Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Epic Swiss Alps

 About a month and a half ago Kyle and I took our last "winter" trip of the year.  Europe had a sad amount of snow this year (pretty much none at all in Stuttgart), so we had to go into the Alps to find it.  We headed to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, and we were blown away with beauty!

Beautiful views on our drive


It was a pretty easy drive, about three and a half hours to our first stop, Lauterbrunnen.  It's a small little resort town in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, surrounded by peaks and cliffs.  In the summer, the valley has 72 waterfalls from the melting snow.  It had been pretty warm, so we got to see a couple of small waterfalls, one of them being right on the edge of town.  We enjoyed a nice walk through the valley before having lunch at a little cafe.  It's a gorgeous place, and we're both anxious to see all of the waterfalls in the summer!






Beautiful day for a walk through the valley

After spending the afternoon in Lauterbrunnen, we drove twenty minutes to the larger resort town of Grindelwald where we would be staying for two nights.  We spent the evening checking out the town and figuring out how we should spend the next day.


Beautiful lighting that evening in Grindelwald

We decided that we could not visit Grindelwald in the winter without doing the world's longest toboggan run, so that's exactly what we did!  We started off in the morning taking the Firstbahn cable car up three stops to the highest stop called First.  From there you could take many different skilifts if you were skiing for the day.  We rented our toboggans from the rental shop and then took off on a two and a half hour hike to the peak of Faulhorn, where the world's longest toboggan run begins.

Heading up the mountain

Ready for the long hike ahead!


This hike was the most strenuous hike that we've ever taken, but it was the most rewarding and definitely the most epic!  The hike was very steep in many areas, and the air was a bit thinner on top of an Alp.  We took our time, enjoying the incredible views, eating some snacks and soaking in the sun.  We were so lucky to have an incredible sunny day.  We actually both got pretty hot on the hike and didn't wear our coats most of the time.  We also both got a sunburn on our faces!  (Lesson learned!  But actually my lips are a very pretty berry shade when they're burnt; I need a gloss in that color!)  The path was well marked and was packed down, so at least we weren't treading through knee deep snow.  (When my cousin Erin and her fiance John were there, they couldn't do most of this hike because of low visibility and avalanche conditions!)


See those little dots?  Those are people on the path where we came from!

And that's where we're heading!


Soaking it in!


When we reached the top of the hike, we could head down on our toboggan or hike another 20 minutes to the actual peak of Faulhorn.  We decided to go for it since we had already come that far.  We were rewarded with amazing views at the top.  (Not that we didn't have amazing views the whole time!)  We started the 15 kilometer long (over 9 miles) run down the mountain.  On the very first run on our toboggans I hit a "pothole" and wiped out, rolling a good way down from the peak as Kyle stood there and laughed.  I got a lot better after that!  This run is not for the faint of heart!  It was pretty wild at times, and there were definitely places where you were going so fast that you had no control!  We got pretty close to going off the side of the mountain a couple of times, but it was so much fun!  It's amazing how long it took us to hike up, and how quickly we made it down!

Final stretch to the peak 

Looking back down towards the toboggan path

That's where we're heading...

Views from the top



My first wipeout, on our first run.


Heading down to Grindelwald in the valley below



We stopped at a restaurant at Bussalp a bit more than halfway down.  We sat out in the sun on the terrace overlooking the Alps and Grindelwald in the valley below.  It was pretty perfect!  From there, the rest of the way down got a lot more bumpy and kind of slushy!  The sun was melting the snow, and I don't know if you would've been able to toboggan down the lower parts for much longer before the snow was gone!  We made it to the bottom of the run with bruises on the backs of our knees, but it was worth every moment of pain!

Lunch break!



Hey ladies, there's room for two...

Avalanche!


As the evening wore on it got harder to move every hour.  (Hey, it's not every day you climb to the top of an Alp!)  We just took it easy that evening and had a good dinner at our hotel.


The next day we headed west towards the town of La Chaux- de- Fonds on the French-Swiss border.  We were meeting up with my "Uncle" Rick that I haven't seen in about eight years!  It was a very pretty drive that starts in the Alps and gradually changes to green rolling hills.  We passed by some areas that look like places we should head back to see sometime!  We met up with Rick and had a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant. It was great catching up with him, and hopefully it won't be another 8 years again!


It was a scenic drive home back to Stuttgart, where we still had some recovering to do from our epic hike and toboggan run.  It was another wonderful trip, and as usual, I can't wait to go back!