Hohturli Pass

Distance: 9.8 - 10.4 miles (round trip)

near Kandersteg in Bernese Oberland

Introduction

Ober Bergli and the Bluemlisalp glacier

Many hikers visit Hohturli Pass, the highest pass on the Alpine Pass Route, when walking the challenging trail between Griesalp and Kandersteg. Hikers looking for a slightly easier trail to the pass can opt for this highly scenic out-and-back hike from Kandersteg to Hohturli.

After a quick gondola ride the trail follows an ascending traverse high above the north side of the Oeschinensee, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Swiss Alps. From the trail enjoy splendid views of the magnificent glacial cirque towering above the lake’s turquoise waters. After walking a little over 2.5 miles the trail reaches the small alp of Ober Bergli, perched at the foot of a hanging valley high above the northeast end of the lake.

From Ober Bergli the trail climbs steeply through rocky meadows, along the crest of an old moraine wall and then up very steep scree covered slopes to Hohturli Pass (9,114-ft/2,778-meters). The final push to the pass ascends wood steps up an extremely steep grade. Along the way the trail enjoys great views of the tongues of the Bluemlisalp glacier hanging from a ledge along the south side of the trail.

From the pass great views extend southwest to the peaks towering above the west side of Kandersteg. Sefinenfurgge Pass, the notch on the saddle between the Hundshorn and Butlasse, is visible to the east. To the north, fine views stretch down the length of the Kiental Valley and beyond to Lake Thun. Nearer at hand dazzling glaciers spill down the flanks of the Bluemlisalp massif to the south.

An optional side trip climbs from the pass to the Bluemlisalp Hut and an overlook beyond the hut with bird’s-eye views of the Bluemlisalp glacier and massif.

Be aware that this is a steep, strenuous hike gaining over 3,500-ft. in 4.9 miles. In my opinion the scenic rewards more than compensate for the effort. So pick a day with promising weather, get an early start and enjoy this beautiful hike to Hohturli Pass and the Bluemlisalp Hut.

Hohturli Pass

Great views of the peaks forming the cirque above the Oeschinensee

Distance from Trailhead: 9.8 miles (round trip)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 9,114-ft.

Elevation Gain: 3,584-ft.

From Kandersteg take the Kandersteg-Oeschinensee Gondola to the top station (5,530-ft/1686-meters). (See directions below for more information.) Exit the gondola station and find the hiking signs at the start of a gravel path heading east. Views from the meadows adjacent to the gondola offer previews of the coming attractions. The Oeschinenhorn, Frundenhorn and Dolderhorn fill the skyline to the east/southeast while the Bunderspitz and the Gross Lohner dominate the view to the southwest.

Walk east along the gravel path toward the Oeschinensee. In a short distance reach a “Y” intersection at Schatthaus (5,479-feet/1,670-meters) and take the trail branching left toward Lager, the Oescheinensee (20 min) and Hohturli (4h). Follow the trail as it heads east through meadows and clusters of trees, passing a few minor junctions. In all cases continue along the main trail toward Lager and the Oeschinensee.

Reach a junction at 0.6 miles and turn left on the trail toward Heuberg, Ober Bargli, Hoturli and Blumlisalphutte, which ascends on moderately-steep to steep grades through meadows and trees, crossing a few talus slopes along the way. At 1.4 miles the grade abates as the trail reaches a grassy knoll.

A use trail, heading south, leads to a bench offering a great perspective of the amazing sheer walls ringing the Oeschinensee and the rugged peaks forming the stunning glacial cirque surrounding the lake. Glaciers tumble down the rugged slopes beneath the peaks while waterfalls, fed by glacial melt water, cascade down the steep slopes to the lake.

Beyond the knoll the trail contours high above the north side of the lake, traveling through meadows, crossing rockslides and navigating rocky gullies along the valley’s steep, sinuous walls. Caution is required in a few spots with a little bit of exposure.

The walk is accompanied by glorious views of the Oeschinenhorn, Frundenhorn and Dolderhorn towering high above the south/east side of the Oeschinensee. As you near the head of the lake grand views open up the valley to Hohturli pass. The Bluemlisalp glacier tumbles down the slopes between the Bluemlisalp-Rothorn, Ufem Stock and Wildi Frau, rugged horns protruding from the flanks of the Bluemlisalp massif. If you look carefully, you should be able to see the Bluemlisalp Hut perched atop a rocky knoll to the north of the Wildi Frau.

At 2.3 miles the trail curves to the east, crosses and stream and then curves to the south, reaching the small alp at Ober Bergli (6,473-ft/1,973-meters) and a trail junction at 2.7 miles. Ober Bergli is located at the foot of a hanging valley high above the northeast end of the Oeschinensee.

Turn left at the junction toward Hohturli, Bluemlisalp Hut and Griesalp. The trail to the right, which drops steeply down to Unter Bergli, offers an alternative route back to Kandersteg on return journey.

Soon the trail crosses to the north side of the stream on a metal bridge and starts climbing on steep grades, making a wide arc around the alp’s pastures to avoid a field strewn with boulders from an old rock slide. At 3.0 miles the trail curves to the left (east/northeast) and ascends steeply through rocky meadows along the north side of the valley.

