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Berner Oberland Switzerland - Lenk and Kandersteg, August 2017

The Alps in Switzerland in the Bern Canton.


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On Friday we have an early flight to Geneva where we pickup a rental car and drive 2.5 hours to Lenk, a small town in the Simmenthal Valley near Gstaad/Saanen. We are there for two weeks. This is the fourth year in a row for visiting Lenk! @artnbarb are joining us for part of the time (a Swiss GTG).

After Lenk, we spend a week in Kandersteg. We have been there twice before, but the last visit was 10 years ago (if I remember right).

The weather forcast is for cooler temps than usual - mid 60s instead of mid 70s - and some rain. I packed our rain jackets and waterproof trousers. We've had wet weather in England for the past month.

I tried to get all our stuff into two 25 inch suitcases but failed and we are bringing an extra small case. We are using miles and flying BA in business, so are allowed two suitcases each, but I was hoping to travel lighter. It is all the hiking gear - 2 pairs of hiking shoes, hiking poles, knapsacks, hats, water bottles, hiking clothes, fleeces, rain jackets, rain trousers.

We drive to Heathrow and spend the night at the Sofitel, then fly Friday morning. In Lenk we are staying in town in the same apartment as last summer.

On previous trips to Kandersteg we stayed in the same apartment complex in the center of town, but this time I wanted something different and I found an apartment in a chalet on AirBnb (but booked it on Booking.com). It looks like it is close to the train tracks, but the owner assures me that you don't hear the trains (we'll see).

I have Day Trip notes for both Lenk and Kandersteg. The Day Trips system says these towns are 11 miles apart. That must be as the crow flies because driving it is 45 miles (1hr 15min driving time) - on winding mountain roads.

I am having a bit of pain in my foot but in Switzerland we usually do easy hiking and use gondolas and buses to take us up and down the mountains, so I think it will be fine.

Next post on Friday - from Lenk! The forecast for Friday is 55F and cloud! It warms up after that.
Saturday August 12. Sunny and warm.

We are in Lenk! We arrived yesterday afternoon after an easy morning flight from Heathrow. Yesterday and the day before were cold and wet here, but today it was sunny and beautiful. The trails were a bit muddy after all that rain.

It is nice being in the same apartment as last year. Everything is familiar.

Today we took the Metsch gondola for the first time. Every time we were here it was not running. This year it stops tomorrow and I booked this vacation specifically to have two days using it. It runs in July, and the first week of August, then in mid September for school holidays.

We parked at the gondola station and road it to the middle station. Tomorrow we will ride it again to the top station. Today we did a 3 hour walk from the middle station, across the mountains, down into a gorge and back up again to Nessli (a hamlet of summer farms), then down 600 meters to Simmenfalle. We had our lunch on the way and stopped in Simmenfalle for coffee and kuchen. From there it was an easy 30 min walk back to the car.

Hike: Metsch (1470m) - Nesslie (1645m) - Simmenfalle (1102m). The signs said 2hr 15min, 7km, but it took us nearly 3 hours. Then 30 mins to walk back to the car.

The weather was perfect. A bit cool, bright blue skies, sunny. There were a lot of people out on the trails, but it never gets crowded here.

We got groceries yesterday but I wanted to pick up a few more thing. Everything closes at 4 or 5 on Saturday, and is closed Sunday. We did find one shop open (we needed bread and a few more vegetables).

We are both really happy to be here!


On the Metsch gondola.


Starting our hike.


You see these odd stiles here - like a turnstile.


Near Nessli. Another turnstile.


Someone is prepared for winter!


Our lunch view.


Coffee and kuchen. Coffee is 4CHF (3.52 Euro)!
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We aren't far from Murren, just a few valleys west. Not many wildflowers left. July is best for them. We were here in July 2 years ago and the wildflowers were beautiful.
Sunday August 13. Sunny and warmer today, with some cloud.

We took the Metsch gondola to the top and did a short circular walk up there (1.5 hrs) with a stop for lunch at Hanenmoospass where we had been a couple of years ago. This is the pass that separates the Lenk and Adelboden valleys. You can drive here from the Adelboden side. From the Lenk side you can drive or bus to Buhlberg, then walk for an hour. Or walk from the top of the Metsch gondola like we did.

The views of the mountaintops were outstanding. Lots of people walking up here.

We rode back down then did a walk around Lenk. The town stretches out along the main valley and there are many small roads you can walk. There are beautiful old houses in with the new chalets.


Walking from the top of the Metsch gondola.


