Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn: high above the Aletsch Glacier


Published by Stijn , 4 August 2014, 21h08.

Region: World » Switzerland » Valais » Oberwallis
Date of the hike:27 July 2014
Hiking grading: T4 - High-level Alpine hike
Via ferrata grading: AD
Waypoints:
Geo-Tags: CH-VS 

It takes some careful analysis of the weather forecast, plus commitment to travel long distances, if you want to find sunshine in the mountains this summer. This brought Abbi and myself to the Bettmeralp in the Oberwallis. Even then, when we reached the Bettmergrat cable car station, there was fog all around. We lingered about for a while at the small glacier museum, fearing that the panoramas in the exposition would be the only 'Aletsch views' we would get all day. But things were about to get better...

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We finally get started with the Bettmergrat (T4), also known as the "UNESCO Höhenweg". The clouds start opening up a little, especially towards the north-west, revealing spectacular, atmospheric views of the Aletsch Glacier. The path ascends steeply over some wooden staircases to the summit of the Bettmerhorn. Beyond that, the path is rougher but less exposed, since the ridge is rather rounded. The terrain is a wasteland of rocks of various shapes and sizes. Good hiking boots and some sure-footedness are required, especially at the northern end near the Elselicka, where some iron rungs provide a brief via ferrata-feeling. All in all the 2 km long path deserves a T4 grade. The entire route is marked white-blue-white, indeed with such excessive frequency that it's almost counter-productive: the markings are so omnipresent that you stop paying attention to them... We are pleasantly surprised to have the entire Bettmergrat to ourselves. Only near the Elselicka we encounter the first other hikers. I expected much more people on a path that is as well-publicised as the UNESCO Höhenweg.

After having a lunch break, we continue towards the Eggishorn Klettersteig (K3). A signpost points through the ski slope safety nets towards the start of the via ferrata. The route starts with a long traverse on a relatively comfortable path. The first real point of interest is a rather flexible bridge made of several horizontal ladders linked together. Some more traversing, this time on pegs across steeper rocks, brings us to the highlight of the via ferrata: a 40m long wire bridge. There is plenty of movement in the wires, which makes for a thrilling crossing. On top of that: the via ferrata is on the eastern side of the Eggishorn, which today is the misty side. The fog is at its densest while we are at the wire bridge. The visibility is down to about 20m, i.e. we literally can't see one end of the bridge from the other! Thrilling stuff. Shortly after the wire bridge, the route finally starts climbing upwards, sometimes rather steeply, but always with plenty of iron rungs available. The route finishes over a couple of pinnacles. There is also a short zip wire, which unfortunately is locked and only accessible with a local mountain guide. The end brings you to the mountain station of the Eggishorn cable car.

We get chatting with a friendly family of three, who complete the via ferrata just behind us, and have a drink together at the Eggishorn hut. The weather keeps getting clearer, inviting a quick ascent of the Eggishorn (T3), whose summit stands a mere 60m above the hut. Postcard views of the Aletsch Glacier, with the Mönch prominently in the background, can be enjoyed here.

Since the weather is getting ever better, we decide to take a longer way back, looping around the Eggishorn past the extremely picturesque Tällisee and Märjelenseen. It's rather surreal to be walking in such a lush green landscape, while looking down on the icy world of the Aletsch Glacier far below. We continue on the path that for many kilometres goes parallel to the glacier on the western slopes of the Eggishorn and Bettmergrat (T2, short sections T3). There is a possibility here to walk back up to the Bettmergrat cable car station, but the cable car will be closed by now, so we have to continue down to the Bettmeralp.

It becomes clear that I made a mistake, underestimating the time it takes us to get back to Bettmeralp. Despite setting a quick pace, we miss our targeted the cable car connecting to the 19.15 train by 10 minutes. Bad connections with the 20.15 train and engineering works delay our return to Zürich even more. It's almost midnight when we get back. It's been a long day, but totally worth it.

Hike partners: Stijn


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