When everything feels like an uphill struggle,
Just think of the view from the top.
Before I start this article, let me tell you that I am not into hiking, outdoors, or sports. I come from a different culture; playing a sport was never a part of your education, walking was for fatties and the outdoors featured occasional smog and pollution. Hence, came a very protective environment – which had family and friends – we hung out “indoors”, we walk(ed) the mall for exercise and unnatural air-conditioned air was (and is) considered normalcy.
However, unhealthy that may sound, this was my normal and the only form of normal that was natural to me. Even the breath of fresh air (that Switzerland gifted me), was an adjustment for me – it was NEW for my body; it was NEW for my soul.
For a long time, I did not understand why people buy expensive gear to walk into oblivion…. Then, one fine day I was pushed into doing it (little by little, life in CH trains you to walk – walk a lot); and to my surprise, the feeling of accomplishment took over the pain in my ankles.
After this long epilogue (sorry!), the hike last Saturday was special – it was one of those rare experiences that you know is going to stay with you.
What? – GELMERSEE CIRCULAR HIKE
“The mountain hike around the Gelmersee provides fascinating insights into the high alpine mountains. Original streams and huge rock slabs invite you to linger along the lake. With the steeply sloping rocky areas, surefootedness and a head for heights help to enjoy the view down to the turquoise blue lake.” – Source: https://www.grimselwelt.ch/
To be honest, it is much more than just that – the views are one of the best that I have ever seen; the hike is a circular hike which means your starting and ending points are exactly the same and this walk can be approached on either side of the circle. Due to this; expect to greet people on either side – the ones behind you and the ones who cross you!
You might be wondering why I am saying that – the path is narrow; narrow enough that 2 people cannot be adjacent to each other which means you need to be one behind the other. At times, one wrong step can result in a dangerous outcome (at least that’s how I felt).
STARTING AND ENDING POINT – Gelmerbahn mountain station
Elementary – my ass! (conditions**)
The terrain is not straight forward; and literally so – surefootedness and good trekking shoes are advised! Both of which I did not have – I can replace my shoe, but I am going to be living with these feet for this life at least! The weather wasn’t perfect (things usually aren’t perfect) but my shoe was soaked not by the end but by the middle of the hike! Plantar fasciitis coupled with soaking wet feet isn’t particularly an optimal solution. (and this wasn’t even my mistake #1)
However, the view(s) and the fact that we did this experience with good friends – kept me going. We ate by a beautiful waterfall (pitstop #1) and cracked numerous jokes – it kept my nerves at bay!
Pro Tip #1: Choose a sunny day for the hike; we had but the weather changed last minute which was a bummer! We experience wind, rain, sun and cold; all on the same hike!
Pro Tip #2: There is no restaurant at the top; pack lunch or a snack with you – this was particularly useful.
A minute of silence for the miracle that Switzerland is!
HIKING TIME – 2h (2h 50 to Chuenzentännlen) (With one short pit stop for lunch; it took us 3.5 hours – 4 adults and 3 kids aged 6,9 and 9)
The color of the mountain rocks, the blue-green hues of the lake, and the remarkable flora/fauna has a reaction on your mind, body, and soul which can only felt when you’re there, right there, and “in the moment”. There were points, rather there were many such points where I felt like my being here wasn’t one of the best decisions of my life – “what if this? What if that?” But this fear was constantly overcome by the surroundings and the spirit!
Of course, when you finish a hike the feeling of accomplishment overpowers your other instincts; I can only say that this was the first time I was so connected with the philosophical side of hiking and its purpose.
Getting to Gelmersee is another experience in itself; and is not for the faint hearted.
“Those looking for a thrill will find it on the Gelmerbahn. A gradient of a maximum of 106 percent makes it the undisputed steepest open funicular in Europe. The former industrial railway for the transport of building material, which weighs tons, is now open to adventurous hikers and takes them from the valley to 1,860 meters above sea level in no time. The Gelmerbahn is a marvel of technology and offers an unforgettable experience in the almost vertical. At the top, the turquoise Gelmersee beckons to go around, and the hospitality of the Gelmerhütte.” – Source: https://www.grimselwelt.ch/
The Gelmerbahn can carry upto 24 people one way, dogs are allowed on it and it costs 32 CHF (return) for adults and 12 CHF for kids (return, 6-15 years of age). For more information on the Gelmerbahn, click here.
Don’t expect the Gelmerbahn to be a roller coaster but if you fear heights – I would advise you to sit a lil’ bit behind or maybe not ride it 😉; also don’t fear the speed – that’s not a concern (phew!).
Just cuz’ this experience hasn’t scared you enough (!!!!)– be sure to walk on the Handeckfall Bridge. This suspension bridge is obviously much shakier than you can imagine but guarantees exquisite views of the waterfall and is located at the valley station of the Gelmerbahn. Do it after you’ve finished the hike (you’ve seen a lot by this time) or do it both the times if you’re a daredevil!
ACCOMMODATION TIP – Hotel and nature resort Handeck
Tips and Recommendations
- Trekking gear – Good shoes, waterproof clothing, and walking sticks are a very good idea for this hike! You can never be “too prepared” for a hike!
- Backpack and water bottle – lightweight and with an appropriate food choice. Carrying some chocolates or energy bars is a good idea!
- Did I say shoes?
- Ropes – for the faint-hearted; there are numerous portions on this hike where there were no ropes or rails to catch on to.
- Watch out for the signs – The white and red flag assures you that you are on the right path!
- Carry emergency supplies and eat some delicious baby blueberries on the way!
Have you done the Gelmersee circular hike or ridden the Gelmerbahn?
What are some of the hikes in and around Switzerland that you can highly recommend?
Tell us in the comments section.
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To read posts from July, click here