The first time I went to Switzerland, I wanted to hike high up in the mountains. I was staying in Interlaken, an easy jumping off point for the Jungfrau-Aletsch area, and I had a map of its trails. I soon discovered that I could join the skiers on a bus and then catch a ski lift into the clouds; then, I could presumably have a nice leisurely walk downhill.
Being from a warm-weather place, I failed to recognize a few important details:
1- Tourists are given the same map during summer and winter and this was the end of winter season. Especially in the higher altitudes, the paths you can hike in summer aren’t clear of snow. While in the mountains, I saw a few cross-country skiers but no other hikers.
2- Even if there’s a path, one does not simply hike down a mountain. One hikes down and then the road winds upwards for a time before you can descend again.
3- When “hiking” down an incline on a snowy path, you run and hope to stay upright until you reach a place where you can slide to a stop. Comfortably or not.
4- When hiking up an incline on a mountain path, you notice the altitude. The air’s a lot thinner up there and you get winded faster.
5- “Hmmm… I see snow falling from the mountain peaks. Avalanche? If I’m buried, they’ll never find me.” Since then, I’ve learned that you’re supposed to carry search and rescue insurance if you go up there. If you’re traveling alone, I suppose you should also inform someone of your whereabouts. Since I’m not dead, you can probably tell that no snow crashed down on me.
6- Since it was the end of winter, the temperatures did not stay below freezing for long. That means the snow softened as the day progressed. Eventually, my legs would sink into the snow up to my knees whenever I took a step and I was crawling by the time I reached a train station. So this is why snow shoes were invented…
I did make it through after having descended at least a half kilometer in altitude. Although the experience was far from ideal, seeing my photos from that day always makes me nostalgic. Unlike the slog of applying for job after job like I do now, the views were amazing and the scenery constantly changed. It was also relaxing in an odd sort of way.