This is part three of my Schilthorn Hike and the final post in the series. If you're interested in reading the previous two posts simply click the links at the bottom of the page. Thanks and I hope you enjoy.
After two hours of straight climbing we finally reached the ridge leading to the summit of Mount Schilthorn. We had gained over 600m (2000ft) of elevation and we were exhausted by that point. We could see Piz Gloria in the distance and it didn't look very far away so I thought that we were almost done our journey to the top. But then my heart sank a little when I looked up at the next marker and realized that we still had an hour yet to go.
I remember thinking, "But it's right there. I can see it. How can we still be an hour away!?"
The ridge is very deceptive in that it looks like a simple horizontal walk straight to Piz Gloria, but in actuality there are all kinds of obstacles and difficult rocky climbs along the way which really slow things down.
You can't always see them until you reach them either and after you finish climbing up one you walk for a few minutes and then come across another just up ahead.
As a side note, I really like these pictures of my wife. To me she looks like an astronaut thats landed on a new planet or foreign desolate terrain. In some ways it felt like that up there as well.
It's also cold and windy that high up and at times the clouds roll over top of you leaving you feeling damp and clamy. But even in those moments you're surrounded by so much beauty that you don't even care, all you're thinking is that "this is totally worth it."
The air is super thin up on the ridge and since we did the climb in a single day we weren't at all acclimated to the elevation. But other than having very little energy we didn't really notice the effects of the high altitude until we were about halfway across the ridge. I'd say that the effects kind of crept up on us slowly.
Eventually we both noticed that we felt dizzy and a bit light headed. I also started to get a headache and was getting increasingly more nauseous from lactic acid built up in my muscles.
I'm not going to lie, the ridge was pretty scary at times as well. On more than one occasion I had to put out thoughts in my head of falling down the mountain.
The path is mostly wide, but it's windy up there and you're walking between a severe drop off on one side and a steep rocky hill on the other.
On top of that your legs feel weak and rubbery from the climb and your head's starting to feel dizzy from the reduced oxygen levels, so unless you're acclimated or in really good shape its hard not to be a little nervous.
For us, being a little scared actually made us move a lot faster though. We both had a sense of just wanting to complete the hike and get off the ridge, so despite being tired and a little oxygen deprived we only took one break during this portion of the hike.
I think this was why I felt so nauseous though - from pushing a bit too hard. Once we stopped in Piz Gloria I actually felt like I was going to puke and the feeling lasted for at least 20 minutes after we stopped.
There were other places too that were even more scary, where the path was very narrow and right next to a severe drop off.
Luckily there were anchored steel ropes to hang onto. In my nervous state I hung onto each and every one of them for dear life. I think I actually wrapped my arm around them as I tried not to think about falling.
Overall, I think that the path was quite safe though. As you can see I did stop to take a few pictures of my wife along the way. But the feeling of being exhausted and the dizziness definitely made me think the worst on a few occasions, like my legs would just give out at any moment and I'd go toppling down the rocks.
These stairs you see the photo above were a real son of a bitch as well. For one thing, they're steep as hell and feel like you're climbing a ladder.
But even more frustrating than that is the fact that we had been looking at them in the distance for quite some time and seriously thought that they were the last obstacle that we would have to face to get to Piz Gloria. But then after we reached the top we realized that we were still like 10-15 minutes away and that there was still a bunch more shit to climb.
To be honest it really started to feel like it was never going to end.
Of course it did end eventually though.
We reached Piz Gloria around 4:30pm, but funny enough we didn't even stop on the platform to take in the view. We basically just bee lined it passed all of the James Bond information plaques on the terrace and headed inside to sit down and catch our breaths. My legs and back we're in a lot of pain at that point and I was feeling severely nauseous and had a pretty bad headache. After I took off the backpack with the dog in it I basically just slumped over on a bench with my head between my knees.
Because of that I unfortunatly didn't take any photos inside the facility.
I mentioned in the previous post that Piz Gloria was the set for the 1969 James Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and there is a ton of stuff within the facility commemorating the occasion. For instance, there is a Jame Bond museum in the lower floor and they play the entire Piz Gloria movie sequence on several monitors throughout the building. They even burn 007 onto the hamburger buns at the restaurant.
Speaking of the restaurant, we ended up getting there too late to order any food because it shuts down pretty early, but we nonetheless rewarded ourselves with a nice mug of hot chocolate. An interesting feature of the restaurant is that it rotates slowly in a circle so that patrons get a full 360° view of the mountains every 45 minutes. At the time I hated this because I was still feeling nauseous. It basically made me feel sick every time I looked out the window.
For more information on Piz Gloria and the restaurant you can visit the official website here
After the hot chocolate I went outside and took a few photos of the view from the platform and then shortly after that we took the last car down the mountain at 5:50pm The car moves fast and we were back at the Stechelberg station within about 30 minutes.
One thing that I thought was super interesting and unexpected though was how fast your body recuperates from the altitude once you head back down to sea level. When we were up in Piz Gloria we were both exhausted and seriously in pain. Our legs were cramped and rubbery and our muscles were stiff and sore. I also had a headache and my shoulders and neck killed from the backpack. Both my wife and I were so exhausted that neither of us wanted to go out for dinner that night. We basically stood there complaining for a solid hour and a half about how crappy we felt and how all we wanted in life was a hot bath and to sleep.
But then a strange thing happened. When we got back down to the bottom and began walking to our vehicle my wife turned to me and was like "this is weird but my legs actually feel completely fine right now." I responded with "yeah, I'm not sore at all either and I basically feel totally normal." The air felt thicker at ground level and more rich and lush and it's effects began working immediately. We even ended up going out for dinner that night and then going to bed at our regular time, feeling mostly fine.
Mount Schilthorn was my first hike at high elevation and from a physical perspective it was one of the hardest things that I've ever done in my life. But looking back on the experience I truly believe that the challenge of it is what made it so special. I said this in part one of this series and I'll say it again now, mount Schilthorn was by far the most enjoyable part of our trip to Switzerland. I would even say that it was the single best experience of our entire time in Europe. It is definitely a memory I won't soon forget.