Hiking the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald may be for you if… you’re looking for adventure? Are you the outdoorsy type? Do you like to make your friends cry and threaten murder? If so, this is the activity for you! Do the Mürren via ferrata and do it now before your brain realizes what your body is doing because this is one insane alpine adventure.
This post was originally published in December 2014 but has been totally updated for 2020.
The Mürren to Gimmelwald via ferrata
I first learned of the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald while researching hiking trails for an upcoming trip to Switzerland. You know, the kind where your feet remain firmly on the ground and your hands are free for taking selfies with cows. Those kinds of hikes.
I found a page that listed “via ferrata” as one of the possible activities to do in the area and there was literally no explanation, just a video. And I couldn’t believe what I was watching. People actually do this? This is crazy! Is this safe? I must do this! Sign me up!
And do it I did. It was kind of a big deal, whatever. I brought along a few very trusting friends who don’t really question when I make the plans. That was probably the last time.
What is a via ferrata?
Via ferrata is Italian for “iron road” and is part hiking, part rock climbing, and part being a little bit nuts. On a via ferrata you follow a path that consists mainly of iron rungs somehow (magically?) attached to the mountainside all the while being clipped onto a steel cable.
- a couple of tightrope canyon crossings
- an exposed cliff walk 2,000 feet up
- cliffside ladders
- a zip line
- and one wicked long, skinny-as-hell suspension bridge bouncing 1,500 feet above the valley
…and you’ve got one helluva fantastic way to scare your parents back home.
Via ferrata history
Want to learn some European history? Lucky for you I’m an expert (at reading Wikipedia).
The via ferrata first appeared during World War I as a way for the Italian military to more efficiently move soldiers and equipment through the Dolomites (the mountain range in northern Italy). After the war, Italy maintained care of the via ferrate network (the plural form of ferrata, fyi) and used them to draw tourists and hikers to the area.
Eventually, people like myself began completing these and feeling like total badasses so the trend caught on and moved into the rest of the Alps, to infinity and beyond. Except, North America, we really have some catching up to do.
Also check out
Love interesting alpine adventures? You might like my post on all the awesome things to do in Chamonix, France, a not-so-distant alpine adventure town at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps.
Via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald information
The via ferrata Murren to Gimmewald starts in Mürren, Switzerland and ends in Gimmelwald, Switzerland (the village below Mürren) making this one of the very few via ferrate that descend rather than ascend. Which means it’s also the best via ferrata, especially for beginners.
Going down instead of up makes it slightly easier physically because, you know, gravity. However, this is actually more challenging mentally because you’re looking down the entire time, i.e. doing exactly what they tell you not to do when traversing dangerous routes at ungodly heights. Now that I think about it, these heights are so high they’re actually really truly godly.
Via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald fast facts:
- Starts: Mürren, Switzerland
- Ends: Gimmelwald, Switzerland
- Length: 1.4 miles (2.2 km)
- Time to complete: 3 hours
- Height requirement: Must be at least 57 inches tall (145 cm)
- Weight requirement: Must weigh between 90-260 pounds (40-170 kgs)
- Elevation change: -985 feet (-300 m)
- Cost: Free
- Open: The Mürren via ferrata is open from June 1 – October 31, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Difficulty: K3 (see below)
- Need to know: The via ferrata is known as klettersteig ‘round these parts.
Also check out
For when you’re ready to visit the area, bookmark my post on where to stay in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. It compares the only few places to stay in town–hostels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs, and hotels.
How difficult is the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald?
According to the German rating system, the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald is a K3 which means “difficult.” This rating scale goes from K1 (“easy”) to K6 (“> extremely difficult”, also known as ARE YOU NUTS!?). The official website for this via ferrata says:
The route includes steep rocky terrain but the path is full secured. Parts of the way are steep or vertical but are made safer by ladders or metal rungs. Even in the easier parts of the route, climbers are assisted by cables. Securing yourself with ropes is also recommended, as the via ferrata is quite dangerous in parts.
So, interpret that incredibly vague statement how you like. But what I will say is this: at the time, none of us four who went were experienced hikers or climbers and actually all live at sea-level. None of us had ever done anything close to a via ferrata before and we still managed to do this without a guide. Only minimal tears were shed. Lots of f-bombs though.
Personally, I’d say it was moderately difficult physically, but pretty demanding mentally. The via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald doesn’t require a lot of technical experience or physical strength. I mean, helloooo – if I can do it, you can do it. But man you will have to pep talk yourself through much of it.
How much experience do you need?