There are many long hikes from here.


Man-made lake with the hotel/restaurant at Hahnenmoospass.


Walking under the gondolas.


From Lenk looking at the mountains.


Looking towards the center of Lenk. We are in one of those chalets on the right.


A cute garden house.
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Monday August 14. Sunny and hot today (25C - 77F).

We took the 11:00 bus to Laubbargli. The mountian buses are free in Lenk now, if you are staying here (you pay a tourist tax and get a Guest Card). This is the first year with free buses. But the Laubbargli bus is not free. We paid 12CHF each for one way. Well worth it when you see the mountain road it goes up. The bus takes you from Lenk at 1068m to Laubbargli at 1848m. At the end of the bus route is a small restaurant.

Hike: Laubbargli (1848m) - Seewle (2079m) - Buhlberg (1664m). The sign says 2hr20min, but it took us 3hrs.

We walked up through woods. We saw those red spotted mushrooms that we saw last year. This is our second time doing this hike. Then we climbed up open fields with big views to the mountains and down the valley. The climb was 200m and took about 45min - we were going slow. There were a few other hikers out. One young couple left us in their dust!

The trail goes along the ridge between the Lenk and Adelboden, then goes back down to continue along the middle of the mountain. Beautiful views, a winding trail through fields and woods.

After about 2 hours walking we stopped at a cabin for lunch (where we stopped last year). It looks like a private cabin but no one is there. There are a few benches and a water trough with fresh running water. Another couple arrived from the other direction at the same time. We had our lunch (peanut butter sandwiches), they had a snack, then they headed off. I took the opportunity of having the place to ourselves to put my sore foot in the water trough. Cold! It was like icing my foot and helped. I also take my boots off during our lunch break, and walk barefooted on the grass if I can. TMI, I know. My foot starts to hurt after 2 hours walking, but if I rest I am good for another hour or two. I had the same problem in Switzerland last year and I blamed my boots. Now I am rethinking that (but too late, because I gave away those boots). We also filled our water bottles from the water spout - cold mountain water.

We could see the bus at Buhlberg from where we had lunch. We left when it left, giving us an hour to get there for the next bus. We made the 3pm bus with 15 minutes to spare. The last part is all downhill.

We were back in town by 3:30. We stopped at the cheese shop and got some aged Lenk alp cheese and some Gruyere. Normally we don't eat cheese (or milk) but we are trying some of the aged cheeses in small amounts. They are rich!

We were exhausted after this hike and slept for an hour back at the apartment! I think it is the altitude and the strong sun. The walk was only 5 miles (which is a typical hike for us), but it took us 3 hours with 1152ft ascent and 1769ft descent (more climbing that usual).

Tomorrow Barb and Art arrive. It is forecast to be as hot as today. All week looks good except for Friday when heavy rain is forecast.


The restaurant at Laubbargli. What a view!


Walking up through the woods.


Looking down to Lenk.


The high point of the trail at 2100m.


Alpine farm. This farm had an outhouse for walkers to use! Nice of the farmer to do this.


Our lunch stop.


Steve at the cabin where we stopped for lunch.


Along the trail.
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Tuesday August 15. Another hot and sunny day (77F). It clouded over in the afternoon, drizzeled for a few minutes and then was sunny.

Art and Barb arrived today ( @artnbarb )! They are staying in hotel run by the woman who also runs the agency we rent from (Ferien Lenk), a couple of blocks from our apartment.

We took the Betelberg gondola to the top, hoping it would be cooler, but it wasn't. We walked out, enjoying the views, then had our lunch sitting on a bench with a big view. We walked more, but turned around as the trail got rougher and steeper and I was really feeling the heat. As we were in the gondola going back to town it clouded over and got cooler.

Fun snacks and chatting in our apartment. They went back to the hotel, we went for a walk along the river (by now it was cooler and sunny and beautiful), then we all had dinner at the apartment.

It is great having Art and Barb here and we have fun activities planned for the next few days!!


Walking from Leiterli, the top of the gondola.


Our lunch view.


Walking along the river in Lenk.


Bread and gipfel. Very good bread here.
Wednesday August 16. Sunny and 75F. Clouded over in the afternoon.

When we arrived on Friday, our apartment was surrounded by beautiful fields of knee-high clover. Lovely, I thought. On Monday they cut it all down and we were overwhelmed by the grass smell. Steve's allergies kicked up a bit. The next day they raked it and took it away and now everything is neat and tidy. Not as nice as the clover, but at least the grass smell is gone. Today the farmer decided to muck the field. Muck means to spread liquid cow shit on the field. The smell has permeated the apartment! It is a bit better now and hopefully will clear up soon. Heavy rain is forecast for Friday night, so that will do it. Ah, living in the country!

