Where: Piz Beverin 2998m (our route from Sunday on Swisstopo)
It was a weekend a few weeks back when last minute planning resulted in one of the best tours ever, a night at Schreckhornhütte, the destination for a bergwandern trail only for “experienced mountaineers“. Which I can’t claim yet. But you have to start somewhere, and when the signpost says “only for experienced mountaineers” there is a point when you keep going even without the experience. Because there’s the first time for everything.
Nevertheless, for a similar trip without the experience, I do suggest you either hire a guide or take along companions with more experience and skills; people who you can trust no matter what. On the SAC trekkingscale, our trail was level 4, which we made even more challenging by our timing, just before the official season. During the official season, the trails have ladders and wires to support hikers on their way, and the huts have service like food. This time we could only lean on our experience and pure courage. And good weather forecast.
On this trip, we were self-catered, both on the trail and in the hut, where only the winter room facilities were at our service. Nevertheless, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever done. Basically in my backyard, which I miss a lot now when in Zürich. It’s all good here, but no mountains or glaciers as easily accessible as there.
That Saturday, I decided to join the mixed group last minute. The first two of our group had left earlier for some glacier training; the ones I’m now used to follow almost everywhere. And then there were the two paragliders, flying the last part of the hike back on Sunday. And then there was me and my favourite couple (thanks for the ride L&A). It wasn’t an easy trip for any of us, though definitely worth the effort with the mountains and glaciers and views to Finsteraarhorn, the highest peak in Berner Oberland (4274 m).
Normally, when route descriptions say 3h, I can take appr. 1h off the overall time, but this tour proved that when it’s level 4, the 5h description was more than accurate. And so, leaving quite late on Saturday, first driving to Gindelwald and taking the cable car up to Pfingstegg (8CHF with SBB half-far travelcard, in 2017) from where the initial hike started, we finally reached the hüt just in time before dark.
On the way, we were “guided” by a steinbock couple and motivated by the desire to find our way to the cabin before sunset. Stopping briefly at Berghaus Bäregg on our way, to fill our water bottles, while the paragliders collected information of flying possibilities from there for the next day. And finally, after a bit scary and very challenging hike along the exposed path next to the Obers Ischmeer glacier, we met the first “group” around the corner of the cabin, just when the sky started to turn golden. And enjoyed a magnificent sunset with well-earned sip of wine.
This weekend, we got the whole hut to ourselves. Or not the whole hüt exactly, but the parts open as so-called winter room. There was even enough room to separate the snoring ones, which is a real luxury in mountain settings. Normally, the snores, smell and unknown people belong to the most authentic mountain experience. But here’s a reason I love the off-season in the mountains; fewer people, more space and authentic off-season luxury mountaineering experience, when the timing is right.
For dinner (which btw is always 5* up there, no matter what you are eating) there was wine and extra speciality in the form of porto bottle (extra points for people carrying wine in glass bottles up the mountains!). And then there were the steinbocks and marmots and the best people as company; what else can a girl ask for? There was laughing, there were challenges overcome with the help and support of others (lots of swearing too, I have to admit), and there was just pure joy mixed with the good kind of exhaustion.
After a good night sleep, there was my quiet morning yoga moment in solitude on the hüt “terrace” (well-needed with all the stress I’ve had related to the move and life changes in general), while two of us started their climb to higher mountains and others continued sleeping a bit later. And for some reason, I came back from the trip with one inner sole less of my amazing Lowa shoes. I have the feeling those curious marmots I saw that morning had something to do with this, or then it was just the tired me leaving it to dry in the sun eternally. Nevertheless, no matter what the initial reason, the sole has now been replaced by the lovely customer service of Lowa, and I can keep on going further and higher on these mountains.
Once again I have to say these really are the kind of days and nights I’ve learned to love the most. Going forward, going higher and learning so much. This time the biggest lesson was to learn how tall the crevasses of the glaciers really are. A humbling experience indeed. Obers Ischmeer and Finsteraarhorn were magnificent, especially seeing them this close. Walking past them and standing below them, I also started to think that maybe a glacier and/or mountaineering training course would be good to take at some point. Because no matter how scary, glaciers and high mountains are oh so tempting and I want to have more of them and learn more (and krhm climb a >4000m peak before I turn 30). Zürich is nice but… I guess I was spoiled by Berner Oberland so that now I can’t be too long a time away from the mountains.
Luckily though, SBB serves quite well, to the mountains and back. And these guys just keep on being themselves no matter where we meet. Though best enjoyed in the mountains.
Where: Schreckhornhütte SAC 2’650’592.125, 1’159’206.469, from Grindelwald
After mountains, the best outdoor things in Switzerland relate to the rivers and lakes, in which Zürich doesn’t make an exception. It’s been quite of an heatwave this week and I’ve found myself almost every day in one of the badi‘s in town. Earlier this week, I tested the free official one and the free not-official one, which offer active playgrounds for cooling down. And yesterday, in a need of quiet, relaxed self-care day, I tested Frauenbad Stadshausquai, which charmed me right away. This women-only badi (bath) offers for 8CHF all the necessities for a perfect bath experience, as well as good views of the Zürich old town and even of the snowy Alps. Not to forget the art nouveau design of the bath itself.
Chilling river, topless sunbathing, food and good poolside bar in Zürich centre? Here you have it. Picnic is possible too (you may find Sprüngli around the corner). But sorry men, there’s nothing to see for you in here during the daytime, as this is a women-only experience. Official opening hours of the bath during the summer season from May to September are around 9am to 8pm, depending on the weather. Nevertheless, the Barfussbar – barefeet bar – at the same location welcomes the other gender too after 8pm.
For me, relaxing in the bath and swimming offers a well-needed break and care for the muscles tired from all the moving, running, hiking and biking. I still have problems staying still for a long time, but in places like this, I can quite easily survive a day or at least a half. Following the loosely structured routine: read – nap – swim – drink – eat – swim – read – nap– repeat. Moreover, the place would offer nice remote working and studying possibilities too in the shadowy corners. Though I might want to keep this as a no-working zone. But a notebook is good to have, as creative moment easily happens in this kind of a situation; in Finnish having a drink can be even called a “neuvoa antava,” loosely translated as “giving an advice”. And yesterday, this aperol spritz clearly said: pause, woman.
Where: Frauenbad Stadshausquai, Stadthausquai 12, 8001 Zurich
Ps. Fun Wikipedia fact: “Zürich’ government decided in 1837, to build a public bath for women, to prevent that “they are no longer forced to bath at night in the fountains” and to protect them from the eyes of men.” With these tropical nights in Zürich this week, I salute these brave ancestors who bathed in the fountains when nothing better was available. Women, claim your space. Always.