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Tour de Alps - Switzerland

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Murren, Switzerland

Piz Gloria - Schilthorn Wednesday, September 21, 2005
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The Day of The Schilthorn and Piz Gloria

Color Map of Region

We departed the Alpina midmorning without breakfast since we were going to have a meal at the top of the alps at Piz Gloria. We walked to the other side of town to the cable car lift. I had purchased a Piz Gloria lift pass through RailEurope ahead of time.

(click to enlarge)
Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Departing Murren

Lifts

Aerial Cable Car

There are a series of lifts to the peak. About two thirds the way up you transfer to the final cablecar at Birg. This is one of the longest cablecar distances in Switzerland. The views are very impressive.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Departing Birg

Schilthorn - about 10,000 feet

Piz Gloria

At the top of the Schilthorn is Piz Gloria. Made famous by the 007 Bond film, Her Majesties Secret Service is now a restaurant that rotates 360 degrees, giftshop, bar and viewing platform. It is truly on the utmost peak of the Schilthorn.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Cable Car Arrives

Champagne Breakfast

Breakfast Bond Style

When we arrived, we were the only ones dining. The seating area slowly rotates a cycle per hour. So during a typical breakfast, you can take in the entire Bernese Oberland alpine region. We had the 007 Bond Champagne Breakfast. The breakfast was good, but not great. The best part was just taking in the beautiful alps as the Sun rose over Jungfraujoch on the other side of the valley.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Piz Gloria - Champagne Breakfast

Hiking Plan for the Day

Schilthorn

After breakfast we visited the gift shop and began our planning for the day. It was bright and sunny outside, just above freezing, and dry. I had read the Rick Steve's Guidebook regarding hiking down from the Schilthorn, and didn't read any warnings regarding the climb down, except for a steep part in the beginning.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Piz Gloria Restaurant

A look down the cablecar route from the top at Piz Gloria to Birg below.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Cable Car Travels Upwards

Piz Gloria is perched at the very top of the peak.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Cable Car Interior

View across the valley to the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfraujoch.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Cable Car Up

Observation platform with webcams.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Cable Car Arrive Birg

View of the alps from the observation deck.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Piz Gloria - Observation Deck Pan Left

View from observation deck.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Piz Gloria Observation Deck

One hiking trail down to Birg. The start is steep and harrowing. You are provided with a cable to hold on to.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Piz Gloria Pan Right

View of Piz Gloria from the western hiking trail.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Starting to Hike Down

The Hike from Hell Begins - Time 11:00 a.m.

Starting Off

After topping off our water bottles, taking lots of digital photos from the observation deck, we got out our trekking poles and headed down on what we thought was the less-steep trail on the western side of Piz Gloria. At 10,000 feet, it's just rock. Actually, it's a loose shale type rock. You start on a gradual downward trail along the ridgeline of the Schilthorn.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike Starts

If you see this sign - be prepared for a journey through hell. We thought it was a joke, but it is the Swiss sign for warning.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Top Ridgeline

In some places, you are provided with a cable to hold on to. On either side are sheer drop-offs. Some extend thousands of feet below.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Top of Trail

For sheer rock faces, you are provided with an aluminum ladder or stairs.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Ridge Top

Trail markers (red surrounded by two white stripes) guide you down the ridgeline.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Ridge Top

The Climb Down

Very Steep Descents

At first, we though there were only a few steep parts. We could not have been more wrong. It just keep going, and going. Just as we thought it couldn't get worse, it did. On one side of the cable it is a sheer drop to about 800 feet below. On the open side of the cable, it is a sheer drop to thousands of feet below. If you want to know what vertigo is, try climbing down from Piz Gloria. Keep in mind that the rock is cutting sharp up at this altitude. It is also comprised of some loose shale type rock over the more stable rock. Every foot is placed with exacting precision - or you slip. When you slip, it scares the living crap out of you. Luckily, my attention focussed on where every step went.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Taking a Break

The Next Segment of the Climb Down

Hiking on the Ridgeline

After about an hour of treacherous climbing down from the peak, you start following a ridgeline with loose shale underneath. The slope on either side of the ridge lessened from scary (sheer drop) to very steep (about 45-60 degrees). If you fall here, you just will slide to the bottom. This rock has been sharpened by hundreds of years of freezing and thawing. It has the texture of sharkskin. For those of you who have not touched a shark, the rock has a texture of a bed of pins.

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Looking up at less-steep part of the ridgeline trail. This is the segment after the harrowing sheer drops from Piz Gloria.

A look back over to Piz Gloria. You follow the ridgeline to the left of the summit. We're now just about to begin the zigzag trail down a rock cliff.

Another look back to Piz Gloria. Notice that the shale has changed into rock and some grass (tundra).

Notice the wavy rock area. At one point this mountain began far below and was forced upwards into thin air.

