Hot summer days in the Alps make initial ascents by cablecar irresistible, so today we used the Allmenalp cablecar again to get us up the first 600 metres, leaving only 900 metres of ascent for the rest of the day (plus a bruising 1500 metres of descents!).
Last week's empty playground was full of children as we passed by at 10 am, a sure sign that the central European holiday season is over. In fact we only encountered two other people doing today's walk - a far cry from yesterday's busy paths.
Even the cablecar 'cheat' and the well graded paths didn't make the stiff ascent up First very easy. It's an extremely steep hillside, so pretty difficult to devise a non-energetic route.
The jangle of cow bells slowly diminished as we rose steadily, with Öeschinensee soon coming into view across the Kander valley. A small bird of prey with white plumage floated overhead. (A peregrine, perhaps.) The flowers were wonderful, with huge banks of deep blue monkshood as we neared the summit. It had taken just over two hours.
Time for lunch. It's a narrow ridge, with steep drops, so I strapped my rucksack to my leg! The views were splendid - today's image was taken from here and shows Öeschinensee, with the Blümlisalp massif above it. To the left (top centre) are the Eiger and the Jungfrau, and the white slashes of Kandersteg's dry ski jumps show clearly near the bottom (centre) of the image.
Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn were also in (somewhat distant) view from here.
Poles were stashed for an interesting descent over steep ground, aided in places by wires, and backed by the sound of whistling marmots. With such a fine mountain backdrop it was hard to have to concentrate on 'micro foot placement'!
Difficulties over, we mounted Stand (2320 metres), and admired its gentians before toiling down steep slopes in hot heat to reach Kandersteg around 4.30 pm - in plenty of time to buy beer and salad to enjoy on our patio in the company of a somnolent ginger cat.