So if the Murren via ferrata is “difficult,” how much experience do you really need? Well, the four us had never done a via ferrata before. We hiked up a mountain the previous day and that was about all the preparation we got in for the via ferrata.
We were all moderately active, physically healthy, and in our late 20s. Collectively we had very little prior mountain experience, we all had the lung capacity of four people living at sea level, and we had eaten more than our fair share of both chocolate and cheese fondue the night before.
For us, the via ferrata was challenging, but not exhausting. It was thrilling and fun and maybe we peed our pants a little, but it wasn’t all that demanding.
Your best bet will be to read through the Tripadvisor reviews where you can get the experiences of a wide variety of ages and fitness levels. You’ll see people in their 80s doing this via ferrata all the way to people who brought their young children.
What equipment do you need for the Mürren via ferrata?
The via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald itself is free but you’ll need to rent the necessary equipment. Necessary being the understatement of the century. To complete this via ferrata you’ll need:
Because rocks might fall on your head but you’ll most definitely hit your head on the mountain at some point. I walked right into a rocky overhand at one point. Just right into it.
Climbing harness with double carabiner system
Unless you’re wearing a wingsuit, in which case you should be on the ground having a psychological evaluation done.
The way a via ferrata works is: you’ll be clipped onto a steel cable that runs above the metal footpath using two carabiners. You use two because every so often that steel cable has to be connected to the mountain by a pole. To get around that pole, you’ll need to unclip your carabiner and move it to the other side. Having two carabiners means you’re always clipped onto the cable, at all time, no matter what. Thanks heavens.
To complete the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald you’ll need a solid pair of hiking boots, preferably with a raised heel. I learned this from the salesperson at the rental store who said it helps you grip the rungs and tightropes better. (She was right! They totally do!) But I would’ve rented a sombrero if she’d told me it would help me not die.
Regular ol’ sneakers or sandals will not do here. They will not let you leave without making sure you have proper footwear. You’ll thank them.
Please, please, please wear the gloves. For the three-hour duration of the via ferrata you’ll be dragging your hands along a rough steel cable maintaining death grips at all times. You’ll really appreciate having worn the gloves.
Where to rent via ferrata equipment
Assuming you didn’t pack a harness and double carabiner system in your luggage, you can easily and affordably rent everything you need for the via ferrata right there in Mürren. You can rent equipment for the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald at Intersport in Mürren.
For CHF 25 (about the same in USD) you get:
- Via ferrata carabiner setup
You can rent gloves for an additional CHF 4 (which I recommend). And if your shoes don’t pass the test (as mine did not), you can rent proper boots for CHF 20. Small price to pay for not falling 2,000 feet off a mountain, just saying.
Intersport will not rent via ferrata equipment to you if you do not leave with proper footwear. They will also not rent to you if it is raining or snowing or if either is in the forecast.
If you’re afraid they won’t have the right size shoes or enough equipment for your group, they encourage you to call or email to let them know what you will need and when.
What to do with equipment after you’re done
If you’re staying in Gimmelwald, let Intersport know and you can arrange to simply drop your rented equipment off at the Mountain Hostel which will be right at the end of the via ferrata. This is kind of perfect actually as the via ferrata ends at their beer-serving patio and, I’m telling you, you’ll never need a beer more than after completing the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald.
This is what I did as I was staying in Gimmelwald. It’s great they have worked this out so you don’t have to hike back up to Mürren to return it then hike back down. Kudos, Intersport!
If you’re staying in Mürren, you can simply return your rented equipment to Intersport.
How to get to Mürren from Gimmelwald
From Gimmelwald you can get to Mürren two ways:
- Take the cable car up one stop. This will take just five minutes.
- Hike up to Mürren via a paved path. This will take about 45 minutes. But it is an upward hike – chill out on Mountain Hostel’s patio for a bit first. (see above)
What to pack for the Mürren via ferrata
In addition to the equipment you’ll rent, there are a few other things you should bring with you and some notes on what to wear. Here’s what you’ll need to pack if you plan on hiking the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald:
I know I’ve already covered this but listen: you can bring your own hiking boots. If you have good, solid boots with thick tread and a raised heel, by all means, use the ones you’ve got.
It’s only if you don’t have hiking boots that you’ll need to rent them. If you show up to Intersport with sneakers, sandals, or casual shoes of any kind, you’ll need to rent boots. I highly recommend bringing some good ones of your own, especially if you have any more hiking planned in the Lauterbrunnen Valley which I hope you do!
At the time my shoes weren’t acceptable—that wouldn’t be the first time I’d be told “You have the weakest boots of anyone here.” (See: that time I went ice canyoning in Québec)
Now, I hardly travel anywhere without my Oboz Bridger BDry hiking boots. I’ve worn them:
- hiking in Chile
- hiking in Chamonix
- day hiking in the Aosta Valley
- hiking along the Amalfi Coast
- hiking in Vermont
- and more!
