Destination: Lake Bachalpsee, Grindelwald, Switzerland
This year I decided to spend my one family-free weekend (generously granted by my dear husband) in the mountains. I was lucky enough to get to use a cabin in Grindelwald, which is one of the well-known winter sports resorts in Switzerland. Naturally this time of year there’s not much winter sports available, but the mountains are there. And the hiking trails. So it was a perfect match for me since I am weird that way. I always loved to go out to the wilderness. Oh, and did you know that The Lord of the Rings was inspired by the mountain valleys of Grindelwald?
Friday after lunch I kissed my family goodbye and shoveled myself out of the door with my packs, heading the car towards Grindelwald. Driving there was easy, just a hundred plus something kilometers on the freeway and some narrow little roads at the other end. And as always, entering the mountain valley left me speechless… The atmosphere and the beauty of these valleys and surrounding mountains are very hard if not impossible to describe, so better you go check it out yourself.
Finding the right cabin was easy enough, again thanks to my very dear husband who used all his skills beforehand and looked it up with google street view plus some other technical gear I don’t even know how to use. A geocacher as a husband is quite useful sometimes, that is when he’s not lost into some bush getting pissed of not finding a cache… There were no geocaches in this cabin (yet!) but finding the keys proved to be a bit tricky. I can’t give you the exact details of my key hunt, but let’s just say after some sweaty moments I found them!
Entering the cabin was almost like traveling in time. It was one very old cabin, and it had been kept the way that honored its origins. There was no central heating, but instead, there was a fireplace. There was no toilet, just a small outhouse, and there was no running water. Or there was, in a fountain outside of the cabin. And naturally, the water in the fountain was cold. Luckily enough, there were also some modern times attachments available, like the electricity provided with a solar panel and a gas cooker in the kitchen. All of this suited me rather well for my weekend hiding place. The only thing I was missing was a Sauna. My very Finnish mind always combines a cabin with a sauna that cannot be helped. But of course, there wasn’t any since this was a Swiss cabin…
The first evening at Grindelwald was rather busy. The weather was a bit cold and rainy, so I had some heating to do. Figuring out where to find what and so on naturally took some time. But once I was done with all the necessary duties, I decided to go for a walk. I hiked up to the closest cable car station, Bort. Enjoying the view very much I would have liked to go further, but since it was already getting late, I decided to head back to the cabin instead. The weather was clearing up and I watched the last rays of the sun as I walked back to the cabin. I marveled at the glacier edge on the opposite mountain. It seemed to be defying gravity. I was sure the whole thing would just slide down the hill as soon as I just turned around. But the glacier stayed on its place and it was bedtime for me. I slept like a marmot in my little old cabin.
Saturday morning I was up almost before sunrise and ready to go. My goal was to hike to Lake Bachalpsee, which is located in 2100 meters, and maybe further. I figured making it there and back from the cabin by foot might have been just a bit too much for one day, so I jumped into my car and drove down to the village to catch a cable car. It was day one after the lockdown for cable cars, and I met a very happy face on a ticket counter. The woman behind the face was having some trouble selling me the ticket because the computers and payment terminals didn’t want to work, but she didn’t care. She was all smiles and sunshine since it was her first day back at work after a long time. I got my ticket and headed to the cable cars, and up I went. Only then it occurred to me that I could have maybe hiked upwards to Bort like the evening before, and take the cable car from there, instead of driving my car down the hill and starting from the very bottom. What an idiot! I shook my head to myself while passing Bort station in my cable car.
There was one more station after Bort to pass before I made it to the last one on top. This station was called First. From there I searched the trail that would lead me to Bachalpsee. It was a relatively easy hike, only about three kilometers in the altitude of approximately 2100 meters. I enjoyed the walk and was blown away from all the beauty around me. At one point, there was an Alp Style Road Block on the way, which meant that I had to climb over a big snowbank. The mountains were still holding on to last grips of the winter season. I spent half an hour observing a marmot lady, all busy with building a nest. The marmot disappeared and I continued my walk to Lake Bachalpsee, which was amazingly beautiful. But also amazingly crowded. That much for going to the wilderness alone, I thought. Should have known this… In my seek of peace, nature offers at its best, I started to get annoyed. The last drop on the ocean was a herd of teenagers, who were playing some rather loud music from a boom box they’d brought along.
