Stechelberg to the Schmadri Hut - 2268m - In the Shadow of the Jungfrau – The Lauterbrunnen Valley

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Thursday 11 September 2014

Stechelberg to the Schmadri Hut - 2268m - In the Shadow of the Jungfrau – The Lauterbrunnen Valley

After leaving the Grimselpass on Wednesday morning we had made our way down the long and winding descent, heading north and the west to reach Interlaken and replenish our food supplies. Driving into a city after 3 days of near complete isolation was a bit of a step change and we were somewhat relieved to be driving out of town again later that afternoon, leaving the hustle and bustle behind once more and heading towards the tiny town of Stechelberg, right at the end of the road along the Lauterbrunnen valley.

Positioned right below the famous trio of the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monach, the roadhead of the Lauterbrunnen valley is very narrow, just over a kilometre across at this point and hemmed in by near vertical rock faces that rise up more than 1000m in places and covered in massive waterfalls. It is a remarkable place.

Rising a little later than usual the following day after revelling in the luxuries of a campsite, hot showers and mains electricity, we chose a hike from our '100 Hut Walks in the Alps' guide. Our plan was to head up from Stechelberg at 910m to reach the Schmadri Hut at 2263m via a circuit route that promised to take in some 'fabulous landscapes', including thundering waterfalls and a mountain tarn. Heading upvalley shortly after 10am, the high, steep walls of the valley were still blocking out the morning sun and so we had to wait a while longer to escape the chill of the night time. On the plus side, as the path soon changed from a gentle track following the river to a steep and relentless climb up the towards Gasthaus Tschingelhorn at 1700m, the chill also kept us cool for a while longer.

The views were magnificent from the outset, passing through pine forest, along the loud and ferocious river with frequent waterfalls, looking up at the summit's of the 4000m Breithorn and Grosshorn ahead each with tumbling glacial flows on their cliffs and the just visible tongue of the Rottal Glacier away to our left – it was a spectacular place. The only downside was the gathering clouds threatening to steal the view away from us as we climbed ever higher. In fact, shortly after reaching the Gasthaus we looked behind to discover the valley floor we had left was shrouded in a thick mist and was completely invisible to us.

From the Gasthaus we began a traverse along the valley, still gently climbing on grassy paths with the impressive panorama of the 4000m peaks always ahead of us, hidden every now and then by the passing clouds. The gentle slopes couldn't last all day and the stiffer climbing soon began again as we made our way up gravelly slopes towards the Oberhornsee, a tiny mountain tarn that normally reflects the view of the Breithorn – at least it would have done if the clouds hadn't gotten so thick by this point that we had lost nearly all of the view.

Continuing on the path undulated for a while until it reached the bottom of the moraine that would ascend the final 150m to the Schmadri Hut, however, it was at this point we heard the ominous rumble of distant thunder, which, with the ever thickening cloud we took as a sign it was time to head back down. After 4 hours of hiking and a 2 ½ hour descent ahead of us we didn't want to get stuck in a downpour.

Winding down the opposite side of the valley, looking across at the paths we had ascended earlier that day, we crossed waterfalls and a tiny farm until we rejoined the path that led us back to Stechelberg after almost 7 hours on the trail. Although it was shame the passing clouds had stopped us getting a really good view of the head of the Lauterbrunnen valley, we still felt lucky with the weather which had stayed warm for most of the day and as we enjoyed our hot showers and mains electricity (Heating!) we reflected that it had been a very pleasant and challenging hike.

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