05 August 2011

From Science to the outdoors

If you’ve travelled all the ~450km from Plymouth to Bern, you may just as well add a few tens of kilometres more, ending up in the Alps. I figured the conference in Switzerland would be a splendid opportunity to feel some snow and ice under my feet again! I figured the easiest way of arranging that would be to book an organised trip. One shouldn’t mess with glaciers, and I didn’t know these, so a guide would be a good idea, and it would also mean I wouldn’t have to bother getting gear or booking huts or whatnot. I would just have to show up at the agreed time with my kit, and enjoy! So I found an organisation that provided just that, and browsed through their glacier-related offers. There was a 4-day easy hike on offer just after the conference. It looked like a bit too easy to my taste, but timing here was essential, so I decided to book it, and book a 2-day hike straight afterwards, as I figured that in combination these hikes may satisfy my needs.

It was a bit of a challenge to pack both my conference stuff AND my hiking stuff in my bag, and still remain within the weight limits of the airline, but I managed. So after the conference I gave my laptop to Marta, who had kindly volunteered to take it back, packed my stuff, and set off for Grindelwald, where the next episode of my Swiss adventures would take place.

I arrived on the camp site, pitched my tent, and went to town. Switzerland is absolutely unaffordable, so one thing I needed to do was buy fuel for my stove. That would save me having to eat in town. And would provide me with ample cheap coffee in the mornings! Grindelwald was sunny and hellish; what a tourist trap. I felt most out of place. As soon as I had purchased the fuel, a newspaper, and some supplies for the coming days, I returned to the campsite and retreated to my tent. Time for coffee, newspaper, and general recovery from the conference.

The sunny weather turned cloudy. The clouds started to release their content. I sat in my tent and wondered if it would stop. It didn’t. It rained harder. And harder. And more. And more.

When I went to the toilet block I bumped into a guy, who immediately concluded from my broken German I wasn’t German (or Swiss, or Austrian), and from my accent I was Dutch; so was he. When he heard I was there alone in the rain he kindly invited me to come join his family; he was just about to eat pasta with his wife and two kids, and figured one extra mouth to feed would hardly be noticed. I accepted.

The family had noticed the rain too, and had decided to return home. The Alps are no fun if you can’t see them through the clouds, and if you have to rest from exploring them in a leaking tent. So I shared their last hours with them; these were not only filled with rain, but also with pasta, coffee, and lots of talk. Lovely people! I would have been quite happy in my tent with the newspaper of Dostoyevsky, but this was better. And they had an extra pair of hands for packing up… and at around 21.30 I waved them goodbye. I hope they had a good trip home!

This picture was taken later; hence the clear skies. From where my tent was pitched you had a great view on the Eiger, but there was something odd with it: it reflected and radiated light! In the bigger version of this picture you can see a little speck of light about 1/4 from the right. It's the Jungfraujoch Tunnel, that has a viewpoint there. A window in the mountain! Strange...

I just cleaned my teeth and went to bed. I would need my energy the next day! I had luckily not received any message about the trip being cancelled due to the weather, but it would probably mean running around on the glacier in the worst of conditions… good I had a cubic metre of waterproofs with me!

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