Hiking the Swiss Alps: Day Two

After my first day of hiking, I woke up incredibly sore, but eager to get started on the next hike! For day two, I went to the other side of the valley to do an easier hike while facing the Swiss alps.

This path was flat and wide, and a lot more populous than the one from the day before; but, my sore legs welcomed the nice change.

(rock stacks made by fellow hikers)
Throughout the hike I had an amazing view of the valley and village below, and the main peaks–Finsteraarhorn, Jungrau, Eiger–in front of me.
(Jungfrau and Eiger behind me)

I walked by a very sweet older couple taking pictures of each other, so I offered to take one of both of them and they returned the favor with one of me.

 

My plan was to hike towards Jungfrau and then hop onto the train that takes you through the mountain and to the top. After the easy flat walk to one village, I was eager to keep walking so I started another hike up the mountain towards the last stop to get on the train to Jungfrau.

(lake along the path)
This walk to the train station was a lot harder and very steep in some places, but it was fun to have the challenge, not to mention the great views it offered of the valley below.
(valley below Jungfrau)
Once on, the train takes you into the mountain and stops twice along at viewpoints from within the mountain.
(view of glacier field from inside the mountain)
At each stop the train staff would tell everyone that we had five minutes to take pictures, and immediately the entire train would disembark and make a mad dash to the windows. I was too sore to participate in the frenzy if I wanted to, so I walked slowly and made it to the windows after everyone was already back on the train, well in advance of the deadline.
(View of mountain peak from the glacier)

Once at the peak there are a number of activities to do, and I wandered around until I came out on the glacier. There was one hike path up to the top of one of the glacier’s sides, so I started on this journey, hoping for a view to make my hike worth it.

(crack in glacier)
After about ten minutes of walking up the glacier, I was exhausted and ready to turn around. My legs were so incredibly sore I could hardly walk, and going uphill on the glacier was a very slow and painful process; for each step I took, my feet would slide back in the snow and I hardly gained any distance.
(ridge at the top of the hike)

At one point I was so exhausted and ready to quit, and I wasn’t even sure if the other side of the ridge had a view that would make the hike worth the effort. So, I stopped a girl who was on her way down and asked her if the view was worth hiking for, hoping she would say no so I could turn around without feeling bad. Unfortunately, she didn’t give me an easy out, but encouraged me to continue up to the top.

(Photo evidence I made it to the top)
Not long after I finally reached the ridge, and although the view wasn’t amazing–everything here is beautiful, but in comparison to everything else, it wasn’t spectacular–I was happy that I persevered to the top.

 

(hike down from ridge, valley is visible through the peaks)
Hiking down the glacier certainly is easier than up, but it still was fairly exhausting and I felt like I could barely take another step. My desperation peaked when I tied my rain slicker around my waist and tried to ride it down like a sled; unfortunately, this attempt to cheat the hike only succeeded in making me look ridiculous and I had to walk the rest of the way down.

 

(view of glacier field)
After hiking the glacier–and getting a horrible sunglasses burn–I went up to the observatory on the peak, and then took the train back down the mountain, making it back just in time for my train to Zurich.

My dad and I spent the night in Zurich and caught a morning flight to Barcelona (we went Barcelona instead of Collioure because it cut out some travel time). I am still recovering from my hikes–I can almost walk without a limp–so we have just been lazing around the hotel and the beach the past few days.

(View of Jungrau mountain from the valley and cows crossing the train tracks)

I am also enjoying walking around with my camera away, not looking at sights, and pretending like I’m not a tourist. So far I’ve actually gotten to use a lot of Spanish which is so much fun! My cab driver today even said the I spoke very well–best moment of my life, next to hiking in the Swiss Alps, of course.

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Hiking the Swiss Alps: Day One

Although getting to the small village where we were staying in the Alps was difficult–4 train changes, a bus ride, and a gondola trip, all while dragging my luggage for studying abroad–it was well worth it. The bern-oberland region of switzerland is easily the neatest, prettiest place I have ever seen, and hiking its mountains is the coolest thing I have ever done. If I had a bucket list prior to this trip, this would be on it (basically, it was awesome).

The first morning we woke up early to have breakfast in the rotating restaurant on the peak of Schilthorn Mountain.

The whole time there I kept saying things like “this is AWESOME”, “just having breakfast in the alps…”, “breakfast, in the Alps. This is the best!” I think I was embarrassing my dad, but that seems to be the norm.

After breakfast I embarked on my first hike from a station right below the Schilthorn peak, down to Gimmelwald where my dad and I were staying.

It was hard to pick out which pictures to post because everything I passed was beautiful and I took about 200 photos on this hike alone, but these are some of my favorites.

(Beginning of the hike-Alps across the valley)

My journey was a 4 hour long, “fairly difficult” hike, but I think growing up as a wild thing and hiking throughout my yard prepared me fairly well.

However, unlike hiking in my yard, the drop to the bottom of these mountains is very far, and some parts of the hike did make my legs a little wobbly. At one point the trail narrowed to less than a foot wide and I had to use a cable to walk along a cliff side.

(Fog in the valley climbing up the mountainside)

 

The walk was almost all downhill, which was nice, except that at some times it was very steep and after an hour or so I was so tired of going downhill I started wishing I could just go uphill…

but, like they say, be careful what you wish for.

At this point I was trying to follow Rick Steve’s directions to a thrilling ridge, and I think it was obvious that I was lost because a group came up and tried to help (which is how I got this picture). All the hikes are very well marked with signs pointing towards each destination, and the town Rick said I should go to wasn’t on the sign, so I figured it would be on the next marker.

After deciding to continue down into a valley, I made it to a restaurant pit stop on one of the hikes, only to find out that the ridge I wanted to hike along was back up the mountain (in fact, behind me in the picture above). The town Rick Steves said I should go to is nowhere on the map or on the markers and his “directions” were very vague and confusing, so I put all blame on him for my getting lost (never mind that I could have looked at the map and seen where the ridge was).

Now, it is hard to complain about being lost in such a beautiful area, but that trek back was thirty minutes up an extremely steep incline, and by the time I got back to the top I was exhausted and very upset with Rick for misleading me.

(beginning of ridge path)

However, all past transgressions were forgotten when I finally made it to the ridge and started walking along the narrow pathway.

As I walked along the high, narrow ridge I got a little wobbly-legged again and at one point even started moving along in a bear crawl (with hands down out in front of me and butt in the air–professional hiking technique)

(looking back on ridge pathway)
I was relieved to make it to the end of the ridge and to wider paths, but this ridge walk was easily one of the high points of the entire hike. From here, it was all downhill, easy paths towards Gimmelwald.

(Some cow friends)

I am convinced that Swiss cows are the happiest cows in the world. In Switzerland cows have rights and they are required to get exercise three days a week in the winter. They also added a nice soundtrack to my walk; throughout my hike I could hear the cow bells in the distance, making a sound like wind chimes or wedding bells.
(Behind a waterfall)
All over the region there are waterfalls and streams of water flowing down from the mountain peaks and I passed one of these on my way down.

 

(Gimmelwald meadow)

Finally, after 4 hours and 45 minutes (additional time thanks to Ricks Steves!) I emerged from the woods into the Gimmelwald valley. At this point I could barely walk and hobbled along to our hotel, but I was so smitten and excited from everything I had seen and done!