Switzerland Wildstrubel Traverse 2000.07.29 - 07.31

The Wildstrubel Traverse

The Wildstrubel Traverse is a 1.5 day hike over the Bernese Alps, the mountain chain that separates the Valais valley in southern Switzerland from the Bernese Oberland valley in central Switzerland. Although the single day altitude gain is large (1686 M / 5531 ft north to south or 1390 M / 4560 ft south to north), the total distance is short (24 km / 15 miles) requiring only moderate physical exertion. Certain sections of the trail on the northern and southern sides of the peak are cut into steep cliffs making the walk exhilarating or frightening depending on your comfort with heights.

We started the hike in the Valais from a winter ski resort called Montana. The first 2 hours were gentle through a forest and along scaffolds anchored into rock cliffs. The first of three steep ascents followed. As we climbed higher and higher, the surroundings changed from lush green valleys to slate to red rock to snow. By the time we reached the mountain hut at 2791 M / 9157 ft, we had been walking through the snow for over an hour.

The mountain hut named Wildstrubelhütte had bare minimum facilities, but fortunately, a resident cook prepared dinner and breakfast for hungry hikers. There was no running water and sleeping quarters were a row of mattresses lined against the wall, 2 people per single-sized mattress. Luckily, we were carrying sleeping bags borrowed from friends in Lucerne that we could spread over the bare mattress. One guy snored loudly all night and kept everyone else awake. By 05:00, we had enough of lying awake in the dark listening to snoring and decided to get up. Outside, the ground was crisp having completely frozen overnight. We watched the sun rise in the cloudless blue sky as it gently cast a growing orange glow on the snow covered surroundings.

By 07:00, we had finished breakfast and were walking down the trail towards the Bernese Oberland valley. A short 2 hours later we were at the bottom thinking about how wonderful a hot shower would be.

This hike is worthwhile. Wes would gladly hike it again. Masami, who's afraid of heights, would prefer to hike elsewhere.

The Wildstrubel trail crosses a series of steep cliffs, some solid rock and others loose gravel. The 2000 foot sheer drop is not for those fearful of heights. Masami walks cautiously along the loose sediment.

Wes crouches along scaffolding anchored into a rock face. Who maintains this treacherous trail?

Having risen 2000 feet from the scaffolds, the temperature drops and the trail turns to slate. Masami continues along with another 3 hours to go before reaching our overnight hut.

At the half way point of day 1, the view of the valley we hiked up spreads southward into the Valais.

The Wildstrubelhütte is the only refuge at the top of the Wildstrubel Traverse. It shields hikers from the adverse nighttime temperatures that fall below freezing in the middle of summer.

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