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What about late May hiking in the BO this year?

Two people in their late 30's would like to visit the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland in mid to late May. We have been hearing of the big winter this year, and are trying to make a best guess about snow conditions come May. We want to hike in the Murren, Wengen, and Grindelwald areas including Gimmelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and over the pass at Kleine Scheidegg, and any other good walks or hikes in the general area. We are experienced mountain hikers (we live, work and hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains), but were not planning on bringing gear for technical snow travel. Can anyone advise us on this? Does this sound reasonable for later in May? Of course, we are also wanting to take the ride up to the Jungfraujoch and to Schilthorn, but have heard the transportation may be down for maintenance that time of year? Is it possible to find out details about that? We would like to spend about 5 days in that area, but if it is likely to be totally snow-bound at that time, we will probably look for another place in Europe.
Thank you!!

Posted by
9034 posts

All of the popular hikes listed in Rick's guidebook should be accessible. Most all these hikes are more service roads then rugged wilderness treks. But if your looking for the latter the "ridge trail" from Schynige Platte to First is very rewarding. I'm also going to be in the region at the end of May and from what I have been able to gather, transport to Jungfrau and Schiltorn will be open. The cable car from Wengen to Männlichen will be closed for about a week. You can check for closures by plugging in your destinations and travel dates into the Swiss Rail site: http://rail.ch Be sure to click the "railpasses" tab at the top of this page for descriptions of the various transit passes available. They can can save you a lot of money.

Posted by
11459 posts

When we were in Wengen about 4 years ago in August they told us they still had snow and some closed hiking trails well into june of that year. I would not assume all hikes will be open in late May.

Posted by
13842 posts

The Schilthorn cable car shuts down for a week in late April for maintenance; it re-opens 28 April: http://www.schilthorn.ch/en/timetable-tariffs/timetable/ Looks like they plan to open the cablecar up to Mannlichen on 17 May this year: http://www.maennlichen.ch/summer-timetable.html That would suggest they expect the ridgetop trail up there to be hikeable by then. The train up to Kleine Scheidegg and on to the Jungfrau runs all year round. No one can predict how much snow will remain on the trails in late May. (Probably less than the Sierras, although this year may prove different!) It really depends on the elevation and the spring weather. Some of the trails are level and safe enough to hike even if some snow remains. You could probably have a good time if you have decent boots, hiking poles, and maybe little cleats like StabilIcers or similar; you can just avoid any areas that look like ice axe and crampons would be advisable.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you all for the replies and the links.
Michael, that ridge hike was on our radar but hadn't heard any recommendations. Thanks for the good information. Lola, thank you for the links and your thoughts; I see the Mannlichen site has a number for hiking reports, too. We are certainly comfortable walking on snow, if no further equipment than the boot cleats and trekking poles are needed. pat, we share the same concerns about the snow level in May. We would be very happy to hike lower elevations if available. We don't want to run out of good hiking options. I suppose this could be a very good year for the waterfalls. I wonder if they might be starting to increase in volume yet in later May. Thank you again!! Rich

Posted by
32 posts

...and for any further advice or thoughts anybody may have. Rich

Posted by
13842 posts

I think you will just have to take it as it comes in May. Most of Europe started out this winter with a drought and low snowfall. Then came the deep freeze of last week. It could thaw next week, or they could get a big dump of snow in March that does not melt. Generally May in the Berner Oberland offers low crowds, few wildflowers, low prices, and the weather can be anything from warm and sunny to full on blizzard. But if you live in the mountains you know how to handle the snow. It is a beautiful place; go and enjoy.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks. That sounds like a good synopsis of the situation for us. Are there any lodgings of good value anyone can recommend in the area?

Posted by
13842 posts

Chalet Fontana in Mürren is very reasonable. Choose a room upstairs in the B&B with shared bath, or the ground floor apartment for more privacy and a bit more money.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you, Lola. We will put all this and whatever else we can gather together and make a decision on staying in the OB. We are awfully excited about the mountains and the towns and villages.
Rich

Posted by
1353 posts

Rich, we've been to the BO twice - once in mid-June, and once arriving on June 1st. In mid-June there was a little snow left on the Mannlichen (sp?) - Klein Scheidigg Hike, but it was doable. All of the other trails were great! However in Early June we were unable to do that same hike as it was very cold / rainy, and the almendhuble funicular was not running (doesn't start running til 2nd week in June) We were still able to get a fair amount of hiking in! We are going again this year, but arriving 3rd week in June. I would love to hear from a local (I know we have at least one who's been posting on this board). It's probably hard to say what it will be like until we see what kind of spring they have. Since you live in the Sierra's you remember last winter! We went to Yosemite in June/July and there was still a fair amount of snow up at Tuolome! You will most likely be able to do most of the hikes with just a good pair of hiking shoes, but in May I would probably include some rain gear!

Posted by
32 posts

Good information, Jill. Thank-you. I admit I'll have to look up that funicular; I am still familiarizing myself with this area. It sounds like it's best to envision a day similar to what I'm having today in the mountains where I am: rain or light snow mix, the ground partially snow-covered, wet but not too cold. I'm hopeful that over the course of a 5-day stay, we'd have a good shot at seeing the sun here or there. Again, we 're definitely okay if we're unable to hike on a mountain top or up to a high ridge. Good hikes in the foothills or lower slopes suit us just fine. Flowers, waterfalls, and the cows beginning their spring trek would be great if we could be so lucky. And yes, we did get absolutely buried in snow last winter!
Rich

Posted by
1353 posts

Rich, You will have an amazing time even if some of the paths do have snow. My husband says (and I agree) the Lauterbrunnen Valley is like Yosemite on Steroids! Absolutely beautiful and amazing!