Wildi Frau: Surrounded in glaciers above Kandersteg
Θ Out & Back
We'd climbed the Blüemlisalphorn and passed by the Blüemlisalp Hut many times, but honestly, we'd never taken note of the Wildi Frau. The "Wild Woman" is not a peak you notice thanks to having no summit point. Instead, she sports a perfectly flat top (visible in the upper left corner of the top image). Given her looks, and the fact that she sits directly beneath north facing walls of ice and snow, she is literally in the shadow of the beauties.
For mountain runners, she holds a special charm thanks to a trail to her 3274 meter summit. But if you want to get to that summit, you'll have to figure out her tricks because to reach the top requires about 30 meters of very steep, very real, climbing.
Like so many of our runs in the Swiss Alps, this might be the most beautiful place you ever visit. Starting in Kandersteg, a tiny village beneath towering limestone walls and more waterfalls than you can count, you'll climb steep trails through forest to the top station of the Oeschinen Lift. Here, the forest opens up, the Wildi Frau becomes visible, and the surrounding landscape begins to blow your mind.
Following signs for the Blüemlisalp Hut, you'll traverse rising trails for several kilometers high above what may be the single most beautiful lake in Switzerland, and social media star, the Oeschinensee. But don't gape too long, there is a long way to go. You did notice that 2200 meters of vertical, right? From here, you still have a thousand to go, just to the hut. But it goes fast - it is very steep.
Once at the hut, you can hydrate and fuel up for what remains - which actually isn't much. Just 450 meters separates you from the top, but about 30 of those meters may prove to be an issue. The trail continues past the hut following blue and white trail marks which will literally lead you to a wall. A blue and white circle marks the passage through, as well as a line of bolts. It's climbing. When we did it, a thin piece of line hung from a God-only-knows how ancient pin, which was helpful given that this is the crux. The rock is solid and has sharp, incut edges as holds. Once you pass the first 15 meters you'll reach an abseil point before moving right into a shallow chimney which you'll follow up and left to ledges. A second abseil anchor marks the end of the climbing and from there you once again follow a trail to the summit.
This section of climbing is not going to be for everyone. While not especially difficult (4a-ish ??), it is very steep and requires precise movement. The down climbing is more difficult than the up. Keep in mind, you need to be able to climb down whatever you climb up.
For those that don't want to do this section, there's good news. If you arrive to the blue and white circle on the wall and say, "forget it", you can continue on a faint path to the right (south) towards the Blüemlisalphorn. You'll gain about 50 more meters and reach a point on the south end of the Wildi Frau that is almost identical to the actual summit. If you don't turn around and face north, feel free to pretend you are on the summit, it's the same view and same narrow ridgeline, just about 100 meters lower. Call it done and congrats.
Once you've had your fill of mountain views, retrace the same trail all the way back to the car, or, once you reach the Oberbärgli at 1977 meters, head left for the lake and a more direct way back to town on a mix of trail and dirt road, see the map below.
As an alternate exit, you can descend east from the Blüemlisalp Hut into the Kiental. From Griesalp, or further down in the valley, you can catch a bus out to the train line at Reichenbach. The map reveals all!
While you're in Kandersteg, and still have some juice in your climbing legs, you might also consider some of our other Way Ups near town: Balmhorn, Hockenhorn and Gasterespitz.
Learn more about the skills necessary to run Way Ups with ALPSinsight's Education pages for Mountain Running and Mountain Sport Fitness.
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Start: 46.496839, 7.683681
- Be ready to not go to the true summit if you are not comfortable with the final climb.
- This is a region with fast developing thunderstorms. Be ready to evacuate and have all the proper clothing and knowledge to deal with a serious electrical storm.
- Don't carry too much weight in the form of food and water by taking advantage of the hut you'll literally pass through. Fill your tank and treat yourself to some of what is offered.
Brian Lang, high above the Oeschinensee, enters more alpine terrain below the Blüemlisalp Hut.
Above the hut and high above the glacier, snowfields might remain late into the summer on the west side of the Wildi Frau.
Brian starting up the climbing section. A fixed rope can be seen on the lower part of the wall, but this may or may not be in place. While featured, the rock is clearly steep. From the circle marker, it's also possible to easily traverse right beneath the wall to a point south of the Wildi Frau.
Dan Patitucci discovers there is still some trail above the climbing section.
Brian on the final summit ridge, a sidewalk-like strip of solid, flat rock.
The summit of the Wildi Frau.
Dan on the long descent back to Kandersteg.
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