Via Alpina – stage 13

There’s the top of today’s pass: Bunderschrind.

In many ways, it was the toughest one yet. And the only reason there is this photo and a couple of others is that when I finally heaved myself to the top of that tiny notch in the high cliffs, the rain stopped for about 30 seconds (I am not exaggerating!) and I was able to grab the only shots of the day – other than the couple I took under cover.

So it went this way: I got up to the sound of pouring rain. I looked out the window – yup, pouring rain. But I could not fathom another day of busing or training it to my next destination. For Hohturli, yes. An attempt on that in bad weather was dangerous. But this one. High? Yes – 1300 metres. But nothing tricky. The guide book said something about a steep scree slope on both sides but hey – what’s a bit of scree, right?

I was on my way (with a free packed lunch again, courtesy of the lovely hotel manager) just before 8. I walked through the village, thinking “this isn’t so bad.”

I quickly got out of town and crossed a farmers field. The path was an indent in the grass and I remember thinking to myself, “damn! My boots are going to get wet brushing up against the grass.” And so I stepped carefully.

In retrospect, that was pretty funny.

And so I went, the clouds hanging low and dark. And then there was that steep climb up through a dark forest, which made the whole thing feel like night and gloomy – and a bit intimidating. But I just told myself, “one step at a time.”

I rose up into alpine meadows and every now and then the clouds would drift aside and I managed to get the odd view – not the huge high mountain views but the nearby black and grey striated cliffs and waterfalls and crags – oh the fabulous photos I did not take!

But again – what is, is, right? I just kept on. Went through a ton of cow muck, waded across some fast-flowing creeks and gave up completely on the whole concept of dry feet when I heard “squish squish” with every step. Soaked does not begin to describe it. I had water dripping off everything. I told myself not to worry about the contents of my pack. I had my pack cover on and I’d done the best I could. Just go, I told myself.

And I just went. Up steeply and then through another meadow and that’s when I screamed – yes I did. There were cows, sure, but I’ve gotten so used to them I kind of ignore them. What I did not expect was to be blindsided by a calf attack. Yes – a baby cow pranced (!) up to me and tried to steal my hiking pole. Half a second later, s/he was joined by at least half a dozen of her friends – cavorting, jumping, frolicking and generally acting more like baby goats than cows. They formed a circle around me. They sniffed me from head to foot, tasted my jacket and pants, blew on me and when I’d had enough and told them, “shoo” they leapt and jumped and almost did somersaults down the hill. I think they were laughing at me. Who knew baby cows were so much fun?

Their mamas just ignored them. I love that in Switzerland, cows get to keep their calves with them. And why shouldn’t they? When we take a calf from it’s mother the minute it’s born (big trauma for mom and baby) we still have to feed it milk. So why not let it have milk directly from its mom?

But I digress.

On and up through crazy slippery mud and slippery stones and then I saw it: the pass! Holy s&$t! Up there? Through all that scree?

Yeah. Nothing for it but to put one foot in front of the other. By this time I was soaked despite my goretex, and my wet feet were freezing and the wind was blowing and the rain was turning to snow. Oh boy!

And I made it! And the rain stopped just long enough to snap a couple of pics of rugged cliffs and clouds:

And I quickly headed down. Immediately it became apparent why the guide book said you won’t go down any faster than coming up. If anything, down was trickier. I was just nearing the end of the scree slopes when I thought about how alone I was in this crazy wild, forbidding place and how there was no way I was going to run into anyone else today – and there below me – two figures struggling uphill through the wind and rain.

When we met, the man held out his hand and shook mine fervently. In a delightful Irish accent he said, “I was just telling my wife that there was no way we were going to run into anyone else today!” And so we had a wee chat where we agreed that we were the three most insane people on the planet.

Next problem: I’m hungry but I can’t eat here. I need shelter! But where?

At 1.15 I arrived at a high alpine restaurant/ cheesemaker. It was closed. But it had a covered porch with a little table and bench. Lunch time!

I only got through half my wonderful cheese sandwich because I started shaking so bad from the cold I had to get moving. Happily, it got better and better and faster on the way down. And finally, finally, there was Adelboden!

The cruelty of it all was that I had to descend into the valley and then climb up to Adelboden for another 20 minutes because this extremely pretty little town sits just above the valley.

But I made it. I made it to the Bernahof Hotel – very basic but totally suiting my needs. The hotel manager is the finest I have yet met.. he simply treated me like royalty. He gave me a double room for the price of a single, he made sure I had everything I needed. He cranked up the heat for me. He wanted to give me a hair dryer. He escorted me to the room. He was completely solicitous without being obsequious.

So – I showered, washed stuff, hung stuff up to dry and walked across the street to the bakery for two big slices of spinach cake and broccoli cake for tonight’s dinner. And there was a boot store. Monster selection of Lowa and Meindl. The finest trekking, backpacking and hiking boots I have seen.

I did not buy them. With my feet in the shape they’re in, best to tough it out in what I have and discard them in Montreux. Then I can decently and easily break in a new pair.

Besides (and here’s the real crux of the matter) I don’t think I could bear to walk a brand new pair of red (!) Lowas through miles of cow patties tomorrow. It would break my heart.

I can’t believe I did it today! I’m actually really proud of myself. It was a tough one. And here I am. Tomorrow is the trek to Lenk. This one is considered pretty easy. Good. I’m down with that!

About goodyniosi

Writer, avid(!!!) hiker - living life to the fullest. Love, life, bliss - getting high on getting high (in the alpine that is)
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