They’re were comfortable right out of the box and are sturdy as all get-out. I will definitely wear them the next time I do the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald.
You won’t need much on your via ferrata hike but it is recommended to bring water and a few other things. For this, you should bring a small, light day pack. Something like this Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack would be perfect and it packs down so light you won’t even notice it in your luggage.
Now, I don’t mean like skin-tight, cut-off-your-circulation tight – it’s not like Tik Tok is watching. I simply mean clothing that isn’t baggy. Especially on the exposed cliff portion of the via ferrata, you’ll need to squeeze along the mountain putting one foot in front of the other with only an inch to spare. Let’s do our best to not get our feet tangled up in our baggy pants, mmkay?
Since this trail is only open during the summer, you won’t need more than a couple of light layers. The majority of the via ferrata is under cover of trees so it can still potentially be chilly in parts, especially if you do it early in the day.
Bring something light and long-sleeved that you can tie around your waist or shove in your day pack that won’t restrict your movement too much.
Bringing a camera on the Murren via ferrata is absolutely necessary because some people just might not believe what you’ve done! As long as you can take pictures safely, be sure to pack one.
I brought my big camera and it wasn’t too much of a pain and didn’t really get in the way. My friends brought simple point-and-shoot cameras which were perfect, as long as you have a quick and easy place to store it when you’re not using it.
I didn’t get my GoPro until after I did this via ferrata but I would definitely recommend bringing one if you’ve got it. This is kind of the perfect activity for it. And when you do decide to pack a GoPro, don’t forget to bring your choice of accessory be it a chest harness, or a head strap, or whatever else you prefer.
Simple polarized sunglasses will help keep the glare down you’re sure to experience being this high up in the Alps. They should fit easily with your helmet, just maybe consider a neck strap if you’re bringing along a higher-priced pair. I don’t think there’s a pair of sunglasses out there that can survive a 2,000-foot drop. (Shark Tank here I come!)
Reusable water bottle
I take my insulated Takeya everywhere, especially in the Swiss Alps where you can fill up with fresh, ice cold water right there on the streets.
Even better would be a hands-free hydration bladder because you’ll be holding on tight for the majority of your via ferrata experience.
Look, I don’t go anywhere without my safety whistle. Even though you won’t be doing this alone and the chances of getting lost are zero, bringing along a safety whistle never, ever hurts.
Do you need a guide for the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald?
Yes and no… but not really.
If you plan to hike this via ferrata alone, YES you need a guide. This is way too dangerous to do by yourself.
If this is your first time, they recommend you hire a guide to lead you. However, of the four of us who went together, exactly ZERO of us had ever done anything like this before. We’d barely done any hiking or spent any time near mountains. Needless to say, we were all amateurs at the time and not once did we feel we needed a guide.
Intersport showed us how to use the equipment and I’m not sure what difference it would’ve made to have a guide with us. Other than to answer my barrage of questions:
- How the hell are these rungs stuck into the mountain?
- Who was the first person to try this after it was built?
- Has anyone ever died doing this? Nevermind, I don’t wanna know. Okay actually, really? Has it ever happened? No don’t tell me!
The trail is self-explanatory and there are really zero ways to mess this up. There’s only one way forward and you just take the trail step by step, rung by rung.
However, if you do hire a guide, you can take a special section of the route that includes a zipline. If you hike the via ferrata independently, you have to skip that part and cross via another tightrope instead. So if you had your heart set on the zipline, hire a guide.
Where to find a via ferrata guide
You can book a via ferrata guide on the Murren via ferrata’s official page: klettersteig-muerren.ch and a few other places in the area if you decide to hire one on a whim. They run around CHF 125 and up for groups under 8 people.
We did not use a guide but whether you think you need to is up to you. I recommend reading through the reviews on Tripadvisor to get the opinions of many different kinds of hikers. Filter the reviews for the word “guide” and read through those.
What to expect on the Murren to Gimmelwald via ferrata
The via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald is a 1.4-mile trail that includes:
- standard hiking on a rocky/dirt trail
- hiking on metal rebar sticking out of the mountain
- hiking on the exposed cliff face of the mountain with nothing below you
- tightropes over waterfalls
- zip line / tyrolienne (if you have a guide with you)
- a series of ladders you will climb down to get from one level to another
- and finishing with a Nepalese bridge (long, thin suspension bridge)
The trail is fairly painless at the beginning, just a simple hike through the woods, but gets progressively more challenging. Not unlike taking the ring to Mordor actually.
