It was 5:20am and my alarm rang. Super excited for the day but quite tired I pulled on my hiking clothes grabbed a breakfast on the go and hopped into the Our Chalet van. The van was full of half-asleep vollies, interns and staff from 7 different countries. We drove to Engstligenalp where we caught the first Gondola up at 6am, on top it felt as cold as the arctic winter. We grabbed our hats and gloves and prepared ourselves for the wait for the cows! It was Alpabzug and I was crazy enough to stand up on an Alp before sunrise. One herd after the other passed us; all of us were trying to get the best shots in. After most of our group left to make it to work on time, Beth from Wales and me, Lisa from Austria, chose a calm herd and we tagged along to head down to the bottom!
The hike down Engstligen is well known for steep steps and windy paths down. So there we were in the back of a cow herd. It seemed as if the cows had no trouble at all descending to the bottom. And there we were – out of breath and ready for a break. There was only one problem, not only was there a herd in front of us but also already behind us. We tried to stay calm looking for an escape. After we finally found a corner to hide / get out of the way of the coming cows, we could finally catch our breaths. The farmers jumped down like mountain goats, the cows ran down without a problem and we, not knowing if we make it down alive or if we would end up being hit be the next herd. After the herd has passed we decide to start again to gain some time to the next herd. One more time we had to hide behind a bench to let a herd pass because we were just not fast enough. After 1:10hr we eventually made it to the bottom of the gondola station. Finally we could catch our breaths again and starting laughing at our ridiculous idea to hike down a mountain in between 500 cows.
We then decided to walk all the way back to Our Chalet, we managed to get back by 9:40, just as all the staff that were working that day came out of morning meeting. As we only had a quick breakfast before we left and we already had walked 15.000 steps we decided on a big breakfast for the day before we dropped onto the sofa and watched a movie.
During the afternoon, after my nap, my heart started to beat faster and faster. I started to run around our staff house searching all my hiking equipment. I made packing lists and kept asking all the vollies if I was well-equipped for the Bunderspitz hike. As my backpack was completely full I considered myself ready. I quickly decided my five layers of clothing proved to be the right choice. During dinner my excitement level was raising constantly. It probably did not help that I had two big servings of apple crumble and custard – I get hyperactive with too much sugar in my blood.
19:30 the program bell rings and Jenn and I gather with the guests to check equipment and the plan for the evening/night. And off we are. We have a group of 5 inspiring young women from 5 different countries with us as well as Jackie, an autumn vollie from the US.
After the first hour we finally have to turn on our head lamps as it was pretty dark by now as we hiked through the woods. My heart was beating heavily and I was so curious for everything to come. When Jenn announced that we were about 20mins away from our sleeping spot I was surprised by how quickly we had made it to that point. When we arrived at the Cheesemakers-Hut, the farmer welcomed us with hot chocolate. We finished it fast and chatted a bit before we headed to the shed where the mattresses were. Bundled up in sheets and wool blankets, hats and fluffy socks everyone fell asleep fast, except me of course. I laid there for what felt hours trying to get comfortable but when I am excited I just can’t sleep.
At 3:15 when the alarm rang I felt like a just have fallen asleep – but oh well, we were about to climb a peak in the dark!!! Half asleep I put on all my layers of clothing, tied my shoes and went brush my teeth and wash my face. At 3:45 we were off, heading closer to the peak. Our next destination was a cow hut – our breakfast spot.
Looking back to this 1:30hrs hike now, I cannot really recall the first 30mins, I guess I was sleepwalking. The hike did not feel challenging at all because I just could not see a thing and only went step after step. At our breakfast spot we enjoyed our packed lunch, but even better was the sky full of stars. It was such a clear night we could even see the Milky Way. So we were sitting there and I slowly started to realise that this is probably not the only magical moment of the morning. As it got colder and colder we started heading towards the peak again to keep our bodies moving. The dawn slowly broke the darkness and we could finally turn off our head lamps. And then it was only 30mins towards the peak, my excitement rose and rose and the last steps felt like an accomplishment. There we were on top of Bunderspitz on 2546m waiting for the sunrise. We put on our last layers of clothing and ate the last bit of our breakfast before we got ready to see a magical moment.
When the sun rose over Eiger and Jungfrau I felt accomplished and thankful. I would have not imagined myself on top of a mountain watching such a beautiful sunrise with inspiring people around the world. I felt content and blessed to have sat there.
Looking back those were the most amazing 26hrs so far of my internship here at Our Chalet. Even though I was exhausted for the whole next day and a slight cold for the next week I would do both, the Alpabzug Hike with cows and the Bunderspitz overnight hike again, anytime, because those are the once in a lifetime experience that make the stay at Our Chalet so special.
Lisa Pfeiffer – Programme Intern, Autumn 2016