Hockenhorn: All Kinds of Terrain Packed into One Summit Run
Θ Out & Back
The Hockenhorn is our third Way Up from the Gasteretal. We like this deep valley tucked away above Kandersteg. With its towering limestone walls and abundant waterfalls, it's a perfect launch for several big runs. From the Hockenhorn trail, both the Balmhorn and Gasterespitz runs are directly above.
The place is sometimes the only reason we need to run a trail. And so it is with this experience. While the Hockenhorn itself is not especially brilliant, the landscape you travel through, and what you'll see from it, are unforgettable.
Depending on how much flatter running you'd like to do, the run can be started in several places.
- Park at the Eggeschwand tram station just south of Kandersteg. This adds about 400 meters and 15km to the run.
- Park at Waldhus, at the beginning of the Gasteretal. This adds 250 meters and about 10km to the run.
- If you are driving as far as Waldhus, and paying to do so, you may as well drive to the back of the valley and park at the Hotel Steinbock, directly at the start of the trail up to the Lötschepass and where Hockenhorn map and stats begin.
The trail proper starts at the Hotel Steinbock, a classic, old Swiss hotel and restaurant. Just below the hotel, you'll cross a hanging bridge over the Kander River and immediately begin the nearly 1200 meter climb to the Lötschepass. After passing through thick forest, a steep trail leads up below the massive east face of the Balmhorn until the reaching the remains of the Lötschegletscher. These days it's mostly rock, but you'll still pass over some sections of black ice and spy a crevasse or two closer to the base of the Balmhorn. The route across the rock glacier is wanded and people do not rope up.
Once across the rock glacier, a steep, rocky trail accesses the pass. There, you can decide if you'd like to stop at the Lötschepass Hut before, or after, the 600 meters you still have to do to reach the Hockenhorn. The summit trail leads across a wide open, barren plateau, which can be tricky to follow in clouds or fog. Once across the plateau, a steep trail through rock reaches the summit and views of the Alps, stretching from the Berner Oberland, to the Valais, and even as far as the Chamonix area.
Once you've had your fill of views, retrace your steps back to your starting point.
As we mentioned, both the Balmhorn and Gasterespitz Way Ups also start here in the Gasteretal. If you enjoy the area as much as we do, progress in difficulty from Gasterespitz to Hockenhorn to Balmhorn.
Start: 46.445124, 7.724803
With the strategically located Lötschepass Hut, don't carry much food. Instead, take advantage of fresh baked cakes.
- The final section of trail to the summit is a bit exposed. Head's up in icy, or snowy conditions.
Running above the Gasteretal with views east to the Kanderfirn.
Back on trails after crossing the rocky Lötschegletscher, seen below.
Sweet singletrack cruising on the plateau above the Lötschepass. After this, the terrain gets steeper and rocky to the summit.
Summit views looking east to the Jungfrau Region.
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