High Altitude Adventure

When we were in Cornwall a few years ago, we became aware of the chough, a popular bird that had been extinct in Cornwall for more than fifty years, but had come back early in the noughties, and is much cherished and protected by local birdwatchers. I had hoped to see one, but the closest I got was this decorated tableware.

This weekend, we went to Switzerland for the first time (first for me, anyway), to visit my sister and her partner, who is a native of Lucerne, about a one hour trainride from Z├╝rich. They have lived mostly in Phoenix since they met a few years ago, and then travelled much in the US, New Zeeland, and Australia, before returning to Lucerne this summer and deciding to settle there.

Sunday, we were lucky enough to have fine weather for an outing to their local peak, Mount Pilatus, which is pretty impressive and higher than Sweden´s highest mountain.

On a clear day, you can see it from my sister´s flat, but it had been densly cloudy both Friday and Saturday, and it was pretty hard to imagine what the mountains looked like above the grey lid of clouds.

It´s a comfortable trip up there on the cableway, though many like to hike. Hiking seems to be a national sport and the main attraction for the tourists as well, though I might have guessed it was skiing. My sister and her partner are very enthusiastic hikers, climbers, and divers, and having a peak like Pilatus nearby is excellent for keeping in shape for more exotic challenges, I understand. In winter the Swiss hike with snowshoes, we saw a few of those from the cable car on our way up. You can also go up from the other side of the mountain, on the world´s steepest cogwheel railway, but that isn´t open in winter. The recommended route, in summer, is to take a boat from Lucerne to the railway station, go up the mountain, have lunch there, to down with the cableway, and then catch the bus to town. They call it "the golden route" or something like that.

The summit has a definite Blofeldt-vibe to it. There is a tunnel that goes all around the peak and allows you to get a view shot in every direction, and the wind through that tunnel is unbelievable!

See that little church in the lower left corner?

An act of faith, building a church there, I would think.

If it´s too cold to go outside you can stay indoors and look at the view. This building is quite new, only a year or so old, and much appreciated by the tourists. Or you could bed yourself down in a recliner and have a nap outdoors in the mountain air, which some did. There is a nice hotel, if you´d like to stay the night, and a nice restaurant. We had lunch in a cafeteria and I have no complaints about the Swiss sausages; actually, the food is great! In the three days we spent in Switzerland we tried to explore as many local foods as we could, and I am going to try make their excellent, not-so-sweet plum cake, which they often have for lunch, I understand. I wouldn´t mind having it for dinner...

Wikipedia tells me there is a fort underneath the hotel and cableway station, but it´s not open to the public and probably still in use. Switzerland has, to my knowledge, been neutral for a long time, and it is not part of the EU. Due to the geographical inaccessibility (the Alps), it´s been called the island without a coast in the middle of Europe, and I understand the Swiss are very special people, who like to do things their own way. It is my intention to educate myself a bit for our next trip; I know nothing about Swiss history or culture, and now I have all kinds of questions.

But, back to the birds: you can´t miss them; there are lots of them, and the only type of bird I could see up there. It was pretty cold (not terribly, but around minus 5 or 10 degrees, perhaps) and the winds were strong; the birds seem to surf, rather than fly. It is not allowed to feed them, but naturally, the tourist pay no attention. I am not a birdfeeder myself, but I confess, it´s kinda cool to photograph people with birds on their heads. Not sure I would like them there myself...

They are not the same kind of chough you see in Cornwall. These are Alpine Choughs, slightly smaller, with a yellow bill instead of a red one. They are very photogenic, and I shot so many frames that I filled up my memory card (for the first time!) and had to do some quick editing of pictures from the day before to even get a shot of the fabulous view. Unfortunately, I had not brought the best lens for bird photography, but rather the wide-angle lens suited for city- and grand view photography. I think I did pretty well, considering.

My sister and I photographing each other.

The hotel & restaurant.


  1. It was a lovely outing, wasn't it? I am looking forward to the next trip. Now that I have my annual pass I can go whenever I want. :-) We loved to have you and hope you will come back soon!

    1. It was excellent! We look forward to trying the railway next time, and seeing it all in summer. Thank you for a great weekend!

  2. Absolutely, stunningly beautiful! Thanks for posting. The weather for the most part here in Washington DC has been balmy. very weird, but global warming has taken snow out of the picture for most of December.

    1. We are having very warm, wet weather as well. December feels like April, but darker.