At 3.5 miles the trail climbs a series of switchbacks ascending to the knife-edge crest of the eroded moraine wall of the Bluemlisalp Glacier. To the south enjoy wonderful views of the tongues of the Bluemlisalp glacier hanging from a high shelf. Unfortunately the receding glacial tongues are not quite a dramatic as they were 10-15 years ago.

Follow the trail as it climbs on moderately steep grades along the top of the moraine wall. Turn around occasionally for nice views of the peaks, including the Gross Lohner, rising along the west side of the Kandersteg. At 3.9 miles the moraine wall ends and the trail now ascends on moderate to moderately-steep grades through meadows and climbs rock ledges along the north side of the deep trench filled with the gravel remains of the receding glacier. The pass, a notch along ridge at the head of the valley, and the hut, to the right (south) of the pass, are now in sight.

At 4.5 miles the path curves to the east and the rocky meadows give way to scree covered slopes. Follow the trail as it climbs steep to very steep grades toward the pass, gaining over 1,000-ft in 0.75 miles. In places temporary bridges span eroded gullies along the trail. The final push to the pass climbs very steeply up wood steps.

Reach Hohturli Pass (9,114-ft/2,778-meters) at 4.9 miles after gaining 3,584-ft. From the pass great views extend southwest to the peaks towering above the west side of Kandersteg. Sefinenfurgge Pass, the notch on the saddle between the Hundshorn and Butlasse, is visible to the east. To the north, fine views stretch down the length of the Kiental Valley and beyond to Lake Thun. Nearer at hand dazzling glaciers spill down the flanks of the Bluemlisalp massif to the south.

Bluemlisalp Hut

View of the Bluemisalp Glacier from a viewpoint above the hut

Distance from Trailhead: 10.4 miles (round trip)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 9,297-ft.

Elevation Gain: 3,767-ft.

For even better views of the glacier, turn southeast and climb steep switchbacks leading to Blumlisalphutte (9,297-ft/2,834-meters). Reach the hut, which offers dormitory accommodations and meals, at 5.1 miles. A use trail, skirting the southwest side of the hut, crosses a large boulder field and then scree-covered slopes on its way to great viewpoints (9,350-ft.) overlooking the Bluemlisalp Glacier at 5.2 miles. Here you have a bird’s-eye view of motionless rivers of ice flowing around the Utem Stock, a horn protruding from the flanks of the Bluemlisalp massif.

When you are done taking in the views, retrace your steps to the gondola. For variety, you can take an alternate trail from Ober Bergli back to the gondola. At Ober Bergli, take the trail branching left (west/southwest) toward the Oeschinensee (45min) and Kandersteg (1h 45min). This route drops steeply down to Unter Bergli (5,797-ft/1,767-meters) and then follows a descending traverse along the north side of the Oeschinensee to Chuematti and Lager at the foot of the lake. Beyond Lager the trails ascends to the lift station where a gondola whisks hikers down to Kandersteg.

Alternatively if you prefer to walk back to Kandersteg, at Chuematti turn left (east/southeast) on the trail headed toward Kandersteg (1h 10min). The trail descends steeply through meadows and then travels along the Oschibach, a pleasant stream with nice views of the steep walls lining the south side of the valley. Reach Kandersteg (3,858-ft/1,176-meters) after hiking 2.8 miles and losing about 1,400-ft from Chuematti. Total hiking distance to Hohturli, taking the gondola up and walking down is 11.5 miles.

There is also a trail to Kandersteg that starts at the top of the gondola and drops down steep switchbacks beneath the gondola. The trail that descends along the Oschibach is the better option.

Hike Facts

  • Distance: 9.8 - 10.4 miles (round trip)
  • Elevation: 5,530-ft. - 9,297-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 3,584-ft. - 3,767-ft.
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Basecamp(s): Kandersteg
  • Region: Bernese Oberland

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile - hike to Hohturli Pass

 

 

Driving Directions

From the Kandersteg Bahnhof (train station) to the Kandersteg-Oeschinensee Gondola: From the front of the trail station, walk south a short distance and turn left (east) onto Bahnhofstrasse (Train Station Street). Walk about 700-ft. east on Bahnhoffstrasse and turn left (north) on Dorfstrasse (the town’s main street). Walk about 650-ft along Dorfstrasse, passing two streets on the right. Just before the second street you will pass the Kandersteg Tourism Office on your right, a good place to stop and pickup maps and town information.

A short distance beyond the second street, turn right on a paved walkway heading east through a beautiful meadow. The Hotel Bernerhof is directly across from the meadow. Walk a little over 0.3 miles on the pavement to Oschistrasse, passing a pretty little chapel on your right along the way. Turn left on Oschistrasse and walk about 360-ft. to the Kandersteg-Oeschinensee Gondelbahn (gondola). The gondola ride to the top station takes about nine minutes.

See the Kandersteg-Oeschinensee Gondlebahn website for the current gondola schedule.

 

Trail Resources

Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Kandersteg

Region Information:
Bernese Oberland

Other Hiking Regions in:
Switzerland