Swiss Sunday

It’s Sunday so it’s time for our weekly virtual visit to beautiful Switzerland. A country which means so much to our little family. To me. Life happens and it’s meant that we haven’t been able to get to our little bit of alpine heaven since 2015. Our next visit can’t come quick enough.

I’ve been thinking about what it will feel like when I’m finally back there again. It’s going to be at least 7 years since that trip in 2015. Maybe it will feel like the return of a wonderful friend or maybe it will feel like the first time. I still remember what it felt like on my first trip. A flight into Zurich and arrive at the hotel in the early afternoon. Cold and cloudy. The mountains shrouded in mist. But that fresh alpine air. Wow.

Then the next day we headed on the train to Grindelwald. All those books about the massive mountains I head read since childhood, suddenly they were real. I was amongst them. Then a trip up my first Alpine Peak. Not a big one, in fact it’s only a minor summit. But now always a special one to me. The First. On that a Sunday I was up high surrounded by giants like The Eiger.

What a great name for my First Swiss Mountain. FIRST. Yes to me it’s a Mountain. Always my favourite mountain now. Just one of the most uplifting and exhilarating feelings of my life.

Yes the next time I visit Switzerland I hope it feels like the FIRST time again.

To Lauterbrunnen

It’s Sunday which means it’s Switzerland.

We left last week in Murren – the stunning Swiss Mountain Village. It’s time to head down into the valley and towards Lauterbrunnen. You only have three options. Train, cableway or walk it. The easy option is easy. 42 trains a day running to legendary Swiss punctuality. The walk is 5.8km and takes just under 3 hours. But it’s all downhill.

It takes you through alpine Forests with frequent stunning views of the Eiger, Moench and the Jungfrau. You cross multiple streams and are never too far away from the towering waterfalls.

Lauterbrunnen is the home to the Stabbauch Falls which is Europe’s highest free falling waterfall. A drop of 297 metres. If you like waterfalls you need to pay this place a visit. I remember being told that you can visit over 70 of them here.

Next week I think it’s time for a bit of Bond and Blofeld.

Eiger Sanction

Now that is a serious location for a hotel. One day hopefully we will stay there. Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland. It means minor watershed and stands at 2060m. You get the deepest blue skies here. But when the weather closes in it is magnificent and moody – almost sinister. So many climbers have been taken from us here. You can only get here via the cog railway or by foot. The Hotel is where the Clint Eastwood movie The Eiger Sanction was filmed. Can you believe the movie is now 44 years old. 1975….

1975 that’s the year

  • Home Video tape systems are developed
  • Vietnam War ends
  • Iron Maiden was formed
  • The first portable mobile phone was patented
  • Microsoft was founded
  • First disposable razor was launched

And Britain had been in the European Union for just two years. How times change.

What is reassuring is that in all those years of change this Swiss View will not have changed in the slightest. Hopefully it never will.

Cragfast

Somedays you wake and the world is full of hope. Yes it’s a challenge but you stride purposely towards the light.

Whether it’s the alignment of the stars, or the moon, or the lack of sleep or the weather or the cards are stacked against you or the demons have woken ….. but for whatever reason somedays the world appears different. You are alone and operating without a safety net. It’s is dark, cold and scary. Often I liken the feeling to a Tolkien like scene. You are stood on the ramparts of Helms Deep. It is cold and the rain pours. You are besieged by an evil army of Orcs. But this time you are stood alone and Gandalf isn’t riding over the hill top to save you that day. You feel like hope has deserted you. A battle you didn’t ask for and one you cannot win this day.

In climbing the dreaded word is cragfast. Basically you are stuck. You can’t go up, down or sideways. Less polite terms also exist for this ……

My mind drifts to The Eiger. Back to 1936. Four young climbers attempt to be the first to scale the infamous North Face.

Andreas Hinterstoisser, Edi Ranier, Willy Angerer and Toni Kurz.

On the ill fated ascent Hinterstoisser opened up the mountain with an astonishing traverse now named after him. Tragically they decided to remove the ropes they had fixed in that section. A huge storm set in so they tried to retreat. They discovered that the Hinterstoisser traverse could only be completed in reverse with the aid of fixed ropes. They were suddenly out of options. A suicidal decent was attempted. Over the next few hours three climbers died. Rescuers got close to the remaining climber Toni Kurz. But they did not have enough rope to reach him so they had to retreat leaving the young climber stranded. They left to the echos of a climber pleading not to be left alone. The next morning a second rescue attempt was launched but they found the young climber close to death. He quietly said “Ich Kann nicht mehr” – I cannot go on. He died feet from rescue.

The German 2008 movie of this tragedy “North Face” is one of the bleakest movies you will ever see. I have stood at the bottom of the North Face. Your mind can’t help thinking of those brave young climbers. Too many climbers have been lost here. It’s a truly cathartic experience.

What is the point of this post. I am not sure. Maybe it’s just about saying that life can be bleak and dark. You will come across times when you become stuck – cragfast. You find times when you are on the ramparts alone. You hope that when that happens people will come to save you. But rescues sometimes fail – even heroes stumble. These are the times you have to stand alone. Those are grim times. Times we must endure. You hope to just make it through the night. The morning may bring new light or a hero. Or you may have to struggle on for another day alone. It’s a sobering thought.