This is part two of our hike up mount Schilthorn in Lauterbrunnen Switzerland. If you are interested in reading part one of our journey you can simply click the link located at the bottom of the page. I hope you enjoy!
We left Rotstockhütte a little after lunch around 1:00pm and began our ascent up the mountain. The summit of Schilthorn is roughly a three hour walk from the refuge lodge and by no means is it an easy hike to the top.
The trail follows some pretty rough terrain at points and the hill is so steep that you may as well be walking up a massive set of stairs. In the photos below you can see that the path starts out fairly level but then takes an immediate turn in an upward direction.
The elevation gain is over 900m (approx. 3000ft) from Rotstockhütte and most of that occurs within the first 2 hours of walking. Needless to say, it was exhausting almost immediately after leaving the lodge.
At this point I had to carry the dog in his backpack the entire way as well, except for maybe one small stretch of about 15 minutes when I absolutely had to have a break.
One thing that was a welcome surprise this high up was how many cows were way up there on the mountain.
They didn't seem too bothered by the hilly terrain or the elevation in the slightest. I guess they've acclimated themselves to the air and the terrain after so many months spent up in the Alps. They don't call them Alpine cows for nothing.
Some of the cows were braver than others as well and climbed to some pretty impressive heights. It was almost as if they enjoyed the freedom of being on the mountain and Of course, the natural beauty of their surroundings.
This one cow in made it the highest and looked so regal standing there on its own rocky outcrop. It almost looked like a king or queen of the cows surveying its land and people.
The trail was marked with red and white paint and for the most part the markers were pretty easy to spot.
In some places there was no actual path to follow though and on more than one occasion I questioned if we were going in the right direction.
In a few places the trail makes its way through some rocky terrain and you have to make sure that you see the next marker before continuing on because you can easily lose the trail if you're not paying attention. This actually happened to me twice and I had to back track a bit to get back on the proper path, which meant more walking, more work, and more energy spent.
The rocks and boulders don't seem like they would be very challenging but they're actually a lot bigger than they look. The rock field is quite large as well and you have to climb up and over them using your entire body. It got tiring for us pretty quickly.
The trail also follows a glacial creek that you have to cross over on more than one occasion. At times you have to walk directly up it as well just off to the side of the water which was pretty cool overall.
This was our first high altitude mountain climb and we didn't really realize how challenging it would be and just how much the lower oxygen levels impact your stamina and endurance.
Every 1000 feet of elevation gain seemed to be exponentially harder than the last as well. At first the breaks were every 20-30 minutes or so but as we moved up we began to take them every 10 minutes and then every five.
It eventually got to the point near the top where I would have to stop to catch my breath after taking only a few paces. This is where I really felt the weight of the dog on my back.
A big part of this was that we weren't acclimated to the elevation though and weren't used to hiking at such high altitude. There weren't a lot of there hikers because most people just take the cable car to the top but at one point we were passed by an older couple in their late 40's or early 50's. They were breathing hard but they were moving at a steady quick pace, much faster than we were. Then to add insult to injury I noticed that the man was wearing a fairly large backpack on his shoulders as well and also carrying his wife's midsize pack in his arms. Damn!!!
At one point near the ridge, I'm not kidding, I was passed by a guy who was jogging up the mountain. In my head I was like "Are you fucking serious? How is that even possible!?!"
But seeing the older couple and then the jogger shortly after did give me a new boost of energy. I figured if they could do it then there's no reason that I couldn't do it as well, so I stopped complaining in my head and I quickened my pace.
Unfortunately, the boost only lasted about five minutes though. Once my adrenalin wore off I was back to dragging my feet and being exhausted and I had to take a longer break to catch my breath from moving to fast. "Slow and steady" as they say.
Another thing that we didn't realize about high altitude is that the UV rays from the sun are much more powerful near the top.
There is less atmosphere and therefore less protection from the sun, so you really need to wear sunscreen on any exposed skin if you're hiking at high altitude. Unfortunately we weren't wearing any that day and we got a major sunburn, me on my neck and my wife on her hands and ankles.
The burn on my neck was strange actually. It was in a place that had been exposed to the sun all spring and summer and had already developed a decent tan. Yet despite that, the burn was quite severe and it felt much deeper than normal. I definitely recommend wearing sunscreen and can't emphasize that enough.
After one last beak and a final push through some snow the ridge marker finally came into view in the distance. I wasn't keeping track of the time but seeing the marker gave me a new sense of hope. I was exhausted and sore by that point and the sign surly meant that we were getting close to our final destination.
Or at least that's what I thought....