HAUTE ROUTE | THE BERNESE ALPS
Exclusive hiking tour, strenuous trek on glaciers with licensed mountaineering guide, Aletsch Glacier-UNESCO, Valais, Rhone Glacier, hut to hut in spectacular mountain environment, high elevation.
The Bernese Alps are renowned worldwide for their famous peaks like the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, as well as for the scenic hiking trail, which skirts the whole length of the mountain range.
However, there is a higher route, not so often explored, in the heart of these magnificent mountains, which follows the path of some of the most beautiful glaciers in the Alps, and provides views of several of their famous, highest peaks. Our challenging trek is almost completely on glaciers. Under the leadership of a certified UIAGM/IFMGA Mountain Guide, you will have a fulfilling and exhilarating experience of this natural, breathtaking environment. On our last day, we will descend on the Aletsch Glacier, which, with an expanse of more than 45 square miles, is the largest and longest glacier in Eurasia. Since December 2001, the Aletsch has been part of the [Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage] property.
No mountaineering experience is necessary to participate on this tour. However, one needs to be in excellent physical condition and health to enjoy this trip, as glacier travel is demanding. You will also need to carry additional gear during the five days on glaciers, when our luggage will not be available to us at night. While on the glaciers, you will be roped up and wearing crampons. There will be one guide for every 5-6 participants. We will overnight in three- and four-star hotels, mountain inns and mountain huts (some rustic) at considerable altitude (3250 m/10663 ft max). There is no access to luggage while at the mountain huts.
DAY BY DAY
Day 1 Arrival
Transfer on your own, by train, to Ulrichen. Part of the ride will be on the Glacier Express and it will take you across the canton of Vallais and the Goms, verdant regions surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Alps. In the afternoon, there will be a short hike in the area and an equipment check, to make sure everyone has the appropriate gear for the tour. As there is no access to sporting goods’ stores, the guide has the obligation and the right to disqualify participants who come unprepared for the trip.
Day 2 Ulrichen
Today we acclimatize to altitude. Starting from Ulrichen, we venture into the immediate surroundings, hiking through conifer forests. We reach an alpine environment, where a snowfield or a small glacier will provide some practice in putting on and walking with crampons.
Day 3 Rhone Glacier – Grimsel Pass
Transfer to the Rhone Glacier, source of the Rhone River, one of the greater European rivers. In fact, the Rhone flows west through Switzerland before entering France and, after a total journey of about 800 km/533 miles, it enters the Mediterranean Sea. A trail along the moraine leads to the edge of the glacier, an impressive body of ice, which, just a few decades ago, still reached the valley floor with a vertical drop. We put on the crampons, rope up and venture onto the ice for our first exciting glacier crossing of the week. On the other side, an alpine trail leads us over the mountains to the Grimsel Pass. The panorama is breathtaking with the Haslital, a rock climbers’ paradise of vertical granite walls, worn smooth by the passage of glaciers and the southern range of the Alps, stretching all the way into Italy.
Day 4 Oberaarjoch Hut
We enter the crystalline and granitic environment of the Grimselpass, a historic commercial route since the middle ages, and famous, toady, for the astonishing quartz crystals and minerals found in the fissures of the mountains. Several, large artificial lakes soften the harsh environment. Power plants hidden inside the mountain generate electricity through the recycling of the lakes’ waters. The hiking trail follows the lateral moraine (debris left behind by the receding glacier) along the Oberaar Lake, reaching the edge of the Oberaar Glacier. With crampons on our boots and secured by ropes, we embark on an uphill climb and reach the Oberaarjoch Hut (3255 m/10842 ft). At the saddle, an incredible open view of the U-shaped valley carved out by the glacier and the first glimpse of the spectacular shark fin-shaped Finteraarhorn (4273 m/14232 ft), are the deserved reward for our effort.
Day 5 Finsteraarhorn Hut – Konkordia Hut – Fiesch
The next three days are a full immersion in ice, skirting the highest and most impressive peaks of the BErnese Alps, and we leave the huts with crampons on and roped up. We descend, on the Studer Glacier and the Galmi Glacier, right below the imposing Finsteraarhorn, Oberaarhorn and Galmihorn. We merge with the Fiescher Glacier, and look at the receding ablation point (the end of the glacier) of this body of ice, which once stretched all the way to the now verdant valley of the Goms. To the south and west is the Canton of Vallais, framed by some of the highest peaks in the Alps, such as the Matterhorn, Dom, Weisshorn and the Monte Rosa range. We climb uphill on the Fiescher Glacier, along the southwest granite wall of the Finsteraarhorn, and reach the Finsteraarhorn Hut (3050 m/10150 ft).
Day 6 Konkordia Hut
We reach Grünhornlücke, a small saddle offering a taste of what lays ahead for us tomorrow: the magnificent Aletschglacier and Konkordiaplatz, the junction of the Aletsch with the Grosser Aletschfirn, the Jungfraufirn (“firn” is well-bonded snow older than one year) and the Ewigschneefeld (Eternal Snow Field). We make our final descent along the Grüneggfirn. One last effort is required to climb a metal ladder to the Konkordia hut (2850 m/9491 ft). In fact, the hut lies approximately 150 m/450 ft above the level of the ice, soaring over the Aletsch Glacier. Directly below us is Konkordiaplatz, the meeting point of three glaciers and, with a thickness of 900 m/2700ft, the deepest point in the body of ice of the Aletsch.
