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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

First to Tierwang via Bachalp

The small ridge on the left of the photo above is called “Tierwang”. It’s often overlooked as a hiking destination, as it’s off the main track which leads from the First cable car station above Grindelwald. The main route is often packed with walkers, as it’s an easy 50 minute walk along a comparatively flat, well-made track, and is heavily promoted to the hordes of tourists travelling to the mountains here. From the lake at Bachalp, the path turns into much more of a challenge, as it’s a pretty steep walk up to the ultimate goal in the distance: the Faulhorn mountain hotel. (You can just about see the hotel on the upper peak in the right-middle of this photo.)

Bachalp, Grindelwald, Switzerland

We did the hike last weekend, when good weather and no other plans meant that we could hopefully get to the goal I’ve held for a long time. Having foregone what is reputed to be the best (and definitely the longest) sledge run in the Bernese Oberland because of the long and arduous walk to the starting point in winter, we’ve never been. But given the views across the region from the top – right down to Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, Grindelwald and encompassing a large range of dominating peaks – it has to be a worthwhile photographic destination. To say nothing of the beauty of the scenery and the hike itself.

As it turned out, a busy week at work meant oversleeping on Saturday, so we left home too late in the day to have enough time to walk to the Faulhorn itself. It’s around two and a half hours each way from First and the last cable car to get visitors down the mountain is at 5 p.m. in June. (Although walking down from First is a possibility, it’s a long and steep path and not one which you’d want to be faced with after a five hour hike at altitude.) So we decided to abandon our plan and make a circuitous diversion from the main path at Reetihitte to return to First via an alternative route.

Despite the warm temperatures, the slopes above the picturesque lake at Bachalp were covered in several places by snow fields, so it was a bit of a slog up the steeper inclines. Once branching off the main track, we made our way across to join the path to Tierwang and left the other walkers behind. We had the much less-used track to ourselves and enjoyed the profusion of alpine flowers responding to the sun, stopping for a picnic lunch at a photographically optimal spot before continuing on. Our first marmots of the season made an appearance: one running for cover a few hundred metres away and one bolting sharply into its hole as I rounded a large boulder.

Tierwang, Grindelwald, Switzerland

At Tierwang, there is a choice to bear north and head down and long route to Axalp, above Lake Brienz, or to return to the slopes above Bachalp and thence back to the main hiking trail. There was plenty of snow still remaining on the northern side of the cliffs and the Hagelseewli lake, below the cliffs, was still frozen. But time was ticking on and we needed to get back to First. I made a mental note to return to photograph the lake here, before we headed onward.

An unavoidable quick stop to take photos of the reflections in the small, unnamed lake at Sulzibiel and we were back to the main path. Joining other walkers half-hurrying to the last cable cars of the day, we made it back with ten minutes to spare and sat back to enjoy the views from the gondola as we descended to Grindelwald for dinner.

There’s a full set of my photos from the hike on my Flickr account.

Bachalp, Grindelwald, Switzerland