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All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien

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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.

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Travel

Apr 25, 2019

A Hike Without a View

The allure of the outdoors comes from the unexpected challenges mother nature throws our way, where the lows accentuate highs. Luckily, the good days usually far outnumber the bad ones.

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WRITTEN BY

Noah Allen

Those of us that have spent any amount of time on outdoor adventures know that sinking feeling when things don’t go to plan. Opening the trunk to find only one hiking boot, a stray roadside nail causing a flat while pedalling along, or getting above the tree line to realize that the freezing rain you wished away hasn’t cleared and the next two miles of exposed rock is now a treacherous ice rink. When encountering the lows, it can sometimes be difficult to see how far you have come. However, in the woods, it often comes down to just you, and you alone, being the only one who can make your situation better by finding a way over, under, around, or just right on through every obstacle.

Noah Allen on the descent from Nippletop. Unhappy with the wet conditions as more rain moved in.

“Luckily, the good days usually far outnumber the bad ones.”

No hiking boots? Looks like your Crocs are getting a little bit more action than driving to the trailhead today, thank goodness they have that heel strap.

One flat tire? Flip the bike over on the nearest lawn and get the patch kit out. Patch blows out and then you flat the rear too? Curse the asshole who is out to get you, and ride home on the rims, they can take it.

Icy exposed rock? Well, sometimes a win is walking off the mountain unharmed.

View of Ausable Lake with fall foliage just peaking through at lower elevation.

The allure of the outdoors comes from the unexpected challenges mother nature throws our way, where the lows accentuate highs. The internal motivation for the next adventure comes from that need to crest the next hill and freewheel down the backside of the monster you have conquered. Luckily, the good days usually far outnumber the bad ones.

This past October I made my way across the Champlain Valley through the recently harvested corn fields to the Adirondacks at the height of leaf peeping season. I had left early from the Green Mountain State before the sun rose to get across the lake and to the trailhead near the Adirondack Loj located at 1250ft above sea level. There my hiking partner and girlfriend was waiting in the parking lot with her friends, all local New Yorkers, still sipping on their morning coffees.

Noah Allen and Becca Miceli on the descent from Nippletop, posing together on a slippery section on the way down.

“Nothing has taught me the same independence and confidence as my outdoor mishaps and successes”

The primary goal of this hike was to take in the stunning change of colors that draws millions of tourists to the northeast every fall. However, today this popular trailhead parking lot was not even near half full. Unfortunately, the weather was not looking good and it seemed many tourists were pursuing other options today. But we chose to roll the dice, cross our fingers, and hope that the views cleared by the afternoon seeing as how the sun was already poking through.

Two hours later after several miles and layer changes we reached the first minor peak. By this point, low veils of mist have descended to approximately 3000ft and we are officially in the clouds. The clear views below us provide some encouragement to push on with the hike with our fingers still crossed.

An hour later we reach the first high peak over 4000ft and nearly miss the occasion because the cloud cover is so thick. Equally disheartening is the muddy trail leading onward.

After another hour and half of dodging wet spots and mud pits, we reach the second high peak, Nippletop mountain, the highest point of the hike at 4,600ft. So far we have covered 7.5 miles and been on the trail for almost 5 hours and seen absolutely nothing but impenetrable fog obscuring the glorious fall foliage.

Jenna Robinson on the peak of Nippletop with a homemade sign to mark the occasion.

From here it was all downhill back to the trailhead, but only in the physical sense. While disappointment pervaded the group morale it was overridden by the outstanding accomplishment of a 15-mile hike with almost 5000ft of elevation gain and two more high peaks crossed off the

46er challenge. This particular hike was chosen for its famed beauty in no matter the time of year. While we were unfortunate with the weather and felt somewhat robbed of observing the physical beauty, it wasn’t all bad. It was Another precious day was spent in the mountains with friends, pushing ourselves, and learning how to draw out the small joys of disappointing situations.

The challenges that present themselves to outdoorsman are a part of the job. The challenges that present themselves day to day are just part of life. I add nothing new by repeating “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” but as a lifelong outdoors person, I can say nothing has taught me the same independence and confidence as my outdoor mishaps and successes. In fact, all the misadventures simply add reference points to understand how things could get worse, and when things are bad, surely it can only get better.

Cover photo: The view from Indian Head, one of the best spots in the Adirondacks for fall hiking.

All photos courtesy of the author.

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