Hidden in a valley in the Grimsel area of Switzerland, you can find Trift. I was surprised by some of the reactions I received when saying I was going or had been here. Some Swiss people are not familiar with it, and those who are, believe that non-Swiss people don’t know about it either. Should we keep it a secret?
Although Trift is not the name of the destination, its allure is typified by three things with that name. The area of Trift is named after the glacier which dominates the back of the valley. Above the current glacial tongue, at 2,520 meters on a westerly facing flank of Hinter Tierberg, sits the Trifthütte, a Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) mountain hut separated from a main hiking trail by a category T4 blue and white blazed alpine trail, and last, the Trift bridge.
The most popular point of interest in the area is the Triftbrücke, a pedestrian suspension bridge stabilized by massive cables, guy-wires, and wood beams. The bridge drapes across a natural granite weir, a v-shaped chasm, which was once the demarcation of the glacial tongue. It is one hundred meters high and one hundred and seventy meters long, and yes it bounces when you cross it. By the time you reach the other side, you feel as though you became heavier; in reality you have to ascend the ends due to the U-shape it takes under its own weight. It is a magnificent feat of Swiss engineering and an Icon in the region.
There are two options for arriving at the bridge; first, you can hike up from Nessental, approximately two hours and twenty minutes to the top of the gondola station (Underi Trift) and another one hour to the bridge. Your second option is to take a small (eight person) gondola halfway up and hike the remaining hour to the bridge. To take the gondola option, it is highly recommended to reserve the gondola in advance with an online reservation. If you don’t, it is first-come-first-served at the information bureau at the bus station in Innertkirchen, and the wait can be hours on a beautiful day at the base gondola station! If you purchase a return ticket, make sure you show up at the designated time, or they give your spot to those waiting without tickets.
It is at least three hours up and back, allowing enough time to look around and take some photos. If you want something to eat, it is another 1.5 to 2 hours to go to the Windegghütte and back, or you can eat a snack at the gondola stations. A day trip here is easily 3 to 5 hours once you arrive in Nessental. The trail to the bridge is a variation of T2 and T3 red and white blazed mountain trails with increasing difficulty the closer you get to the bridge. (For hike planning, visit our other post for hiking in Switzerland)
There is a wide, picturesque valley at the gondola station, which narrows after a substantial ascent and hugs the right – hand side of the winding valley. There is an option on the way up to deviate to the Windegghütte, but this can also be accessed from the bridge, and is about an additional 40 minutes in one direction, but offers a rest, food, water and toilets.
The bridge only reveals itself in the last twenty minutes of the hike. Once there, even if you do not intend to continue up the mountain, you have to cross it! If you fear heights, this might not be your best option however. The views are stunning, on both sides of the bridge, and a small placard shows images of the Trift glacier in its heyday, and some shocking images when you realize the glacier’s recession.
If you continue on, there is another sign on a large rock, unfortunately, only in German. It reads, “Alpine Route. Schwieriger, exponierter Bergweg, der hohe Anforderungen an die Trittsicherheit stellt. Alpine Routen sind nicht Teil des Wanderwegnetzes. Trifthütte SAC 3 h.” (Translation: Alpine Route. Difficult, exposed mountain path, which demands high level of surefootedness. Alpine Route is not part of the trail network. Trifthütte, Swiss Alpine Club, 3 Hours). If you do not have substantial mountain hiking experience, do not continue.
(For more details and photos of the Trifthütte, please visit our post here)
To see this this bridge, is to be amazed at such engineering in the middle of the Alps. You gain a deeper appreciation for the pride which Switzerland has for access to nature. To get there is an experience on its own.
Know Before You Go!
We learned the hard way when it came to reserving the gondola. We didn’t know that we had to make a reservation in advance, thus forcing us to hike the entire route from the base of the mountain. We did, however, secure a space in the Trifthütte, which provided meals, toilet facilities and a place to sleep with incredible views.
Word of caution, this is by no means a safe or recommended trail for children. This trip was taken alone, leaving our two children at home.