10 August 2023

Julie had to go to London for a couple of days this week. So I decided to play instead of just staying around the house. The day that I got her off to the airport I came home got a shower, and then hopped in the car. I drove to a little mountain village named Churwalden where I spent a few hours riding an amazing mountain coaster. Yesterday, I decided I was going to go on a hike. Not any hike, I wanted to hike up Mt Pilatus. Our son did the hike last year when he was visiting. He said it wasn’t that bad of a hike; so the idiot I am decided I could do it as well. The difference being we went up different sides of the mountain. You would think that wouldn’t matter, well it does!!! The side he went up was a Class 2 hike. I tried making a class 3 hike. HUGE DIFFERENCES!

Mountain coaster

According to Google Maps there are 23 bobsled or mountain coaster rides in Switzerland. I have only been on two; so it looks like our remaining time here we will be doing some traveling around finding the different rides! Basically there are two types of rides. The Bobsled rides are an aluminum half pipe that go down the mountain. You sit on a little plastic sled with wheels and a brake lever.

The pictures above are from our weekend at Mt Pilatus a couple of months ago. The one on the left shows Julie being pulled back up the mountain. You can see she is sitting on the little bobsled. The picture on the right shows part of the track. It does kind of resemble a bob sled run. The second type of track resembles a roller coaster more than anything. The cars are similar to the bobsled run, however, it CANNOT leave the coaster track. The picture below is one I took from the chairlift going up to the start of the coaster ride.

You can see the coaster track is elevated off the ground, and you can see it is basically aluminum pipes that the car runs down, not the half pipe of the bobsled run.

The coaster offers a couple of advantages if you like excitement. Because the car cannot jump the track (and you are belted in) the course can be faster, and it has much tighter turns than the bobsled. Both rides are fun, but the adrenaline junky part of me likes the coaster better!

The one disadvantage of both rides happens when you get behind someone that doesn’t like the excitement. At Pilatus I got stuck twice on the run, because I was behind someone that wouldn’t go fast. I had to slow down so much that on a level section I stopped and had to push myself. If you go to the 3:14 point in the video below you will see what I mean!

The mountain coaster has the same problem you can see if you watch the video below. The slowdown occurs at the 7:45 mark.

While at the Pradaschier Coaster I got the pleasure of watching a Swiss Mom jump all over some middle eastern man who decided he would let his family of three kids and two other adults cut in front of about 25 of us that were standing line already. It was masterful. German is an excellent language for cussing someone out, because it just sounds so harsh anyway! The icing on the cake was watching the entire family have to get out of line and go back up to the chair lift because they walked right by the signs telling people in german and english (with pictures) that you could not take backpacks on the ride. The entire line just started laughing!

After the drive back home I got ready the next day’s adventure.

hiking up mt pilatus

Julie and have been to the mountain numerous times. We have gone up and down both sides. I knew the side I wanted to hike was more steep. What I thought, however, was that it was only going to be really steep the last few hundred meters. BOY WAS I WRONG! The trail up the mountain is broken up into three different hiking sections. Each section is between 2.5 and 3.5 kilometers long. I knew there was no way I could start at the very bottom and climb up. On that side, you have to go up two different “hills’ before you get to the actual mountain. I was going to be smart.

I have talked before about the trail rating system in Switzerland. It has nothing to do with elevation or exertion the rating scheme is all about the trail. Class 1 means a paved or gravel path, may be steep. Class 2 means dirt path with a lot of stairs, rocks or roots, and may be steep. Class 3’s definition is: mostly marked trails, may be steep in sections, risk of falling, may need hands for balance. The only equipment talked about for these three classes of trails is having good clothing and sturdy hiking boots. Now there are three more classes of trails in Switzerland, and I KNOW I will never EVER go on any thing marked 4 or higher! The first part of the hike was marked class 1. I knew it was not to bad, because Julie and I have hiked down the trail before. The second part of the hike was marked class 3.

