AUGSTMATTHORN HIKE FROM HARDER KULM
Augstmatthorn is one of the most spectacular summits along the Hardergrat Ridge. It’s famous not only for the stunning views but for the Ibex colony that calls Augstmatthorn home. There are several ways to reach Augstmatthorn but the most popular route is to begin at Harder Kulm and walk along the ridge to the summit.
AUGSTMATTHORN HIKE DETAILS
Hike Distance: The hike distance from Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn and then down to Habkern is 16-kilometers. From Habkern you then catch the bus back to your destination.
Hike Duration: The total hiking time from Harder Kulm to Augstmatthorn and then down to Habkern should be about 5-6 hours.
Hike Difficulty: The hike is a red and white marked trail. There are sections where the trail is exposed on one side and a few small sections where it is exposed on both sides. However, don’t worry if you read some crazy reports online, I was surprised at how basic this trail was. After reading about the dangers of the trail and how extreme it was, I found myself waiting for the dramatic moments on the trail. They never came and this trail was definitely not anything to be afraid of. Of course, that is a statement relative to my experience. I’ve tried to photograph the ‘worst’ moments in this blog post so you can get a visual on the drop-offs. In addition to the supposed danger, there is also close to 1,000m of incline so that is a challenge in itself.
Hike Incline: 964m
HOW TO GET TO AUGSTMATTHORN TRAILHEAD ( HARDER KULM)
The trail begins at Harder Kulm. There are two main ways to get to Harder Kulm, which is pretty much the most popular viewpoint/restaurant in the Interlaken region. The easiest way is to take the funicular (cable car) up the steep track to the top. To check the timetable and prices of the Harder Kulm Funicular you can click here.
The funicular runs every 30-minutes but for most of the year the first ride up is at 9:10 am except for Sundays when it is 8: 30 am. This means you can’t catch the funicular up for sunrise, which brings us to option two.
The second option is to hike up from Interlaken to Harder Kulm. This is a challenge in itself and if you combine it with the 16km Augstmatthorn hike you are in for a huge day not to be underestimated. The hike begins at the funicular and follows the red and white marked trail up to Harder Kulm. It’s incredibly steep with 750m of incline over the 4-kilometer journey.
Once you arrive at Harder Kulm, there are yellow signs pointing you to Augstmatthorn and then you simply follow the red and white trail markers along the ridgeline. Hard to go wrong.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE HIKE FROM HARDER KULM TO AUGSTMATTHORN
I had pretty low expectations on the day I did this hike because the weather was very foggy and it wasn’t forecast to improve too much. However, what I didn’t know is that even with just a few hundred meters of elevation from Harder Kulm, we would be high enough to get up above the clouds. While we didn’t have views of the beautiful blue lakes in the valley, we had a sea of clouds below the ridge. On a clear day in the summer, the trail will be green and grassy and the lakes below will be a vibrant blue. I hiked further down the ridgeback in the summer and took the photo below (from Brienz end of Hardergrat, which is actually called Brienzergrat if done in the opposite direction), which shows the contrast. Both of the conditions are awesome but just be aware that the colors will depend on the time of year and weather conditions.
The day for me began in Interlaken where I was based. I walked across the river to the Harderbahn Station and caught the funicular up to Harder Kulm. It’s so steep on the funicular that all I could do on the whole ride up was to imagine hiking up and then hiking to Augstmatthorn. What a journey!
When we arrived at Harder Kulm, it was completely engulfed by the white clouds. We couldn’t see a thing. Sitting at the outdoor restaurant for a while, we wondered if today just wasn’t our day. The clouds never cleared so we decided to set off anyway and hope it improved. Our goal was to be at Augstmatthorn for sunset and then quickly hike down to Habkern in the last light of the day. Make sure you check the bus timetable from Habkern if you haven’t got a car parked at Lombochalp/Habkern ready to pick you up or drive home.
Off we set on the trail from Harder Kulm, expectations low but hopeful as always. Switzerland had treated me well throughout my 50 hikes over the summer so I just needed one more favor from the Swiss weather gods. They would deliver.
The trail begins with a steady incline through the forest with infrequent glimpses out towards the Jungfrau region’s ‘Big Three’, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. It wasn’t long before we noticed we were above the clouds and it was then we knew we were in for a spectacular afternoon and sunset.
The first 5-6 kilometers of the trail is in the forest. Nothing much is happening except a quick opening in the trees to look out over the valley every now and again. When you finally emerge from the forest, the trail really picks up and you are now hiking along the ridge with constant views on both sides.
There are a few moments where there is exposure but generall it is only on one side of the trail. In a couple of sections, there may be a drop on both sides but the trail is wide and flat. There is never a moment where you need to exercise a high degree of caution compared to down the other end of the Hardergrat Trail where the ridge narrows to less than a foot wide with steep drops on either side.
We were now well and truly above the clouds and on our way to Suggiture, the first real checkpoint. The trail up to Suggiture is getting a little rocky and steep but still no huge danger.
Once you leave Suggiture, it’s time to start the lookout for Chamois and Ibex. There are colonies of both that live on Augstmatthorn and the surrounding areas. On this beautiful evening, there were no other hikers as we trekked up to Augstmatthorn, which meant there was a high likelihood we would bump into some wildlife.
It didn’t take long before we came across some Chamois, which are like a cross between a deer and a mountain goat.
However, it wasn’t the Chamois that were present in numbers. Close to the summit of Augstmatthorn, we came across a colony of more than 30 Ibex chewing their way through the steep slopes of grass. These animals are majestic with their large, curved horns and ability to effortlessly walk up inclines that humans wouldn’t dare attempt. I was fortunate enough to have my camera ready and shot some beautiful moments of the Ibex. Two aggressive Ibex even had a fight on the hill and positioned themselves right in the golden lighting for me. It was all just too good and a moment to treasure. Here are my favorite Ibex photos from the hike.
After our Ibex encounter, we continued up the final section of the ridge to Augstmatthorn. This was the most picturesque section and it seemed from this point on, if you continued down the Hardergrat Trail, it would be incredibly scenic the whole way.
We reached the Augstmatthorn summit just in time for sunset and what an incredible spot to be, up above the clouds, with views over the valley on both sides. The clouds were rolling in and putting on a show as we explored the ridges and viewpoints at the summit.
After enjoying the golden light at the Augstmatthorn summit, we now headed back the way we had come but after a short distance turned right down the dirt path that leads to Habkern. The trail down is very steep and slippery when wet but not very dangerous and there are no drop-offs or high-risk sections. Just go slow and steady because it is steep.
After about 3-kilometers you will reach the road and be in Lombochalp, where there is a parking lot, and it’s then another 4.8-kilometers to Habkern. Make sure you check when the last bus is and give yourself enough time to make it.
It is possible to park at Lombochalp and hike up to Augstmatthorn for just 3-kilometers and then hike back down. I think a lot of people do that just for the sunset viewing rather than a big 16-kilometer hike.
I hope you enjoy your adventure on Augstmatthorn and/or the Hardergrat Trail!