Friday, April 27, 2012

June 12 - Day 5 - Grindelwald, Switzerland

June 12 - Day 5 - Grindelwald, Switzerland

After seeing Mt. Titlis, Trubsee Lake, buying some groceries, and taking our tent down, we headed back to the train station. Finally, our last time to have to hike along the river. It was a nice hike, but two miles one way multiple times a day was getting old. We must have walked that same route eight times in two days.

Our next stop was Grindelwald. We wanted to get there in the afternoon so we would have some time to see the town and do some hiking around the Grindelwald Glacier. There is an upper and lower part, we planned to do both but do to time and weather we ended up planning to do just the lower portion.

The train ride to Grindelwald took about 45 minutes. Trains are a great way of getting around. You can read, sleep, take pictures, eat, do whatever. It's also a smooth ride and always on time. I mentioned before that I wished we had trains like this in the U.S., it makes things so much easier. I pretty much fell asleep immediately. Whenever we rode on trains I would fall asleep. I did get a few good picures before I fell asleep though.

"Nexte halte" came on the intercom, it means "next stop" in german. Followed by Grindelwald. We made it. Another common thing we started saying anytime we were going somewhere was "nexte halte." So to refresh our new sayings: ziggen sie bratwurst, trinktwasser, and nexte halte. We were improving our german daily. I already spoke german, but it was cool to hear it all the time. The trains did use english words as well. When getting off the doors would open and the intercom would say "alight to the left" or "alight to the right." Who uses the word alight? I didn't even know what it meant until this trip.

It was the afternoon and the skies had really cleared up a lot. You could actually see some blue skies. Grindelwald was a tiny town. It seemed like there was one street that winds straight through the middle of town with buildings and houses on the sides. We asked a local tourist office where the campsite was. Again we had to walk. It wasn't very far and it was at least on the same route of where we wanted to begin our hike.

We walked down a really steep street to get there passing small Swiss houses. Every house looked pretty much the same. Flowers in the window sills, wood framed, and a garden being protected by a gnome. I didn't think gnomes were a Swiss thing, but it reminded me of the cartoon "David the Gnome" from nickelodeon. I watched that show growing up, especially when I stayed home from school when I was sick. Probably one of the best shows ever. It also reminded me of the Amazing Race.

As we walked down the hill I remember thinking that I was going to have to walk back up this, with our bags. I wasn't looking forward to that, but for now we needed to find the campground. We camped at the bottom of the hill at a place called Camping Gletscherdorf. This would be our home for the next two nights.  We got our camp set up, in what seemed like a small random plot of land that was converted into a campground. You could see the glacier on the mountain behind our campsite. It was a really good view. 

Our plan for Grindelwald was to visit the Jungfraujoch and hike around Grindelwald Glacier. We weren’t going to have time for the Jungfraujoch today, so we decided we’d try to see Grindelwald Glacier while we still had some daylight. We figured we would have a few hours before it was dark.

We didn’t really know where the hike was, but we saw some signs on the road and hoped they would point us in the right direction. They did. We headed up a gravel road to what we thought would be the trailhead. We walked on this road for a few miles, passing houses, horses, and open pastures. I was wondering if the whole trail was going to be like this or if we’d eventually be going on a real trail.

We eventually came to a sign post marking the start of the trail. We knew the hike was going to take a few hours to complete, but we had spent 30 minutes walking and that wasn’t even part of the actual trail. It was already getting dark and it looked like it was going to rain. It was pretty clear that we would have to walk fast in order to get back before dark. Luckily I had a headlamp.

The trail was pretty deserted. I think we might have seen one other group of people and that was near the end. There were some great views of the countryside. The homes in Switzerland are awesome. They are all log homes and pretty well spread out. It’s so different than American style homes. Whenever they did construction the homes had their roofs pre-built and then placed on top with a crane. It was pretty neat.

The beginning of the trail followed a river for most of the way. We crossed little waterfalls created by the rains and melting snow from higher elevations. The trail was slippery and steep on parts of it, and as it began to rain it was getting worse. Luckily it wasn’t raining very hard or consistently, and as the trail moved on we started to go into the trees. Which was a good thing because we didn’t want to be out in the open in case of lightning.

