Hiking Stage 14 of the Via Alpina from Kandersteg to Adelboden
The hiking season passed by too quickly last year, so this year I'm trying to make better use of it. After ticking off two more Via Alpina hikes the previous two weekends (Griesalp-Kandersteg and Engelberg-Meiringen), I decided to continue from where I left off in Kandersteg and head towards Adelboden.
It's a 16 km hike, starting at 1200 m in Kandersteg, reaching 2400 m at Bunderchrinde, and then back down to 1350 m as you finish in Adelboden. Wanderland.ch allocates 7 hours and 30 minutes for the route, but the signposted estimates are a little under that. I set off from Kandersteg at 11 am, and reached Adelboden a little before 5 pm – although I'm bad at taking breaks on the long downhill sections.
Kandersteg is beautiful, and this shines through despite the unattractive cable lines that you follow for the very early stages of this hike. When you're in the town (and also when up the mountains), you notice scouts everywhere. That all makes sense when you pass the International Scout Association just outside of Kandersteg. Civilisation becomes a little more distant as you follow the river away from town and into the trees, soon starting the uphill climb through the woods, past a narrow gorge and waterfall, and towards Äusser Ueschinen.
Emerging from the trees at Äusser Ueschinen, the mountains ahead of you provide a glimpse of what's to come. Yes, we're going up there. The path takes you to the left through the meadows, gently at first, before turning right and commencing some steeper switchbacks. It's not long before you start gaining ground and find the imposing rock face increasingly closer.
The path is quite tiring, but the view is the reward. In front of you is a mass of rock, while behind you is a view back to the Oeschinensee, the Hohtürli pass, and the previous stage of the Via Alpina. The height is enough to enjoy a good view of the majestic glaciers just before reaching Bunderchrinde.
To get to the pass, you must turn your back on the view behind and push on across the scree – a dark rocky desert which seems to amplify the midday heat – to reach the U-shaped gap in the rock: our destination. And after getting here, it would be hard to keep going without a break to take in the views at 2,385 m.
Leaving the view of the Gasterntal on the other side of the Bunderchrinde, now visible is a beautiful view of Adelboden deep in the valley below. I stopped here for part two of my lunch (part one was demolished a good two hours ago) plus a few pieces of Migros dark chocolate with orange (recommended) and some time to take in the views.
As well as the views down to Adelboden, there are the rock formations up here to admire; peculiar, precarious and doubtless to blame for the mass of loose shale around. This is the surface you need to walk on to start descending from here – and it's pretty unsteady. However, just a few minutes on, the route becomes much more gradual, grassy, and relaxing. From then on, it's a very simple route down the 1350 m to get to Adelboden.
Small huts start to come into view, followed by grazing cows and a restaurant in Bunderalp to stop for a quick break. The few houses have a tempting (even if unrealistic) degree of remoteness to them, which fuels my daydreams for this part of the hike.
To add to the atmosphere, as soon as I started to walk down from Bunderchrinde, I started to hear alphorns. I'm not sure where they were – it sounded like somewhere behind the mountains to my left side. The Swiss seem to have a way of setting up their alphorns in seemingly impossible places. I always find the sound, which I can often hear at home here, so melancholy, but very beautiful too.
The path continues a short while on the mountain road, before heading down into the woods and walking alongside the flowing water briefly. The route inclines slightly before reaching the outskirts of Adelboden, then it's back on the road for the final leg over to Oey bus station. I arrived just in time for the bus to Frutigen train station with connections to Spiez; a beautiful, clear-skied train journey along Lakes Thun and Brienz ahead of me.