Today we hiked at Iffigenalp and Simmenfalle. Both are valleys south of Lenk. The road ends and each of these valleys.

The mountain road to Iffigenalp is timed. You can start the drive up from 30 minutes past the hour to 45 minutes past. You can start the drive back from the hour to 15 minutes past. The road is steep and narrow, so this makes it always one way traffic. It takes about 15 minutes to drive up.

We drove up at 11:30. There was plenty of parking available in the lots. People come up here to do short hikes, longer hikes or serious climbs up the rock mountains. There is also a restaurant. We did an easy walk out the valley until the part where the trail starts to climb. We did the climb to Iffigensee a few years ago and it is rocky and steep. We never did it again.

We had sandwiches sitting on rocks at the top of the valley. The views are beautiful. Then we walked back and drove back to town in the 2pm time slot.

Since it was early and the walk was only 2.5 miles, we wanted to do another hike. We dropped Art and Barb at Simmenfalle. They walked up to the falls, had apple strudel at the restaurant, then walked along the river back to town. We power walked uphill for an hour to Siebenbrunnen - another water fall. We've done this walk many times. 40 minutes of steep walking on a good trail (1300 feet ascent - 400 meters), then mostly flat to the falls.

At the top is a wide valley surrounded by high mountains. You can climb up the mountains (too hard for us) or continue another hour walking into the valley. We did not need more walking so we turned around. But first we stopped at the self service alp cheese place beside the farm and the farm restaurant. A small fridge in a cute wooden box with a jar for coins and a slot to put bills in. Several things to buy - alp cheese fresh or aged (they post the year it was made), yogurt, salami. We bought 2017 and 2016 alp cheese and had them with dinner - very good.

We walked back down and met Art and Barb half way on their walk back to Lenk. We were able to keep in touch by text so we could coordinate.

We had dinner at our apartment and I served cheese toasties with the alp cheese for a starter. :)

Another lovely day in Switzerland, but I am pretty horrified by the events going on in the US right now. More hiking to take my mind off it!


Art and Barb hiking at Iffigenalp.


Steve meets a cow.


The trail at Iffigenalp.


Siebenbrunnen falls above Simmenfalle.


Self serve alpine cheese.


Filling our water bottle.
That self service cheese hut is pretty cool! Love seeing all of your photos! Hi to Art & Barb!

I too am horrified! I went on my own little hike up on our mountain to try to take my mind off everything. Worked for a few minutes!
Thursday August 17. Sunny with some cloud, 75F.

Today Art and Barb went off to Gstaad and we did a long hike. We took the gondola up to Leiterli and did the long walk back to Lenk. The descent is 1000 meters, but it is done over 5 hours so is not too hard on the knees. It starts with a climb, then across a narrow trail with steep dropoffs on either side (photo below) and then a long gentle walk through fields. About 1 1/2 hours from the end you go into a gorge and walk beside a lovely river. This comes out by the Wallegg restaurant where we had iced tea/coffee and kuchen. Then a final 45 minute walk down to Lenk. Wonderful! Really wonderful - I love this hike.

Hike: Leiterli (1943m) - Trutlisbergpass (2038m) - Obere Lochberg (1913m) - Wallegg (1320m) to Lenk (1068m), 5 hours.

My foot is still hurting so we took three good breaks along the way and we were not walking too fast. The path is rough in many places, but well signed - you don't need a map.

In August 1988 we visited Lenk for the first time and did this same hike. I have the photos that I took then and today we re-created each photo. I will do a post showing the 1988 ones but for now here are the ones from today.

We met up with Art and Barb after the hike and all went out to dinner in town. The dinner was a bit rich for us, except Steve who wisely ordered a simple fish and vegetable dish. Barb and I had rosti with cheese. Art had fondue. We walked along the river after dinner.


Walking on the narrow and rocky part of the trail with steep dropoffs on either side.

These photos are 2017 versions of photos I took on our first trip to Lenk in 1988 - 29 years ago!


Starting out the hike.


Steve at the turnstile.


Steve on the tricky part of the trail.


Pauline on the trail.


Pauline reading the map.