Day 7 Fiesch
We leave the hut and descend onto Konkordiaplatz and the great expanse of the Aletsch Glacier. Covering 120 square kilometers (more than 45 square miles), the Aletsch Glacier is the largest and longest glacier in western Eurasia and incorporates a wide range of fascinating glacial features such as U-shaped valleys, cirques, horn peaks and moraines. As we descend along the ice, an amphitheatre of glaciated mountains surrounds us: Fiescherhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and Aletschorn. In the distance, the Matterhorn and Weisshorn. As we leave the glaciated world behind, we enter an alpine environment where wildflowers meet the ice in harmony. We remove our crampons and, hiking along an alpine trail, we reach a gondola and descend to the valley floor.
Day 8 Departure
The trip ends in Fiesch. After breakfast transfer on your own to your next destination.
SFr. 3250 per person. Prices are quoted in Swiss Francs and based on double occupancy.
SFr. 500 | Single supplement. Single rooms are not available at mountain huts/inns.
What Is Included:
English-speaking local UIAGM, licensed glacier guide(s), for the duration of the trip. We will have one guide to every five participants.
Guide’s expenses (hotels and meals) while with the group.
Equipment for glacier crossings (crampons, ropes, harnesses).
Three nights in three-star hotels, one night in mountain inn, four nights in mountain huts.
All breakfasts, six lunches, seven dinners.
Water* and coffee/tea with your group meals at hotels/restaurants, mountain inns and mountain huts.
Private and public transportation, as per itinerary.
Sightseeing and activities as noted in the itinerary.
Gratuities to porters, drivers, and at restaurants.
* Please refer to the section Accommodations & Meals for specific information.
What Is Not Included:
Airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 8. A private transfer can be arranged, upon request, at an additional cost.
Gratuity to local UIAGM, licensed glacier guide(s).
Insurance of any kind (cancellation and medical/evacuation insurance, etc.) except for evacuation insurance in Switzerland ONLY.
Expenses due to unexpected changes to the itinerary.
Activities not specified in the itinerary.
Personal expenses (laundry, sodas or alcoholic beverages, telephone calls, etc.).
Anything else not mentioned in “What’s Included in the Price of the Trip”.
Unused transportation during the tour will not be reimbursed.
TRIP DATES & DETAILS
2015 Dates: upon request with a minimum of 4 participants. Please contact us »
Season: July and August
Trip Length: 8 days
Trip Activity [more details]:
Hiking | Trekking
Scenery | Flora | Fauna
Trip Rating [more details]: strenuous to very strenuous
The Guide [more details]:
The guide(s) will be confirmed about thirty days prior to the beginning of the trip.
ACCOMODATIONS & MEALS
Day 1, 2 – Family-run, three-star mountain hotel, with a very friendly atmosphere. The rooms, with all comforts, are simple, with wooden décor and of moderate size for heating-conservancy purposes in winter. Exquisite dining.
Day 3 – Very simple mountain inn at higher elevations. Rooms are basic and comfortable. Some rooms have private bathrooms, others shared on the floor.
Day 4, 5, 6 – Accommodations are in mountain huts, at high elevations. Rooms have bunk beds or wooden platforms with mattresses and blankets. They are co-ed and sleep multiple people. The Oberaar hut is very small, basic and rustic, with outdoors toilets. The Finsteraarhorn hut was recently renovated. It is a beautiful structure, with bunk beds, down comforters and down pillows, shared bathrooms and showers, a large terrace. Konkordia hut is very comfortable with bunk beds, blankets, shared bathrooms.
Day 7 – Three-star hotel located in a quiet area of Fiesch, walking distance from the shops and the railway station. The rooms, with a balcony, have an open view of the Valais and the surrounding mountains. Welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
Participants booked on the trip will receive a complete list and detailed descripion of the mountain inns | mountain huts | hotels. While at the mountain huts, there is no access to luggage.
Breakfasts – At the hotels, breakfast consists of a generous spread of meats, cheeses, fruit, yogurt, cereal, fresh bread, and other baked goods. At mountain huts/inn, they are simple, with coffee/tea, bread, butter, and jam.
Lunches – They will consist of simple picnic or lunches, prepared in the morning by the mountain hut staff. Generally, a couple of sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a sweet.
Dinners – At the hotels, all meals are prepared with carefully selected and fresh ingredients. They generally consist of a set menu with three or four courses. At mountain huts/inn, meals are simple but abundant, and targeted to provide the correct nutrition for trekking
Water – Due to limited or no availibility of fresh, potable water, some mountain huts at higher altitudes may NOT provide tap water to drink with meals or with which to fill water bottles. In this case, we will include a reasonable amount of bottled water with group dinners. Additional bottles at dinner or for the daily trek are not included, as individual needs for water can vary greatly. The water in the mountains is probably the best water one can drink, coming straight from the springs. It is safe to drink and regualrly monitored.