When a friend mentions she’s planning a hiking trip to the Bernese Alps, you should always invite yourself along! These stunning mountain peaks and mystical forest trails are something that one can only really appreciate in person, photos just don’t do it justice. It is a place where you feel truly liberated being surrounded by pure, open sky and deep valleys. It’s a place where you feel extremely strong in body and mind because to be up there you kind of have to be.
I met two of my friends and another car full of strangers in Zürich Altstetten at 8:15am on Saturday October 12th. We piled in the car and drove to Interlaken, a stunning town that connects two turquois blue lakes in central Switzerland. The group of seven women (Franzi, Melina, Tu-Anh, Mel, Marina, Maxi and I) first met all together in a parking garage basement in Interlaken. We gathered our things and headed to our starting point, a little chalet called Lombachalp near Habkern. We enjoyed a light lunch and small talk then started the trek up, up and up some more, 800 meters straight up. Out of the seven women we had two pro hikers, four intermediates and one brand new mountain adventurer. We discovered early on that this group was one that belonged together. Everyone was patient, understanding and would do anything to help when they could. There was not one minute of stress, which was almost unbelievable. I’ve been with many groups in many situations and locations and no matter what there is always someone who cannot wait for others or needs to have things exactly their way. But these ladies, oh no!
In the first hour we had already opened up so much talking about our lives, jobs, boyfriends, homes and even ones divorce. We struggled to breath as we made the ascent up to the mountain top, if only we could’ve stopped talking, but I found these women much to interesting to let a minute go by without conversation.
I told Mel about the Eight Limbs of Yoga, about how Yoga is much more than asana. It involved doing no harm, self study, journaling, concentration, meditation, pranayama and so on. In the first few hundred meters up I introduced her to the practice of inhaling deeply through the nose, she noticed the calming effects right away.
Close to the top we saw a herd of mountain goats grazing and napping in the warm October sun. They were so peaceful and I couldn’t help but be grateful for the fact that they let us, all the hikers and tourists, into their home with such grace. They could do a lot of harm to us with those massive, curled horns but they didn’t. They were totally at peace as we respected them and they respected us.
After about two hours walking and talking our way up the mountainside we came to the peak, well the first peak. With panoramic view of the most beautiful scene you’ve ever seen in your whole life. Blue skies but even bluer lakes. Yellow burning sun reflecting off snowy mountain tops.
We had a nice long rest there, a drink and some snacks. This is when we found out that Mel was afraid of heights. The way ahead of us was a walk along a mountain ridge with falling sides straight down. She was not aware of the intensity of the hike as we changed the plan last minute, but she was a trouper and pushed through. Maxi and Marina helped lead Mel for about an hour over the ridge to the next peak where we had reached 2,085 meters. Mel sat down as fast as she could and was an absolute warrior facing her fear of heights at 2,085 m on a literal mountain peak. If you didn’t already know of her fear it would’ve been hard to tell, she really kept her cool.
As we made our slow decent down our new hiker Tu-Anh was having some problems with her feet and hips. The shoes she purchased were not quite the right fit and were causing her a lot of pain especially as she walked down and her toes curled to the end of her boots (lesson here is to always get a professionals advice when buying hiking boots!). Half the group waited at the bottom of the peak while the others continued down. Here some real magic happened. In front of us was another long ridge where both sides seemed to just fall down straight beside you, a nightmare for anyone afraid of heights. Mel stood there and it was obvious in her body language that she was really truly afraid. I asked her if I could give her a hug and she agreed. I gave her the best Burner Hug I could possibly give. Heart to heart, five deep breaths and a real human connection, I felt her tense body melt like butter in my arms. The things that humans can do when we just connect with each other are insurmountable. We left our embrace and she was smiling, a beautiful smile. She told me that the breath I showed her earlier had been helping the whole time but this hug was a game changer. Shortly after this she ran, literally RAN down the mountain ridge, by herself, free as a bird for the best photo op imaginable. I was so proud of her! From then on she was ok. She no longer needed help; she was calm and relaxed and really enjoyed herself. How could you not after conquering a fear like that, she showed her fear whose boss!
At this point we still had two to three hours to go (thinking it was maybe an hour more.) Tu-Anh was struggling but never once stopped smiling. I’m not kidding, she literally always had a smile on her face. Despite the pain and frustration, bucking knees and bleeding feet she pushed on like no one I’ve ever seen. I stayed back with her, walking with her tempo for a while. It gave me time to really slow down and enjoy every breathtaking view, every sappy tree and every beam of light projected through the colourful fall leaves. It gave me time to experience real gratitude. I am usually in a hurry when it comes to walking in general so when I hike I tend to try to get the hard parts over with as soon as possible by sprinting and then taking 5 minutes to regain my breath. Walking with Tu-Anh taught me to slow down in the mountains. It is better to take it easy, sink into the struggle and have the time to enjoy and appreciate it instead of hurrying to the peaks and eventually to the bottom. It’s about the journey not the destination! Life lessons learned in the mountains.
By this time we were on our trek for a good six hours I’d say, all pretty tired and a little confused as we thought the hike only took about four and a half hours. We were descending down through lush, colourful forest and a tremendous view of the sunset reflecting off of the Jungfrau, one of Switzerland’s grandest mountains. We met two young men, Luki and Benny, with a drone who filmed the sunset over the tree line, I joked with them about where I could see the video “Do you have a YouTube channel?” I asked, they said no, so I straight up asked if they would share the video with us and they agreed. I’ve learned in life that you never get anything without straight out asking for it, so they airdropped the stunning video to us, so sweet. The first half of our girl group hiked with them, hurrying our feet as the darkness was quickly approaching. Only one of us girls had brought a light with us because we never imagined we’d still be hiking at 8 o’clock at night, thank god for Luki and Benny. The first group stopped and waited for the rest to catch up, it was literally pitch black and we all had a bad feeling about continuing without the others, even our random new friends. These men could have kept going without us, stuck to their own agenda, but they waited with their lights and calming conversation. They were our guardian angels. I honestly don’t know what would’ve happened if we hadn’t have met them.
After what felt like an eternity hiking in the dark over massive tree roots and loose rocks we made it to our final destination Harderkulm, where we arrived back to civilization, had a delicious mean and of course bought our guardian angels a round of beers.
It was a crazy thing trying to come down from that mountain trek, not just physically but mentally as well. That night I laid in bed unable to fall asleep despite all of the physical activity I’d done that day. I couldn’t stop reliving the day in my head, reflecting on all that had happened, all that I had seen, smelt, heard, and felt.
It’s inspiring to me how much support and love was shared by seven women, friends of friends of friends, who randomly came together for such an intense experience. It just goes to show that you never know what might happen and that you should always invite yourself along to a hiking trip in the Bernese Alps.
Also all pictures posted here were taken by everyone! Thank you ladies for sharing not only your photos but your hearts with me!