2018-06-23

Hardergrat, Extended Director's Cut

Last time I've done the endless ridge of the Hardergrat I saw a possible extension, adding a few more summits and completing a valley to valley traverse. Ronny, a veteran of many a Rigi Marsch, agreed it looked like a fun thing to do. So he drove up from Stuttgart late on Friday and we left for a long day on Saturday.

Brienzer lake.
Lunger lake and Sarner lake.
Ronny.

It started as a picture perfect morning with not a cloud in the sky. During the course of the day moisture was rising up from the valleys and we got some clouds. While this was maybe a bit detrimental to the views the shade was very welcome. We parked the car at Brünig and quickly gained our first summit, taking only one hour for a posted time of two. Maintaining a quick pace was a necessity as we had about 15 more summits on our itinerary. All that on the famously steep and unforgiving ridge of the Hardergrat.

Blooming meadows.
Ronny's foot demonstrating that even grassy slopes can be very steep.

We reached the Brienzer Rothorn shortly after noon. This is what most people would consider the start of the hike, taking the cogwheel train to reach it. We on the other hand had already covered 1950 meters of elevation gain and 14 kilometers of distance. A good day's work all by itself and barely halfway there.

Eisee.
The steam engine servicing the Brienzer Rothorn.
Getting steeper.

Long stretches of the ridge were completely deserted. Occasionally we'd meet a few people setting up their tents. Many people break the trail down into several shorter sections. The steep nature of the terrain makes it so that the most convenient and often only spot to pitch a tent are the summits.

Summits-on-a-string all the way to the horizon.

We spotted a huge crowd on the very last summit before the ridge slowly peters out into friendlier and less serious terrain. Coming closer it turned out to be a group of about 30 people speaking French. Dressed completely inappropriately for the mountains they were posing for pictures on the exposed ridge. They blocked our path, clumsily slipping and sliding down the steep trail from the summit. When we could finally run past them their leader flagged us down. Apparently he didn't know where they were and how they'd get to where they wanted to be. When I invited him to take a picture of my paper map and showed him our location on the GPS he inquired where he could buy a map like that. This seemed almost criminally incompetent to me.

Brienzer lake.
Depth perception is often lost in pictures - this is steep!
Comparing features on the opposite shore of the lake to our position. Trying to judge how much is left.

Ronny and I slogged through the final 10 km which turned into a bit of a drag. At this point you're saturated with the views and are thinking about a nice hot bath and food. We reached Harder Kulm at around 8pm. We even took the funicular down. We needed to make haste back home as Ronny had to return to Stuttgart early in the morning to coach a class of Aikido. He usually does 300 somersaults (!) for warm-up. We agreed that he was allowed to skip them this time ;-)

The group of dilettantes.
No longer directly on the ridge, but still beautiful.

The train ride back along the lake took satisfyingly long. After all, if it took us all day to walk this far, the train better work a bit for it too. There was no more public transportation back to where we left the car, so we called a taxi. These are very expensive in Switzerland but luckily we could share it with two Austrian trail runners who we met on the mountain and again at the train station. The taxi driver was very impressed with where we came from and told us a bunch of stories how she had to rescue people that didn't make it from various places on the mountain.

Harder Kulm above Interlaken.
Mission accomplished.

In the end we covered about 15 summits in 3400m elevation gain over 35km distance and 13 hours. Very satisfying day. I'm glad Ronny is such an endurance monster! You can always rely on him to complete such a mission with a smile on his face. Chapeau!

How's this for a quick walk outside?