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Swiss Hike - Under the Eiger North Wall

Hike time:

8 hours

Start:

Wengen

Finish:

Alpiglen

Season:

Summer

Profile:

from 1270m up to 2340m, another climb of 260m, and then down to 1620m

Rating:

technically easy but very long and strenuous

Summary

Just about everybody has heard of the Eiger. The "North wall" is famous for being incredibly high, incredibly vertical and extremely difficult to climb. This hike gives amazing close-up views from about as close to the face as you can get, although the trail is popular and doesn't require any special equipment.

The hike as described here consists of four main sections, any one of which could provide a short hike in itself. The transport connections here are excellent, and so any of the train or cable car stations along the way can be used to shorten the route. The four sections of this hike are:

Each of these sections has a different character, but all give spectacular views. The first climb gives panoramas of the Lauterbrunnen valley and the Jungfrau, Männlichen (and especially the Gipfel) provides all-round scenery of both valleys and the whole Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau trio, the third section gives closer views as it heads towards the trio, and the last section heads right underneath the infamous Eigernordwand.

The pics

Lauterbrunnen valley

Looking down to Lauterbrunnen on the way up to Männlichen

towards Grosse Scheidegg

View from Männlichen towards Grosse Scheidegg

Eigergletscher

Looking up at the Mönch and the Eigergletscher

Getting there and back

To reach any of the transport connections here, you should get to Interlaken Ost and from there take the train to either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen. Wengen is reached with a short cog train up from Lauterbrunnen, and from Wengen there is a cable car to whisk you effortlessly up to Männlichen, if you want to avoid this first part of the hike. Männlichen can also be reached by a (very long) gondola from Grindelwald Grund. Kleine Scheidegg is at the junction of the two train tracks from Grindelwald (through Alpiglen) and Lauterbrunnen (through Wengen), where they meet to go further up to Eigergletscher and eventually all the way up to the Jungfraujoch.

From Zürich, this can't really be done as a day hike, but can easily form a weekend trip, with an overnight and another hike on the previous or the following day. The quickest route to Wengen is via Bern, Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen, taking around 3h10, and the return route from Alpiglen is via Grindelwald, Interlaken Ost and Bern. The total cost is around CHF78 with halbtax card.

Accommodation

See the Around Wengen hike for details of Wengen accommodation. Otherwise, you might want to try Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg, Eigergletscher or Alpiglen.

Hike map

For a zoomable, scrollable map of this hike, see this online map using Openstreetmap or Opencyclemap.

You can also download this kmz file eiger_gletscher.kmz to open it in Google Earth or view it in Google Maps in your browser. Or of course you can use programs like Prune to transfer the track to your GPS.

 

The walk

Wengen - Männlichen - Männlichen Gipfel - Männlichen - Kleine Scheidegg - Eigergletscher - Alpiglen

profile of the hike
3D plot of the hike, starting from Wengen

Many will prefer to take the cable car from Wengen to Männlichen, but climbing up by foot gives a much more lasting impression of the scale of the scenery, as the valley floor gradually dwindles into the distance. It's a steep pull up, but extremely satisfying to reach the ridge under your own power! The views from Wengen itself are spectacular, looking down into the Lauterbrunnen valley and up to the snowy Jungfrau, but the gradual change as you climb is dramatic.

From Wengen train station, take the main road through the village, and you'll immediately see the cable car station and the cables leading up to the ridgetop. It looks a very long way up.

Wengen - Männlichen

To hike up, follow the signs up the left hand side of the cables to the edge of the village, where the path splits. Turn right and then immediately left to ascend under the cables signposted Leiterhorn. After around 25 minutes you arrive at Mesti, where you turn left.

Continue to climb, passing through Aussere Allmend up rocky switchbacks until you turn the corner to face the sunshine and the Jungfrau. The views on this stretch are some of the best of the climb, looking back over Wengen to the sheer cliffs of the Lauterbrunnen valley, and the snowy peaks beyond. Ignore the path traversing on the level to the right, and instead climb up to the signpsot at Parwengi, around 1h15 from Mesti. Then climb up to the right, still following signs for Männlichen, until the trail reaches the unsightly avalanche barriers - indicating that you're nearing the summit. The steep, rocky path winds between these barriers, to eventually arrive at the ridgetop (and the hordes of people) after around an hour from Parwengi.

Männlichen to the summit and back

Männlichen itself has the cable car station (from Wengen), a gondola station (from Grindelwald) and a restaurant, and the scenery is amazing - around in all directions. The Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the end of the ridge, and both Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen valleys are laid out far below your feet. But even better views can be had by making the highly recommended short trip to the summit (Männlichen Gipfel) and back.

