Route 8 (Aare Route): Section 1 – cycling Gletsch to Meiringen, Switzerland

Highlights: Grimselpass & Lake Grimsel

Overview of the entire Route 8 (Aare Route: Gletsch–Koblenz):
Route 8 follows the Aare river (the longest entirely Swiss river), in a south-north passage through middle-western Switzerland. The source of the Aare river is near the Grimselpass (eastern Bernese Alps), in the Aare Glaciers (Aargletschers: group of glaciers and lakes such as the Grimselsee and the Oberaarsee).
Route 8 starts at the southern foot of the Grimselpass, at Gletsch, goes over the Grimselpass (2,164m), and then starts a long descent to finish at the opening of the Aare in the Rhine, at Koblenz (about 300m altitude), at the northern Swiss border with Germany. The landscape changes from the initial glacier views and Alpine peaks to lake panoramas (lakes Brienz, Thun, Biel) in the middle of Switzerland.
This Route also passes through the charming towns of Spiez, Thun, Solothurn, and Aarau, as well as the Swiss capital of Bern. SwitzerlandMobility.ch (veloland.ch/en/routes/route-08.html) divides Route 8 into 7 Sections for a total of 305km.

Route 8: Section 1 (Gletsch 1757m –Meiringen 598m)

Stats from SwitzerlandMobility.ch (www.veloland.ch/en/routes/etappe-0911.html): 38km long, height difference Gletsch–Meiringen 480 m (but a grueling 1600m in the opposite direction). Their site has the full profile. The alpine route is open only during the hot months.

July 2017 (1-day)

Overall, this was an easy and relatively short ride. I started from Gletsch, but the main train station is really Oberwald. I took a train connection Oberwald-Gletsch that was suggested by the SBB.ch; but when I arrived in Oberwald, they told me that this was a private tourist train (basically for hotel guests, paid by the hotels), not included in the original ticket and that it would cost a whopping chf 19 for 6km (to be paid at the arrival because the train agent did not collect money). I had purposely scheduled to arrive in Oberwald in the early afternoon to take that connection, and so I took it. The train agent was very helpful and kind and let me on board with my heavy e-bike.  Now I understand why this little old tourist train operates only on weekends in the summer months and only a couple of times/day….. Alternatively, there is a bus from Oberwald (with about 1hr wait period) but I’m not sure if it takes e-bikes. Another option, and probably the most practical, is to start biking directly from Oberwald, adding 6km and 400m elevation.

From Gletsch (1,760m), I went on the twisting road up to the Grimselpass (6km with 400m ascent). This part is in constant view of the Furkapass and the young Rhone river below.

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Above Gletsch, view of the Rhone towards Oberwald
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Above Gletsch, view of the Rhone Glacier on the left (hidden), and the Furkapass on the right

Arrived at Grimselpass (2,164m), it started raining and I sought cover in one of the two restaurants. The pass itself has minimal views, with the exception of the tiny Lake Tote.

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Grimselpass
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Totensee

Once I started the descent on the opposite side, a majestic panorama opened up with views of steep grey-green mountains and jagged peaks, grey-green lakes and, yes, also power plants. The views of the two lakes (Grimselsee and Räterichsbodensee) carved in the Alps are just amazing. The Grimsel Lake is also graced by the Grimsel Hospice (now a hotel) which sits at its side atop a hilly rock.

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View of Grimsel Hospice perched on the Grimselsee

The only displeasing feature of this Pass is the traffic, with motors and power cars racing up and down the serpentine route. Even if the road is spacious, I felt uneasy at times especially passing through the numerous tunnels. If it weren’t for the traffic, the nature is completely untouched, with no houses for a good 20km. The road unwinds in a charming landscape, between steep granite peaks with rocks smoothened by old glaciers, and then through beautiful pine forests.

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At Handeggone, one could take the touristic and pricey funicular railway (gradient of 106%, Europe’s steepest and vertical in some places) to the picturesque Gelmersee lake (1,850m).

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Just past Innertkirchen is another tourist attraction: the Aareschlucht, a 200m high gorge on the Aare. It is not visible from the route but one could see its beginning via a little detour.

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Aareschlucht

In Meiringen (see also 8:2 and 9:5), which is apparently the birthplace of meringues and a nice tourist/residential town, I took my return train.

Links to Introduction a& other sections of Route 8:

6 thoughts on “Route 8 (Aare Route): Section 1 – cycling Gletsch to Meiringen, Switzerland

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