Harder Ridge, Switzerland – best day hike on Earth?

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

  • dangerous
  • 10 hours
  • at least 18km on sharply defined ridge
  • should absolutely never be attempted when wet
  • plenty of exposure on both sides
  • frequent scrambling required
  • Brienz to Interlaken with rail assistance getting up to and descending from the ridge

Don’t hike the other direction. Logistics are easier starting in Brienz. And it’s safer as the last 2 hours (when your legs are tired) is on easier trails. 

I got up early in Interlaken, ready for my free hostel breakfast starting 7am.

Every half hour a train runs from Interlaken to Brienz for 8.20 francs (2018).

Happily I made the first steam train 8:36am — from Brienz to Brienzer Rothorn Station. It’s been making this run since 1891.

Price is reduced to 28 francs for the first train (2018) to encourage folks to get as early a start as possible on their hike.

At 9km / hour it takes an hour to get to the top of the ridge 2351m.

If clear, you can enjoy distant views over to Jungfrau highest peaks; the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn.

I climbed up to the viewpoint. This is as far as most tourists hike.

Looking down on Brienzer Rothorn Station.

At 10am I started to walk back to Interlaken. I would have about 11.5 hours to make the last teleferico down from Harder Kulm Restaurant. Otherwise I’d have to walk down in the dark.

You can’t really get lost. Follow the ridge no matter what.

The weather was perfect.

You have Brienz lake on one side …

… and Swiss foothills on the other.

I loved it instantly.

Most of the time the ridge is not all that intimidating.

It often looks worse than it turns out to be.

I’d heard everyone who comes up here sees ibex. … Are these ibex?

This adventure is more popular with trail runners than with hikers as they can easily make it in less than 10 hours.

I took very few breaks. Other than checking the GPS on my phone, I had no idea whether I was moving quickly enough to finish in time.

Each time I’d climb a high point on the ridge, even higher points would come into view.

I don’t think I saw another person over the first 5 hours.

Sadly I seemed to be a lot closer to Brienz than Interlaken.

There are sections with stairs, cable and chain assistance. These would be most useful when down climbing in wet conditions.

Hmm … I might finally be past half way.

I tried to quicken my pace on the easiest sections.

There are many more day hikers on the Interlaken end of the ridge. They assured me I’d make it on time.

Interlaken

The last 2 hours stays on the ridge, but you are mostly in the trees. It was the least interesting section … but I was pleased to have less exposure as my legs got tired.

Here it is at last. Harder Kulm Restaurant.

The last funicular descends at 9:10pm. If it’s busy they may run until 9:40pm.

I gladly paid 16 francs and found the short trip down very interesting.

It was dark by the time we arrived Interlaken.

And I was quite dehydrated. I’d brought only 1.5 litres with me. I could have used about 3 litres.

When I got back to the hostel I announced it was the best day hike of my life.

Click PLAY or see if I look happy on YouTube.

hike Besseggen Ridge, Norway

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Besseggen, or Besseggi … in Jotunheimen, is a thrilling ridge walk with alpine lakes on either side. You look down on lakes Gjende and Bessvatnet.

  • 13.3km (8.25mi)
  • 6-9 hours
  • 950m elevation gain

Click PLAY or get a quick glimpse of how it goes on YouTube.

Besseggen is a loop with a ferry section.

You walk between Memurubu and Gjendesheim. Both offer lodges and camping. Independent hikers tend to camp outside the official campground area at either. That’s free.

I camped for free.

The vast majority bus in or park at Gjendesheim. Then take the Besseggen Boat. There’s no real reason to book in advance online.

You can hike the other direction but the down climbs are slightly more dangerous that way.

This is Norway’s most exciting National Park: Jotunheimen the “Home of the Giants“.

Camping free at Memurubu.

Besseggen is recommended from the end of June to mid-September. During those months more than 30,000 hikers make the adventure. You won’t be lonely in high season.

