Sunday, May 31, 2015

A piece of the Niesengrat above Frutigen

This was another "let's have some fun during a training tour" tour. Andrea found descriptions of some pieces of the Niesengrat, which we've been talking about doing anyway, in one of the "more interesting hikes" books and the forecast said we should expect mostly sunny weather until clouds appear in the late afternoon, so we were set to go!

From the train station in Frutigen we start up and out of town with a few other people. Nicely for us, they all take the other way as we follow the signs for the Mäggiserehore. The path leads us through town and then up, up, the valley wall towards the Niesengrat. At first we're doing gentle climbing (no Andrea special here) along a nice path. This eventually gets steeper and the going a bit more challenging as we get out into the fields (the path is clearly not a super popular one!). Eventually we hit the Mäggiserenegg, the long ridge that comes down from the Mäggiserehore, and switch into direttissima mode: from Eggweid (1330m) to the ridge (2241m) the path has essentially no switchbacks; it's a great line on the map. The weather is good, but there are some clouds that seem to have not gotten the message that are hanging out on the ridge above us. We both really hope that they're going to be gone by the time we get up there... being in a cloud doesn't really improve the ridge-hiking experience.

Up, up, up we go. This ridge seems to be a very popular place to start paragliding: we see a large group of gliders and walk through their launch area. Since some of them are also using this to practice landing (and restarting) and since it's getting to be that time anyway, we stop for a sandwich break and watch the fun for a while. Then we continue our climb. Up, up, up until we hit the peak. We see one other hiker (coming down) as we go and see a couple of other folks ahead of us up on the peak and the ridge, but it is otherwise quiet. By the time we get up top of the Mäggiserehore (2348m), the clouds have indeed taken a break, so we get to enjoy the great views (probably would be spectacular if there weren't clouds obscuring the main Alp chain and some of the Voralpen) while having a short break.

The route along the ridge to the northeast is T4 and blue-white marked. It's sparingly marked, but the track is pretty obvious. There's still a bit of snow on the ridge, but not nearly enough to cause a problem. We continue on from the Mäggiserehore, passing a couple coming the other way while doing the "you have to go down to go up" thing that you do on ridges, and generally enjoy ourselves while making our way to the Tschipparällehore (2398m). Here we appreciate the views before continuing to the Steischlaghore (2321m). This stretch has a descent that is fine while doing it, but from the bottom doesn't look like it should be possible; these paths are great! On the Steischlaghore we do a quick sandwich break and consider our plans. We could theoretically continue further along the ridge (T5) to the Drunegalm and then head down into the Diemtigtal, but we decide that the combination of tired legs, time, and the not-overly-promising weather suggests that the descent to Frutigen wold be smarter. So down, down, down we go along a really nice path (there are switchbacks on this one! great news for the knees!) until we hit Frutigen and grab the train back home. This is the first time this year that we've done any significant descent, and it wasn't a short day to start with, so we are both definitely noticing tired legs by the time we get on the train.

We definitely need to go back and do more of the Niesengrat; it's a very nicely situated ridge and there's tons more good hiking left to do!
The track:

Total: ~14km, 1750m up and down

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