As we went further it started to get dark, partly because of the trees and the sun going down behind the mountains, but also because of the clouds. The trail was getting steeper, the trees began to disappear, and it was getting more rocky. We decided we would take the route towards the lower part of the glacier. It was shorter and we thought we’d have better views.

Along the way we passed an old hotel. It may have been open at other times of year, but for now it looked closed. I remember wanting to get out of the elements and possibly get a drink or go to the bathroom, but the doors were locked. We walked all around it, but there was no way in. This building was going to come in handy later on.

It was starting to rain a lot harder at this time and I was considering wanting to go back. We decided since we had already hiked this far we might as well continue on to see what we could see. The rains would come and go, so as it cleared up a little we made our way. The trail was very slippery at this point and became very steep. It was mostly down hill, so we started bounding down as fast as we could. I almost fell a few times, but we were able to get down to the bottom. We made it down really fast, but that wasn’t going to be the case coming back up. We got a few pictures and then started going back as fast as we could.

It was pouring down rain. The trail was covered in water, my boots were soaked, my clothes were soaked, my bag was soaked. Not to mention it was freezing cold. It was terrible. We made it back to the old hotel. We stood under the porch hoping the rain would die down. It never did. It seemed like it was getting harder. It was thundering and lightning. We had two options. Stay where we were and wait, or run for it.

We ran. Fast.

Most of the trail was uphill on the way, so it was down hill on the way back. That made it much easier. For some reason running down hill in the rain when you are freezing makes you run fast and not get tired. As hard as the hike was going up, it was easy going down. The rain never let up. I was just thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get back to the campsite, get out of these clothes, and take a warm shower.

We seemed like we were making good time. It was getting pretty dark so it was hard to tell how far we had to go. I kept thinking it was only a few more minutes until we got back to the gravel road. After all we were running fast.

We were back in the forest and the trees were doing a good job of blocking the rain. Those same little waterfalls we had crossed before had now swelled into much bigger falls. At this point they were still manageable, but just a few minutes later and they would have been impassable. It seemed like we were going to make it back before dark as we planned. That was before we realized what lay ahead. The river below was flowing very fast and the water had risen to the edges of the banks.

One of the small waterfalls we had crossed before had swelled to 5 times the size. There was no way around it. It went all the way to the top of the mountain and all the way down to the river below. I thought about trying to hike down and then crossing lower down where it looked like the falls weren’t so wide. I also considered hiking up the mountain to do the same. Neither seemed feasible in the end. We could also wait for the rain to stop and let the falls die down. That could take hours. It was getting darker and we didn’t have hours to wait around.

Another option was to hike back to the hotel and break in and sleep there. I didn’t want to walk all the way back. Our last option, build a bridge. There were trees, fallen logs, and rocks all around. I figured we could create a dam and cross. We started throwing decent sized rocks to create stepping stones. We didn’t want to get to close to the water so we threw them. Most of them just rolled down. That was a failure.

We started gathering logs from the forest. It was getting dark enough now that I needed to get out my headlamp. We spent the next hour throwing everything we could find at the waterfall. After a while we decided we had done all we could do. The rain had started to die down and the water wasn’t rushing as hard. It was now or never.

I went first. I took two really fast light steps so I wouldn’t put too much pressure on the bridge and make it fall. I used a stick as a crutch and for balance. I made it! I remember feeling someof the logs slip under my feet. My brother went. He made it too. We were now back on our way. Running to get back. By the time we got back to the gravel road the rain had let up significantly. We were able to walk at this point, still soaked.

We got back to the campsite and hung up our clothes to dry them. I headed straight to the showers. One thing I couldn’t wait for was something warm to drink. Hot chocolate sounded perfect. We were in luck! After my shower we did our laundry. Right next to the washing machine was a hot chocolate stand. It was only 1 Swiss Franc, about 80 cents.

The washing machine seemed to work great, our clothes were going to be clean and warm. We put our clothes in the dryer and started it. We waited about 20 minutes and realized our clothes weren’t drying. The machine didn’t work. So now we had clean clothes that were soaked. It wasn’t raining very hard so we decided to hang them up near our tent.

I think we just ate bread with peanut butter for dinner, a common theme for this trip. It was a busy and eventful day, but now it was time to sleep.

1 comment:

  1. wow thats a crazy day...i would be so panick dont what to do looking at the huge waterfall!!!