Leaving the Lauterbrunnen Valley on Sunday morning, with the sun just starting to peek over the rocky cliffs that towered above our campsite, we were excited as today we would be completing our loop over the Bernese Alps. To mark the occasion we were keen to find one more good walk, this time from the west of the range and our first destination was Kandersteg. From here we would be hopping on a train to pass straight through the mountains to emerge in Goppelstein, right on the fringe of the Valais region where we had started our loop in Martigny some 2weeks earlier.
Rather than descend straight into the Valais and seek out a place to stay for the night we had decided to take a 'detour' and explore an area that had been recommended to us by Shirley and Robin in Grimentz way back inJune – the Lotschental Valley. The valley was almost entirely cut off until the first railway was built between 1907 and 1913 and tourism has been slow to arrive in the area, so we had been told that it remained almost unchanged compared to other parts of the Alps where an abundance of cable cars, restaurants and trains, which make much of the rest of the Swiss Alps so easily accessible, can also occasionally feel a little busy. So, turning left as we drove off the train we began the steady climb through a long tunnel to emerge into bright sunlight at the foot of the Lotschental. Driving up the valley in the warm sunshine we admired the mountain ridges that hemmed in the glacial bowl. Not quite as high as other parts of the Alps (there are no 4000m peaks visible on the drive), but made equally as spectacular since without such large permanent snowfields you can appreciate the severity of their summits which appear razor sharp from the valley floor. The drive was also quiet, with barely any cars on the road, creating a very peaceful atmosphere in such fine weather.
Our destination was a parking area at Fafleralp right at the head of the valley at 1763m, a 400m climb from the train which we reached shortly before 1pm. We found it remarkable to think that just that morning we had woken up just a few tens of miles to the north of here in a completely different valley separated by the mass of the Breithorn, apeak which we had approached from the north just 4 days earlier and now sat looking at it's southern flanks. Also, to the east of where we sat and just over the head of the Lotschental was the magnificent Konkordiaplatz, where 3 glaciers meet to form the gigantic Aletsch Glacier we had visited in July. The jigsaw of the Bernese Alps was starting to feel very familiar to us and it was satisfying to see how all the pieces fitted together.
After a spot of lunch we set off to hike a little further up the valley to reach the Anenhutte at 2358m, perched next to the tongue of the Langgletscher which sits at the head of Lotschental. It was the first hike in some time that we could set off in our summer gear and the warmth was a welcome change. Making our way slowly along the very gently sloping path, passing small tarns on the way, it took us around an hour to reach the foot of the real climb to the hut, rising around 400m over the next kilometre alongside the remnants of the glacial moraine. Having been able to see the hut and glacier as we had progressed up the valley, the climb immediately hid our 'prize' away from us as we sweated up the short, sharp ascent. However, this only made the arrival all the more rewarding as we were once again treated to the beautiful view of the glacier stretching right up to the valley head, but in even closer detail so we could now make out all of the crevasses and undulations which reveal how massive these ice sheets still are.
For some reason we were lucky enough to arrive to find a very handy bench with absolutely nobody else around. Having passed a fair few people on the trail we now seemed to be the only people up here and so were able to sit in the sunshine and enjoy the view just to ourselves for the next half an hour. It was a very special moment. For our descent we chose a slightly different route, choosing a path that stayed a little higher on the southern flank of the valley to give a different perspective along the entire valley, with the river glistening in the afternoon sunshine. Perhaps it was the fine weather, or the excitement of completing the loop of the Bernese Alps, but we both felt perfectly relaxed and deeply happy here. It really felt like an unspoilt wilderness and we felt lucky to be here.
Arriving back at the motorhome at around 5pm we made ready to move on in search of a base for the night somewhere in the Valais. Today's walk had been just right for out tired legs. Just long enough to challenge us, but not exhausting, beautiful along the length of the route and with a magnificent view at the end.