Most Amazing Expedition! - Part 1

Trip Start Aug 09, 2008
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Switzerland  , Swiss Alps,
Sunday, October 5, 2008

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it." George Moore
Before I forget, I had forgotten to post my pictures from yesterdays walk around town and my hike with the entry. They are now interweaved within the entry.
I get up at 7h30 and look outside. It's still a little dark out but it looks like fog that might clear up in a while. I'm good to go for my hike. I head down for breakfast. The hostel provides these "What's Up Today" cards on each table and includes some kind of "Thought for the day" message. The one I've included above was on this morning's card. Didn't I just say the same thing in yesterday's blog about "The Alchemist"?  What another amazing "coincidence".
Breakfast done and I head to the trailhead. It's raining. The trailhead says that the path actually goes all the way to the Harderbahn. This is a restaurant at the top of mountain where the tram, from town, stops. The complete hike is 5.43 kms and has an elevation change of 778 metres. The start is at 543 metres and the Harderbahn is at 1320 metres. I think I might go all the way to the top. I should be able to get there within 2 hours.
The start of the trail is paved...for about 100 metres, then turns to gravel. The trail is more of a road. One car passes me coming down then a short while later another car passes me going up. The road zigs and then zags. It's not that steep an angle but I'm starting to perspire. I have a t-shirt on, my hoodie and my wool coat. Then I have my backpack with my camera, some water and a snack. I'm using my umbrella. When the road goes from zig to zag the views of the valley are amazing. As I'm zigzagging up the road I notice a hiking trail that is continuously crossing the road. I think of taking it as a short cut but my runners have no tread at all. They are definitely not made for hiking. I also pass the rail track that takes the tram up the side of the mountain a few times, though I see no rail cars taking people up. There's no reason to go up this morning. I can't see the top of the mountain and so I'm sure you can't see the valley below.
At 850 metres I see the car that passed me. It's stopped at a barn. An old couple are feeding the cows. There's a sign posting elevation and distances to the top and from the start of the trail. It's taken me an hour to go up 300 metres and walk almost 3 kms. I'm barely feeling the effect of the walk and the elevation change. This is easy!
A short distance later a sign indicates that the "Nordic Walking Trail" branches off. The rest of the trail is an actual hiking trail. A map shows the trail zigzagging up the side of the mountain. Decision time. Turn back or continue with my gripless runners over rain covered rocks and tree stumps? I continue on. About 50 metres (elevation change-I have an altimeter on my watch) later the rain turns to snow but melts as it hits the ground. At 1000 metres snow is accumulating on the ground. A short time later I come across a shelter and take a break and remove my hoodie. The hiking trail is steeper than the road and I'm running short of breath at this elevation. I take a couple of pictures of the valley below. Which I can barely see. (pictures included this time)
Back on the trail and the snow is coming down harder. The trail is getting steeper. I put my umbrella away. My wool coat has a hood. Sheep don't carry umbrellas, so why should I. At 1200 metres I stop again and take a picture of a "road" sign. The past 100 metres in elevation change has been quite gradual along the ridge. A trail sign indicates that the final ascent is quite steep and the trail zigzags quite a bit. I'm here, might as well get to the top. As per the pictures, I can't see very far. The view at the top will not be as advertised. That is...Spectacular! There will be no view.
I'm very careful on this last bit of trail, taking it very slowly and paying close attention to where every footstep is. I don't want to slip. There are no cliffs to fall off of, but I would get quite muddy. I make it to the top without an incident. It's taken me exactly 2 hours.
I walk into the restaurant and it's empty. I surprise the staff. They are not expecting the tram for a while and, I'm assuming, are not expecting hikers in this weather. I grab a cup of coffee, take a few pictures to prove I was there, as there are no views to take pictures of, and then the tram arrives. A few people get off to have lunch. Do I take the tram down or hike down? The snow is still falling hard. I decide to hike down.
I start hiking down and notice a second set of footprints in the snow. Someone was following me up, though I never did see anyone else come into the restaurant. I'm very careful with every step. The way down is a lot faster than going up. At 1000 metres the snow has turned into rain. Then I arrive at the road. I take the road for a while than grab the hiking trail. The rain has stopped and the skies are starting to clear a bit. The view seems better from the hiking trail. I start taking pictures. The hiking trail comes by the barn I mentioned earlier and actually passes through the cow pasture. You actually have to jump the electric fence to pass. There's manure everywhere. Now I have to make sure I don't slip and fall in this "other" stuff. This part of the trail crosses the road at the other end of the pasture. That wasn't much of a shortcut. The trail had also been mangled by the cows and so was it wasn't any faster than taking the "longer" way around on the road.
I decide to continue down on the hiking trail. The skies are clearing and the view of the valley is spectacular. I pass by the tram track and a rail car is coming up. I wait for it to pass and take a picture. I take a few more photos of the valley below and then forget about my "non" hiking runners. The inevitable happens. I slip and fall right on my "ass". Mud everywhere. My backpack is full of mud. My pants and runners. Then the worse part, my brand new coat, which is thigh length, has mud on the rear , both elbows and one cuff. Luckily I kept my camera off the ground.
I get right up and keep on walking down the trail for a bit then decide to take the road. A little late for that decision. I get into town and pass by the church. There's a photographer taking pictures of a newly married couple. There's a fountain nearby of a mermaid. As I'm taking a picture of the mermaid the 2 Korean women from my room walk by a short distance away and wave, but they also notice how I look. I get a quizzical look.
Back in my room and my other roommates, the 2 from London and the guy from Vancouver, are there. I explain what happened. They're trying to decide what to. They want to go for a hike. The weather has now cleared up. You can see the Harderbahn from our room window. I suggest the climb I did. At least they have hiking boots. They leave to do that. I'm left in peace to clean up my mess. The 2 Korean women have checked out.
Lucky for me this place has a laundry room. I wash my muddy clothes, wipe down my backpack in a hallway sink and then put it in the dryer. I wipe down my coat the best I can in the bedroom sink. Surprisingly it came out quite clean. I guess sheep get muddy and wash up easily.
As my clothes are drying I go to the breakfast room to write up some postcards. There I meet Dan. He's from the USA and is a photographer. He's asking Debby, the front desk clerk, what they can do this late in the day. She mentions the Harder Tram. I tell him that with the clear skies he should get some awesome photos. I also meet Liz. She's also an amateur photographer from the USA but is currently working in Germany. Her and Dan just met. Off they go to the top of the mountain.
My things clean, more or less, I'm typing things up on my laptop. Liz and Dan come back and ask me if I saw the amazing sunset. I say no. I must have missed it while doing laundry and chatting with a couple from Australia. They start talking about what to do tomorrow. I mention that I'm going to go to see the Jungfraujock-The Top of Europe and have purchased a 6 am train ticket so that I can arrive at 8h30 am for the sunrise. The weather forecast is for clear skies and the photo ops with be stupendous. They say they'll join me. They leave for supper.
I go to post my last two entries and I can't get an internet connection. I go to my room and see the door to the room across the hall is open and one of the guys is on his laptop. He says he has a wifi connection. I try again and it's not working. Oh well! I'll post my entries tomorrow. The room across from me is Dan's room and his 3 buddies. They're in Europe for 2 weeks. The 3 buddies and 2 others from the USA from the room next to them are having a little get together. They ask me to join them. I do for a while. Then I head off to bed at 10 PM. I have to be up at 5 am to catch the 6 am train to the mountain.
I hope my runners and coat are dry by the morning. It's below freezing at the "Top of Europe". I also hope I get a good night sleep. I'm still feeling the effects of 2 nights with little sleep and a long hike this morning.
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