Gallery of Switzerland and Eiger Trail Photos

Hiking the Eiger Trail

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Kleine Scheidegg Photo

Kleine Scheidegg Photo
Kleine Scheidegg Photo. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The Eiger Trail from the Eigergletscher station to the Alpiglen station is a narrow rocky trail beneath the north face of the Eiger. Bring binoculars to pick out the climbers attempting one of the most difficult and notorious rock climbs in the world. The route is rated at a 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete. The altitude begins at 2320 meters (7612 feet) and descends to 1615 meters (5300 feet). The route is mostly in the deep shade of the overhanging Eiger North Wall, on rock and scree. Trekking poles and hiking shoes are recommended.

Our first stop on the way to the Eiger Trail is to change trains in Kleine Scheidegg.

I've hiked to Kleine Scheidegg before from Mannlichen. But this time we are staying in Grindlewald and took the train first to Kleine Scheidegg and then to the Eigergletscher station. Others on the train will continue up through the Eiger itself in a tunnel, then through the Monch, to arrive at the Jungfraujoch, the "Top of Europe." Kleine Scheidegg has food, gift shops, and a classic hotel that figured in the movie "The Eiger Sanction."

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Eigergletscher Station Signposts

Eigergletscher Station Signposts
Eigergletscher Station Signposts. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

Signs point out trail distances from the Eigergletscher station. Each destination is listed in the time it would take a healthy Swiss grandmother to hike there. But since this is over 7000 feet altitude, you may need to allow more time for stopping and panting for breath. The Eiger Trail from Eigergletscher station to Alpiglen station is listed as 2 hours, 15 minutes.

From here, climbing teams may also set out to climb the North Face of the Eiger, one of the most notorious rock climbs in the world. Our view here is to the northwest from the Eiger, back towards Murren and Gimmelwald.

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Train Coming Up to Eigergletscher Station

Train Comes Up to Eigergletscher Station
Train Comes Up to Eigergletscher Station. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The tiny red train is making its way up switchbacks from Kleine Scheidegg to Eigergletscher station. The train goes through several snowsheds which protects it from avalanches. From Eigergletscher station, the train continues through tunnels through the Eiger and Monch, to the Jungfraujoch at the "Top of Europe." This view is to the north of Eigergletscher station, back towards Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen.

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Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau from Eigergletscher Station

Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau from Eigergletscher Station
Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau from Eigergletscher Station. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The famous trio of mountains: Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau from Eigergletscher station. I could gaze upon them for days.

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Start of the Eiger Trail - the Eiger Glacier

Start of the Eiger Trail at Eigergletscher station - Eiger Glacier
Start of the Eiger Trail at Eigergletscher station - Eiger Glacier. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The Eiger Trail from Eigergletscher station features great views of the nearby Eiger Glacier. Our hike was in mid-September and we dressed for cold, as it was frosty in the shadows beneath the Eiger. The trail has some steep sections, and I recommend trekking poles and hiking shoes/boots for stability. From Eigergletscher station, you will mostly be descending but at times you will go uphill over a knob. Your beginning altitude is over 7000 feet, so if you have not yet acclimatized to altitude, expect huffing and puffing for oxygen.

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Looking Back to Eigergletscher Station - Eiger Trail

Looking Back to Eigergletscher Station
Looking Back to Eigergletscher Station. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

This view shows the nature of most of the Eiger Trail. It is a narrow, rocky trail on scree under the shadowed north face of the Eiger. Here we look back at the Eigergletscher station where we started the hike.

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View towards Grindelwald from Eiger Trail

View towards Grindelwald from Eiger Trail
View towards Grindelwald from Eiger Trail. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

This stunning view of towards Grindelwald is the reward of hiking from the Eigergletscher station to Alpiglen. I am amazed at how far down Grindelwald is from our perch on the trail. On this trip, we stayed in Grindelwald.

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Eiger Trail and the Eiger Nord Wand

Rich and the Eiger Nord Wand
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

My husband, Rich, on the Eiger Trail ahead of me. The Eiger Nord Wand is in the background. When hiking the Eiger Trail, you can't get a proper perspective of how tall the wall is, until you pick out the tiny climbers thousands of feet above you. There is over 5000 feet of wall above you here, but the eye can't make sense of that.

