Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday: Mountaineering

First off, sorry for the delay. I ended up not having time on Wednesday to post about what we did, and Thursday night I was in a hut with no chance of Internet access. I'm going to talk about what we did Wednesday here, and in the next post I'll talk about what we did the past two days.

On Wednesday, most of us went mountaineering, which is more formally known as Via Ferrata (Iron Way in Italian). Half of us went in the morning, and the other half went in the afternoon. Since I was slated to go in the afternoon, I spent the morning relaxing and taking care of personal stuff before eating lunch in town. We then gathered at the Allmenalp cable car (which I was later informed was the steepest in Europe) for the activity itself.

From the descriptions that everyone was given, it seemed like we would take the cable car up to Allmenalp, do some activities there, and take the cable car back. Instead, we were informed that we were to climb up and then take the cable car down. The catch is that there is a 370-metre (1250 feet for those who have yet to know how big metric is) sheer cliff face between where we were and where we would be going. And we were supposed to climb up that.

We were all given harnesses and about two minutes of instructions on how to use them, and we were on our way. We had a guide who basically made sure that we wouldn't fall off or anything, but other than that, we were on our own. After a short hike to the cliff, we attached ourselves to a steel cable, and started heading up.

Most of the time, we were going either straight up or at a very steep angle (and in one case, past vertical). While we were secured to a cable that went up the entire way, a fall would still be devastating, as it was usually about 10 metres or so between where the cable was attached to the cliff (and when you fall, you fall to the next attachment). And there were a lot of treacherous manoeuvres. For a lot of the climbs, all we had for foot supports were centimetre-wide bars sticking out about 15 centimetres from the mountain, spaced about two or three feet apart.

However, despite the degree of difficulty of the ascent, the views were completely amazing. We could look straight down and see all the way to the valley, and we got to see the entirety of Kandersteg. Even if we didn't get to climb up the cliff, it would have been worth it just to see the sights.

After about three hours of climbing, we finally made it to the top. We were all rather exhausted (seeing as we only stopped once, as there are few places to stop for a rest period), and we got to enjoy a drink of Rivella at the cable car station. When we took the car down, we ended up sharing it with about six people from a troop that had just gone up and down again without even coming out of the car. While we were riding, it was clear the the scout leader was not comfortable with the situation, though to his credit we were about three people over the posted limit.

That night, several of us enjoyed a disco (basically a dance -- I didn't hear the Bee Gees once), which just proved that some things don't really change between continents. We left a bit early, as we had a big hike the next day, but we still had a good time.

After I take a shower and eat dinner, I'll post about the hike we did yesterday and today, and I'll see if I can get someone to post about the Chocolate and Cheese Tour and the other hike that was going on over the past two days. We've officially gone into high adventure territory now.


  1. Harry -- "Mountaineering" words from Mr. McKinley has he was successful in sending a photo from his phone "we are having a good time and today was simply beyond describing with words. i never, ever, thought i would do something like it, Samuel said the same thing, but we did. I am trying to attach a picture so we will see if it works."
    Also, kisc has a weekly photo album that includes disco photos -- didn't see any 1018ers ;-( WONDERFUL to know that all are having a great time. All is mundane in Herndon/Reston ;-)

  2. I am insanely jealous although I probably would've chickened out seeing as how I can barely stand the climbing wall here at camp.