Alex and I went for our first overnight hike in the Swiss Alps on 2-3 August 2015. The hike was recommended to us by the always-reliable Dr Tanja Stadler. This hike was not as remote as the Swiss hikes I am used to Tanja organizing, but the wildlife did not disappoint! It was an easy hike up to the hut on the first day, coming in from Kandersteg.
We took the train into Kandersteg from Basel in the morning and then took a cable car up to Sunnbüel (1,934 m). From here a wide mountain pass leads south to the charming car-free alpine hostel and restaurant “Hotel Schwarenbach”, which we arrived at just after midday. We had already crossed the invisible border from the Bernese Oberland to the Valais region of the Swiss alps.
This region is known for its Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex). They are called steinbock in Swiss-German, which can be literally translated as stone-buck or stone-ram :)
About 20 minutes after leaving the Daubensee behind and turning right onto to the trail for the Lämmerenhütte, we were delighted to come across a big old ram. He was sunning himself on a wide ledge about 150 metres up a steep scree slope to the right of the trail. Alex scrambled up to get closer while I took photos from the trail. Eventually I followed Alex up to a lip of rocks and we ended up within about 20 metres of the old goat, who didn’t seem too worried by us.
After spending a long time photographing the old ram and a couple of more skittish younger ibex perched higher up, we continued on our way.
The trail eventually opens out to a panoramic riverbed landscape. We skirted around the true left, past the Lämmerensee and up to Lämmerenhütte (2502m), with the aim to have enough day left to investigate the beginning of the route up to the Steghorn before dinner.
We dropped our bags off at the hut at about 4pm and headed north up the streambed of the Lämmerentalbach.
After a half hour of strolling we spotted two female steinbock on the riverbed and approached from the true left. The streambed was very dry and we could follow them right across the wide stream bed to the edge of the talus slope on the true right where they joined a large herd of steinbock that had been camouflaged, traversing the talus slope south. I sat down among some large stone blocks scattered on the edge of the talus slope like a god had thrown some dice. Alex settled down a bit further back.
With my back resting again a huge rough-metre-cube rock I waited as the ibex slowly made their way down stream on the true right, eventually walking directly pass my location within about 10 metres. It was fun to watch the young ones interact with each other and pick their way over the loose boulders, occasionally looking down at me.
Almost all of the ibex were young, with a few older females. The oldest males seemed to only be a few years old. A couple of the young males put on a short show by butting heads, but for the most part they seemed happy enough to filter pass above us without much fuss and I took a series of photos as the light slowly faded into evening.
We tarried a bit longer after the ibex had left our vicinity before eventually turning back, eager not to miss out on a cooked meal at the hut. By the time we got back to the hut, the ibex herd were spread out on the talus slope directly behind the hut and so we got some more photos as we returned.
Our second day called for a slightly more technical alpine traverse up Lammerengrat ridge, to Rote Totz Lücke and back down into the Bernese Oberland, crossing a small glacier (Tälligletscher) and up over Chindbettipass (2620m) before a final descent to our destination Engstligenalp (1935m). There were nice views of both Steghorn (3146m) and Rinderhorn (3448m).
From Engstligenalp (1935m) we caught a cable car down to Adelboden and a train back to Basel :) Great trip! Next time we will climb Steghorn as well!