Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Jo and I have been to Oeschinensee several times, both in the winter and in the summer. The lake is a draw for many tourists, as the path from the cable car station above Kandersteg is pretty easy and the monumental Blüemlisalp cliffs are a pretty incredible sight throughout the walk.

We walked past the lake and up to the small mountain cafe at Unterbärgli in 2010 with friends, and the view back to the lake was marvellous. Seeing the lake from a new angle, having made the effort to walk some steeper paths, made me want to visit the higher reaches of the surrounding valleys one day. Last weekend, six years later, I finally got around to it.

Oeschinensee, Kandersteg
Oeschinensee from Unterbärgli

There are two main paths from the cable car station – the comparatively flat one along which families stroll to the lakeside, and a second path which leads to the Restaurant zur Sennhütte with its elevated view of the lake. Branching off northward from this second path is a hikers’ route, which takes you quickly up and away from the families towards the panoramic path across Heuberg.

Once up a relatively steep section, the route levels out and you’re free to enjoy the vertiginous views from a succession of elevated viewpoints. The first proper view of the lake comes as a surprise, and as I sat for a short break in the sun, almost every other hiker who reached the point after me exclaimed as they saw it after rounding a corner.

Oeschinensee, Switzerland

The true scale of the view in front of you is brought home by the tiny dots of rowing boats far below, and you realise that much of the ascent to Oberbärgli is already behind you. The panorama path offers a couple of places to stop and picnic, and the tourist office advice for regular visitors is to turn at Oberbärgli and head back down past the lake, making a circular walk of around three hours.

Oberberg, Switzerland
The huts at Oberbärgli, above Oeschinensee

As I approached Oberbärgli, I was feeling fit and I wanted to stretch my legs a little further than the others who were walking along this popular route. I’ve looked at the map of the area quite a few times and so I knew that the path continues onwards and upwards to a glacial lake below the Blüemlisalp glacier, before reaching the Blüemlisalp “hut” at Hohtürli. So off I set. The going felt different as soon as I left the tourist walkers behind, although I was by no means alone on the path: probably a dozen walkers stretched out behind and in front of me over the next mile or so.

The path leads to Hohtürli – a mountain pass on a ridge between Oeschinenalp and Griesalp – and the hiking signs showed that the steep and rocky path to the top would take at least another couple of hours. But the Blümlisalp hut – a climbers’ hostel run by the Swiss Alpine Club – is prominently placed, so the thought of making it there drove me on.

Blüemlisalphütte SAC, Switzerland
The Blüemlisalphütte, on the ridge ahead, was out of reach for this day’s hike.

After around an hour, though, I realised that it was out of reach: the hiking guides all say that the route from Oeschinensee to Griesalp is a two-day hike, so it would be foolish to force myself on and then be too exhausted to make the long hike back. Once on the ridge in the photo above – very obviously the top of a lateral moraine formed by the nearby glacier when it was more sizeable – I called it a day and had a long break, enjoying the views of the surrounding mountains and massive glacier beneath the summit of the Blümlisalphorn.

The return hike was a sod. Back the way I’d come, knee trouble slowed me down, especially on the steep scree section between the top of my walk and what remains of the glacial Rossbodesee lake. After a welcome break and some refreshment at Unterbärgli, below a muscle-taxing downhill zig-zag making its way down some precipitous cliffs, I achingly made my way back along the lower path to the lake, then back through the forest to the cable car station.

A selection of photos from the hike is now online in this collection.

Oeschinenalp, Switzerland
Looking back to the glacier to which I’d walked, in the distance at the end of my hike.

3 responses to “Oeschinenalp to Blüemlisalp glacier via Heuberg and Oberbärgli”

  1. Habi avatar

    Wonderful pictures!
    Some of the very first photos I’ve uploaded to flickr were from a hike over the Hohtürli, from the Griesalp to the Öeschinensee (
    It *can* be done in one day, but it’s a super-long day.
    And it’s anyways better to stay in the Blüemlisalp-Hütte; it’s where Polo Hofer lost his heart:

  2. Habi avatar

    BTW: Nina would like to mention that she’s done the hike in one day when she was six years old :)

    1. Mark Howells-Mead avatar
      Mark Howells-Mead

      I’ll make it one day :)

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