Ghostriders on the Summit of Mt TitlisOctober 20 in Switzerland
It is always fascinating to observe the quick changes of season in Europe at this time of the year. When we arrived in Madrid five weeks ago, summer was still definitely in charge. The days were hot and sultry, the women all wore their bright summer clothing and the deciduous trees were still covered in (mostly) green leaves.
This afternoon, as I wondered about Lucerne, it was plainly evident that autumn has well and truly taken over. The days are now fine and cool, the women have all donned their dark winter clothes and the trees are almost bare. I really love this transition and would find it very difficult to live in a location where it is the same all year round.
Last night as I was preparing to go to bed I noticed a guy in a suit, sitting in his office, almost directly opposite my hotel room. Although it was nearly 10 pm, he was obviously still hard at work, peering intently at his computer screen. I could not help but feel sorry for anyone who has to spend so much time in such a miserable way. The following morning he was back in his office at 7.30 am. What was even worse was that it was a Saturday. I am sure that life was never meant to be lived in that way. As for Allan and I, we had other plans.
Our main objective in coming to Switzerland was to experience some of their most amazing mountain railways and reach some lofty mountain top summits along the way. Our first challenge was to reach the summit of Mt Titlis. At 3200 metres it is one of the highest peaks in the Swiss Alps, so it seemed like a good place for us to start.
The first step was to take the train from Lucerne to Engelburg, from where we could catch a series of cable cars to to very summit of the mountain. Our main concern was the weather. It had been very murky since we arrived at Lucerne and we were both a little worried that we might not have been able to see anything when we reached the mountaintop.
The train ride to Engelburg would have been very comfortable if I had not been seated with the most garrulous family group you could possibly imagine. There were three of them and they never stopped talking, even for a single minute of the journey. Even worse was the fact that they were mostly all talking simultaneously, never even stopping to take a breath. I thought that I must have stumbled upon the Swiss Olympic Talking Team on their way to a training camp.
We were both glad to get off the train, however, when we walked from the Engelberg Station to the cable car station, it became evident that we would be accompanied by hundreds of bus tourists who had also descended en masse. It also quickly became apparent that nearly all of them were from India, and we also deduced that nearly all of them must had had a serious hearing defect as every one of them was shouting uncontrollably. It was a sight to see and a cacophony to hear.
The good thing was that the cable car rapidly lifted us well above the cloud cover and up into brilliant sunshine. The whole construction was a marvel of Swiss engineering and the views were breathtaking. As we were steadily lifted above the snow line, the thin air became breathtaking too. Gaining 2500 metres in a few minutes certainly can leave you gasping for oxygen. It reminded me a little of how we felt when we first stepped out of the plane in Cusco.
When we left the final gondola at the summit, the temperature gauge told us that it was 0 degrees. It felt every bit of it. On went my hat and gloves and out we went into the snow. Since it had been packed flat by hundreds of stomping Indians (most who had never seen snow before and were shouting even louder and faster than before), the surface was treacherous. It did not take long for me to slip straight over onto my backside, and Allan followed suite soon after. It was more fun than the Keystone Cops.
After we had recovered our composure and found our footing, we had a chance to look about us and savour the views. It truly was an incredible sight. All around were dozens of snow covered peaks, stretching into the distance. Some more serious climbers were making their way up the glacier to the very top of the mountain, while hang gliders were soaring overhead. Much closer to us, dozens of fellow tourists were busy trying to secure that elusive catch - the perfect selfie. I should not have been surprised.
Way down in the valley we could see that the low lying cloud was still there, making a beautiful white ocean. Rather than detract from the view, it actually made it much better. We busied ourselves taking photos, knowing full well that pictures can never capture the full impact of such a sight. You just have to be there, to know what it is all about.
Part of the complex at the summit allows you to actually walk through the middle of the glacier, via an ice cave. It was an amazing experience, even if it was cold and slippery, and even if I managed to bang my head on the low ice ceiling.
Finally it was time to have some lunch in the mountain top restaurant. It was an incredible view and the prices were also pretty incredible as well. I have never before paid almost $40 AUD for some chicken nuggets, baked potato and a cup of coffee. I guess you pay dearly for the ambience of the place.
We were soon sliding back down the mountain in a much quieter cable car. Most of the masses had been summoned back to their buses and were already on their way to some other distant location. Although we had a little trouble remembering where we had left the railway station, we managed to step straight onto an almost empty waiting train. It did not take me long to fall asleep in our first class carriage. We were the only passengers in the carriage and I seem to have have perfected the important art of falling asleep in seconds.
It had been a wonderful day.Read more