I took the gondola up the first leg. I saved myself 3.5 kilometers of climbing, and about 90 minutes of walking. All told I was going to hike only about 7 kilometers. Since I started at 8:50 (the time I got off the gondola) that meant I would have 8 hours to hike the 7 kilometers. Easy, right? I mean heck two or three days a week I cover 8 kilometers in about an hour on my daily jogs. Of course it isn’t uphill the whole way, but still…..

The first part of the hike went exactly like I thought it would. It took me about 80 minutes to hike up the trail. I was just feeling warmed up. It was. a nice walk, and even with the couple of steep sections I was well on my way to finishing up the second half of the hike. I sat down for about 25 minutes, ate a snack and had a bottle of water.

I started on the next section, and after about three hundred meters I was thinking, “I see what they talk about with needing hands for balance.” I was going through a field along the side of the mountain. It was pretty steep and as I was scrambling over and around the rocks I would occasionally need to use my hands. Another three hundred meters I was really starting to question my sanity. The trail was going straight up the mountain, and there were chains, rope and cable that you needed to use climb up the rocks. It wasn’t quite a cliff, but if you fell, the only way you were stopping soon was to come against a tree! I started to get a little worried when I looked at my watch and realized that it had taken me over an hour and I had barely gone 1/2 a kilometer. The entire section was supposed to be only 3 kilometers, and the trail signs said that it should only take 2.5 hours to complete the hike! I finally got up the “hard” part of the trail, and I was about 1/2 way through the hike. When I looked at my watch, I realized that it took me two hours to get this far. I stopped and rested a bit, but started to worry about the time. I plotted the remaining hike on the map and told myself I am going to give myself two time points. If I do not hit those points by 1 pm and 2 pm. I am going back down. Of course once I had hit the 2 pm point, there was no turning back, because at that point I would have been 3/4 of the way through, and it would probably have taken me longer to go back down. I gave myself the two time points because the steepest section of the hike was going to be the last 400 meters. Technically I would have been only 150 meters from the finish, but it was literally straight up the mountain, so the switch backs meant a lot more walking. 400 meters doesn’t sound like much; four football fields or one lap around a track. Practically anyone can go 400 meters right? Well I never got that far to find out.

I was tired. After another short break I started walking up again. This time the path was a class 1. Nice crushed gravel path. I had my hiking sticks out and I was just going to put my head down and start walking. After 30 minutes I stopped to take a quick break and that was when I knew it was over. In those 30 minutes I had only covered a couple of hundred meters. I was looking up at the place I needed to reach in 90 minutes and knew it was not going to happen.

The chapel above was my 2 pm way point. On a straight line basis, I was probably 500 meters away, but I knew there was no way I was making it up that 500 meters in time.

I will be trying this again. However, I will be taking off the first 1/2 of the hike. I am going to also start walking up more hills. I try and avoid it as a general rule, but I think I need to get better on the hills! I feel a little bad, that I couldn’t complete the hike. But not nearly as bad as I would have felt if I had called Julie and said, “You are going to have to get home from the airport on your own. I have to spend the night on the mountain, because I did not make it up before the last gondola left.” When I try this again, I will be bringing along a blanket. Something that I can wrap around me if I can’t make it up the mountain in time. I am going to finish this climb BEFORE we move back to the US.

I have talked before about the physical effects after catching Covid last year. I have really had to change my exercise goals. I used to do a lot of climbing on the bike, but now I can’t even make a 300 meter climb without having to stop. Hopefully I can work myself up to more strenuous hiking. I guess I have the remainder of our time here in Switzerland to find out! The Doctors I have spoken with don’t give me a whole lot of hope. My heart and lungs have some long term damage from Covid, and they will either get better or they won’t. Basically I am fine as long as I keep my heart rate low. When I approach my max heart rate for even a couple of minutes my body just gives out.

I don’t have a lot of pictures this week. Only a few from my hike. I hope you enjoy them, however.

Talk to you next week!

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