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
I have been here at Our Chalet in the Swiss Alps as a volunteer for the winter season. Taking the decision to come here wasn’t easy because I had to put a lot of things on hold. But from planning my journey and finally arriving it was worth it. My dream of seeing snow came true though, I saw snow, I felt snow, I walked in it and I experienced all kinds of it and waking up every morning and seeing the whole place including mountains tops look white and beautiful always brings peace to my soul. I have seen so many beautiful sites and lots of memorable experiences, each and everything I do daily is new and wonderful.
To start with we had a white Christmas and New Year celebrations, it’s the first time I have spent Christmas away from home, not just away from home but far away from home in a different environment, with different people and cultures. It wasn’t the same but it was fun anyway. We went on a trip to the Christmas market in Bern, it was cool and I fell in love with the city.
We have been hiking to different places; Woodcarvers, Engstligen waterfalls and going snow tubing. Walking in the snow always makes me feel like am on the moon! I also used the snow shoes for the magic tree snow shoe hike which was great. It might also interest you to know that two different wishes I made at the magic tree came true; so do try and make a wish at the magic tree anytime you visit our chalet!
Soon it was time to learn how to ski, I enrolled for some ski lessons and can proudly say I know how to ski even though am not an expert. I am yet to perfect making turns – the skis are their own masters and they never bend to your command until they have flung you on to the ground a few times first!
It’s fun and interesting to know that you have to put in so much energy to control some tiny objects!
I had a great time during the ski world cup held in Adelboden, it was awesome watching professionals ski in real life and listening to the beautiful tunes and background music that were playing. We also managed to get into the village that night to see other events (such as the bib picking ceremony) that were taking place. It was so much fun.
One of the best activities that I enjoyed doing here was sledging, it’s so much fun, especially sledging at night – I will really miss that! I also had a go on the airboard and another of my dreams came true when I went paragliding. I lack words to describe how I felt but it was very good! One thing I learned here is just how cold it can be, it is never this cold back home in Nigeria!
It has been a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed every bit of it, there is so much fun in the Swiss Alps, there is so much fun high up in the mountains and much more fun lies beneath the roof of Our Chalet.
Chinweoke ‘Somto’ Orakwute (NGA)
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2013/14
“We had an amazing weekend! We’re already planning our return! Thank you so much to all the staff again for such a life changing experience which we will never forget! You all helped my international licence weekend go swimmingly!”
“We had the most amazing time, it was worth every minute of planning and travelling to have such a brilliant adventure, and for it to be snowing when we left just completed the trip with many many fantastic memories.”
2nd Croft Brownies, Cheshire Forest, UK
Hi everyone! This is Kate, one of the winter volunteers from the USA. I’ve been having an incredible time living and working here at Our Chalet.
Some of my favorite activities happen out and around the Chalet in the beautiful Swiss alps. Besides the traditional downhill skiing, which I have been perfecting on my days off (I did my first black run on Saturday!), we can go sledding (or sledging for you UK folk), skibok-ing, and airboarding. There are lots of ways to slide down mountains!
Did you know that Adelboden has specially groomed pistes just for sledding? I’ve gone sledding at home, but the little hill at the local park is nothing compared to these mountains. One of my favorite day programs is to take a sled up Silleren mountain and sled down the piste (that’s about 5km long!). The best part is that you don’t have to walk up the hill again- just take the gondola back up to the top!
Night sledding on Tschentenalp is one of the best things I’ve done in the evenings. Every Saturday night they keep the gondola open until 9 to sled down the slopes in the dark. The Tschenten slopes are especially steep, but once you’ve done them once or twice to learn the twists and turns it’s super fun.
Sometimes you see some local kids going down the slopes on skiboks. A skibok is an Adelboden invention that is made of half an old ski with a wooden seat screwed to the top. When you ride them, you can go almost as fast as regular skiing. Of course, every time I’ve tried it I’ve just fallen over. This month I definitely want to work on my skibok-ing, though, so when I go home I can build one for myself and show off next winter!
