Friday, August 30, 2013

Hiking in Switzerland

On my trip to Europe, while travelling through Switzerland, we were able to hike on one of the lower mountains of the Swiss Alps: Mt. Pilatus (7000 feet).  The mountain had an interesting and familiar sounding name.  According to legend, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor that presided over the execution of Jesus Christ, was buried in the nearby Lake Lucerne, thereby giving the name to the mountain, Pilatus.  Other legends also tell intriguing stories of dragons and encounters with these legendary creatures.  I always find places more interesting whenever there are legends or fabled stories about the sites I visit almost as if I hope to find one of them true.  After learning of the folklore we set off on our adventure to the summit.

As I sat in the world's steepest cogwheel train travelling slowly up the mountain side I breathed in the cool morning air, closed my eyes for a few seconds, and exhaled all my worries and became consumed in the views.  The steel cogs clinking and hissing beneath me became almost rhythmic and became the background music to the ascent.  The thinner air and reducing pressure pulled at my eardrums giving the crackling popping sounds that occur at higher altitudes.  I felt an energy surging through me that wanted to get out and start hiking around to discover new views and get a glimpse of the greater peaks of the Swiss Alps.

Once the train came to a halt, we still had about 150 feet of elevation to get to the summit.  I immediately started the short hike up.  Almost instantly my body reacted to the thinner air with my heart pounding in my chest and ears.  I didn't care, I kept hiking to get to the top and capturing small elements of the mountain with my camera.  The whistling breezes and the way the clouds slowly slithered across the peaks were surreal.

I call this shot "The Dragon's Breath Upon the Mountain"

Turning the corner to the summit while hypnotized by the stellar view.

               Rolling waves of green.

I had a very hard time pulling myself away from landscapes and rugged terrains.  I tried to snap as many pictures I could out of fear of not being able to remember every aspect of the peak of Pilatus.  I only wish I had more time to hike around the mountain.  There was so much to absorb that one day would not be enough to enjoy it all.  I knew that soon enough I would be back to reality sitting in front of a computer and getting occasional glimpses of freedom outside the office windows, except the views would pale in comparison to this place.  

The higher Swiss Alps in the distance.  These mountains were about 14,000 feet in elevation.

I wouldn't mind enjoying the views from this house on a daily basis.

Swiss national flag hanging in the rafters.

If anyone gets the chance to visit Switzerland in the summer months, Mt. Pilatus would make a great half day or full day adventure for all abilities.  Hikers even have the option of taking a lower elevation trail to reach the summit for a greater challenge.  The visitor center at the top offers detailed history around the mountain along with gift shops and dining that had amazing hot chocolate.  It's not a surprise that the Swiss would have great chocolate though!  The greatest thing I took away from this trip was an even larger appetite for hiking and climbing and a greater thirst for adventure!