Lauterbraunnen Valley

 
Switzerland is filled with wonderful, amazing, unique diverse places.   The Lauterbraunnen Valley in the Bernese Alps is one of these places.  It is one of the deepest trough valleys in the alps.  The mountains, with their visible limestone, rise directly up on either side of the valley.  They are perpendicular to the valley floor.  Since the valley is only about a kilometer wide, the dramatic cliffs are everywhere you look.
Snowmelt + cliffs = waterfalls.  The Lauterbrunnen Valley is filled with them; there are 72.  The largest and most well known is Staubach Falls.  Others include: Trümmelbach and Schmadrifällen. We drove into the valley at night and could hear the falls.  The next morning we woke up to this view!
The cliffs on either side make it a paradise for base jumpers (just take a look at the second photo to see where the spot where they jump).  While the vertical valley walls may be great for base jumpers, you can imagine what happens when it snows.  Avalanches are a huge danger.  This is Switzerland, they’re prepared.  Avalanche shelters dot the valley floor.
They also attack the problem from up above.  These snow fences were at high altitudes to protect towns.  This one is protecting Wengen (a town just above the valley).
We aren’t the only ones who like this area.  In 1911, J. R. R. Tolkien hiked from nearby Interlaken to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.  The valley’s landscape made a powerful impression and was a model for his sketches and watercolours of the fictitious valley of  Middle-earth‘s Rivendell valley, in his The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. It was a setting for the car chase in the 1969 James Bond (George Lazenby) film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  It’s the one where Bond escapes from Schilthorn by skiing down the mountain to reach the nearby village of Mürren at its base.
 
 

 

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A Glorious Hike In The Shadow Of The Eiger

One of our favorite parts of Switzerland is the outdoors and the superb hiking.  When we hiked at the Matterhorn, I was stunned by its beauty.  In the Bernese Alps it was déjà vu all over again with sunny skies and gorgeous mountain views.
In warmer months, we fill our water bottles using these log fountains.

There were a couple of places where the trail was a bit slick (which is understandable when you see the above photo).  I only fell once.  Luckily, I have a bit of padding back there.  It softened the blow when I went crashing down.  I was a bit worried about falling and tumbling down the side of a mountain.  The Swiss like to use those hiking poles when they hike (or even walk on a flat trail by the lake in Geneva).  I might have to get a pair.    I don’t think they’d protect me from the falling rocks though.

I’ve loved cairns ever since we saw tons of them hiking Ben Nevis, but hadn’t seen such a pretty art installation.  Right on.

This is the iconic North Face of the Eiger with the town of Grindelwald below.  For a cool YouTube Movie of someone (not that guy below) climbing its North Face in record time, click here.  It’s Ueli Steck‘s Triple Speed Climbing Record.  He bested his own speed record for scaling the Eiger’s north face via the classic Heckmair Route.  This improvement is likely because he did not belay, instead he relied on a loop of rope that allowed him “to hook on occasionally,” and reduced the weight of his gear.   This isn’t his only big climb or big mountain; he’s kind of a maestro.   He also did speed ascents of the two other great north faces in the Alps, the Grandes Jorasses and the Matterhorn (completing the Grand Jorasses in 2 hours 21 minutes, and the Matterhorn in 1 hour 56) in record time.