This past weekend I traveled to Switzerland with ten other Bernardians. Our trip was from Thursday morning to Monday morning – don’t worry, we got back just in time for Dr. Coulter’s class! We stayed in a town called Montreux. Apparently it’s a very touristy city, which became obvious by prices at the restaurants (26 francs for a pasta dish!), but it was also small and very charming. Actually, it had a similar feel as Assisi, Italy. Our hostel was right on Lake Geneva with a breath-taking view of the Swiss Alps. The entire trip was fantastic: a clean and safe hostel, beautiful views, friendly locals, beautiful views, Swiss chocolate, and did I mention beautiful views?!
Despite the rainy forecast, we decided we wanted to climb to the Swiss Alps. I mean, it’s what you do in Switzerland and we weren’t about to let a little rain stop us! So, after stopping into Montreux’s gothic Church to say hi to the “Big Guy,” we took a small trolley up to a small town called Glion. From there we had two options: One, take the train farther up the mountain to a town called Haut-de-Caux and then hike for 2 ½ hours up to the very top of the mountain (2,042 meters high) or two, begin hiking from Glion and see how far we get, making it a 3 ½ hour hike if we reached the very top. We decided on the latter – heck, we had the whole day! So, we started off toward the first small town called Caux, which was about 40 minutes away.
Timeout now – I need to point out that not only was it heavily raining, making us drenched in about ten minutes, but I had been expecting a relatively pleasant walk. Yes, I know I was going to climb a mountain and that at some point the terrain would need to incline, but I did not think the first ten minutes would be so steep! The five of us hiking had decided to pray a Rosary together to start the trip off, but I was huffing and puffing so badly that I could barely get any words out. The other Bernardians must have robotic legs or superhero powers that they didn’t tell me about because it didn’t seem like they were struggling as much as me, and I thought I was in pretty good shape! Whenever we would reach a level part in the road, I would make them take a little rest, so I could catch my breath and rest my calf muscles – they were burning!
Wondering if the steep terrain ever leveled out, are you? Actually, right after Caux, it really leveled out and wasn’t bad at all. Praise God! So, up and up we went—with the view just getting better and better. Eventually a new element was added to the hike: snow. Minnesota, you just couldn’t stay away, could you? At first there were just traces or a thin layer of icing on the ground, but as we continued onward, it went from wet slush (yes, totally soaking my feet through my shoes) to snow up to the middle of my calf. This wouldn’t have been so bad expect that one male Bernardian, let’s call him John, was wearing sandals with bare feet!
Being smart and well-prepared women, the four of us had packed extra pairs of socks as well as toilet paper (extra socks because we thought our feet would get cold from the rain and toilet paper in case we needed to go to the bathroom). So we sat John down on a big rock where he took off his sandals and dried his feet with toilet paper while two others did the same with his sandals, and I ended up actually putting the clean pair of dry socks on his feet (he had to use his hands to balance himself on the rock so as to make sure his feet didn’t touch the snow)! It was quite the bonding experience. After that, it was back to the trail. Not soon after we came to what looked like an avalanche road block: deep snow on a steep side of the mountain. We had to cross these “avalanches” four times, which looking back could have been a bit dangerous. But hey, we saw footprints in the snow ahead of us indicating that someone else had done it before us, so we thought it was do-able and relatively safe.
Eventually we made it to a designated look-out spot. The view was AMAZING! A rough estimate – we were probably 1200-1300 meters high…so about halfway up the mountain. After taking a bunch of pictures (which don’t even do it justice), we started off again with even more hope and excitement to reach the top. However, not even ten minutes later three guys appear from the direction we’re headed. They begin to tell us that they had also been trying to hike to the very top but had turned back. Apparently they had reached snow as high as their thighs and it became extremely hard to tell which path to follow. After the three guys left, we group-huddled and came to a quick consensus that we should and would turn back, as well. And I really believe these three guys were a sign from God, watching over His sheep – because who knows how the story would have ended had we not run into them. We went back to the café in Caux and ate some dinner (bread with nutella) and recounted the many times we wanted, could, and should have turned back on the hike, but didn’t. Back to the hostel at 7:30pm and in bed by 8:15pm… what a great day in Switzerland!
Love to all those back home,