Photo: The Glacier de la Plaine Morte at the start of the hike.
A very varied route with big changes in scenery and language. From barren harsh rocky glacial landscape high in French speaking Valais to lush storybook Swiss meadows in the German speaking Berner Simmental.
Using the cable car to do all the climbing the route is fairly easy. Apart from a little bump over the col at the start it is one long (if a little steep at times) downhill walk. Going the other way would be somewhat harder.
Route: Point de la Plaine Morte (cable car) – Wildstrublehütte – Iffigenalp – Lenk (train).
Length: 17.5km, +330m, -2145m.
I did this as an interesting way to transfer home after a week in Crans-Montana.
Season: July-September. Expect that there will still be snow on the higher and north facing parts in July.
Arrival/Departure: Gondola from the Montana, Violettes station up to Cabane-des-Violettes, and then a cable car to Point de la Plaine Morte. From Lenk a train makes the short run to Zweisimmen where you can get connections to Interlaken and Montreux.
Supplies: Food and drink at the Wildstrublehütte and Iffigenalp. There is also a farm selling cheese out of a fridge at Ey shortly before you reach Lenk.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: The last 9km and 600m of descent from Iffigenalp to Lenk can be skipped with a bus ride.
Exposure/Hazards: A good chunk of the route is a high rocky landscape well above the treeline. The path was never a problem, but keep an eye on the weather and protect yourself from the sun
Notes along the route
Cable car from Crans-Montana up to Plaine Morte (via a gondola to Les Violettes). This must be one of the most impressive cable car rides in the country: it has a long horizontal traverse that crosses over several ridges changing the local scenery and opening up the big view of the highest peaks in Switzerland and France which just gets better and better as you go along.
A little climb and a very minor detour up to the point itself (hard to miss with the big white radar dome) for the views over the glacier and the impressive mountain panorama to the south. This is already the highest point at 2927m.
The first section dips down to cross a rocky landscape next to the glacier before a little climb to reach the Wysshorelücke where the route crosses from French speaking Valais into German speaking Bern. Enjoy a last look out to the high peaks of Valais before starting down to the lower peaks and lush meadows of the Simmental which are now visible ahead. Looking at the map the path crosses above a glacier just after the pass. This was the only time I saw frozen ground during the heatwave, and there was some snow left near the path but it didn’t look like a glacier.
Past the Wildstrublehütte and then a fairly steep descent down to the lakes. After the lakes the path is gentler and the landscape starts to turn greener with more flowers and then grass appearing.
The descent down to Iffigenalp is rather interesting. Initially a high meadow with views over the region (including to Lenk which looks deceivingly close), then a narrow path hugging the cliff-side. The Alp seems to be a popular destination and was filled with cars by the early afternoon on a sunny Sunday.
Once down in the valley it is a typical Simmental landscape of meadows, cows, patches of woodland and lots of little farm huts. A bit of roadside walking (very quiet) then through woodland alongside the stream. Initially cascading waterfalls through a gorge culminating in the Iffigfall. Not something to travel halfway across the country for, but a very nice bonus in the route.
After the falls the landscape gets gentler again with the path meandering through woods alongside the stream.
The last little bit to Lenk is very open. Great for the views. Not so good if it is mid-afternoon on a hot sunny day.
Lenk itself is pleasant enough. There are some pretty buildings but I wouldn’t call it a ‘must see’ village. It does make a good starting/stopping point for various activities like the Via Alpina passes to Adelboden and Launen. It also has a short train line connecting to Zweisimmen.