Hiking my Hood is a series of posts that
brag talk about how I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery and endless possibilities for exhausting hikes. “My hood” is loosely defined as Switzerland.
I like challenges, and the first couple days of the new year always lend themselves exceptionally well to that (as optimism and zest for action are still on an unparalleled high). That’s why I somehow talked four friends into walking from Oberwald up to the Grimselpass – a pretty taxing winter hike (NZZ called it one of the “longest and most exhausting winter hikes in Switzerland”, Tagesanzeiger seemed quite defeated by it, too). The end game of this hike is a 14 kilometer sled ride all the way back down – and the best thing about it is that you don’t have to schlep your sled up, you can rent it at the Hotel Grimselblick. If you were to embark on a similar mission, here are some words, photos and directions that might prepare your for it…
We started our hike just before 10am in Oberwald. From the train station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the hike’s starting point in town, their small church. From there, we followed the road that leads cars up to the Grimselpass in summer. In winter, it’s blocked for cars and easily walkable. The first bit of the way is a pleasant surprise – the path goes up ever so slightly, just enough to get you a bit out of breath, but easy enough to just enjoy it. After the first hour, we got to the Hotel Rhonenquelle – a charming little guest house and restaurant in the middle of the forest, ideal for a quick coffee break (and, in our case, complimentary Panettone). This is where I recommend you pull together all your motivation and energy, as things are only gonna get more exhausting from now on.
After the quick coffee break, we continued our way up through the woods – the path was now a bit more steep, and made its way upwards in endless zig zags. The view was beautiful, though – the higher up you get, the more can you enjoy the panoramic view, a vast vista over the Goms valley. After another one and a half hours, we left the forest, which is when things started to get challenging. Because it had so far been quite a sunny day, the ground softened up, making it incrementally harder to walk. To make things worse, the weather started getting bad (something we knew and expected, but it still impacted
our my morale). Fog rolled in, clouds started covering the sun, and we still had at least another 90 minutes to go. After finally reaching what was probably the highest point, altitude-wise, the last 45 minutes were a frustrating set of ascents and descents (at which point I seriously started to question my choices in 2015). I don’t have any pictures of this challenging part, since the arctic snowstorm we found ourselves in wasn’t ideal for photos, so here’s some more of the fair weather ones…
Like all things though, this, too, came to and end, and we finally reached the Hotel Grimselblick just after 2 pm, completely exhausted. The top must have a beautiful view in summer – this day, we were greeted with two shut down hotels and brutal snow and wind (two phone photos is all I managed).
Älplermagrone and a hot beverage got us right back on track, because this day was not finished – after all, we had walked all the way up to sled all the way down! The very nice staff of the Hotel has this great service where they put your sled and yourself into a kind of monster truck snow groomer, and transport you to the start of the sledding course. I hugely appreciated this, since the bit of the path that they cover for you was the final 45-minute up and down that made the hike so challenging – to walk all of this back would have sucked all energy out of me. Side note: they also offer to transport you all the way up from Oberwald to Grimselpass in the same vehicle, if you can’t be bothered to walk. In any case, after this monster truck ride, we sled down the 14 kilometers back to Oberwald – if you ride very conservatively, like me, it’ll take about an hour – and it’s a ton of fun. A perfect Swiss day trip that is equal parts challenging and fun.
Starting point of hike: Oberwald, train station
End point: Grimselpass, Hotel Grimselblick
Fitbit Flights of stairs: 297 (argh, why didn’t I run up and down the stairs back in our mountain cabin to get to 300?!)
Fitbit Steps: 31’500