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Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Grimsel pass to Grindelwald


Postby past my sell by date » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:13 pm

Date walked: 23/07/2006

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In early 2006 Klaus suffered from a serious lung infection in the Himalayas and was forced to take things "easy" in the Summer meaning that 4000m peaks were out. However in preparation for a trip up the Lauteraarhorn we decided to prospect the route to the Aar bivouac hut and continue over the Strahlegg pass to Grindelwald - a three day trip: Donna decided to come along too.
The route traverses West along the North side of the Grimselsee - an artificial reservoir - ascends the Unteraar and then the Finsteraar glaciers to the Aar Bivouac (day 1) continues over the 3300m Strahlegg pass to the Schreckhorn hut (day 2) and finally descends beside the Grindelwald glacier to Grindelwald itself.
When I did this route a second time (to climb the Lauteraarhorn( we split the 17km walk-in by spending a night at the Lauteraar hut and I have included that in this report.

We drove to the 2100m Grimsel pass, did some rock-climbing on roadside cliffs, stayed the night at the very comfortable Grimsel Pass Hospice and set out early next morning.
Day 1
A01.jpg
First days route
A02.jpg
Grimsel Pass Hospice
LA01.jpg
Evening view up the Grimselsee - Finsteraarhorn at the back
From the Hospice, you descend some steps, cross the dam, climb back up and go thru a tunnel to emerge on the path.
LA02.jpg
Starting on the path - Klaus is already telephoning someone
The undulating path meanders beside the lake and near the end passes below the enormous granite slabs of Eldorado - a 500m high climbers Mecca.
LA02A.jpg
Eldorado: It is impossible to get a meaningful photo from directly below: I'm not sure where this photo is taken from, but I suspect it underestimates the steepness - virtually none of the pitches are below HVS
LA03.jpg
Near the end of the lake looking up on to the rubble covered glacier
LA04.jpg
At the foot of the glacier - Tibetan prayer flags add a Himalayan touch :)
After a couple of km a narrow path climbs steeply up R between slabs to the Lauteraar hut. Originally called the Dollfus Pavilion there is no permanent guardian - the job being done in Summer by volunteers from the SAC. There are large numbers of semi-tame chamois nearby - no doubt they get fed on scraps :lol:
LA05.jpg
The Lauteraar hut
LA06.jpg

LA07.jpg

LA08.jpg

Chamois
Unless you return by the approach route the 200m descent to the glacier is by ladders - a cairn marks the start
LA09.jpg
Looking on up from the cairn: the LH branch is the Finsterraar glacier the RH the Lauteraar
Back down on the glacier, the surface is coverd with an amazing variety of different coloured rocks - and by following the lines up you can see where each originated. The Swiss army also use this area for target pactice in the "off season", so there's a lot of "ordnance" to be found :o though I'm told they do clear it up now and then :lol:
LA10.jpg

Looking up the rock strewn glacier
LA10A.jpg
You might think Swiss moles have very sharp teeth and warm coats :lol: - but these ubiquitous "molehills" are caused when a flat rock protects the ice beneath it from melting - but eventually falls off the heap and slides away
LA11.jpg
A bit further up
LA14.jpg
Approaching the point where we turn L onto the Finsteraar glacier: the Finsteraarhorn comes into view
LA14A.jpg
Looking up the Finsteraarhorn glacier
LA15.jpg
Eventually the stones give way to ice, but this is a very benign crevasse-free dry glacier
LA15A.jpg
Right up under the Finsteraarhorn - the gap on the R leading to the bivouac and to the Strahlegg pass is just becoming apparent beyond the reddish looking buttress: straight on up the icefall leads to the Finsteraarjoch
LA16.jpg
Looking back from the same point
LA16A.jpg
A 2001 photo looking down our route from the Finsteraarhorn summit: the turn off up the Strahlegg glacier is at the bottom L: the bivouac is just out of the picture
LA18.jpg
The Aar bivouac with the Lauteraarhorn behind. On the L the Strahlegg glacier leads up to the pass

Day 2

The Bivouac is a delightfully comfortable little place protected from falling debris under a cliff and with stunning views.
LA19.jpg
Sunrise on the Finsteraarhorn from the bivouac
LA19A.jpg
Second day's route
We descended to the Strahlegg glacier, put on crampons and walked up to the head of it.
LA20.jpg
Looking up the glacier towards the pass - further than it looks
LA21.jpg
Crampons on
LA21a.jpg
From the same spot looking back
In the "olden days" you just had to climb a moderately steep snow couloir to reach the pass, but by 2007 all the snow had gone and it had become an easy but incredibly loose rock-climb :( Fortunately a diagonal line of huge metal stanchions have been hammered or drilled into the slope and using a rope these can be used to secure the ascent.
Getting across the narrow bergschrund on to the rock in crampons was the hardest bit and we then had to find somewhere to sit down and take them off. There is probably more of a "track" now, but even without trying we did our bit to destroy the Alps - kicking down tons of rubble. It was however only about 200m, became easier as we ascended and we soon reached the pass.
LA22.jpg
The 3461m Strahlegghorn from the pass
LA22A.jpg
The Finsteraarjoch and the Finsteraarhorn
LA22b.jpg
Crampons on again - looking towards the Fiescherhorner
LA23.jpg
Furthe R - Mönch (white) and Eiger (dark)
LA25.jpg
Schreckhorn and Lauteraarhorn - the route to the Schreckhorn can be seen traversing the snow
The descent starts on snow but soon becomes a gravel slope with a zig-zag path. You have to get onto the glacier to reach the hut however and the last 12-15m of lateral moraine can be very steep :(
LA26.jpg
The Schreckhorn hut
Most Alpine huts are thoroughly friendly places, but there are exceptions (generally when the same elderly guardian has been in charge for far too long) and they are run more like POW camps :lol: The Shreckhorn hut at that time was such a place :(
A loud shout of " Don't bring your rucksack in here!" was the instant welcome that I received. :(
There's no point in complaining - you just accept the regime and remember not to return unless you have to.
In the evening a large herd of Ibex often appear outside :) as they do at a number of huts
LA26A.jpg
Ibex outside the Schreckhorn hut - photo taken in semi-darkness so a bit noisy :lol:

Day 3
LA28.jpg
Third day's route
The descent from the hut is by a steep and quite difficult path beside the Unterer Grindelwald glacier, but there are cables for aid at all the steepest places.
LA29.jpg
Final icefall of the glacier
The path eventually flattens out and you come to a small cafe at Bäregg.
Around this time, there was great excitement for several weeks in the newspapers about a minor news item that said: "The Eiger was falling down" :shock:
What was actually happening - a slight exageration - was that a small cliff in the gorge was crumbling away - :lol: :lol: :lol:
LA30.jpg
Eiger falling down - pictures taken from around the same spot in 2007 and 2009 - the thin stream on the R links the photos
Still hordes of people came to see it - much to the delight of the cafe owner :)
From here it was a straightforward walk along a good track to a lift that took us down to the village and such is the efficiency of Swiss bus services that even arriving around lunchtime we were able to get a bus past the famous Reichenbach falls to Meiringen where there is a mass of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and then another back to the Hospice - so that we were home in the Mattertal before dark.
LA31.jpg
Reichenbach falls
LA32.jpg
Sherlock Holmes museum at Meiringen

Conclusion
This is a fantastic walk though dramatic mountain scenery and I thoroughly recommend it :D The glacier is flat and very benign and you certainly don't need a guide - just crampons, a short bit of rope and the very minimum of mountaineering ability. In fact you could get to the bivouac hut with no equipment at all - though I wouldn't recommend it - it's 17km from anywhere.
Last edited by past my sell by date on Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby gaffr » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:23 am

Hello,
I would agree that the walk through from Grimsel to Grindelwald is a very fine trip through the mountains. Maybe now that the route up to the col has been fixed with stakes etc. that now the Guardian will be more cheerful.
There are so many areas in the alps where a 'bit of fixing' will allow more folks to enjoy the travelling...it was still possible to get to the col on snow when we passed this way. We observed a 'bit of fixing' going on to perhaps get folks through to the Finsteraarhorn hutte from the area of the Burghutte above Fischertal.
Grimsel has a huge variety for the mountain folks with classic climbs close to the Hospiz and a little below the building access to the very fine Bachlital refuge to get to the fine Grosser Diamantstock and of course the start of the G to G walk. We managed to top out on the Strahlegghorn for the fine view out to Finsteraarhorn prior to dropping down to the Schreckhorn hut. When we went through it was quiet and soon after leaving Grimsel the crowds were left behind.
1 The final section to the summit of Strahlegghorn (480x640).jpg
The final bit of the Strahlegghorn ridge with the fine view out to Finsteraarhorn from the summit.
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby past my sell by date » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:40 pm

