Hiking the Alps: To the Top of Schilthorn

Sep 11, 2014    /    get off the beaten track, most popular posts, wild adventures

This year, a friend of mine and I decided we wanted to summit our region’s three major peaks: Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger.

Unfortunately, some unexpected financial barriers (to the tune of thousands of dollars) kept us from doing so. And so I adjusted my expectations, promised myself I’d tackle those peaks someday in the future, and set my sights a little lower for this year, deciding to tackle a mountain peak that wouldn’t require mountain guides or specialized gear, but would take me above the tree-line and give me a 360 degree view of the high Alpine scenery.

What is this magical, not-overly-high-but-still-challenging hike?

Schilthorn—a peak so lovely that the 1969 James Bond film chose it as a filming location.

The hike itself is about five hours long, mostly steep, and incredibly beautiful, winding through woods and grassy ridges, over rock falls and past green-blue Alpine lakes with thin layers of silt that burst into clouds in the water as you wade in, and, of course, a rocky, above-the-treeline portion with views of the highest peaks for miles around.

Ironically, my failure to meet my original goal is exactly what introduced me to what is now my absolute favorite Bernese Oberland hike.

But enough talk. Here are some photos (scroll down for directions to duplicate the hike yourself).

flowers

Sheep moon

Path

Looking up

Looking down

Hiking path

Ridge

Schilthorn

Peaks

Want to hike Schilthorn? If you’re starting from Murren, ignore the Schilthorn hiking signs (they’ll take you up, but the route they follow is far less beautiful than this lesser-known one) and, instead, walk to the cable car station (not the train station) and follow signs for the rotstockhutte. Partway to the hutte (hut), you’ll see signs for Bryndli: start following those. Then, as soon as you see signs for Schiltalp, follow those. Finally, you’ll come to a point where the Schiltalp sign points one way and a sign for Birg points another; follow the signs for Birg and keep beside the fence when the path splits. Keep following to Birg and then follow signs for Schilthorn.

Keep in mind that this hike is advanced, steep, and not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced (you’ll be crossing some ridges with dizzying drop-offs, a number of loose rock falls, and one extremely steep hillside where a wrong step could mean a long fall).

Hiking time is around five hours (longer if you mosey and take lots of photos). Elevation gain is 1,320 meters.

For you pros out there, if you want to make the hike even tougher, you can start from Lauterbrunnen and hike to Murren before starting the route described above. That steep, mostly forested hike adds about two hours and will take you over waterfalls, through thick, green woodlands, and past one of the region’s best panoramas.


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All photos taken with my lovely little Lumix.

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8 Comments
  • Rob
    September 11, 2014

    Lovely. 5 hours round trip or 5 hours one-way?

    • gigigriffis
      September 11, 2014

      One way. And you can either hike back down or cable car it.

  • Laura
    September 12, 2014

    Beautiful photos – this has been on my list since 1981 – time to do it!!

    • gigigriffis
      September 12, 2014

      Thanks!

  • Leah
    May 9, 2016

    Just bought and read your Switzerland book. Love it, and learned some things, and added to my itinerary (will be there in July). Quick question, what does “gruessech” translate to? hello? good day? Several people in the book suggested that as a greeting.
    Also, if you had the choice of the via feratta in Murren or paragliding, which would you consider a must do?

    • gigigriffis
      May 9, 2016

      So glad you liked it! I haven’t done the via feratta myself, but I loved paragliding over the valley. I’m sure either one will be spectacular, though.

      Grussech is essentially the Swiss German hello in the Bernese Oberland (in Zurich, it’s gruezi, and you might come across other variations elsewhere).

  • Joe
    August 7, 2017

    Hi!

    I think I am going to do this hike this coming Sunday. Can I ask: how do I get from the Murren train station to the cable car station? Is it easy to find?

    Thank you!

    • gigigriffis
      August 7, 2017

      It’s super easy. Just follow the main road along the cliffs (out the train station to the left and keep left along that road) and you’ll eventually come to it. If you feel nervous, just ask a local. :)

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