This is an easy, wide, clear path going straight up to the summit, although it is quite steep. Stopping to look at the views along the way is essential, but even so it can easily be done in around 20 minutes up and 15 down, plus plenty of time at the summit itself, to gaze over the other side towards Schynige Platte, with the sheer drop below, the Grindelwald valley rising up to the Grosse Scheidegg, the looming Wetterhorn and Shreckhorn, and of course the 4000m trio still glowering high above.

Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg

This is the easiest, and most popular, section of the hike, and can get incredibly busy. This section is also opened as a Winter walking trail, with the snow cleared and packed by machine. (Although beware - in February this was closed due to not enough snow!) From Männlichen, the broad, well-prepared path leads straight towards the Eiger, to the left of the Tschuggen ridge. It is mostly level, with just a gradual descent, with the views towards Grindelwald justifying its enormous popularity.

Follow the crowds past the Grindelwaldblick restaurant and on to the cluster of buildings perched on the pass at Kleine Scheidegg, about 1h15 from Männlichen. Here there are several restaurants and bars, souvenir shops, accommodation, and the hustle and bustle of people at the station, on their way to or from the Jungfraujoch.

Kleine Scheidegg to Alpiglen

Leave the crowds behind, and follow the footpath up to the left of the train track signposted Eigergletscher. Climb up in zigzags with yet more views of the Lauterbrunnen valley as well as back down to Kleine Scheidegg and the Lauberhorn. Where the path splits, double back to the left to climb up, and gain fantastic close-up views of the Eigergletscher itself as it tumbles down below the Mönch. Continue a short way up to Eigergletscher, around an hour from Kleine Scheidegg. Here you'll find the station, and slightly above it a hotel.

Follow the signs for the Eiger Trail, round the left-hand side of the hotel, and join the level path around the scree wall towards the base of the Eiger. As you traverse underneath the face, you face the Grindelwald valley and the Grosse Scheidegg, and pass through odd 'cairn gardens' where people have obviously had a lot of fun with the loose scree. After around 20 minutes you reach a lookout underneath the Eiger face, where a sign shows the routes people have used to scale this wall.

Continue on along the base of the rock, until the trail descends to a waterfall, where a torrent is busy carving out more of the sculpted rock. Then drop steeply down in zigzags to meet the stream again lower down, and reach a signpost after around an hour.

At this signpost, a longer trail heads to the right to pass the Gletscherschlucht on the way down to Grindelwald, but our path heads left, signposted Alpiglen, which is just 20 minutes down the track. This is the end of this hike, where you'll find a restaurant, and the station with regular trains down to Grindelwald Grund and on to Grindelwald.

Variations

As mentioned in the Summary, this hike can easily be split up into shorter sections, using the cable cars, gondolas and trains for access. There are many hikes in the area (see the leaflet mentioned under 'More info'), to make anything from a short stroll to an exhausting trek.

The waypoints

The following are the coordinates for waypoints along this route, obtained from GPS. They can be used either in another GPS, or along with a map, to provide additional references if necessary.

                           Latitude       Longitude    Altitude(m)
Wengen                   N 46°36.301'   E007°55.244'    1278
Mesti                    N 46°36.612'   E007°55.528'    1380
Aussere Allmend          N 46°36.709'   E007°55.330'    1415
Parwengi                 N 46°36.877'   E007°55.881'    1865
Männlichen cable car     N 46°36.788'   E007°56.474'    2229
Männlichen Gipfel        N 46°37.113'   E007°56.289'    2340
Grindelwaldblick rest    N 46°35.355'   E007°57.637'    2113
Kleine Scheidegg stn     N 46°35.106'   E007°57.667'    2070
Eigergletscher stn       N 46°34.488'   E007°58.479'    2315
Waterfall                N 46°35.697'   E008°00.662'    1910
Alpiglen stn             N 46°36.009'   E008°00.108'    1640
	

More info

The main tourism site for the area is wengen-muerren.ch, giving hiking suggestions, small maps and accommodation information. Invaluable however, is the free leaflet available from almost any station in the area, called "Wandern Jungfraubahnen", giving an excellently clear panoramic map with all the trains, lifts and hikes marked, together with multilingual hike suggestions.

Online maps are also available at jungfraubahn.ch (under English-Jungfrau Region-maps), and the current state of the lifts and paths (both in Summer and in Winter) can be found at jungfrauregion.org (under Wanderbericht).

Also, for more hikes in the area, see Around Wengen and Over the Faulhorn. Or the Alpine Pass Route passes over Kleine Scheidegg between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen.