I have walked this path on numerous occasions over the years, and have never ceased to be astonished by the spectacular vistas that it offers. The route can be completed in only 1 hour 40 minutes, and there are no unduly steep bits.
The gondola station is a 10 minute walk, from the railway station, up Grindelwald’s main street. The long gondola ride to First (2167m) stops at Bort and again at Schreckfeld, where it turns sharp left for the final stage of the ascent.
Our path to Grosse Scheidegg (1962m) heads downhill, and is also wide and well made. Some fellow walkers may seem rather well kitted out with mountain gear that includes helmets. But don’t worry that you are ill-prepared; they will soon turn left and head for the summit of the Schwarzhorn.
Soon though you have a decision to make, you can continue along the wide path or follow the mountain trail (bergweg). Most choose the latter. The mountain trail is higher, narrower, gently undulating and more uneven underfoot. Small rivulets cross it from time to time and wooden bridges see you across streams. The advantages of the mountain trail are the enhanced views and the feeling of being close to the ‘living’ mountain. There are, depending upon the season, flowers aplenty, and if you remain still for a while some of the mountain fauna might reveal themselves. This year we were very lucky. At one point two adult marmots were playfully wrestling just a few metres to our right, while close on our left a young marmot was moving slowly from rock to rock, occasionally pausing. At the same time on a ridge high above us, two stately steinbock were surveying the scene.
The wide path remains in view for much of the way, and there are a couple of opportunities to head downhill and rejoin it. Once, when persistent rain had made the trail slippery and very muddy in places, we took advantage of this option.
The route grants you 1 hour 40 minutes of unimpeded, fantastic vistas. The view across the valley is dominated by the stark faces of the Eiger and the Wetterhorn. These imposing edifices flank the Mättenberg, a cuddly child between two stern parents. Even if the walk had no other attractions the view of these three mountains and their glaciers would make it worthwhile.
As the path begins to bend towards Grosse Scheidegg, so the scene shifts. Looking out from the path, the great mountains now appear on your left. To your right you can trace the path you have just trodden as it skirts the Gemschberg and the Schwarzhorn. Behind First is the Faulhorn and further on the Schynige Platte. Below you spread out in the grassy basin lies Grindelwald. Directly ahead the Männlichen, Tschuggen and Lauberhorn lead your eye to Kleine Scheidegg. Peeping above this ridge are the peaks of the Schwalmere and the distinctive rock mass of the Loberhorner. As the trail rejoins the wider path and dips towards Grosse Scheidegg, the Wetterhorn looms large and seems to thrust its face towards you.
There has been an inn at Grosse Scheidegg since the end of the 18th century. The present hotel was built in 1893, and its terrace offers spectacular views. Post buses run from Grosse Scheidegg to Grindelwald and down the other side of the pass to Meiringen, but fortunately general traffic is forbidden. The Swiss Pass doesn’t allow free travel on these post buses – there is an appreciable mountain route supplement.
Whilst you are at Grosse Scheidegg it may be worth assessing the possibility of another reasonably easy downhill walk. From Grosse Scheidegg you can pick out a mountain trail heading towards Schwarzwaldalp and Rosenlaui, which passes through yet more superb scenery.