A Long Weekend in the Berner Oberland: Kilchbalm

We arrived in Kilchbalm! A tundra-like cul-de-sac at the end of the long Sefinental is enclosed on three sides by a ‘U’ of high mountains, most noteworthy the mighty Gspaltenhorn reaching 3437 meters. The forest opens to a flat grassy field about 400 meters long by 200 meters wide. Boulders with deep green, mustard yellow and neon orange moss speckle the landscape. A stream was steadily rolling out from under the snow blankets that rose into the rocky mountain faces, becoming thicker and whiter with altitude. I stood under Gspaltenhorn, whose sharp geometric body had been visible the entire length of the trail. However, until standing here, where one could make out the clear lines of each angular facet of rock lifting up into the clouds, it didn’t feel real. It felt like a landscape to enjoy, a monument in the distance. Standing directly under Gspaltenhorn froze me.

We walked along the cold rocky stream.  Behind a few rocks we saw a family of chubby marmots playing. Gleb was rinsing his hands in the shallow water when I suddenly heard a pounding. I looked behind, but could not tell where the sound was coming from.  Then I noticed a waterfall high in the mountain ridge. It was not water, it was snow! There was an avalanche rolling down from a peak.  The thundering of snow sheets continued crashing for a minute, maybe two. Then at once, it was silent again.

Our guide book informed us that in Kilchbalm there was a Kilchbalmhöhle (cave). We finally found last summer’s trail that climbed to the left lower rock face of the mountain ridge. It looked like a long thin scoop was simply lifted up out from the wall. Past visitors had collected stones building a fortification for the small semi-cave.  We climbed up into the space. A few Tibetan pray flags were still hanging. We noticed a corner of the cave was habitually used for preparing dinner.  A sooty wall reached nearly 3 meters high and an old frying pan and pot were left for the next travelers. We stood looking out over the glacial tundra for several minutes. Then we quickly jumped back down through a thin stream of dripping water from the melting snow above and set off back to Stechelberg.

view of Gspaltenhorn with Gleb for size comparison in the lower left
using the 10-sec. timer function on my camera for a photo with Gspaltenhorn
The rocky stream leading out of Kilchbalm into the Sefinental
climbing to the Kilchbalmhöhle
view down into the tundra enclosure from the Kilchbalmhöhle
small fort walls in the foreground with a view of the rocky stream from the Kilchbalmhöhle
snowy ridges enclosing  Kilchbalm
snow sheets up into the mountain ridge

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