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Eiger Nord Wand - North Face of the Eiger from the Eiger Trail

Eiger Nord Wand - North Face of the Eiger from the Eiger Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

Towering over 5000 feet above you on the Eiger Trail, the north face of the Eiger is one of the world's most challenging and deadly rock faces. I'm an armchair climber, I've read several books on climbing the Eiger and viewed Clint Eastwood's "The Eiger Sanction," based on an excellent book by Trevanian. You need binoculars to pick out the climbers on the route. The rock face is so vast and you lose all sense of perspective until you find the tiny specks climbing it.

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Eiger Climbing Routes - Eiger Trail Photos

Eiger Climbing Routes
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

Just what I was hoping for, a sign displaying the climbing routes up the north face of the Eiger! I also had a postcard in my pocket from Kleine Scheidegg displaying the routes and naming the features such as the White Spider, Rote Fluh, Hinterstoisser Traverse and the Death Bivouac.

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The White Spider on the Eiger Nord Wand - Eiger Trail Photos

The White Spider on the Eiger Nord Wand
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The White Spider is a gully far up the Eiger Nord Wand where snow accumulates. Intersecting channels make it dangerous for rock and ice falls. It is a treacherous place for climbers nearing the Exit Cracks.

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Rote Fluh and Hinterstoisser Traverse - Eiger North Face - Eiger Trail Photos

Rote Fluh and Hinterstoisser Traverse
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

These features of the north face of the Eiger include the red Rote Fluh and the Hinterstoisser Traverse leading to the First Ice Field. Below it is the Eigerwand station and gallery windows, where the train goes through the mountain.

The Hinterstoisser Traverse is named for the climber who first achieved it but set up one of the legendary tragedies of the Eiger. In 1936, Edi Rainer, Willy Angerer, Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz died in their attempt on the Eiger. Kurz's body was visible from Kleine Scheidegg telescopes for months as it hung on the ropes where he died before he could be rescued. Book: "Climb Up to Hell" by Jack Olsen This is a great, lurid read about the tragedy.

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Eiger Nordwand Photo - Eiger Trail

Eiger Nordwand Photo
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

That's 5000 feet of rock above you as you hike the Eiger Trail. I am used to seeing 1000 or 2000 feet of rock face in the Columbia Gorge, and lose all perspective when on the Eiger Trail. Only binoculars bring into focus the impossibly tiny climbers far up the Eiger Nordwand.

Book: "White Spider" by Heinrich Harrer. (Compare Prices). The classic account of the first ascent of the Eiger in July, 1938, by Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek, Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig Vorg.

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On the Eiger Trail

On the Eiger Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The Eiger Trail is often a moonscape along the scree slope at the base of the Eiger. This area is in almost constant shadow and has no vegetation. We hiked in mid-September and it was still below freezing in the morning in the shadow. I wore gloves, fleece shirt and waterproof jacket and used trekking poles. I wore trail shoes.

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Rock Cairns on the Eiger Trail

Rock Cairns on the Eiger Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

Previous hikers have added to the rock cairns along the Eiger Trail.

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View Straight up the Nordwand - Eiger Trail

View Straight up the Eiger Nordwand
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

Now we pass directly beneath the Eiger Nordwand. The 5000 feet of rock above us are foreshortened. Only binoculars of the tiny climbers on the route put it into perspective.

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View of Alpiglen from the Eiger Trail

View of Alpiglen from Eiger Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

We can see our destination, the Alpiglen station, from the Eiger Trail. Alpiglen has a hotel and restaurant. We will have to descend to get there. Restroom note: There are no restrooms between Eigergletscher station and Alpiglen. And no vegetation. There is a rare gully where you can duck out of sight for a "nature break."

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Trail to Alpiglen from Eiger Trail

Trail to Alpiglen from the Eiger Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

The trail begins a descent back into sunlight, vegetation and Alpiglen station.

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Signs at Trail Intersection to Alpiglen or Grund - Eiger Trail Photos

Signs at Trail Intersection to Alpiglen or Grund - Eiger Trail Photos
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

We have descended now and have a choice. We can take the mostly level route to Alpiglen and in 20 minutes be waiting for the train back to Grindelwald. Or we can continue our hike and descend steeply to Grindelwald-Grund station with 2 hours more of hiking. As seen in the photo, Grindelwald is still quite a descent. The hiking guide says the trail down to it is for the surefooted. We will head to Alpiglen.

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Wendy on the Eiger Trail

Wendy on the Eiger Trail
Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

If I can walk the Portland Marathon, I can tame the Eiger! Well, no, but I can enjoy the Eiger Trail and be content that my own Eiger dreams don't include hanging from ropes and hammering in anchors. They now include a short train ride back to Grindelwald (still far below) and some schnitzel.

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