Via Alpina 4: Engstlenalp and Meiringen

In Part 1 of this account, we outlined the project and covered our first two days, hiking from Mels to Elm (and taking transport to Braunwald). Part 2 took us on to Klausenpass and to Altdorf, home of William Tell. Part 3 climbed over the Surenenpass and enjoyed rest days in Engleberg.

VA Day 6: Jochpass to Engstlenalp
(I'm continuing my day count of only the days when we made forward motion, so this skips the two "zero days" in Engleberg.)

The uninspiring weather from the day before continued through the night, and we woke to fog--but no rain, so it was an improvement. We had talked of doing the Titlis lift (see last week's post) on this very short hiking day, and were glad we hadn't waited! Visibility all morning was, to put it mildly, limited.

View up along the Jochpass lift. Those funny chairless lifts are for mountain bikes.

It was only a little more than a 3 mile walk from the top of the pass down to our hotel. We took our time, enjoying the mystic look of the lake in the fog.

Even so, we were there before lunchtime, and thus well before check-in time. We used part of the time to check out the end of the cheese-making demo.

Hand-crafting the local Engstlenap cheese.

When the pot is that big, there's only one way to clean it.

The hotel

After the demo, we went back to the lake for lunch and further explorations, as the fog began to lift at last. I wandered another mile or two up the hill, then along the far side of the lake until I ran out of trail.

Nice view from lunch.

There was a cluster of cabins on top of a little hill behind the lake.

They grow really large cows up there (I still haven't figured out the perspective that makes the cow so big. Or maybe the building was really that small?)

A rare sight in Switzerland--a really large, old tree.

I quit rambling when I came to a stream I wasn't sure I could cross without wet feet.

Looking back down the lake toward the hotel end; the hotel is not within sight of the lake.

By this time we were able to get into our rooms, and eventually our bags arrived (they had to go a much longer way around to get there). It's not a fancy hotel, and there are no en suite bathrooms.

Traditional "sleigh" bed. Note the pitcher and ewer that provide some compensation for not having a bathroom.

Dinner was very good, though service was slow
(the hotel restaurant was the only option for meals, as there is no town at Engstlenalp--neither restaurants nor grocery stores). Our waiter turned out to be on his very first day; he was from Belgium, I think, and spoke almost no German. It must have made for some extra challenges, but his English was good enough.

They served a fantastic blueberry mousse for dessert. I had found blubes on my hike, and spent some time stuffing my face.

I made one last trip back up to the lake for the sunset, which didn't provide much color but did offer some nice reflections.


Day 6 stats: just under 7 miles, by the time all my wandering around the lake added up. Only 650' of climbing, but about 1800' descending.

 Day 7: Engstlenalp to Meiringen

Morning brought a little more color to the mountains, though the clouds were (happily) gone. We had perfect weather for a day that would be fantastic ridge walk.

We started out past other parts of the farm that surrounds the hotel, an easy warm-up before we began to climb.

Huge cowbells, worn only for the ceremonial moving of the cows to and from the summer pastures.

Great views right from the first steps of day.

Check out the graphics on the bicycle warning sign.

The first good climb brought us to the little village of Tannalp and the Tannensee, an unimaginative reservoir.

Pretty village church

All that's missing is Heidi!

The whole path was like this.

The author.

Eventually we reached the Planplatten, the top of a multi-stage lift that took us down to Meiringen. A short walk past another historic church brought us to our hotel, but we didn't stay there long--we had discovered the Aareschlucht--a slot canyon through which the River Aare shoots at high speed. A walkway allows visitors to walk a mile through the narrows, then catch a train back to town. It was a couple of miles total for us, since we had to walk from the hotel.

Many of the houses we passed had these tiny shingles--and of course, flowers on the windowsills.

In the narrows. The walkways were originally built in 1889, but have obviously been modernized.

The beautiful weather we had all the way along our high ridge began to deteriorate as we walked to the Aareschluchte, and we only just made it to the train before a thunderstorm cut loose. Fortunately our hotel was close to the train station in Meiringen (not a noise problem with so little traffic and quiet Swiss trains) and we didn't get completely soaked!

After the storm, from my hotel room.

Day 7 stats: about 9 miles, 2600' up, minimal down. Love those lifts!

Next week: The death & resurrection of Sherlock Holmes, Grindelwald, and the Glecksteinhutte.


Here's the whole series:

In Part 1 of this account, we outlined the project (hiking roughly 1/3 of the Via Alpina across Switzerland with Tom, Carol, Bob, and Diane), and covered our first two days, hiking from Mels to Elm (and taking transport to Braunwald). Part 2 took us on to Klausenpass and to Altdorf, home of William Tell. In Part 3 we climbed over the Surenenpass and enjoyed rest days in Engleberg. Part 4 took us over the next pass or two to Meiringen, while Part 5 went on to Grindelwald and an excursion to a high mountain hut. Part 6 finished the linear journey. In the final post, we'll do some hikes around Lauterbrunnen and visit a cool outdoor museum.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2022
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