Exposed cliff walk
The first stomach-churning facet of the via ferrata is the exposed rock face. You’ll exit the trees and find yourself standing on rungs over absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not true. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is 2,000 feet below you. (see photo below)
Looking down that far and seeing that the only thing between you and those teeny tiny dots you think are houses is a one-inch metal stick is truly an unbelievable experience.
And it’s a good thing I thought it was awesome because my friend in front of me chose that moment to panic and decide she wasn’t going any further. We’re just going to live out the rest of our lives right here on the side of this mountain. Holidays at my place? We can call them high-lidays. Really, no takers? What about New Fears Eve?
To cross the next canyon you’ll have two choices, one of them being a zip line (called a Tyrolienne in these parts). Again, this is only possible if you are hiking with a guide, as I was not. Therefore, I can tell you absolutely nothing about this part as I have never, ever done a zipline.
My guess is, they hook you up to a line, and you zip across the canyon.
Your other canyon-crossing option is a tightrope. Regardless of how you cross the first canyon, everyone will cross the second via a tightrope so just get comfortable with that fact.
These tightropes look intimidating as hell but are actually THE FUNNEST! Here I am below getting my money’s worth out of that rented boot heel. And who hasn’t wanted to try walking on a tightrope? Holding on tight is the only way I am able to walk a tightrope mind you; I have the balance and coordination of a drunk Steve Urkel.
The heel on your boot will help you stay upright on the tightrope and crossing them is much easier than it may look.
There are two tightrope crossings on the via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald and between them is, in my opinion, the scariest part. And I know scary—I once let a full-grown polar bear eat a Nature Valley Oats ‘N Honey granola bar right out of my hand.
In between the tightropes is a series of ladders attached to the exposed mountainside that you must descend to get to the next level. YES you’re actually inside a very weird level of Mario Brothers 3. Alright, who blew the warp flute?
The ladders are the scariest part (in my opinion) because to climb down them you have to look down into oblivion, upside down and backwards, totally disoriented. If you planned to complete the via ferrata by “not looking down,” you’re S.O.L. here, buddy.
Also, that cable that’s become your BFF, your loyal companion through thick and thin? You’re still clipped into it but you must LET GO OF IT in order to climb down the ladders. I might have had second and third, possibly fourth thoughts about this part.
After you’ve spent the last three hours crossing tightropes over waterfalls and clinging to mountainsides, you finally reach what is hailed as “the highlight” of the via ferrata from Murren to Gimmelwald: the Nepalese Bridge.
Others may call it the “It’s a miracle I didn’t crap myself” Bridge but I won’t name names. (I mean, just check out what it looks like from a passing cable car.)
The Nepalese Bridge is 262 feet (80 m) from one side to the other over a wide open gorge and hangs 1,500 feet (457 m) above the valley floor. It’s about 16 inches wide and bounces and sways no matter how much zen you throw at it.
The scariest part
Even though the whole via ferrata thing was my idea, and even though the other parts relatively didn’t bother me all that much, I’ll admit that when we got to the Nepalese Bridge, I almost barfed. The look down and across is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. But honestly, the worst part is right before you cross.
My three friends and I made a pact that the next person can’t go until the person before them has gotten all the way across. That thin bridge bounces with every breath and my gut is churning just writing this—but in a good way! And though you’re clipped in, there is really nothing on either side of you except 1,500 feet of open air. OMG you need to experience this to believe it.
One of my friends sang her way across and refused to look down. I made it a point to look down and really take it all in. How else could you appreciate this sheer act of madness? The reward of finishing is so much more intense if you’re able to know what you’ve accomplished. So be sure to LOOK DOWN while you’re crossing the bridge.
The Nepalese Bridge ended up being my favorite part, by far.
Things to know before you go
It’s a one-way track
The via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald is a one-way hiking trail meaning you can’t turn around and go back the way you came. There’s literally no way to pass people on this thing and attempting so would be super dangerous.
If you’re gonna do it, you gotta commit to it.
You can only do the via ferrata in dry weather
Because of the potential danger imposed by water here, you can only do the via ferrata on dry days. If there is rain in the forecast or if the trail is still wet from a previous rain, you will not be allowed to rent equipment. Check out the Mürren forecast here.
Thinking of doing this via ferrata? Check out this video to get a good taste:
More info for your trip to do to via ferrata Murren to Gimmelwald:
Heading to Gimmelwald? Find great places to stay here.
What do I personally recommend? Either the Mountain Hostel or Esther’s Guesthouse.
What else have I covered in the area? Check out these posts.
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