Hi Gaffr
Nice picture of the Strahlegghorn :D Have to admit I've never visited the areas east of the Grimsel - though I'm sure like the rest of Switzerland they're very nice. Having a base in the Mattertal I tend to concentrate on the Valais and Western Oberland. In my photo of the Aar bivouac there is a bit of snow in the couloir - I must have taken it on my second visit almost exactly a year later - but when we went up it was loose shattered shale all the way :(
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby gaffr » Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:48 pm

I may have been clumsy with my reply regarding the position of the Bachlital refuge and the Grosser Diamantstock that overlooks the building. The access to these are from a pull-in place below the Hospiz and a path leads up from where motors are left. I haven't ventured into the area East of the road up to the top of the Grimsel.
Basically you travel West from Grimsel, but a bit lower down from the Hospiz, than it is for getting into the area of the fine Aar bivouac/refuge.
2 Finsteraarhorn from the summit of Strahlegghorn (640x474).jpg
Finsteraarhorn from the summit of Strahlegghorn....opposite side from where we ascended.
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Feb 15, 2017 12:28 am

gaffr wrote:I may have been clumsy with my reply regarding the position of the Bachlital refuge and the Grosser Diamantstock that overlooks the building. The access to these are from a pull-in place below the Hospiz and a path leads up from where motors are left. I haven't ventured into the area East of the road up to the top of the Grimsel.
Basically you travel West from Grimsel, but a bit lower down from the Hospiz, than it is for getting into the area of the fine Aar bivouac/refuge.
2 Finsteraarhorn from the summit of Strahlegghorn (640x474).jpg

Right - had a look at a map and got you now. I was thinking of the Dammastock which is N of the Furka pass.
I wanted at one time to go from Grimsel to the Oberaarjoch then through the Grunhornlucke to Koncordia (which I've never been to) and on from there through the Lotchenlucke to Fafleralp - but the weather wasn't good enough. Also the maps are so hopelessly out of date now - as regards what's ice and what's rubble, and the scalloping of the glacier surfaces cut your travel rate dramatically :(
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:22 am

Envy-invoking stuff, as usual! All those "Hoerner" pics certainly set the pulse racing. Finsteraarhorn in particular looks amazing, and the Aar bivouac equally.

However, I find the descriptions of all the loose and crumbling rock quite off-putting from the perspective of doing this myself. When I read stuff like this I'm always reminded of a colleague of mine telling me about climbing one of the big alpine faces when somewhere above and to one side of him, 1000s of tons of rock, complete with 2 climbers, parted from the mountain and plunged into the depths below....

On the positive side though, I was walking with a friend these past 2 days and he assured me that there are plenty of places in the Alps where the rock isn't crumbling! (I guess one such being Eldorado....?).
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby past my sell by date » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:02 pm

Alteknacker wrote:.

However, I find the descriptions of all the loose and crumbling rock quite off-putting from the perspective of doing this myself. When I read stuff like this I'm always reminded of a colleague of mine telling me about climbing one of the big alpine faces when somewhere above and to one side of him, 1000s of tons of rock, complete with 2 climbers, parted from the mountain and plunged into the depths below...).

Yes but you've got these massive stanchions every few m - it's much more like climbing a bing than anything else. A companion and a short bit of rope would be good - but you could get to the bivouacand back solo with no problem
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby ChrisW » Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:00 am

Fantastic as always PMSD, I think your idea of taking it easy is my idea of a long slog :lol: If I had a lung infection I'd be wandering around the house :lol:
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Re: Grimsel pass to Grindelwald

Postby past my sell by date » Tue Feb 21, 2017 10:46 am

ChrisW wrote:Fantastic as always PMSD, I think your idea of taking it easy is my idea of a long slog :lol: If I had a lung infection I'd be wandering around the house :lol:

Yes but if your'e a guide you have to earn your living :lol:
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