Saturday, 14 September 2013

COFFEE WITH BOND, JAMES BOND, THAT IS! (Saturday, September 14)

Possibly the worst James Bond film ever released, at least in my mind, was the 1969 "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". The appearance of Diana Rigg in that film may have been its only redeeming feature. So why mention it then?
With the exception of a few scenes filmed in St. Moritz, the majority of mountain and winter scenes captured, were filmed here in the Berner Oberland and more particularly, in Piz Gloria on the Schilthorn. The movie put the Schilthorn and Piz Gloria on the map, so to speak. Our desired destination today was the Schilthorn peak with its 9748-foot elevation, solar-powered revolving restaurant, and famous panorama terrace.
Web cams showing live video feed from the most famous peaks play just about every where you go - restaurants, hotels, shops. When the local economy lives by the weather you can understand why. Rain was our disappointing forecast for today. Imagine our delight when accessing the Schilthorn webcam early this morning, we were treated to pictures of a cloud free sunrise.
Aware that weather at the peaks can change drastically from early morning to even noon, we dressed, gulped down coffee and shovelled in breakfast in record time. Gluttony, with a purpose! By 7:30 a.m., we were purchasing our tickets at Stechelberg for our four-stage ascent. Yup! It takes four spine-tingling gondola rides to reach this peak. Where was my little cog train when I needed it?
As you ascend through each stage, ears popping, the altitude meter in the cable car registers your increasing height above sea level. For me, the stage that freaked me out was our final climb from Birg (8738') to the Schilthorn peak. Birg sits almost precariously on an rock massif jutting eerily out of the mountainside. From that point to the summit, the cable car, with views to the Mars-like landscape below, climbs straight up. I have to admit that I was "channeling my inner Amanda" here. One can feel the strenuous lugging of the car as it pushes to its ultimate stop. Then, smash! Crack! The few people in our gondola jumped in shock as our operator smiled and pointed up. "Ice". Yah, okay!
Stepping onto the panorama terrace with its mind boggling views over the majestic alps made me immediately realize the tiny place I occupy in our amazing world. Jim and I lingered at the top, identifying each peak and enjoying the unscheduled sunshine, mountain breezes and -2 C temperatures. Eventually, Jim elected to walk along a ridge out the back across a trail of scree and ice to an observation point. Chicken-hearted me, not eager for a slip and slide walk, remained behind on the terrace. Coffee was slowly enjoyed in the Piz Gloria restaurant in order that we might experience one revolution.
Long wisps of captured cloud on surrounding peaks were our signal to begin our descent. At Murren we made the decision to hike rather than ride down to the Gimmelwald gondola station. The steep trail wound down through heavily scented forests, aged Swiss farm lands, fields built up with avalanche bridging and past raging streams rushing to their ultimate plunge over the "Lauterbrunnen cliffs. Para-gliders, flying with the birds, were visible below us, their brightly coloured kites in sharp contrast to the sheer cliff faces.
Arrival in Grimmelwald, lunch at a charming little pension and then our final descent on the Grimmelwald to Stechelberg gondola. Leaving the gondola, we high-fived each other. Another sunny day, another peak and more "once in a lifetime" vistas.

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