Steve filling his water bottle.
Friday August 18, 84F and sunny. A hot day. Tomorrow is forecast to be 64F. Heavy rain already this evening and more expected. Sun returns on Sunday and temperatures going up. Mountain weather!
Love your TRs as usual, Pictures are gorgeous. I never thought I'd want to go to Switzerland but now....Aside from how expensive everything is am dying to go on a hike or 2. Great that Art and Barb have joined you. Always fun to have fellow travellers. Who knows? Maybe next year it will be Lisa and Ron:)
Too bad about the foot, but great that you can keep going. Perhaps a hiking break when Switzerland is over. But wait! Don't you have Cornwall with Kathy and Charlie and then we're out in October. Mmmm
Friday August 18. Hot! Sunny with some cloud, 84F.

Hike: Leiterli (1943m) - trail to Stubleni, then down to Stoss (1634m). 1.5 hrs

This was our last day with Art and Barb - they drive back to Italy on Saturday. We took the gondola up to the top again. This time we walked back towards the mountains then took a path that goes back towards the top station and then down to the middle station. The path is wide and easy walking. You are walking down from 1943m to 1634, a 300m descent, but the road does long switchbacks so it is never steep. Steve and I have not walked this trail before and I really liked it. It is not long - about an hour and a half - but we took twice that amount of time at least dawdling along the way, taking photos, identifying what we were looking at (I love doing this - look, we were in that valley yesterday and that one the day before!). The views from this trail are exceptional. We were looking towards the end of the Lenk valley, to Iffigenfalle (Falls) and Simmenfalle (Falls).

It was hot and got hotter as we walked. We went into the restaurant at the middle station and spent 5 minutes figuring out which table on the terrace had enough shade from the umbrellas before deciding to go inside. The restaurant was disappointing (mediocre pastries), but that bottle of cold water was very good.

Gondola back to town and then Barb and I hit the shops!! There are only a few shops in Lenk. We went to the kitchen shop and I got some nice Swiss made things - corn cob holders, a small strainer, wire baskets to scoop vegetables out of water, etc. I'll take a photo. Next stop was the small grocery where Barb passed on her extensive chocolate knowledge. I got a dark chocolate Toblerone (didn't know they had those) and a really good bar with nuts and berries. Barb got some things but I was only paying attention to my haul.

Dinner at the apartment. A simple dinner of pasta with store-bought tomato sauce and sauteed zuchini. But dessert was the excellent Movenpick ice cream and some of the chocolate. Then we spent some time on google maps figuring out a good way for Art and Barb to get to Lake Como and avoid the Gottard tunnel.


Pauline and Steve.


Art and Barb.


Cow and gondolas.


View from trail from top of gondola to middle station, looking towards Simmenfalle valley. See that green saddle on the right of the photo, behind that small treed hill? We are going to walk over that in the next few days. Bus to Iffigenalp, walk up to that saddle, then down to Siebenbrunnen Falls, then down to Simmenfalle and bus back to town. A couple of years ago we walked up to the saddle from Simmenfalle (long climb).


Barb and Art on the trail.


On the trail.
I'd want to go to Switzerland but now....Aside from how expensive everything is am dying to go on a hike or 2. Great that Art and Barb have joined you. Always fun to have fellow travellers. Who knows? Maybe next year it will be Lisa and Ron:)
Too bad about the foot, but great that you can keep going. Perhaps a hiking break when Switzerland is over.

We can talk about Switzerland when you are in Dorset in October! I will bring some hiking info for you.

I am reading a good book about plantar fasciitis by a Canadian doctor - The Plantar Fasciitis Plan: Free Your Feet from Morning Pain by Colin Dombroski. He recommends that you keep walking but do more stretches, especially in the morning before you get out of bed. Others mentioned this in my thread about feet and I see now why it is important. He says your fascia heals over night but tears again if you get out of bed and walk immediately (that is when it really hurts). So that is what I am doing. I think it will heal with time. It isn't getting worse and if I rest every two hours, walking doesn't hurt it. Good thing because we have to make our 1000 miles for the year, we are spending a week hiking with Kathy and Charley and we are going to the Amalfi Coast in early November to hike (if we get good weather). :)

Friday night a big storm came in around 6pm. It poured rain. Saturday was much cooler but sunny.


There is a lovely walk from the town center along the river. You can walk all the way to Simmenfalle (1 hour) or head the other way and walk to Zweisimmen and beyond. I like to do part of this river walk in the evening. If the weather is not good, this is a good walking option.


Kuchen and homemade ice tea and coffee at Restaurant Wallegg after a long hike. Cost - 21.30CHF (18.77 Euro). Yes, Switzerland is expensive, but businesses are family run, people earn good wages, there is a good social safety net.


