2011-10-23: 3 swiss mountains with a scenic view - and a classic

I have been living in Switzerland now for almost a year, and am proud to say that I learned quite a bit about the people and the country, climbed some mountains and enjoyed some phantastic views. So here's some suggestions for hikers and no-hikers alike. 

Rigi - 1797m - Canton Schwyz

The Rigi was my first real hike on the third day after having arrived from Mexico. We started in Küssnacht on a sunny October morning and hiked up via Seeboden. About 3 1/2 hours later we were at Rigi Kulm, along with a bunch of tourists who came up by furnicular. The sky was nearly without clouds, a 360 degree view to Lake Lucerne and the surrounding "Voralpen", including the Gross & Klein Mythen, peaks we climbed about a week later. After a lunch in the sun we continued downwards to Arth-Goldau, on the other side of the Rigi massif, and took the train back to Küssnacht. (click here for the full description of the tour).

The tour is not challenging at all for anybody who has some medium physical condition. If you are not a hiker, take the rackrailway up from Arth-Goldau, the gondola or the cablecar.

But I am naming the Rigi as well as it has some historical importance: Thomas Cook organized the first packaged tour to Switzerland in 1855, including an excursion up to the Rigi. The beginning of tourism to Switzerland, and tourism up to mountains, was marked.



Pilatus - 2128,5m - Canton Obwalden/Nidwalden

We had looked at it a couple of times already, but weather conditions never allowed until a day in June, when I hiked up by myself, as some kind of training run.

From Alpnachstad I took the usual trail via Ämsigen up, and while real runners like my man make the 1670 meters of altitude in 1h 45min or less, I needed the double, yet still a lot less than a normal hiker. Unfortunately, as so often, the peak of Esel was in clouds.

No view this time, at least not from the top. I hiked down towards Hergiswil and just 50 meters below the summit I was in the sun again, with a gorgeous view of Lake Lucerne. Since then I have hiked and climbed it several times and it was always fun.

The third time, when we took a climbing route up via the East Face, we also finally had a view from the top.



Required: for the normal trail hike up from Alpnachstad medium physical fitness is required, it takes 4-5 hours. Alternative: take the world's steepest cogwheel railway with up to 48% inclination up to Pilatus Kulm. A gondola also goes up from Kriens, so if you then go down to Alpnachstad with the railway you can take the boat back to Lucerne.  



Niesen - 2362m - Canton Bern

The last one of the trio, and like Pilatus a typical trail runner training mountain, that I need 3 1/2 hours to hike up, 1700 meters of altitude difference.

The view here, that is if you are lucky and there is no clouds, is to the three big bernese peaks: famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The Niesen is also known as the swiss pyramid, or should I say Toblerone? From the north shore of lake Thun you can see why.

The Niesen also has the world's longest staircase, with 11.674 steps going up alongside the furnicular tracks. Once a year there is a staircase run, the fastest make this well below an hour!

Required: same medium physical condition, enough to make a 4-5 hour hike. Alternative: take the furnicular built in 1919, with 3,5 km the longest in Europe. 



Jungfraujoch - 3454m 

Well, this is the fourth one...

From where you also will have stunning views, but probably won't be able to hike it yourself.

The Jungfraujoch is actually not a summit, but the lowest point between Jungfrau (4158m) and Mönch (4107m), and Europe's highest train station.

Jungfrau is one of Switzerland's most renowned mountains and was summited the first time in 1811. The train station was openend in 1912, a hundred years ago, and nowadays transports around 700.000 tourist annually to the Joch.

Required: although you don't hike up some good physical health is recommended, the altitude already bears the danger of getting altitude sickness and being healthy in the first place might not prevent you from becoming nauseous, but odds are higher if you aren't. As I wasn't yet up there I can't contribute any images yet....

And I am training to then continue the hike to Jungfrau and Mönch! 

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