Many bring dogs on leash.

The route is well signed. You won’t get lost.

The morning I was there it was foggy on the long slog up.

One you get up on the ridge views are awesome.

I left a Summit Stone at one of the cairns.

Footing is rocky but offers traction everywhere except steep, wet down climbs. Those are dangerous.

As promised, the weather cleared. I love this kind of bleak beauty.

Looking back at the long lake. It’s turquoise due to rock flour.

The last 4km back to the start are sometimes flat and easy, sometimes challenging scramble. There is a chain assist at one point.

Besseggen is definitely one of the best day hikes in the world. I’ll never forget it.

Click PLAY or watch some SAFETY tips on YouTube.

Finally, Click PLAY or watch on YouTube some highlights of my own hike.

related – Visit Norway – BESSEGGEN RIDGE IN JOTUNHEIMEN

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 0

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar

Years ago I tried and failed to do this hike. Roads and rivers were impassable in June of that season.

Since then it’s been near the top of my bucket list.

Click PLAY or watch on YouTube to see why.

I bought my fuel at Iceland Camping Equipment in Reykjavík. It’s VERY expensive.

Later I learned that every hostel and campsite has plenty of free fuel canisters left behind by foreign hikers who will soon fly out.

I enjoyed my last restaurant meal – traditional Icelandic meat soup.

There are a number of ways to get to Landmannalaugar. Reykavik Expeditions and TREX are the two biggest bus services.

I went early to catch the 4pm bus. … Last bus leaves at 1pm. Never believe anything you read on the internet.

click for bigger map

click for bigger map

Next morning I was surprised to see young people from Alaska loading bikes. I’d not heard of people cycling Laugevagur. Turns out it’s a bad idea.

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar is about 4 hours … if you don’t get stuck.

It would be FUN to drive your own rental monster truck.

Landmannalaugar is a sprawling mess of a campsite.

While the rest of the world was suffering a heat wave, Iceland has had the worst summer weather in recorded history (100 years).

Forecast was not good. We worried whether or not we’d be able to attempt the hike.

I put my Hubba up on a platform in case of flood during the night.

At the information office you can buy a crappy day hiking map for about $3.

Most recommended is the Suournamur loop (about 9km). I first took a detour up the Ljiotipollur ‘Ugly Puddle’ trail and found myself this lookout for lunch. Ljiotipollur is an explosion crater lake.

If you find any trail crowded in Iceland, you only need walk a few minutes on any side trail to feel like you have the island to yourself.

Suournamur trail is gorgeous. It climbs up above the campsite.

I left a Summit Stone atop one of the cairns.

Not much can live up here.

I really liked this ridge walk section.

I got my feet wet on the river crossing after coming down. Situation normal hiking Iceland.

The highlight of Landmannalaugar for many are the natural hot springs.

FIRST you need to get there down a long boardwalk without freezing.

Having had hernia surgery just a week prior, I wasn’t suppose to soak the wound … but couldn’t resist.

When weather is bad, everyone crowds into the warm, bright cook tent.

After having dinner with a lovely couple from Austria, I hit the tent early hoping for good weather next morning. Forecast was for a BIG STORM. ☹️

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

scrambling Crib Goch, Wales

Crib Goch is described as a ‘knife-edged’ arête in the Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd, Wales. The name means ‘red ridge’ in the Welsh language. …

All routes which tackle Crib Goch are considered mountaineering routes in winter or scramblesin summer—meaning that they must cross ‘graded territory’ as defined in Steve Ashton’s Scrambles in Snowdonia….

Crib Goch is one of the wettest spots in the United Kingdom …

CRIB GOCH – ONE OF BRITAIN’S GREATEST RIDGES

Nahuel Huapi Traverse – day 4

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

 Refugio Segre (Italia) to Bariloche

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page

After surviving day 3 I assumed day 4 would be a breeze. A stroll down to the lake.