The fun kitchen things I bought. Those local made pickles are fabulous!


Fancy a nice apartment in Lenk? 538,000CHF (474,000 Euro). But it comes with a bomb shelter!

All apartments/houses in Switzerland either have a bomb shelter in the basement or have space in a local shelter. These have been the building rules for ages. We talked to a local guy and he said there is a huge bomb shelter in Lenk under one of the hotels. He knows our building and one of those doors in the basement is for a shelter (others are for laundry room, ski storage, garbage - the usual).

The young man that we met (an American expat) also told us that as you come out of the Gottard Tunnel, south side I think, you see doors into a hillside. This leads to a huge underground area where they have airplanes. In case of emergency, they will come out and use the highway as a takeoff/landing strip.

Swiss Info - Bunkers for all: Switzerland is unique in having enough nuclear fallout shelters to accommodate its entire population, should they ever be needed.

From Wikipedia: Switzerland has mandatory military service (German: Militärdienst; French: service militaire; Italian: servizio militare) in the Swiss Army for all able-bodied male citizens, who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority, though women may volunteer for any position.
I love those little strainer spoons! We'll wave to you as we drive through Switzerland on Tuesday: no time to stop, I'm afraid, in a slightly curtailed Ostuni road trip. We leave tomorrow, and have our usual first night in Baden Baden, and then will be heading down through Switzerland and, if the weather is decent, also doing something like Barb & Art, avoiding the Gottard tunnel, and overnighting in Cernobbio, on Como. On to Ascoli P, and then Ostuni for a week.
Saturday August 19. Sun and cloud, cooler (low 60sF).

There was a big storm last night with a lot of rain. Art and Barb left this morning, driving to Lake Como, then back to Umbria. We had an easy day, doing laundry, getting groceries, napping. In the late afternoon we did an easy 3 mile walk around town and along the river.


House and church.


Looking down the valley to the mountains.


Looking towards the center of Lenk.


There are still many old farmhouses in the town.


Another old barn.


I like this path by the river. It starts in the center of town and you can walk for two hours to the end of the valley at Simmenfalle.


Looking to the center of Lenk.


Fussganger zone - pedestrian zone.
Sunday August 20. Cooler (61F) with cloud and sun.

Hike: Leiterli (1943m) - Stubleni (2190m) - Tungelpass (2084m) - down the Summerwald valley to Poschenried (1210m) where you take the bus back to Lenk. 4 - 5 hours.

We've done this hike once before, a couple of years ago. We took the gondola up, then walked out at the high level towards the mountains for two hours. It was much cooler today and the sun was frequently behind clouds. Tungelpass, the point where you start to descend, is really beautiful. It is a saddle with a slope down to Launensee (near Gstaad) on one side and a valley to Lenk on the other. Straight ahead is a huge wall of rock. There is a trail up this rock to Iffigensee. I had thought we might take it, but standing and looking at it I realized there is no way we could do the climb. Instead we did as planned and walked down the Summerwald valley to Poschenried, on the Iffigenalp road just outside of Lenk.

The trail from Stubleni was a bit muddy and we came across groups of cows several times. We saw three people doing the trail on mountain bikes and others walking. The last couple of years we have done this trail as an out and back, instead of doing the descent and maybe that is the best way to do it. The descent is steep. Over the two hours descending the first part is very steep, then you have a nice easy descent for about 45 minutes, with the last hour being very steep through woods down to the road.

For the last 45 minutes I was just maintaining and feeling like it was never going to end. But the views were beautiful and so were the woods and fields we were walking through.

The bus from Poschenried runs once an hour, a nice added pressure - will we make the 4:12pm bus? We did with 15 minutes to spare. Not enough time for coffee and cake at the restaurant. The bus came, there were 8 of us waiting for us (the others all came from the restaurant), and the bus was full. The driver gave us the universal signal for "another bus is coming" but it took 15 minutes to show up. At one point we thought we would either have to wait until 5:12pm or walk the hour and 10 mins back to town. I was happy to see that bus.

Back in town it was sunnier and warmer than it had been all day. It wasn't that cold on the hike - I was wearing a short sleeved hiking shirt and put a long sleeved one on at some point.

It is nearly 9pm now and I have recovered - but I was tired! Big hike!


Cows along the trail. Very calm, they did not get up.


Coming up to Tungelpass.


Looking down Summerwald valley from Tungelpass, where we will be walking.


Farmhouse. House above, cows below and in back.


Restaurant and bus stop at the bottom.

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