approach to this
uncertainty. Good quality rain gear can serve as an excellent outer layer when
it rains or is windy.
We will carry day packs with extra clothes, water, and lunch, along with cameras
and minor first aid. You should provide your own personal first-aid kit for
minor needs, which includes such items as bandages, moleskin, insect repellent,
sunscreen, etc. The leader will also carry a more complete first-aid kit for
The Internet has many great sites that describe these Swiss Alps, history,
and culture, including:
Many guides for exploring Switzerland can also provide useful information on
history, wildlife, geology, and the Swiss people:
- Lindenmayer, Clem. Lonely Planet Walking in Switzerland, 2001.
- Steinberg, Jonathan. Why Switzerland?, 1996.
- McPhee, John. La Place De La Concorde Suisse, 1994.
Some books on the Eiger include:
- Harrer, Heinrich, The White Spider. 1998. (The story of his participation
in the first successful accent of the North Face of the Eiger)
- Anker, Daniel, Eiger: The Vertical Arena. 2000. (Pricy, but beautiful
- Krakauer, Jon, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains.
- Trevanian, The Eiger Sanction: a Novel.
Photo: Dale and Joan Weston
Waterpower is the chief natural resource of Switzerland. The principal source
of water is runoff from the considerable annual precipitation that falls on
the Alps. An important complement is melt water from the country's hundreds
of glaciers. The Swiss have long harnessed the energy of falling water for productive
uses. Long ago, torrents turned waterwheels that powered pre-industrial mills
and machinery. Today, the flow is captured by hundreds of hydroelectric power
facilities, which provide about 60 percent of the country's domestic electricity.
This makes Switzerland, relatively, one of the largest producers of renewable
On the other side of the energy equation, nuclear power provides the remaining
40 percent of electrical requirements. A referendum which tried to phase out
or extend an existing moratorium on nuclear power recently failed to pass. Although
the reasons for the failure are complex, it is clear that one reason is that
the Swiss are afraid that climate change will decrease the amount of snow in
the Alps, and thus decrease the amount of energy they can get from hydropower.
The impact of climate change in Switzerland is already visible. The retreat
of the glaciers in the Alps is very clear to see. The Jungfrau's large glaciers
used to reach well into the high meadows. They now end high up on the sides
of the Jungfrau. One thing to admire about Switzerland is that fact that for
thousands of years the people have lived with their rugged environment without
destroying it! The construction of cable cars or gondolas instead of roads,
with switchbacks causing destruction of the environment and soil erosion, enhances
the environment and is one of the joys of traveling in the country. The Swiss
have also been known to construct tunnels instead of destroying their waterfalls
and streams. As we hike through these magnificent Alps, we will view Switzerland's
balancing act between "progress" and "conservation" at close
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Hurston Roberts loves the outdoors and gets great enjoyment out of sharing mountain splendor, the wilderness and outdoor experiences with the others. A Sierra Club trip leader for over 10 years, Hurston also leads Sierra Club international trips in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Vietnam and Nepal. He leads national trips in the Sierra and Hawaii. After living in Hawaii for 24 years and Northern Virginia for 7 years, Hurston recently relocated to Reno, Nevada to be closer to the Sierra.
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