We did this Grindelwald walk in 1991 when we were travelling with our two daughters aged twelve and nine and a half. We were staying in a red and white gingham curtained family room in the Youth Hostel on Terrassenweg. This walk seemed a good choice because it was served by the cheapest cable car and we figured we could buy the Up ticket and walk down. It was the first mountain walk I’d ever done and we set off in everyday jeans, runners and a back pack with some snacks and water
The cable car was fun and we set off on the signed path which quite soon became narrow and wound up and down through fir trees, under towering, grey cliffs and around bends. All the time, we climbed higher and higher above the glacial valley below.
Th girls walked and skipped on ahead and occasionally we had to say things like,’Be careful’, when the drop became even more noticeable. I was surprised by the lack of railings and liked the way we were trusted to look after ourselves.
Eventually we rounded a corner and there up the grey valley lay the glacier dropping away from the snowfield above and crawling down the stone valley it had carved for itself in older,stronger days.120 years ago it had filled the entire valley to the height of where we were standing. Now, the valley lay empty, the moraine the monument to its former presence..
I was excited to see a glacier up so close, to see the cracking ice on its flanks, it’s snout nosing down the valley and the moraines and rocks on its surface. Just as I’d learnt at school. I had loved ‘doing’ glaciers and here I was, looking at one.
Suddenly, and oldish woman wearing brown lisle stockings, boots, a woolen skirt and jacket caught up with us. She carried a large pack and greeted us with a ‘Gruss Got’ as she overtook on the narrow path. By the time we had clearly emerged from the fir trees onto the alpine meadows above, she was up there in the distance.
We walked and walked, eye to eye with the glacier, curving around with it, and saw ahead a small brown building , a couple of small trees and some umbrellas. A cafe! Up here! It was, and it had a handsome dachshund in the fenced garden. And there was the woman in the lisle stockings unloading her pack. She had just made a delivery of soft drink cans.
We did walk all the way back down to the valley and then the Youth Hostel. My knees really complained but we made it and never forgot that walk.
Now it’s twenty three years later, and we’re in a hotel in Terrassanweg looking across at the same glacier which has shrunk even further up its valley.
I wrote that account from memory and am looking forward to checking my diary from that trip to see what I wrote at the time.
Today we did the same walk but were unable to finish it due to very strong winds up on the meadows. Apparently the cafe has fallen into the glacial valley and a new one been built higher up. We’ll have to walk up there another time.
Now, we walk in: walking shoes,walking socks,walking trousers, fleece, goretex, day packs, bumbags, hats, sunglasses and carry all sorts of ‘Just in case things’ and carry walking poles. Today, as we left the cafe at the top of the cable car, an Australian woman remarked loudly,’ They go in for these poles a lot, don’t they! I suppose they’ve got some use’. I said nothing but remembered that I used to think just that. Now, I don’t go without them. Why would I not value another pair of legs which is pretty much what they give you.
Today, we know much more about alpine flowers, we walk more slowly and carefully but still remember the excitement of that first alpine walk.