No. ☹️

It’s very difficult and perhaps the most dangerous section of all.

It’s another early morning scramble to navigate along the far side of Laguna Negra. Some fixed ropes help on the downclimb.

Alone I was following the Lonely Planet route on my phone, increasingly distancing myself from all the day hikers heading a different direction up to a famed ridge lookout.

Very unsure, I changed heading and followed them up to a fantastic vista.

Tronador

Turns out there are at least 2 routes out of Laguna Negra. Almost nobody does the LP variation any more.

From the ridge it turned out I’d be the only one that day trying for Lopez hut and Bariloche. Everyone else decided to take the easy way down including the big guided hiking group.

I was feeling fit and healthy. The weather perfect. Again.

I had to go for it.

Next — what else — a scramble along another ridge.

The views were beautiful today. Prettiest yet.

I came to the long, painful scree descent to another green, boggy valley. I crawled under a scrub tree at the bottom just to get some shade.

The similarly long ascent is on large, loose, sharp frost shattered rock. Going up is dangerous. I met 2 Argentinians descending there. SUPER dangerous. The worst of many bad slopes.

It took me about 2 hours of steady climbing to finally gain the ridge. It wasn’t until this point that I was convinced I would make the Traverse. The lake looked very close.

This was my final pass. It’s all downhill from here.

How to descend? Both left and right looked possible, but neither was appealing.

Turns out the trail takes you directly over the top of the rocks blocking the route.

There’s Lopez hut way below. Hours below.

It’s all scrambling to get there.

This seasonal snow melt tarn is one of the water sources for the hut.

I was getting close to civilization, however.

Here’s a water catchment pond at the hut. Not looking potable.

I got bad vibes in every way from Lopez hut. It’s privately run. Avoid it if you can.

I had lunch. Then headed down a likely looking trail with an escort.

Turned out I’d chosen a disused path on the wrong side of the creek.

Once we crossed to the true right, I quickly found the main trail down.

It was about a 2 hour wait for the next bus to town.

Jumping off close to my hostel I ran into British friends who had just returned from a different hike. We enjoyed a big carne and red wine feast at a Parilla restaurant on the lake.

Celebration. 🍷

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page

 

Nahuel Huapi Traverse – day 3

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

Refugio San Martin (Jakob) to Refugio Segre (Italia)

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page

This is the BIG, BAD section.

Lonely Planet:

… harder and more hazardous …

… should not be attempted unless the weather is very good …

… crampons and an ice axe may be needed …

About an hour in I found myself crouched on the vertical wall here.

Lots of exposure. No clear markings for the easiest route up.

Should I quit and go back?

Happily a group of about 15 hikers arrived at just the right time. Their two guides knew the line.

Whew.

Aside from the risk of falling, it wasn’t that bad. We made it easily. Weather was perfect.

The guides suggested I follow them along the ridge.

I did. Until we got to the summit of a peak called Navidad 2060m. (Christmas)

After getting some directions on the descent, I went ahead. They were taking a long lunch.

Next came the impossibly long, slippery, scary, knee straining descent.

The only easy part was glissading on a couple of snow fields.

What a relief to finally reach the valley.

Life.

Unfortunately the valley section was endless too.

Some sections required bushwhacking and route finding.

At other times I had to boulder hop back and forth across the creek.

I finally saw some young people splashing in a river pool. They were departing Segre (Italia) and heading out down the valley.

They pointed me to one of the two steep paths upwards.

I was thrilled to finally reach the 300m spiralling switch back climb up to the Italia (Segre) hut. It seemed easy compared with the descent.

By the time they get there, most hikers have already decided NOT to take the high route on day 4 instead opting for the easier valley descent to the town of Colonia Suiza next morning.

The hut warden was a super guy. Very happy I had made the day safely.

Refugio Segre smelled great.

I went immediately for siesta.

Three hours later, at dusk, the group finally arrived. No injuries. But some of their people were very tired.

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page