When walking to Lake Bachalpsee, I had seen a glimpse of a waterfall somewhere farther away and annoyed by the lack of peace and privacy, I decided to go searching for it. Behind the lake, I found a trail that seemed to be heading in the right direction. I had to cross some more snowbanks, and even though I wasn’t quite sure if it was safe, I went forward anyway. After following the trail for a while, I could see the waterfall. The only problem was that it was underneath me, and the path I was following was not going down. I could see another trail further downhill. Some short moments of hesitation and I decided to just go down the edge of the mountain from tussock to tussock, knowing very well that it could be dangerous. But I was determined to get to the waterfall and did not want to go back to the boom box to pick another trail. So down I went. And made it without breaking any limbs! Finally, there I was, sitting on a tussock right next to the waterfall, enjoying the sounds of nature and feeling like a real champion! What a treat!
Too soon it was time to head back. I didn’t try to climb back up but went downhill instead until I could land my feet on the trail I’ve seen from above. Following this trail took me back to Bachalpsee and later back to the First cable car station. My sports tracker told me that I had walked more than 10 kilometers instead of the planned 6, but there was still one more thing left to do before rewarding myself with a cafe latte in the restaurant: Tissot Cliff Walk. Believe it or not, but I don’t feel very comfortable landing my feet on something that is hanging in thin air, especially if you can see through it. But already feeling like a winner after my little waterfall adventure, I went for it and walked the 15 minutes’ walk around the mountain wall. I was overwhelmed with all the mountainous beauty around me, and after enjoying my cafe latte on the terrace of the First restaurant, I headed back to the cable car and towards my little cabin.
The mountain air had done its job and I felt really tired once entering my cabin. But there was no time for rest – I still had all the little tasks to do around my whereabouts. I needed to go get some more wood for the fireplace and therefore I headed out of the cabin. I walked around the corner, lost in my thoughts… and stopped like I was hit by a flash of lightning! There it was, the most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen right in front of me! I completely forgot what I was supposed to be doing, and just sat there, staring at this beauty for another half an hour. I could see it’s both ends and every color very clearly. Once again I couldn’t do but marvel God’s creation and thank Him for painting this beautiful rainbow just for me, or so it seemed. Maybe there was another tired traveler somewhere nearby staring at the rainbow and thinking similar thoughts. Nevertheless, it was beautiful.
On Sunday morning I woke up in the sound of heavy rain hitting the roof of my little hiding place. Feeling yesterday’s hike in my nonexistent muscles I did not feel like getting up, but since there was no room service available, I didn’t have much choice. Just when I was crawling out under the blankets, my phone started beeping. I got a message from my dear husband telling me that he had had a horror night – one of the kids had gotten sick and he naturally ended up cleaning and doing laundry all night long. Oh great, I sighed and thought I’d better get packed up and head home. Somehow I had just lost my appetite, so I boiled some coffee water and started cleaning up so that the little cottage would be ready for the next guest to arrive. In no time I was ready to go and headed my car down the hill in the rain. I was on my way back to reality.
Hiker’s Information for planning a visit to Lake Bachalpsee:
Location: Grindelwald, Berner Oberland
With a car: Grindelwald First gondola
Dorfstrasse 187, 3818 Grindelwald
Public Transportation: check out the timetables from sbb.ch
Length: 6 km (from First to Bachalpsee and back to First). There are other longer trails available, chekc them out from Grindelwald’s website
Duration: 3 H (2 hours for walking back and for, plus the time spent on the lake)
Technical / Fitness Level: moderately difficult. Possible to do with all-terrain baby strollers.
Cost: cable car fees (64 CHF round trip, per adult). Check the prices from Grindelwald’s website
Open: Early May to late October. Accessibility due to weather conditions