A Welcome Change

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After the hustle and bustle of Lauterbrunnen we moved onto Kandertal (in the German language the suffix ‘tal’ means valley). It’s just a stone’s throw from Lauterbrunnen but it’s peace and tranquillity was a pleasant contrast to the hustle and bustle of Lauterbrunnen. Our destination was the village of Kandersteg where Park4Night indicated that a couple of the lift stations would allow overnight parking. Worryingly the reviews also mentioned that this may no longer be the case from 2024, which would be a shame for us travellers.

We parked up at the Allmenbahn lift because we had one main aim for our visit, to complete the Allmenalp Klettersteig. This via ferrata was mentioned by a lot of people as being one of the best in Switzerland. It’s a K4, so at the harder end of the routes we’ve done on this trip, but as an advantage it starts right next to the cable car station, so there is only the shortest of walk-ins.

We paid 20 CHF to the chap in the kiosk for an overnight stay and tucked ourselves away in a corner of the car park. From our pitch we could see the far wall of the valley across the fields, village and river. It would prove to be a glorious spot for watching the glow of the setting sun reflecting off the mountaintops.

On the day of our arrival we popped out for a wander around the village. We had to walk under the railway line to get there. This is the line for the Lötschberg train that runs under the mountains and allows people to travel between the Bernese Oberland and Valais regions without having to make long detours via the mountain passes we had driven across. Not only is it a passenger service, but Kandersteg is the Bernese Oberland terminus for the car train, and we watched with interest as trains loaded with cars and motorhomes came into the station. This is something we’re quite keen to try at some point. It may end up being quite dull in practise but the idea of being transported on open sided wagons through the mountains is quite exciting.

The car train coming into the station

Kandersteg church

We had a chilly autumnal night, but fortunately the route of the via ferrata faces east and was bathed in light once the sun crested the mountains opposite. That was our signal to go.

We had a short walk up to the base of the via ferrata where we met a couple of people having some breakfast and waiting to start. We let them go first, I don’t like having someone putting pressure on me to go at a faster pace. We gave them their head start and then made our own way up the sheer face of the cliff in front of us.

The route zig zagged backwards and forwards over the waterfall that was cascading from the top, using wire bridges across the chasm. There are also a couple of zip lines, but we weren’t sure how to use them safely. Something to investigate for next time. It was definitely one of our favourites, feeling very similar to the Tour d’Ai route being very direct and vertical.

When we topped out it felt as though it was over too soon. We walked over grassy mounds to the top station  of the gondola where we found a seat to have our lunch. There was an honesty box if you wanted a drink from the stash in the basement of the gondola station.

View from the top station of the Allmenalp Gondola

The gondola is self operated and you have to press the button to notify the base station that you are ready to go and then pay for your ticket when you get to the bottom. We shared the descent with someone who was staying at the large International Scout Centre further up the valley.

Press here to descend

The following day we walked further up the valley. This took us along the pretty meandering Kander river and past the busy Scout Centre.

River Kander flowing gently in the valley

International Scout Centre

At the end of the valley is another lift (a ‘lüftseilbahn’ aka air-rope-train, got to love the German language and the way that words are constructed) but we weren’t going to use it. Instead we made our way past the car park and into the narrow opening gorge of the Gasterntal where the Kander river cascades down over large blocks of stone fallen from the cliffs above.

River Kander at the start of the Gasterntal

We walked as far as the stone bridge before turning around and going back down via a narrow balcony road with it’s stone parapets and rock carved tunnels. This road is still accessible to traffic but is controlled so that there are set times for ascents and descents (these times even apply to cyclists) and a toll of 15 CHF that has to paid at a machine at the entrance to the valley. There is no way that we would make it in Bertie, the tunnels are just too small but it was an interesting way to get back down the mountain.

Balcony road in Gasterntal

We still hadn’t seen the main tourist attraction in the area – the Oeschinensee – but we were getting very tight for time and this was going to be our last day in Switzerland. We’ll just have to come back to the Kandertal another time.


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