August 26, 2008
Switzerland is incredible. We’re in Zermatt right now, which is spectacular. The last few days we’ve been in Interlaken, which was awesome. I did perhaps THE most fantastic run of my life. Started in Grindwald (above interlaken), ran up to the base of the Eiger (literally, just below the cliffs on the classic north face) traversed over to the western-most side of the north face and then ran down to a big cog-train stop called Kleine Sheidigg where I met up with Mindy and my parents. We’ve been having a great time together the four of us. From Kleine Sheidigg we went up to Jungfraujoch “top of Europe”, which is an incredibly expensive electric cog train THROUGH the Eiger and Monch (only in Europe!) up to a series of building perched on top of some incredible cliffs. The views are out of this world and it was a completely blue-bird day. We toured the ice-caves, saw a cool Einstein exhibit, and spent a bunch of time just drooling at an enormous glacier hard at work carving its way down a canyon below. Views of Monch and Jungfrau were spectacular. I’d love to come back and actually climbing them.
I didn’t realize the scientific significance of Jungfraujoch, I previously thought it was just a tourist trap. As it turns out it plays a major role in astrological research, air-quality data collection, global warming studies, glacier monitoring and other fascinating research. It would be the most incredible place on earth to have an office and some (although very few) people actually do! Global warming and awareness of environmental impacts are NOT just topics that folks randomly form opinions about, and they’re certainly not up for debate like they are in the States. These topics are seemingly woven in the fabric of the community here and the way people live. The concept of “finite” is something that all appear to get and the environment is something the locals love, appreciate, and also care for. The fact that I’m saying this is odd given that I originally had a very different opinion based on the level to which the Europeans have developed alpine areas with trams, gondolas, and other ways of getting people into the outdoors.
The natural beauty in Switzerland is so great that it speaks to that part in all of us that knows we came from the earth. The air is so clean, the rivers so purifying, the forests so thick and alive, and the mountains something to respect. It makes me want to tread on it as lightly as possible, but also to take in as much as I can. I also want to put as little between me and my natural surroundings so I can truly connect with the beautiful earth.
While on this topic I take a moment to reflect back to life for the bulk majority back in the U.S.A. The way of life there is oddly disconnected from the natural world. It seems a goal to put as many things as possible between you and the environment. Big air conditioned buildings, cars and houses….. enormous vehicles far above the ground, ATVs… thick hiking boots with orthotics & ankle braces…. it is all stuff that effectively creates a barrier between you and anything REAL. If things keep on the apparent trend, one could almost live an entire life without ever touching any part of the natural world. Whole existences could consist of contact with only concrete, asphalt, plastic, synthetic fabrics, glass, rubber, etc. no clean air, no clear water. It’s no wonder why there is a prevailing lack of concern for the environment and even a contengency of folks who seem content denying that our endless consumption might negatively impact the world.
I’m sitting in my hotel room right now listening to the folks below walking about chatting a numerous differnet languages and all drawn together by the common beauty of the area. Zermatt outlaws gasoline cars so the local businesses have adapted by perfecting a small electric car to move things around. It really is noticable how much more quiet it is and how much better the air is. Most people walk or ride bicycles and a horse and buggy just went up the street carrying folks and their luggage from the trainstop to their hotel. The bells on the horse and the clacking of its horseshoes is all that I heard. It’s so pleasant.
Okay, back to the Jungfraujock cog train in Interlaken…..
Jungfraujoch-electric cog train. During the experience I put aside the part of me that really dislikes having a tram to the top of every mountain because I realized that the best part of the experience was that my parents got to experience an area that there isn’t a chance in hell that they would ever seen without it. Seeing how happy it made Steve and Teresa was incredible. We were all in awe and it was so much more impressive than we ever could have imagined. We all concluded that the Grindwald/Lauterbrunen area IS the most beautiful “civilized” place on earth.
Then we went to Zermatt….. one of the few other places that might rival Grindwald/Lauterbrunen. The weather yesterday was overcast and only let the Matterhorn poke its head out of the clouds a couple times during the day. We hiked up to a crazy waterfall that cut through a tight gorge creating the most insane kayaking run known to man. Mindy and I just finished up a via ferratta literally right above Zermatt. Wow, life is good for me. I’m so happy.
The race is coming up in a few days and I’m very discouraged about how my knee is feeling. I know right now that it’s going to be a difficult journey for me. I have no ambitions other than to finish and see some beautiful areas. Feel free to track me online and watch me grovel through the alps (www.ultratrailmb.com). The website is difficult to navigate, but as soon as they release a direct link to track me on I’ll post it on the site.
I have posted just a few pics of the trip thus far at