Backpacking in the Swiss Alps: Via Alpina Stage 10

Backpacking in the Swiss Alps: Via Alpina Stage 10

Stage 10 of the Via Alpina begins in Meiringen, Switzerland, a lovely little city in the Hasli valley, and ends in Grindelwald. With our hikes up and down from Engelhornhütte and Glecksteinhütte, we completed the length of Stage 10 over two days. Some of the most beautiful vistas we passed on our weeklong Switzerland trip were along this trail and this stage had some of the moments I envisioned come to life – green fields, beautiful mountain streams, sunshine and wildflowers along a winding lovely pass, cows lowing in the distance.

The Via Alpina Stage 10 is 23km or 14.3 miles long, with 1,500m (4921ft) in ascents and 1,100m (3,609ft) in descents, as listed on MySwitzerland. Stage 10 is rated as a “medium” trail and a fitness level of “difficult.” The trail is well-signed and incredibly well-maintained throughout this stage, whether it’s up through the woods or following a mountain stream. Fitness-wise, it is challenging as it begins very steep out of Meiringen and into Grindelwald. We were well prepared for it thanks to our training, but we were definitely sweating a lot in the summer sun!

Switzerland’s Via Alpina Stage 10

After staying the night in Reuti, we took the cable car down to Meiringen to begin our trek along the Via Alpina. Up in the air in the gondola, we had the most beautiful views of the mountains all around us, including the ones we were about to climb. It was a lovely moment to reflect before our Swiss backpacking journey truly began.

Meirigen and Engelhorn

View of Meiringen and the Engelhorn

Stage 10 out of Meiringen starts upwards almost immediately. The climb up to Reichenbachtal was definitely steeper than I thought it would be. I was thinking “valley pass” meant that the trail would be somewhat easy (you know, kinda like a “free pass?” Yeah, not so much…). Once you start climbing, the Stage 10 trail becomes quite wooded. With so many trees, there’s no view to gauge elevation. I quickly lost track of just how fast we were climbing up until we reached Reichenbach Falls.

Stage 10 Via Alpina, Switzerland

Reichenbach Falls

At Reichenbach Falls, the view opened up. It is beautiful and impressive, especially because we could finally see how high we’d gone!

Reichenbach Falls, Via Alpina Stage 10

The trail doesn’t offer a “direct” view, but the ones we got that are just steps off the trail were pretty great. The falls are an important location for Sherlock Holmes fans, as it is where Holmes fell to his death during a fight in one of the tales. There’s a memorial and everything dedicated to him there, and lots of Sherlock Holmes-themed places to discover. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent time in Meiringen, which inspired his stories.

Sherlock Holmes memorial at Reichenbach Falls

You can take a cog railway up to see the falls if the hike is too much. We were on the other side so didn’t see it for ourselves, but it looks really cool in photos.

The day continued to heat up as the sun rose higher in the sky. About fifteen minutes beyond Reichenbach Falls, we passed Gasthaus Zwirgi. There we found this little stand set up selling iced tea for bikers and wanderers (hikers). It runs on the honor system, so it was super easy and quick to grab a cool drink! At this point, an hour into the hike, I’d already chugged a full water so I was so happy and grateful for a cool and refreshing refill!

Iced tea for Wanderers - Gasthaus Zwirgi

From there, we continued on through the trees and tall grass. There were many more bugs on this leg of our trip than I anticipated and found myself wishing we had brought bug spray.

Via Alpina Stage 10, Switzerland

Via Alpina Stage 10, Switzerland

A short ways into the hike, we kept hearing what sounded somewhat like a siren but also like a horn. It is an odd sound to describe, but we quickly realized it was coming from the public buses riding along the mountain roads. Stage 10 runs near and sometimes on a mountain road up to Grosse Scheidegg, and in certain valleys you can hear the horn echoing from everywhere. It can be loud! You can hear it in this video I found:

The horn alerts other drivers that the bus is approaching a blind corner, as the mountain roads are small. We were hearing them often at this part of Stage 10.

We had the trail to ourselves until we reached Gschwantenmad, where there were many tourists and tour buses. At this part, we turned off of the Via Alpina Stage 10 to head up to the Engelhornhütte. We did, however, stop for a rest, a power bar and to enjoy the beauty of this spot.

Andrew at Gschwantenmad, Via Alpina Stage 10

Rosenlaui

After spending an evening at Engelhornhütte, we descended along the southerly trail, meeting up with the Via Alpina Stage 10 at Rosenlaui. The trail flattened out for a little ways at this point and was just awesome.

Look back at Engelhorner from Via Alpina Stage 10

Looking back at Engelhorner from the trail past Rosenlaui.

This was my favorite part of Stage 10 and one of my favorite parts of the entire trail. Once you pass Rosenlaui, glaciers and waterfalls come into view and don’t stop.

Glaciers along Via Alpina Stage 10

Every step further brings you closer to new views of glittering waterfalls and snowy peaks and the views just in front of you are equally as stunning. The trail goes along and cuts across a winding mountain stream and passes through fields of wildflowers. It is truly gorgeous.

Via Alpina Stage 10

Via Alpina Stage 10

 

Making progress and not quite sure what to do with my arms in this one…

Grosse Scheidegg

The ascent to Grosse Scheidegg felt somewhat gradual starting out from Rosenlaui, then began to get steeper, peaking at an elevation of 1962km (6,437ft).

Grosse Scheidegg

It was HOT at this point. More than the strenuousness of the trail, it was the heat that made this part of the day tough for me. I pushed through, spurred on by the gorgeous scenery.

Grosse Scheidegg

From Grosse Scheidegg you can see Grindelwald below. Most of the descent is very gratifying since you can see it come closer and closer into view as you go.

Via Alpina Stage 10 Switzerland

The trail up to this point often runs close to bike paths, which is so cool to watch! On foot the climb is tough, so I can’t really imagine how tough it must be on a bike!

Via Alpina 10 Grosse Scheidegg

Soon after, we reached the turn off to the trail to Glecksteinhütte, up the Wellhorn. More come on this!

Once back on the Via Alpina, the trail is steep into Grindelwald.

Almost to Grindelwald!

We arrived to our hotel just before 5pm ready for a shower!

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Jenn

Jenn is an American expat living in London, spending her time freelancing, traveling and writing on this here blog. Thank you for reading. Are you planning a trip here? Tell me your plans in the comments!

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1 Comment

  1. August 30, 2018 / 7:10 pm

    More gorgeous photos, Jenn! Love the dramatic peaks. 🙂
    P.s. I love the photo of you with the awkward arms hahaha!!

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