Dwight Peck's personal website

The "Swiss Alpine Pass Route"

July 1999

Summer holidays -- time to put your feet up and dig out a pile of automobile magazines and line up a few gin and tonics on the little collapsible tin table on the patio. Time to putter about in the garden, and mow the lawn resentfully if the neighbors have been complaining about it. Or time to get in on a fun package cruise on one of those Danish Caribbean floating spas, with shuffleboard, disco in the evenings, games arranged by a social director, and maybe gambling with a $5 limit. Or time to hike the Swiss Alpine Pass Route with some friends who are probably in not much better condition than you are . . .

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Like these two -- Prof. Charles Berman of the USA and Prof. Joe Pirri (also USA), now of Switzerland and Lebanon -- on Day 2 (14 July 1999) out of Sargans, in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland, heading for the Foopass (no kidding) and wishing they'd been doing aerobics or something over the preceding few months.

The slog up from Sargans on the Rhine River valley floor passed, in 1999, through some serious devastation from avalanche and landslide . . .

. . . and lots and lots of rushing water everywhere.

Professors Pirri and Berman contemplating a week on the hoof (and still smiling at this point, because after a certain age, the uphills are better than the downhills).

Prof Pirri still expects somewhat querulously to see the mighty Foopass any moment now. Prof Peck tries to sound encouraging.

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The narrator watches in amusement as Dean Pirri tries to keep his boots dry with all of the mountain creeks way out of their banks and most of the little bridges washed away.  A record amount of snowmelt in the spring of 1999 -- majestic waterfalls where once there were used car dealerships.

A quick spot of lunch at a high mountain farm along the way

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On Day 3, seeking in vain for the mighty Richetlipass, Sir Charles finally admits that he hasn't the slightest idea which way to go in the fog.

We've found a creek, and we'll follow it.

Some of us on the left of it, some on the right, and one of us in the middle

Classic Photo Pose. The Fog Clears Briefly. Look Behind You, Boys!

There's the Richetlipass!!!!

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The Richetlipass in the Swiss canton of Glarus -- as we march dutifully towards it, it seems to recede. By late in Day 3 (15 July 1999), the narrator was in an excellent position (i.e., very far behind) to get this disspiriting photograph with a telephoto lens . . .

--Hey, is someone missing? Oh, there he is.

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Frequent periods of oxygen-free meditation

The Richetlipass in the Swiss canton of Glarus

One's breath once caught, the view from Richetlipass (if real and not hallucinatory) is worth it. Probably worth it even if hallucinatory.

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So much for Days 1-3 of the Swiss Alpine Pass Route.  There is no law to the effect that you have to skip X-Files reruns and continue here, but if you want to, get ready for Day 5.

-- Aw, come on along!

Our adventure picks up with Day 5 (17 July 1999) , Altdorf to Engelberg over the Surenenpass. 

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On Day 5, Mr Peck and former President Pirri try to gain height gracefully, heading for the Surenenpass, in the canton of Obwalden.

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With the Surenenpass itsownself gleaming up there in the distance. A lot of distance!

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Señor Berman displaying his legendary patience with the slower members of the party (since they're carrying the food).

Here we come.

The slower members of the party

Reciting small bits of badly remembered nursery rhymes, many having to do with "the little engine that could", the party's stragglers strive to stay focused.

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The end is in sight -- or it would be if  Drs Peck and Pirri could stop concentrating just on breathing long enough to look up.

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Former Professor Peck and Present Professor Pirri trudge to the top of the Surenenpass . . .

. . . to be greeted by Professor Berman, who'd been lunching in a leisurely manner and keeping his camera ready in case the rest of his party should join him in due time.

Ciao, Surenenpass.

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That's it for Day 5 of the Swiss Alpine Pass Route.  Next, we overlook Dr Pirri's legendary 14 blisters and leap ahead to Day 8.

Kleine Scheidegg above Grindelwald.

Somehow we've managed to drag our scraggly selves from Sargans, in the east of Switzerland, over the passes past Altdorf, Grindelwald, Kleine Scheidegg under the Eiger Nordwand, and finally to the village of Mürren, where no automobiles are permitted.

Taping up toes in Mürren

Now we're ready for Day 8 (20 July 1999), the Sefinenfurka, with any luck: to descend upon Griesalp and go back via the midnight trains to work the next day.

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Prof. Charles Berman, who never stops smiling even in the worst of times, pauses an hour or two out of Mürren and points to Day 8's high point, way way . . . way . . . way . . .up there. 

Somewhere above Mürren

Sir Charles at the Rotstock Hütte

Tagging along behind, Mr Peck Poses Portentously in front of the North Wall of the Eiger.

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Some of us kids never lose our semi-joyful fascination with looking down upon glaciers.  Too bad the next generation won't get to experience that.

Uphill for a while

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Not to be distracted by the splendid views, Mr Peck trudges solemnly upward, with the turning restaurant of the Schilthorn way up there in the background. Trail signs all through this region now say "Schilthorn (Piz Gloria)". Do you want to know why? Because in a late 1950s James Bond novel, Piz Gloria was the fictional scene of some spyful derring-do, and when Hollywood [actually Pinewood studios in the UK] shot the movie they used the Schilthorn for the location. Now when tourists from the four corners of the world arrive in the Mürren-Lauterbrunnen region of Switzerland, 28.7% of them ask "where is the Schilthorn?", and 71.3% of them ask "where is Piz Gloria, where James Bond almost fell off". 

So all the trail signs tell them where Piz Gloria is.

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Sir Charles Berman en route for the mud at the top of the morning.

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A moment of peace.  Like most moments of peace, it has to be a short one, because one can't stay here on this 30-degree mud slope for too long without starting to slide back down again.

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Top of bloody Sefinenfurke, why are we doing this?  Well, let's wait till we see the view (if the clouds clear out a bit).

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No view -- still more clouds. But still, a radical mood swing!  Now that we're here, it almost seems worth it.

Down the far side of Sefinenfurke, with steps thoughtfully provided for the rainy (muddy) season . . .

. . . which is now.

-- When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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Prof. Berman relaxes briefly in the most astonishingly beautiful scenery that Europe has to offer the non-casual tourist. Casual tourists can be steered toward Disneyland-Paris or to "Piz Gloria", the turning restaurant, via the gondola, where they can relive the James Bond experience, more or less.

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More rushing water. In 8 days' time, we saw more wonderful waterfalls than Switzerland has probably seen in decades. More landslides, avalanche scars, and general devastation, too, so all that winter water has probably been a very mixed blessing.

-- Go back to work tomorrow?!?

Mr Berman and a complex of waterfalls, reminding him once again why he needs to return more often to Switzerland.

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That's it for Day 8 of the Swiss Alpine Pass Route. Day 9, over the Höhtürli to Kandersteg, had been in prospect, but the intrepid hikers ran out of days and had to get back to civilization. So Former President Pirri and Former Professor Peck went back in October in a torrential rainstorm and picked up Day 9 (long after Former Humanities Chairman Berman had returned to the USA), and you can see that here as well.

The route that these gentlemen were following on the Swiss Alpine Pass Route was outlined by the prolific and always accurate Kev Reynolds, Alpine Pass Route, Switzerland (Cicerone Press, 1990). Kev Reynold's route continues for six more days to Montreux on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), but since the aforementioned gentlemen have been hiking, running, and skiing all over that region of Switzerland for a combined 70 years amongst them, they preferred to focus their intense mental concentration and physical efforts on only the first half of Kev's route, from Sargans in the east to Kandersteg in the middle of the country.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 24 October 1999, revised 4 April 2008, 10 June 2013.

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