Walking in the Alps – A Quick Guide to the Schilthorn


The Jungfrau Region of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland provides some wonderful walking country in stunning scenery but the high peaks of the region offer few easy ways to their snowy summits. The walker wishing to scale the high peaks here has less choice than at say Zermatt or Saas Fee, for even with a guide he or she is faced with technical climbing to reach all but a couple of the big mountains. For the walker who doesn’t want the expense of guiding fees the Schilthorn offers an exciting walking route to a high mountain peak with the option of a cable car ride down.

Rising to the West of Murren above the Lauterbrunnen Valley the Schilthorn at 2970m or 9744 feet is the highest mountain in the Jungfrau Region with a marked path to its summit – topping the Schwarzhorn by 32 metres – and the route is both varied and interesting as it ascends from the forested slopes above Murren to the often snow covered summit.

Our route then begins at Murren which is traffic free and accessible by cable car and train from Lauterbrunnen which is itself on the main rail network and the road from Interlaken. We start by taking a short funicular ride – the one visible behind the village – from Murren up to Allmendhubel at 1907m. Alternatively walk up the forest trails to Allmendhubel but it’s a long way up to the Schilthorn from Murren.

From Allmendhubel, a trail leads through the forest heading slightly downhill at first before making a steep ascent of the slopes ahead with the signs indicating Schilthornhutte and the Schilthorn itself. The ski fencing seen here shows the route of the Inferno Ski Race which is a tough descent from the mountain’s summit down to Murren. Just before the gradient eases you pass through an interesting rocky gorge like feature known as the Kanonenrohr or cannon barrel before crossing wide alpine meadows then climbing up to the Schilthorn Hut which is just off the main path to the left at a height of 2432m.

The route now journeys up the wide desolate valley of the Engetal – often snow covered in early summer – before branching off from the main track which carries on to the midway cablecar station of Birg. Heading on up to a saddle ahead gives views down to the Grauseeli Tarn in a stony cirque in the mountainside below. The final section of the route now climbs the bare slopes ahead and veers to the left passing under the cables and steepening again up a ridge which becomes narrower as it reaches a rocky subsidiary summit. On this section you may encounter snow at any time of year.The path next crosses a narrow rocky arete but it is not too difficult and has a rope handrail for protection. Ahead can be seen the Piz Gloria revolving restauraunt on the summit of the Schilthorn and the way to it now climbs a staircase hewn from the rock to ascend the last few metres.

The Piz Gloria Restaurant was used in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and they even have a cinema here but it is for the views that people flock here – almost all by the cable car which provides an easy way down if required. The Schilthorn may not rival the higher Oberland summits but it is the highest point in the small group to the north of the Sefeinenfurka Pass and on a clear day these views extend from the Black Forest in Germany to the Mont Blanc Range. The Eiger is seen in profile across the valley along with the Jungfrau and the cluster of snow peaks heading the Lauterbrunnen Valley.There is another – rather longer – hiking route to the Schilthorn from Murren via Schiltalp and the Grauseeli tarn finishing the same way as this one and a more difficult and much longer route from the Rotstockhutte via the Rote Hard Col. The route described is the easiest.

When I did this ascent in early July I actually encountered few other people on the way up to the summit though conditions were such that snow covered the area above the Schilthorn Hut. The snow in actual fact did not make the route difficult or necessitate the use of ice axe or crampons and much of the way had a feeling of wild remoteness that was welcome and unexpected for a mountain with a cable car to its summit.

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