Traveller's Tale: Andrew & Judith's 1996 Kandersteg & Wildstrubel Trek

Andrew & Judith the end of their 2021 holiday
Andrew & Judith the end of their 2021 holiday

“You can take an umbrella if you like.”

This wasn’t quite what we were expecting. It was the first day of our first hotel-to-hotel walk back in 1996, following the Wildstrubel Circuit in the Bernese Oberland, starting and finishing in the wonderful village of Kandersteg. We’d read all the instructions and warnings in advance: 'the weather can change so take plenty of layers' - tick; 'carry a bivvy bag' - tick (heavier than they are now!); paint your feet with glycerin to harden them up - Judith did, I didn’t bother. And 'if the weather is bad, ask at the hotel if it’s safe to walk'. So, with the rain pouring down and a climb up to the Gemmi Pass ahead, we did ask, rather nervously - only to find that the lady in charge was much more relaxed than we were... 

We didn’t take the umbrella. We did set off on the hike, which was certainly testing at times, but ultimately very rewarding. It has turned out to be the first of many.

The panorama from the top

The first day walking the Wildstrubel Circuit was good exercise. We didn’t catch the cable cars at either end of the pass. And we quickly realised that good paths up and down, and across the Gemmi itself, meant that it was safe in the rain. Though for all the scenery we saw, we might as well not have left London. 

One memory stands out: arriving at the hotel in the middle of the pass, with nobody around, and trying the door experimentally to see if the place was open or not, only to find it heaving with fellow walkers enjoying the beer and Gulasch suppe before carrying on. It was a nice introduction to the camaraderie of mountain walking.

The next day was better, and we enjoyed paths across meadows and then the views over the Rhone Valley as we headed for Crans-Montana. But it was on day 3 that we really earned our spurs. After a long and attractive walk along a narrowing valley, where we were followed for some reason by a local cat, the path climbed steeply. The cloud and rain closed in at the top of the Rawil pass. This is the highest point on the walk. With the path not so clear, we navigated from waymark to waymark, until we came upon the welcome sight of the bus at Iffigenalp to take us down to Lenk for the night.

In the rain at the top of the Rawil passOn the way upThe Bunderchrinde from the way upOn the way down

The final night of our Swiss walking holiday was in Adelboden. We sat gloomily at breakfast, as the rain came down again, wondering if it was wise to attempt the climb up to the Bunderschrinde (2,383m). Finally our luck changed, and we had a dry day. It’s a long pull up, but we found that the distinctive nature of the gap at the pass – a flattened oval in the high mountains – drew us upwards. Finally, we crested the summit, and were met instantly by the magnificent panorama of the snowy peaks of the Doldenhorn, Blumlisalp, and the Hohturli, all well over 3000m. That felt worth all the effort and worth all the rain. 

With no need of an umbrella, we completed the circuit back to the Kandersteg hotel, and drank all the beer in the minibar in the corridor.

Words & images by Andrew Hudson, January 2023

> If reading this past client review sparked your interest in our Kandersteg & the Wildstrubel Circuit trip, you can find out more about this hiking holiday in Switzerland or contact our team of travel experts for support with your travel arrangements. 

> Have you ever been on a walking or cycling holiday with us in the past?  If yes, celebrate 50 years on the trails with us and send us your story. You will also get £50 off your next trip.



50 Years On The Trails, Traveller Tales, Travel Reviews, 50th Anniversary, 1996, First Trekking Holiday

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