Gasterespitz: Big Vertical to a Small Summit
Θ Out & Back
Following an unlikely recommendation, we all piled into the car, excited to explore this mountain we knew nothing about. Friends were visiting from the States, and with limited days to do big things in the Alps, it was risky to try something new, but off we went. A new mountain in familiar Kandersteg.
A flat valley trail ended at the base of a huge rock wall. "Classic Switzerland", we said. So often we say, "No way!", when we see where trails need to go, only to discover the Swiss found a way, and it's actually quite pleasant. Up we went. After some steep hiking, followed by a great traverse of a hillside beneath glaciers on the north side of the Balmhorn, we soon found ourselves sipping coffee at the Balmhorn Hut. As the hut keeper gathered blueberries nearby, she mentioned that there might be fresh-baked pie by the time we passed through on our way back down from the summit. Our American friends were mightily impressed at the daily norms of life in the Swiss Alps.
From the hut, the steep climb continues, rising out of the blueberry bushes and grass into the grey moonscape of the alpine world. A buffed trail winds all the way to the summit. At only 2821m, the Gasterespitz has the feeling of being higher. It's actually just a high point on the north ridge of the 3698 Balmhorn, yet it is a true summit surrounded in an alpine setting of rock and ice.
After our group sits huddled around the small summit overlooking the wild Gasterntal, we plummeted down to the bottom, but not without stopping for the blueberry pie we'd been promised.
Taking a chance on a new trail, it's certainly one we'll be going back to. Between the company, the pie, the setting, and the trail, we had one of the best days of the entire summer.
The Gasterespitze may well be the perfect introductory Way Up. It's a lot of up, but not too much, and it's all on trail that accesses the alpine world.
Start: 46.457552, 7.688268
- Be sure to check that the Balmhorn Hut is open so you know the bridges are in place and the climb is clear of snow.
- While there's no hands-on scrambling or mountaineering gear required, the straight up and back down from the pointed summit of the Gasterespitz is the perfect entry into the Way Up category of runs. Give it a try if you want big vertical in a short distance, and without much exposure.
Brody, Brendan, and Kim on the way up.
Into the alpine with the Gasteretal far below.
Running alongside the sweeping Kanderfirn with views to the Berner Oberland's big mountains: Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau.
A clean line straight to the summit, where the cross is! The much higher peak is the shoulder of the Balmhorn.
Kim smells the blueberry pie. Time to race down.
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