Gruben to Jungen via Augstbord Pass

Distance: 8.2 miles (one way)

near Gruben in Valais

Introduction

Close-up of the Weisshorn, Bishorn and Brunegghorn

The trail crossing Augstbord Pass between the Turtmanntal (Turtmann Valley) and the Mattertal (Matter Valley) is one of my favorite hikes in the Valais. The trail travels through diverse landscapes with splendid views, crosses a rugged pass and then descends through a rocky moonscape to one of the most stunning viewpoints in the Swiss Alps.

Starting at the Hotel Schwarzhorn in Gruben, a steep climb through forest, pastures and rocky meadows leads to the inner recesses of the untamed Gruobutalli Valley. At the head of the valley the trail ascends through an austere, rocky landscape to Augstbord Pass where fine views encompass the summits towering above the Saas Valley to the east and the Turtmann Valley to the west.

From the pass, the trail drops steeply down scree covered slopes to a rock-strewn valley beneath the flanks of the Schwarzhorn. Soon the trail crosses to the south side of the valley where it traverses a long boulder field before rounding the end of the valley’s south ridge to a grassy knoll with breathtaking views.

From the knoll enjoy a panorama of peaks adorn with glaciers. The Bernese Alps fill the skyline to the north. To the east the peaks of the Mischabel range rise above the Mattertal while the Weisshorn, Bishorn and Brunegghorn dominate to view to the southwest. Monte Rosa, Lyskamm and the Breithorn massifs tower above the head of the Mattertal valley to the south. In the distance to the east are the peaks flanking the east side of the Saas Valley.

From the overlook the trail drops down steep slopes to Jungen, nestled in a hanging valley perched high above the floor of the Mattertal. Here a small cable car whisks hikers down to St. Nicklaus where trains depart for Zermatt or Visp and a bus heads to Grachen.

The trail, while steep is not overly difficult thanks to well-engineered switchbacks facilitating the climb to the pass. There is no place for refreshments between Gruben and Jungen, so pack a lunch and take plenty of water.

This trail can easily be walked in reverse. Frequent trains run between Zermatt and St. Niklaus. At St. Niklaus catch the cable car to Jungen. Hikers staying in Grachen can take the bus from Grachen to the St. Niklaus Bahnhoff (train station) and then the lift to Jungen. See the Jungen Lutseilbahn Jungen cable car schedule for more information.

Check the weather forecast before setting out from Gruben. Sections of the trail are very difficult to follow in thick fog and the high exposed slopes should be avoided during thunderstorms.

Gruben to Augstbord Pass

Looking west toward Meidpass

Distance from Trailhead: 3.6 miles (one way)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 9,495-ft.

Elevation Gain: 3,507-ft.

At the trailhead, which starts behind (south side) of the Schwarzhorn Hotel in Gruben (5,988-ft/1825-meters), signs point east toward Augstbordpass (3h) and St Niklaus (6h 40min). Follow the trail as it ascends steeply on a broad grassy track, crossing a wood bridge over a stream at 0.2 miles.

Beyond the stream a series of steep switchbacks climb through larch and pine forest. Openings in the trees offer views across the valley to the Medihorn and the ridgeline running along the west side of the Turtmanntal (Turtmann Valley). As you ascend, the trees give way to shrub filled meadows with views of the Bernese Alps rising to the north of the Rhone Valley.

Reach a trail junction with a track going left (north) for Chanzibodu. Continue straight ahead following the signs for Augstbordpass (2h 10min), Jungen (4h 50min) and St Niklaus (6h 10min). As the trail gains height views open to Les Diablons, towering above the head of the Turtmanntal, and Meidpass (Meid Pass) across the valley.

At 1.4 miles arrive at the junction (7,448-ft/2,270-meters) with the trail branching right (south) to the Turtmannhutte (Turtmann Hut 2h 55min). Bear left on the main trail to Augstbordpass (2h). To the north are distant views of Altels and the Balmhorn rising above the head of the Leukerbad Valley.

The trail continues its ascent up steep switchbacks and then crosses a rocky meadow, passing a few old stone building. At 1.7 miles reach a second junction (8,907-ft/2,468-meters) with a trail branching right (south) toward the Turtmannhutte (2h 40min). Our trail proceeds straight ahead on an ascending traverse through meadows along the left (north) side of the Gruobutalli Valley, staying to the left (north) of a small creek.

At 2.0 miles the trail bears right, crosses the creek and heads east toward a low bench. Soon the path crosses a stream and curves to the right (southeast) as it climbs a knoll. Red and white blazes mark the trail.

From the top of the knoll enjoy great views of the Meidpass and the peaks rising along the west side of the Turtmanntal. Rugged slopes with talus aprons line the southern side of the Gruobutalli valley.

Re-cross the stream at 2.4 miles and then ascend steeply up rocky meadows along the north side of the valley to the base of a bluff. A rocky trail now ascends the west face of the bluff on very steep, tight switchbacks. Use care if there is ice or snow on the trail.

Reach the top of the bluff at 3.1 miles. Ahead you will see Augstbord Pass, the low saddle on the ridge. Turn around for great views across the Turtmann Valley to the west. Below the trail to the south meltwater flows down a rocky gorge.

The trail now ascends grassy meadows atop the bluff. At 3.1 miles follow the trail as it drops into a bowl and curves around the right (south) side of a small tarn nestled beneath the pass. At the east end of the tarn the trail turns left (northeast) on an ascending traverse across a boulder field. Rock cairns mark the route. If the boulder field is snow covered, aim for the grassy slopes below the pass.

