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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Birg to Mürren… with a detour

When travelling up into the high mountains from Mürren by cable car, an impressive, almost lunar landscape beckons the keen walker. Vertiginous, crumbly cliffs drop abruptly down to a long, curved path, which forms the foundation of a wide ski piste in winter and the beginning of a steep descent to the village of Mürren: the starting and finishing point for the day’s effort.

Leaving the cable car station at Birg, you’re immediately away from the tourist melée and into proper alpine territory. The crowds, making their way to the famous summit restaurant on the Schilthorn, watch you walk out into the landscape, before you drop behind a small ridge and abruptly find yourself alone. Blofeld’s peak looms ahead and after a short distance, you reach the point where the path splits: left and up to the Schilthorn, or right and down to Allmendhubel and Mürren.

The start of the path from Birg to the Schilthorn

I chose to make a try for the Schilthorn; an ascent over 3 kilometres, with the last third of the route up a steep, 1-in-3 gradient rocky path. Upon reaching the lower reaches of the final push to the summit, below Chlys Schilthoren, I realized that deep, slushy snow was blocking the path, which made the ascent too dangerous. So I took a quick break, then revised my plan and returned towards Birg; stopping off to exchange notes with a small group of hikers who’d made their way up from Schiltalp. The ascent to the Schilthorn will have wait until later in the summer, when the remnants of last winter have well and truly cleared.

Snow blocking the path

My amended route retraced my steps towards Birg, before branching off towards the Schilthornhütte mountain restaurant and passing along a wide, easy path along Engital. After a lunch break on the mountainside, I took on the most strenuous part of the walk: around the Muttlerenhoren and down the very steep path to Allmendhubel. I’d known in advance that this path would be a muscle-strainer, so I took my time: pausing frequently to rest and to enjoy the view, whilst more ambitious walkers huffed and puffed their way up from the valley below.

Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau from Muttlerenhoren

Once around the Muttlerenhoren peak, the view opened up and I had the huge vista I’d long planned to photograph in front of me, taking in the Eiger-Mönch-Jungfrau massiv, the Allmendhubel restaurant, and a spider’s web of walking paths networking across the green mountainside. From the ridge at Allmendhubel, a gentle path leads back to the cable car station in Mürren by way of Bluemental (flower valley), an ice-cream at the Sonnenberg restaurant, and the tranquil forest path beside the Mürrenbach stream.

A total overall route of about 12 kilometres, with 150 metres of ascent and about 1,200 metres of descent, which was hard work but very rewarding.

Birg station with the Eiger beyond

Allmendhubel and Jungfrau: heading back into greener territory

Bluemental: “flower valley”