Engelberg to Trübsee:
It takes few hikes to learn the importance of the right hiking gear (including clothes…), as every small item that one doesn’t need is a liability growing exponentially in proportion to the distance away from the base and physical exhaustion. Within 30 minutes, we felt rather good as the valley of Gerschnialp opened up at 4300 feet with green vistas, Engelberg in the backdrop, alpine farmer houses, and the ski school for beginners that still has enough snow in early and late winters for attempting initial descents and working on technique. We discussed coming back here during the coming Christmas break and having a ski holiday with the kids. And, with gentle slopes behind us, the first real taste of alpine hiking hit us hard as the cable cars raced ahead, and the last mile to Trübsee (while visible from a distance) went through never-ending steep curves, that we thought will take just 15 minutes. As if that’s not enough, we had some more humbling enroute, during a rather juvenile banter with folks whose first climb up the Titlis was 55 years ago. Finally, we reached Trübsee around 11am and for us the most exciting part was the breakfast – Swiss muesli, bouillon, bread and hot tea, with pristine views of Trübsee in the backdrop (the alpine lake that freezes in winters).
Trübsee to Stand:
Stand to Titlis:
While I have been to Mt. Titlis several times (via cable cars), this was the first time I saw the Titlis Glacier as most of the soft snow had already melted with warm European summers this year, and there was no fresh snow fall for last several weeks. I could also walk on the Glacier, albeit had to wade thru patches of slushy snow and frozen water streams in patches. But, I was finally relaxed on seeing the excited tourists who were enjoying the snow sports. I was tempted to pull a fast one on myself as I noticed a signboard to go up the Titlis on Ice flyers or continue the hike thru the Glacier. Not sure why, but I decided to drag myself thru the snow and few tortuous curves in wet socks (and frozen feet) while walking alongside a snow cat that was ploughing and smoothening out the snow slopes for the next day. And, just to keep myself amused I kept on clicking pics of the sign boards at odd angles.
Gross vs. Klein Titlis:
While sitting down for a drink I wondered, whether to attempt going up the summit at that hour and usually, most parts of my body are in good sync but such moments are rare when it was a clear NO from my brain (and rest of the body as well). But, a crazy streak inside me suggested giving it a try as I may not get a chance to hike up the Titlis again, and it helped that there wasn’t enough snow on the way to the summit. I am still not sure whether it was the excitement of going up The Summit, or the scare that I can probably be stranded up in the mountain for the whole night if I missed the last cable car down, but I went almost non stop and reached the summit in 45 minutes. I was clearly instructed by the Bergtrophy team that I met on their way down (they already wrapped up for the day) – not to spend a lot of time at the summit, and make sure that I am back at Klein Titlis much before 6pm. While I certainly enjoyed most of the day (except the rocky climb on all four), the last stretch was most noteworthy. The views were certainly much more beautiful from what I had seen at Mt. Titlis before – may be few hundred meters makes a lot of difference, or the weather was particularly nice. Importantly, most folks that I met on their way back were very encouraging with specific inputs on how much time it will take to reach the summit, how not to climb down on the way back, and how to avoid the stretches which were dangerous with vertical drop on the other side. However, my most heartening moment was when I crossed a rather old gentleman (probably around 70 years, or more) just 20 meters away from the summit. He was climbing down as I went up, and it finally sunk in that such hikes are as much about pushing the physical limits as it is about what goes inside our brain. With a zero-battery charge in my iPhone (it went dead 15 mins before reaching the summit), I could truly enjoy my time at the summit; without bothering about clicking pictures, just looking around, and interestingly during such intense moments, a good part of one’s life flashes thru in a minute.
While climbing down, my years of running probably helped to rely on relatively stronger knees and being sure footed as I sped thru the rocky terrain to catch the last cable car down. Soon I crossed the old gentlemen and realized that one must carry a watch (and not just rely on mobile phones) while hiking on a new terrain / mountain. I wanted to climb down with him though he seemed far more experienced than me in hiking up such summits. Moreover, he likely didn’t need any help, but life is bit boring without any drama in your head, and I thought it’s better that one of us reaches the Klein Titlis in good time to inform the Berg Trophy team. Thankfully, the team was still around and busy wrapping up for the day as I informed them about the gentlemen while negotiating for ‘Completion’ Stamp on my hiking card (although much beyond scheduled completion time). They also surprised me with a small gift and original pasta pack of Titlis Hüetli made of high quality, natural and fresh raw materials like fresh Swiss eggs, pure mountain spring water etc. As I took the last cable car down (with Chinese and Indian tourists on a group tour), the old gentlemen and I shared few moments together in the cable car (and that’s perhaps a topic for another day).