Beyond the boulder field the trail reaches a grassy slope and turns right (east), climbing steep switchbacks to Augstbord Pass (9,495-ft/2,894-meters) at 3.6 miles. Here distant views extend east toward the peaks towering over the Saatal (Saas Valley) including the Boshhorn, Senggchuppa and the Fletschhorn. The Schwarzhorn (10,501-ft/3,201-meters) rises to the north of the pass. The peaks and ridges rising above the Turtmanntal fill the skyline to the west.

(Note: The best views of this hike are not at the pass but atop a grassy knoll overlooking the Mattertal (Matter Valley) at 6.3 miles. I recommend taking a short break at the pass and saving your lunch break for the Mattertal viewpoint.)

Augstbord to Jungen

Monte Rosa and the Breithorn tower above head of the Mattertal

Distance from Trailhead: 8.2 miles (one way)

Ending/Highest Elevation: 6,562-ft.

Elevation Gain: -2,933-ft.

To continue to Jungen (2h 45min) and St Niklaus, follow the trail as it descends steep, scree-covered slopes on the east side of the pass beneath the south face of the Schwarzhorn. After walking a half mile the grade moderates as the path wanders through boulder-strewn meadows, crossing a few rockslides along the way.

Soon the trail curves to the right (south) across the valley and passes through a narrow gap to the left of a rock slide at 4.5 miles (0.9 miles from the pass). Beyond the gap the grade steepens as the trail descend rocky meadows.

Reach a “Y” intersection at 4.7 miles where signs point left (east) to Embd and Moosealp. Take the trail branching right (south) for Jungen and St Niklaus. (The transportation links from Jungen to either Grachen or Zermatt are more frequent than the buses from Embd and Moosealp.) The trail now drops into and crosses a gully to the south side of the valley and then starts an ascending traverse, on easy to moderate grades, heading east through a long boulder field.

Reach the top of the boulder field at 5.9 miles. Turn around for nice views of Augstbord Pass to the west. Continue climbing for a short distance to a small shoulder jutting from the ridge at 6.0 miles. Here marvelous views open to the confluence of the Matter and Saas valleys and the surrounding peaks.

Beyond the shoulder the narrow trail clings to the hillside, following a roller coaster course through rocky meadows. There is a feeling of exposure along this section of the route, which may make some members of your party uncomfortable. Reach a grassy knoll with stunning panoramic views at 6.3 miles.

The knoll is a great place for a picnic or to take a break while admiring the views. The Bernese Alps fill the skyline to the north. The peaks of the Mischabel range rise above the east side of the Mattertal while the Weisshorn, Bishorn and Brunegghorn dominate to view to the southwest. Monte Rosa, Lyskamm and the Breithorn tower above the head of the Mattertal valley to the south. In the distance are the peaks flanking the east side of the Saas Valley.

When you are ready to continue hiking, follow the trail as it heads southeast on a moderate descending traverse to a signed junction at 6.5 miles. Turn left toward Jungen and follow the trail as it drops steeply down a series of switchbacks through meadows and clusters of larch trees.

Reach a somewhat confusing junction at 7.0 miles. Here signs point straight ahead toward Juntal. We turn left on the unmarked trail that heads downhill on switchbacks toward Jungen. (Don’t take the trail toward Juntal.) At a signed junction a short distance beyond, turn right toward Jungen (Jungu 35 min and St. Niklaus). The rest of the way Jungen (Jungu) is on a good, well-marked trail.

At Jungen (6,562-ft/2,000-meters) follow the signs pointing to the Luftseilbahn (10 min), which passes a small lake popular with families. Reach the small cable car descending to St Niklaus at 8.2 miles. You can either take the lift from Jungen to St. Niklaus or walk down to St. Niklaus on a series of very steep, knee-jarring switchbacks. The lift is the recommended option. Note: The 4 person lift takes an extended lunch break. Do not be disheartened if a large group of people are waiting for the lift. Once started, the lift runs continuously until everyone is down.

The trail, while steep is not overly difficult thanks to well-engineered switchbacks facilitating the climb to the pass. There is no place for refreshments between Gruben and Jungen, so pack a lunch and take plenty of water.

This trail can easily be walked in reverse. Frequent trains run between Zermatt and St. Niklaus. At St. Niklaus catch the cable car to Jungen. (See the Jungen Luftseilbahn Jungen cable car schedule for more information.) Hikers staying in Grachen can take the bus from Grachen to the St. Niklaus Bahnhoff (train station) and then the lift to Jungen. In Jungen, follow the trail signs to Augstbord Pass.

Check the weather forecast before setting out from Gruben. Sections of the trail are very difficult to follow in thick fog and the high exposed slopes should be avoided during thunderstorms.

Hike Facts

  • Distance: 8.2 miles (one way)
  • Elevation: 5,988-ft. - 9,495-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 3,507-ft.
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Basecamp(s): Gruben / Zermatt
  • Region: Valais

 

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile Gruben to St. Niklaus via Augstbord Pass

 

 

Driving Directions

Trailhead directions from Gruben: This trail starts on the behind (south side) of the Schwarzhorn Hotel in Gruben

From Zermatt: If walking the trail in reverse, take the train from Zermatt to St. Niklaus. In the height of the summer trains depart every half hour. The ride takes about 35 minutes. In St. Niklaus, walk to the southwest end of the train stations (in the direction of Zermatt) and turn right (west) on the first street beyond the train station, which drops down to an underpass beneath the main Visp-Zermatt highway. On the other side of the underpass turn right (northeast) and walk up the road to the Jungen Cable Car station (the Jungen Luftseilbahn).

 

Trail Resources

Trail Photo Gallery / Trail Map

Basecamp(s) Information:
Gruben / Zermatt

Region Information:
Valais

Other Hiking Regions in:
Switzerland