Third Segment of Climb Down

Hike Down into Pastures

The next segment of the climb down was a zigzag course down a rocky cliff. The switchbacks at times were between huge boulders. There were a few mountain streams here. Occasionally, you'd see a aircraft fly by - below you. Sometimes you could hear the sound of rifle shots in the distance. It was Marmot hunting season in the Swiss alps. Marmots look like a cousin of a cross between a beaver and a groundhog. We were in mid-afternoon now, and it was sunny and warm. The constant downward steps pound your toes if your shoes are not on tight. The trekking poles greatly aided the descent.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Boulders

A look up into another mountain range.

Rocky pastureland to mountain hutte below.

Mountain hutte marks mid-journey.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - View of Mountains

Signs mark trails and estimated time. We found times to be way off the mark unless your walking (climbing) fast.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Pepe Interview

Halfway Through the Hike - Mountain Hutte - Time 3:30 p.m.

Pepe with Eiger, Monch and Jungfraujoch in the Distance

After the climb down through the cliff-boulder-field, the trail leveled out a bit into tundra-pasture-land. From here you are following cow or sheep trails. The higher mountain brooks lead down this tundra valley to a mountain hutte and upper level cablecar lift (for high alpine supplies to the hutte). We stopped by the rustic hutte which was empty. Based on the honor-system, we purchased some soda and candy. The Swiss have a alpine hutte system that allows you to eat and sleep (in the hostel fashion) so that you could literally hike through the entire alps - hutte to hutte. In this format, you would not need to bring any camping supplies.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Mid Hutte

Mountain Hutte to Murren

High Alpine Pastures

After a nice break at the mountain hutte, we journeyed on. From this point, you can go to Gimmelwald (Rick Steve's favorite village in this area), or up to the Schilthorn, or a high/low route back to Murren. The plateau which the hutte was located turns into very steep pastureland, with huge drop-offs to the valley, several thousand feet below. How anything grazes up here, I don't know. The slope is extreme.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Mid Trail

Hike Down to Murren

Eiger and Jungfraujoch

Our original plan was to possibly hike down to Birg, then cablecar down to Murren, which would leave some afternoon time open to mountain bike down to Lauterbrunnen. It was now later in the afternoon. From the hutte, there is a fairly level hike across the very steeply sloped pastureland which terminates in a rock cliff. From there you spend alot of time on a zigzag descent which takes you to a little village, and then a hike down into Murren. The views of the Eiger and Jungfraujoch are stunning.

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Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Lower Pasture

View of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfraujoch - the Top of Europe.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Clouds View

The Eiger.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - View of Eiger

This is a view from the cliff which is the last very steep descent. Murren is far on the left, and another 1,000 feet below. We finally arrived in Murren at 6:00 p.m. We were exhausted.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Pepe Interview Two

Hotel Alpina, on the cliff in Murren.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Road to Murren

A view down the main street in Murren.

Movie - Swiss - Day 07 - Shilthorn - Hike - Lower Trail

Tham Chinese restaurant. Oddly enough, we did not go to the Rick Steve's recommendation for traditional Swiss food.

After the hike from hell, a Chinese beer was in order. The food was fantastic - probably the best Chinese food I've ever had. It's the only ethnic restaurant in the area that I know of.

Pepe and Tham, at Tham's Chinese food restaurant.

Paragliding information for region.

Murren and Wengen hotel information.

Murren and Wengen hotel prices.

Schilthorn lift prices.

Schilthorn - Piz Gloria
Warnings
Hiking in Region
Do not climb if you have :
- a fear of heights
- vertigo
- poor climber
- bad heart
Also wear proper hiking shoes.
Heed these warnings.
- The guidebooks don't really tell you much.
- Trust your judgment.
- Be prepared.
- Bring water and food.
- Wear proper hiking gear.
- This region is known for huge sheer drop-offs.
- Do not climb in bad weather.
- Prepare ahead of time with food and water.
- Use a trekking pole.
- Wear proper foot gear.
- Times on signs are approximate - double the time to be conservative.

The Hike
Notes

We departed Piz Gloria at 11:00 a.m. and with two short breaks arrived in Murren at 6:00 p.m. You are climbing down 4,000 vertical feet from the peak to Murren. There are more than 1,000 foot drop-offs along the way. Time from Piz Gloria to the mountain hutte was about 4 hours including a few short breaks. From the hutte to Murren about 2.5 hours.

The signs have alpine hiking times posted - this is at a brisk pace. Double that time to be conservative. Keep in mind that the cablecar at Piz Gloria has it's last run down around 5-6 p.m. - so if you are climbing up, be prepared to arrive before the aerial cablecar stops running for the day. Do not attempt the hike (up or down) at night or in wet weather. If you have shortness of breath, vertigo, or fear of heights, do not attempt the climb from Piz Gloria (up or down). For the tourist and casual hiker, this difficulty rating is extreme. I highly advise you bring lots of water, a trekking pole, good hiking boots, and warm clothes (layers).

Additional Photographs: Piz Gloria - Schilthorn

(click on photos to enlarge)
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