Explore the Jungfrau Region with a Cicerone guidebook
Tour of the Jungfrau Region
A two-week trek in the Bernese Oberland by Kev Reynolds
This handy guidebook contains route descriptions for the Tour of the Jungfrau Region. This popular trek covers 111km from Schynige Platte to Wilderswil in 9-12 days and crosses a multitude of terrain from pastures to glaciers and lakes to ridges. No technical skills are required for the Tour and there are plenty of bad-weather alternatives included More...
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Schynige Platte to First
Start altitude: 1967m
High point: Faulhorn 2681m
Low point: First 2167m
Height gain: 714m
Height loss: 514m
Accommodation: Schynige Platte – hotel beds
Männdlenen/Weber Hut (2hrs 35mins) – dorms
Faulhorn (3hrs 55mins) – hotel beds & dorms
First (5½–6hrs) – dorms
Throughout this first stage the trek follows the route of the justifiably popular Faulhornweg, one of the finest day walks in all the Alps. It’s a visually stimulating route, with breathtaking panoramic views that frequently expand and contract as you weave your way along the trail. There’s an exciting ridge walk with a bird's-eye view onto the Brienzersee; there are rough boulder tips, patches of limestone pavement, and high pastures to wander through. There’s some curious twisted rock strata; an immensely rich alpine flora, a tiny mountain hut and Switzerland’s oldest mountain hotel perched just below the summit of the Faulhorn. And on the descent to First, a mountain lake to mirror the pencil-sharp peaks of Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn in its glassy waters.
As mentioned in the Introduction, Schynige Platte is reached by an historic narrow-gauge cog railway from Wilderswil that makes the 1403m climb in about 50mins. Above the station you’ll find the Alpengarten (open mid-June to mid-Sept), but for overnight accommodation walk back along the station platform to a narrow service road/track which curves uphill and leads directly to the Berghotel Schynige Platte.
Berghotel Schynige Platte (1980m) 36 beds, spectacular views, and open from May to Oct (Tel 033 828 73 73)
BERGHOTEL SCHYNIGE PLATTE
A year after the Schynige Platte railway opened for business in June 1893, the hotel was built to exploit the magnificent views. Sadly, it only lasted four years before being destroyed by fire in July 1898, but was rebuilt the following year. Although the restaurant at the Berghotel is light and spacious, the bedrooms retain a distinctly Victorian air, but the opportunity to enjoy the splendours of sunset and sunrise (not to mention moonlight) casting their glow on the Oberland mountains is hard to resist. It makes an unforgettable start to the TJR.
Start of trek from Berghotel Schynige Platte
Immediately behind the hotel an obvious path twists uphill to a junction, where the left branch is signed to Oberberghorn via the Panoramaweg. Contouring among pines with views of the Thunersee below, and west into the Saxettal, the trail passes below a prominent limestone turret, then zigzags up to the Daube viewpoint at 2076m. From here you look directly down onto Interlaken and the lakes of Thun and Brienz, before taking the continuing path northeast along a ridge crest towards the craggy Oberberghorn. About 35–40mins from the hotel reach another path junction (Grat, 1978m) at the foot of the Oberberghorn, and veering to the right, join the direct path from Schynige Platte station.
Note: a 15min signed diversion to the summit vantage point of the 2069m Oberberghorn is worth considering, although the day’s route is not short of outstanding views.
The standard walk begins below the station platform where a sign indicates the path to the Faulhorn heading northeast. When this forks shortly after, the left branch connects with the recommended Panoramaweg (see below), while the direct option goes ahead through pastures, passes the alp hut of Oberberg and, rising gently, joins the Panoramaweg trail below the Laucherhorn.
The preferred Panoramaweg option (which forks left just beyond Schynige Platte station) goes uphill alongside the Alpengarten boundary fence and works its way towards the Oberberghorn, cuts across its south flank and comes onto a ridge overlooking the Brienzersee. There follows a safe but dramatic ridge walk that ends by descending a metal ladder to a junction with the Oberberg path.
