Day 8: Gasteretal

Today I hiked up the Gasteretal valley (also known as the Gasterntal), which lies behind the peaks visible from my hotel room and is protected and undeveloped except for a few rustic old hotels and a farm.

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Hiking Route
Bus Route
Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria in Kandersteg

Today began, like yesterday, with a walk through town to the Bahnhof to board a van. Leaving town, the van entered the forest above, and soon came to a section carved out of the side of a cliff (visible from the Sunnbüel cable car yesterday). The road passed through a tunnel carved through the mountain and emerged into the lower part of the very scenic Gasteretal valley. About 20 minutes later we arrived at the Hotel Selden where the van stopped, and we all unloaded.

Road carved out from the cliff on the way to the Gasteretal Valley

I set out under perfect weather (cloudy and cool) up the road for a few minutes to where the trail began opposite a bridge over the Kander. The trail climbed along the Kander, at times in the forest and others across meadows strewn with wildflowers. Great views of the head of the valley as I progressed upward, and of the mountainsides surrounding the valley.

Start of the Trail up the Gasteretal

The trail crossed over the Kander on a primitive suspension bridge at around 2 miles.

Footbridge over the mighty Kander river

And then came to a bench overlooking the valley. I took a short break here to enjoy a Swiss chocolate bar (my first on this trip) at this special spot.

An awesome spot to sit and enjoy some Swiss chocolate
The Kander in the Upper Gasteretal

The trail began to climb more steeply on the approach to the glacier from which waterfalls descended.

Cairns along the trail approaching the Kanderfirn glacier
Waterfalls spilling down from the Kanderfirn above

By now I was at my pre-determined turnaround time, which would get me back down before the afternoon rain and leave a little time to enjoy the town before dinner. It was a tough decision as I felt I could make it up to the glacier, but the sky was beginning to darken. So I decided to turn back. I passed the suspension bridge and opted to remain on the left / south side of the Kander. Shortly after, rain began to fall. Lightly at first, where I could stay mostly dry under the tree canopy and run across the open sections. The rain continued to increase however, to the point that I donned my rain jacket and Seattle Sombrero again. It was raining pretty hard by the time I returned to the Hotel Selden. I enjoyed another Rösti for lunch and a slice of pie at the hotel before riding the van back down to town.

Cows grazing in the upper Gasteretal

Back in town, the sun was out and I walked around town to shop for a couple gifts (Edelweiss earrings and Swiss Army knives). For my last night, I wanted to enjoy one last fondue dinner, and the hotel staff strongly recommended the restaurant at the Waldhotel Doldenhorn which is located near the Sunnbüel cable car about a mile away. It was threating to rain on the walk over, with raindrops falling occasionally but not enough to warrant putting on my jacket. After arriving at the Waldhotel Doldenhorn, however, it began raining very heavily as I sat down in the restaurant. The staff scrambled to clear off the outdoor tables and retract the awnings as they sagged under the weight of the rainwater. The waiter informed me, however, that they don’t serve Fondue here – I would have to visit their other restaurant, the Landgasthof Ruedihus located across the road I walked in from. They insisted on driving me over, but I decided to walk instead since the rain had stopped again.

Thunderstorm passing over town at the Waldhotel Doldenhorn

The fondue was SO good at the Ruedihaus that I said “yes” when the waitress asked if I’d like some more. But she brought a full pot again, and I “can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” I also wanted to have one more Apfelküchlein, but after all of that fondue it was a struggle to eat the desert and I couldn’t really enjoy it.

Apfelküchlein (apple fritters) at the Landgasthof (country inn) Ruedihus

On the way back to the hotel, the skies opened up again and I walked through steady rain again with frequent lightning and thunder. Thankfully my feet did not get soaked this time.

Evening thunderstorm over Kandersteg

Back at the hotel the lighting was so bright that I could see it in my room with the lights on, and the thunder was so close and loud that the building shook.

Evening thunderstorm over Kandersteg

The hotelier offered to deliver a bowl of Müesli with yogurt to my room early in the morning before the restaurant opened, as I needed to leave early to catch a train back to Zürich in the morning. Once again, providing just what I needed when I needed it. I really enjoyed my stay at the Bernerhof; it was comfortable, convenient, and the service was great.

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