We had the hotel prepare us bag lunches for Monday, since we would be
leaving the hotel at around 5:45, well before breakfast. The
first train from Zermatt left at 6:13, and we wanted to start hiking
early. If we missed the 6:13 train, we wouldn’t get to start
hiking until well past 9am, which seemed quite late. We soon
discovered this was the school train – kids got on at every stop in the
valley, headed for school.
Paul's picture of our early morning
We found the lift at St Niklaus,
arriving minutes before the scheduled 7:00 departure. We found a
couple from Paris already on the gondola – they were hiking the Tour of
the Matterhorn, a 10 day hike around the Matterhorn that overlaps the
Haute Route for over half its route. Mike and I went with the
couple from Paris, and Paul, Ray and Kent got their own lift after we
Paul's picture of Mike and I on the gondola leaving St Niklaus
Paul's video - warning R rated language
Paul's video - warning PG rated language
By about 7:20 we were in Jungu (elevation 1990 meters / 6528 feet), and
it appeared we were
the only ones awake – Jungu was silent.
I followed the couple from Paris up the trail to the playground, only
to quickly loose the route and circle back. By the time I got
back I couldn’t find the rest of the crew, who had ventured into town
and were nearly ready to sit down for breakfast. I went on ahead,
sure that everyone else was in front of me, only to find them coming
up the trail from Jungu.
The trail continued upward. After
a while the couple from Paris ended up ahead of us, and they spotted a
Chamois way up on the hillside – it appeared to be a brown speck from
well over ¼ mile away. Didn't get a picture, it was way too far
Eventually Paul got in the lead, which proved to be a mistake – he
detoured onto a lesser trail the ventured into the hillside. He
quickly told the rest of us to turn back, but we stubbornly
followed. After a while the trail petered out to next to nothing
– it was clear that no one ever took this route. It wasn’t quite
a scramble or bushwhack, but Paul’s detour clearly took us an extra
half hour or so vs. the main trail. We were relieved to finally
get back on the trail, since this meant we were no longer lost and
following Paul :)
Paul's detour - he's at the end of
this massive switchback, now we turn back toward the trail again
Paul's detour, looking back the way we
came from the end of the switchback - Ray has started his
shortcut / scramble up the slope
Looking back on Paul's detour
The peak in the upper left is either Weisshorn or Bishorn, I'm not sure
Shortly before 10am, a few minutes after regaining the trail, we
reached the Twara viewpoint, which is supposed to be one of the finest
views on the entire hike. Unfortunately we were here in the
morning facing the sun – this clearly is an afternoon picture spot.
The trail then entered the Augstbord valley. It took about 75
minutes for the trail to reach the junction of the trail that heads
down into the valley – this seemed a little excessive. We then
started climbing up Augstbordpass. The hike up the pass seemed to
take a while as well - the trail went on forever.
The peak above my pack is Schwarzhorn,
which is supposed to have a fantastic 360 degree view.
Schwarzhorn is a 1km / 300m detour from Augstbordpass
Augstbordpass is between Ray and Paul
The trail makes a diagonal line from the lower right to the upper left.
The pass itself is the obvious low spot toward the left.
Paul's picture of Kent and Ray. Mike and I are trailing behind.
Eventually we all got to Augstbordpass at
1:25pm - elevation 2894 meters / 9495 feet
We only spent about 20 minutes on top because we seemed
to be a little behind schedule, and it looked like it may rain.
Schwarzhorn is the peak on the right.
I had envisioned climbing up Schwarzhorn to see the view, but had no
desire once we got to Augstbordpass - I'd done enough hiking uphill for
I stole this picture from Paul
Looking east into Augstbord, back the
way we came
Looking west toward Groubtalli and
Gruben, the way ahead
Coming down into the Gruobtalli was nowhere near as picturesque as
Augstbord – the lack of sun made a lot of difference, but the valley
isn’t quite as nice either. The high mountains were now way up at
the head of the valley, and we were nearly at the mouth. We grew
more concerned the weather – eventually we heard thunder, and it looked
like it was raining back up on the pass we had just left.
We met a guy pushing a mountain bike up the trail. This trail
didn’t look like it lent itself to easy biking – way too many rocks and
Paul gets a facefull of Ray's foot
powder as it blows in the wind
Just after 4pm we reach Gruben (elevation 1822 meters / 5977 feet) and
the Hotel Schwarzhorn as it started
sprinkling on us. The hotel has 16 rooms, and I saw about that
many lines on the register for that night, so the hotel may have been
full or nearly full.
When we got there a pair of attractive women were taking a break on the
porch at the picnic tables. Unlike nearly everyone else on the
trail they were backpacking with a tent and sleeping bags. A little
while after we arrived they hiked up the way we came to find a campsite
on the hillside. About an hour after we arrived it
started pouring rain. We couldn’t help but think of the women who
had by now hopefully set up their tiny tent, now in the pouring rain,
most likely getting drenched to the bone. It rained heavily for a
good half hour.
Hotel Schwarzhorn was the only hotel on our route where there were no
rooms with ‘en suite’ toilets and showers. The rooms did have
sinks. When we checked in we had 2 rooms out of the 4 rooms on
the top floor of our wing. Our rooms were on the north side, with
views to the north, and one corner room that also had views to the
west. The views were nothing exciting as we were in the bottom of
a valley with storm clouds.
We took turns showering, as there were only two showers and we were all
moving very slowly after a long day of hiking. The bathroom was
spotless. After a while a pair of couples had checked into the
other two rooms in our wing, but we never saw them again after they
closed their bedroom doors – we didn’t see them in the bathrooms or at
Dinner was served in the relatively small dining room in the ‘basement’
/ bar. We saw
relatively few people downstairs for dinner – I am assuming that lots
of people picnicked in their rooms, because we never saw them.
Dinner was standard Swiss fare – salad, and some sort of cheese, meat
and potatoes. This was the only time we had purchased full board
ahead of time, since we knew there were no other dining alternatives.
After dinner we wandered the town, what there is of it. Many
homes had dates in the 60s, 70s and 80s on them – this is not an old
Kent's pic. Notice the two small beers at the table - Kent
ordered these before he realized beers come in different sizes in