Last week an article came out at National Geographic, The World’s 20 Best Hikes, as chosen by some leading figures in the Outdoor Industry. With our photo as the lead, I checked in for a look. The trails, unlike so many “Best Of” lists, were a welcome mix of classics and lesser known, off the beaten path destinations.
A trail, or any trip, is as much what you make of it as it is anything else. The style in which you do something might make or break any experience in life. A “classic” tour can be a terrible experience if done in poor form, so too an unknown tour a masterpiece. Yesterday, we painted a masterpiece.
Rising directly above our home in Interlaken, Switzerland is a ridge that stretches for some 20 kilometers. From our office chairs, we see directly along its spine to the endpoint far in the distance. Even from 1500 meters below, there is little doubt that the ridge itself is a knife edge. If you are any kind of mountain runner or hiker, the ridge is one of the first features in the area that you look at and say, “I want to do that”. Turns out it is indeed a local classic, yet it has probably never made any “Best Of“ list. The Hardergrat is one of the finest days we have ever enjoyed in the mountains, it certainly makes our Best Of list.
In an incredibly rare occurrence, we had no pro DSLR along, only a small Sony RX100 point & shoot. This was no work trip, just purely personal. As a result, we could enjoy superlight packs with only water, rain jacket, and a little food.
At 3:50 a.m., Janine climbed onto the back of my town bike and together we rolled through silent, dark streets. We locked the bike where it starts, right in Interlaken, and started climbing. An hour later we arrived to a viewing platform, too early for sunrise, we could only look at the monster peaks of our area in the pre-dawn darkness. Our goal was to make tree line for sunrise so we only ate a snack and kept moving through the lower forested slopes, anxious for the sun’s first rays.
Half walking, half running, as we would do throughout the day – we reached wide open sky just as the first rays of sunlight hit the ridge, further defining its incredible length and sharp profile. We took a break on the first summit, the Augstmatthorn, a peak we look right up to from our house and which we commonly gaze at as we eat breakfast. Only today things were reversed, it was from the summit that we looked down on our village and tried to spot our house. As we sat marveling at where we came from, we looked to where we had yet to go – far, far, far in the distance, and with a ridge line pointing the way – we could see the Brienzer Rothorn, our end point.
For the next several hours we went only up or down, rarely flat, and at times we descended or climbed nearly vertical dirt – but always on a trail of sorts, and always, without departure, on the ridge line. Only as we neared the Brienzer Rothorn did the trail finally deviate into a steep couloir which exited at the final section of trail – right to the Brienzer Rothorn Bahn. There, a hundred plus year old steam train which would carry us 1600m meters down to the lake and home, but only after we’d had a well deserved ice cream.
If you found this article while searching for the Hardergrat Trail, or things to do around Interlaken, be warned that this trail requires extreme fitness and comfort in very steep, and exposed terrain. Do not do this trail if there is risk of thunderstorms or in wet conditions.
To see our GPS track, visit Hardergrat at Strava.
For more complete information, visit our ALPSinsight running and hiking the Hardergrat page.
A huge thanks to our friends at Osmo Nutrition for helping with hydration advice. The tour was entirely without water sources and we wanted to carry a maximum of 2 liters for the day to keep our packs light. The Osmo team taught us about their Preload product as a means to pre-hydrate with essential electrolytes and keep the water in the body to prevent cramping & dehydration. It worked.
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