On my day off recently I tried my hand at airboarding. An airboard is basically a bodyboard filled with air, or an air mattress with handles. You lie on it and slide down a hill. Head first (wear a helmet!). It was such an adrenaline rush! If youlove adventure then airboarding is definitely something to try.
I can’t forget to mention the awesome sledding that we do here at Our Chalet. The hill going from Baby Chalet to Main Chalet is perfect for sledding, and it’s nice not to have to go too far from home.
We have lots of different kinds of sleds at the Chalet to use. My favorite is affectionately dubbed “the little red thing” (the LTR). It actually has a handle for you to hold on to, and it has a hard plastic bottom that lets you go really fast even in the deep snow we have here!
Can you tell I love to sled? I think it’s wonderful how seriously the Swiss take their sledding. In the US, sledding is something done by children (and university students, at least at mine!). If you tried to take a sled up a ski slope people would laugh at you. But here you seepeople of all ages riding down the mountains. It’s great!
Who says you’re too old to have a little fun?
Kate Marie Kemmerer (USA)
Our Chalet Assistant – Winter 2013/14
Winter 2013-14 Vollies, Staff and Interns. Come and visit Our Chalet!
Original song – I want it that way, Backstreet boys.
What can I say about my autumn at Our Chalet? I’ve watched the seasons change from summer to almost winter and experienced this beautiful place through all types of weather. I’m pleased I packed shorts as well as my down-jacket!
It’s been fantastic and if anyone is thinking of coming to volunteer here definitely do it!I came to Our Chalet to learn about myself and I’ve done this and so much more! Being at the chalet has opened my eyes to world Guiding. I think it is so easy to get stuck in what your own unit is doing that you forget you belong to a worldwide organisation which is over 100 years old.Whilst being here I have found out so much about the WAGGGS campaigns and MDGs. I have found that a lot of things that I am passionate about or that I believe is wrong in the world is something that WAGGGS and its members around the world are working to change.
This has made me determined to go back to my units and get them passionate about being the change they want to see in the world.
Through reading historical guiding books by Olave Baden-Powell and others, learning about the history of the chalet and meeting former staff I have really started to feel part of the great history of Guiding and Scouting.
You would be amazed by what some of those early Scouts and Guides achieved, especially through the hardships of two world wars.
I’ve learnt a lot about cultures and Guiding different to my own, from our guests, other staff but mostly from the other volunteers. For example – did you know that in Australia Santa’s sledge is pulled by six white kangaroos and he wears a vest and flip-flops? Did you know that someone can be twenty-four in chronological age but twenty-six in Korean age?
I’m very pleased to have been able to develop my leadership skills. This happened in many forms, from leading a large group of Trefoil Guild on a hike, to crazy evening programmes, to teaching 10 adults how to make and light a fire the traditional Swiss way (with one piece of wood, a knife and one match. I only learnt this ten minutes before I taught them!), to coordinating the vollies in the kitchen and leading campfire singing.
I also had the privilege of teaching people who had never seen snow, how to sledge, make snow angels and a snowman. (Well actually she was more of a snow granny!)
Now as I’m about to leave the chalet, I take with me friends and memories for life and I’m happy in the knowledge that this is only the start of my Our Chalet story…well, I did make a wish at the magic tree after-all…..
It’s not been all personal revelations!
I’ve had a lot of fun too; hiking up Bunderspitz to watch the sunrise from the top, cycling from Adelboden to Frutigen, zooming along zip-wires in the adventure park, taking one of the other vollies to do her first klettersteig (a mixture of rock climbing and hiking), visiting other places in Switzerland, learning how to dance South Korean style, winning the Sangam cup, making a video for International Day of the Girl, discovering geocaching and not forgetting trying to complete my staff challenge!
Helen Davis (UK)
Autumn Volunteer 2013