The way now goes ahead up the slope towards the base of the Laucherhorn, angles right to cross a ridge spur with more breathtaking views, descends a little, then passes through a gap to enter a hidden region of rocks, limestone ribs and cliffs. At the end of this the path twists up into the shallow trough of the Sägistal, with sloping limestone slabs to the left and grey crags walling the valley on the right. As you wander along the right flank of this valley, you will pass a small timber-built shelter that could be useful in bad weather.
After rising up steps near the head of the valley, the path curves right into a region of limestone pavement and, rising still, brings you to a saddle with a path junction and the privately-owned Weber Hut.
2hrs 35mins: Berghütte Männdlenen (Weber Hut) (2344m) 30 dormitory places, refreshments and full meals service; open end June to mid-Oct (Tel 033 853 44 64). At the nearby path junction one option descends to Burglauenen below Grindelwald in 2hrs 40mins.
From the saddle the continuing path climbs a series of steps with fixed chains (mostly of use in descent in wet or icy conditions). Above this you turn a corner to rise across slanting shelves of bare rock that lead to the open Winteregg ridge with its stunning view dominated by the Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn and the big wall of the Fiescherwand above unseen Grindelwald.
Coming to another junction ignore the left branch (which leads to Iseltwald on the edge of the Brienzersee), and keep ahead towards the Faulhorn for a further 15mins where the path divides once more. Unless your plan is to visit the Faulhorn summit and hotel, the more direct route takes the right branch cutting across the south flank of the mountain to join the main Faulhorn–First path, where it then turns right. But if conditions are good, it would be a shame to miss the summit panorama here, so the preferred option is to zigzag up the ridge for another 15mins to gain the Faulhorn hotel.
1hr 20mins: Berghotel Faulhorn (2681m) 16 beds and 80 dormitory places; refreshments and full meals service; open from end June to mid-Oct (Tel 033 853 27 13). The hotel stands just a few paces below the actual summit.
Built in 1830 Berghotel Faulhorn is the oldest mountain hotel in Switzerland, among whose earliest visitors were the composer Mendelssohn and poet Matthew Arnold. Given settled conditions it provides an unmissable opportunity to capture sunset and sunrise from the summit, whose view was deemed worthy of a pull-out panorama in the early Baedeker guides. Including all the mountains seen from Schynige Platte, the focus here is more to those peaks lying east of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The north side of the mountain falls away steeply to the Brienzersee, and to the north-east a section of the Lake of Lucerne can be seen along with those symbolic mountains of Central Switzerland, Pilatus and Rigi.
From the hotel descend a broad path to the Gassenboden saddle (2553m) and, ignoring the right-hand path to Bussalp, continue down the eastern slope, passing several little emergency shelters, to reach the Bachsee (also known as the Bachalpsee) at 2665m. This is one of the most idyllic lakes in all the Alps, with glassy reflections of Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn viewed from the northern end. Not surprisingly the shoreline path is invariably crowded on fine summer days.
The path edges the northeast shore, rises past a second, lower lake, then winds round and through rolling pastures on the way down to the upper gondola station of First. Immediately behind it you will find a restaurant which has overnight accommodation.
1hr 45mins: Berghaus First (2167m) 87 dormitory places, refreshments and full meals service; excellent facilities, open mid-May to end of October – advisable to telephone before 4pm to book accommodation (( 033 853 12 84). Although very busy by day, after the final gondola lift has descended to Grindelwald the restaurant and its surroundings take on a tranquil atmosphere, with only the distant clattering of cowbells from the Bachläger alp to disturb the peace. Having a direct view across the valley to Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Eiger and so on, the play of evening light – and at dawn – can be truly magical.
Bad Weather Alternative
Should the forecast be dire, or conditions deem the route from Schynige Platte to First to be dangerous, there is no really viable walking alternative, apart from a valley route from Wilderswil. One option then is to descend by the cog railway from Schynige Platte to Wilderswil and walk south to Gsteigwiler to join a route along the east side of the valley. This forks near Zweilütschinen. Take the left branch to curve into the Lütschental, cross the railway, road and river at Burglauenen and continue on the south side of the river as far as Grund railway station, directly below Grindelwald. Walk up the steep slope to the heart of Grindelwald, and ride the gondola lift to First. A second option is to take the train from Wilderswil to Grindelwald, where you can then join the trek at First by way of the gondola lift.