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Travel

Oct 24, 2018

Carnets de Trail: La Hardergrat (Brienz)

Episode 1: To open Sébastien de Sainte Marie's "Carnets de Trail" series, one of the most beautiful ridges in the Bernese Oberland, the Hardergrat.

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Sébastien de Sainte Marie is a steep-skier, runner, climber, The Outdoor Journal ambassador, but above all a lover of wide open spaces. Sébastien has carried out first ski descents in the Alps, Chablais and Aiguilles Rouges. He made the first ski descent of “Brenvitudes” on the Brenva side of Mont Blanc, as well as off the English Route on the south face of Shishapangma (Tibet) from an altitude of 7,400m. In this new series entitled “Carnets de Trail” (Trail Notebook), in partnership with Planet Endurance, Sébastien shares all his favourite trails, with all the information you need to experience the same trips yourself.

EPISODE 1: The Hardergrat

I first came to this ridge two years ago. Two things immediately struck me: the emerald blue of Lake Brienz, which I had never seen before, and the finesse of the ridge. This path has one of the most beautiful panoramas of the emblematic 4000m peaks of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland.

The Key Information

Time: It’s a tricky question. Interlaken to Augsmathorn is easy, but after that it goes slower because the terrain is more technical. 
Distance: From Interlaken via the Harder Kulm and Brienzer Rothorn to Brienz, the route is 36.2km with a 3374m ascent and 3374m descent.
Location: The ridge is located above Lake Brienz, between Interlaken and Brienz. You can reach Interlaken by train from Bern, and it takes 45 minutes.
Difficulty: There is a T5 passage on the Tannhorn. The rest is not a problem. You just have to keep in mind that the northern slopes are very steep. You can adapt your exit if you are more comfortable dealing with the difficulties on the way up or down.
Good for: This ridge can be approached at a brisk pace or in a more relaxed way. However, it should not be forgotten that there are few things to consider. The ridge is 18km long, so you must be autonomous. The terrain is often aerial and can disturb people who are prone to dizziness. 

Route:

It is possible to start the adventure from Interlaken to Brienz and see the Brünig pass. However, to save some time, you can ride the Rothorn railway from Brienz from Sörenberg or the steam train from Brienz. There is also a funicular that goes up to the Harderkulm.

If travelling from Interlaken towards Brienz then you can expect 36km for 3400m of D +. For those who want to experience this same route, but a shorter version, there is 26km for 1500m and D+. Travel in the direction of Rothorn railway station of Brienz-Interlaken.

Difficulty:

The ridge is narrow in places. The most technical passage is the Tannhorn (short passage in T5). The northern slopes are generally steeper, if you want to approach the technical parts to the climb it is better to consider the route from north to south.

Some tips to approach this adventure in all serenity:

– It is recommended to only consider taking this route in dry and stable weather.

– Ensure that you carry a sufficient water supply between the Harderkulm and Brienz Rothorn station.

– Study the ways in which you might be able to withdraw in case of an emergency (Suggiture, Augtmatthorn, Blasenhubel, Allgäuwlicka, Chruterepass).

– Don’t mess around with trekking poles, they are not suitable and will be a nuisance rather than useful.

The little extras:

– It is possible to sleep at the Hotel Restaurant Kulm located at a hundred meters from the train station Rothorn Brienz. The sunrise is magical.

– If you start from Interlaken do not hesitate to make a 100m hook to see the Stadthausplatz. Less invaded by tourists, very pretty and invites you to settle on the terrace for a coffee.

– For those who continue the adventure to the Brünig pass, take a quick stop at Meiringen on the way back and enjoy a Meringue. This delicious dessert was created by pastry chef Gasparini at the end of the 17th century.

Useful links:

-Trains for the Brienz Rothorn and Hotel Kulm:  https://brienz-rothorn-bahn.ch/

-Funiculaires for the Harder Kulm:  https://www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/harder-kulm/

All photos by Sébastien de Sainte Marie. You can follow Sébastien de Sainte Marie on Instagram here.