When IES offered a daylong trip to the Swiss Alps town of Gridenwald, I could not pass up the opportunity. While I am hardly a skier, I knew I would not have too many chances to go visit the Alps. Instead of skiing the challenging peaks of the Jungfrau Region, I decided to go tackle the world’s longest toboggan run. Even though I had never gone sledding on anything bigger than the hill behind my high school (probably a 50-60 foot drop), I had to give this ride a try.
After arriving in Gridenwald, we took a 40-minute bus ride up another 800 meters into the Alps to an outpost called Bussalp. To complete the world’s longest run, one would have to hike up another 2 and a half hours from Bussalp to another peak that was an additional 800 meters above sea level (peak was 2611 meters or around 8000 feet). At first, I was rather gung-ho to climb the entire mountain. However, reality set in quickly as there was not enough to hike to the top due to the warm weather conditions. Our guides warned us that the snow was melting quickly at the lower elevations, so we only had about 90 minutes to test out our sleds up top before sledding back down the bus road. Therefore, some people in our group decided to stick to one steep run and they did it multiple times. However, I split off with about 10 others to hike up as far as we could. We ended getting a third of the way up to the peak, and the long sled ride was well worthwhile. It is truly amazing how fast one can go on a sled.
I mentioned before that Saturday was a relatively warm day. Even in the mountains it was about 45 degrees F (7/8 C), and combining that with hiking up a mountain on a sunny day with a sled proved to be quite a workout. By dressing in five layers, I was prepared for a much colder day, so frequently I had to take off a layer or two just to breathe on the mountain. At the end, I was glad that I had all of these layers for the cold ride down the mountain, but I was not expecting the Swiss Alps to be that warm. We ended up getting into a snowball fight to cool off.
After reaching Bussalp again, we set off as a large group for the main course, an eight-kilometer run to the village of Gridenwald. Due to the melting snow, our run was cut a little short, but the turns were unreal. I managed to only run into one embankment, as the curves were very slick and treacherous. Even with the shorter than normal run, we still spent a good 20 minutes sledding down the very road our bus climbed for 40 minutes. After the run was over, we hiked back to Gridenwald.
At this point, we had about two hours to kill in Grindewald. Even though Gridenwald is incredibly expensive (ski resort in the Swiss Alps on the Swiss Franc means everything is expensive), my friend and I decided to go in for some traditional Swiss fondue. The combination of various Swiss cheeses and white wine with local multigrain bread hit the spot for regaining some of our lost energy for the initial hike up the mountain. Overall, the fondue concluded a long (we did leave Freiburg well before dawn and arrived back late at night) thrilling day in the Swiss Alps.