The hills are alive with the sound of panting…

I recently had an amazing summer holiday in the Swiss Alps.

Kev and I had the best time - it’s the first time we’ve been abroad together since COVID, and it felt great to get out and play somewhere new. 

It’s the first time I’ve journalled every day on holiday (since creating our own journal and asking other people to do it, I’ve become even more addicted to examining the contents of my own head), and it made me notice various things about my thought processes on holiday - not least that although I enjoy a little bit of sitting and relaxing, I’m at my happiest when I’m moving around - either on my own feet or on some kind of fun transport. 

We did all sorts - boat trips, e-bikes, kayaking…we even did a downhill run on some mad little scooters. I felt like my three-year-old granddaughter whizzing around the countryside with a helmet clamped to my head and a big smile on my face!

One of my favourite days was spent hiking in a place called Grindenwald. Apparently, it’s a great ski resort in the winter, and the gondolas run in the summer for hiking so Kev and I made our way there with the intention of getting a gondola to the top of a mountain and hiking around in the beautiful scenery. 

I’m not sure if we were just pressing the wrong buttons on the automatic gondola booking machine, but for some reason the machine kept asking us to pay nearly £500 to ride to the top of Mt. Jungfrau - the tallest point in the resort. 

Now we’re not skinflints by any means, but paying £500 for a few minutes in a plastic bubble and a little train ride seemed a bit excessive, so I suggested we choose one of the smaller mountains and just hike up it. 

How hard could it be? 

The map said the hike would take about four hours, and would take us to a gondola station at the top of the mountain where there was a cafe where we could reward ourselves for the climb. 

We grabbed some snacks for the walk and set off up the Mannlichen. 

I’ve never done much mountain hiking before - the closest I’ve been is in the Lake District, and even then not on the biggest peaks - but I imagined the tracks would meander to the top in zig-zig fashion, and if we took it steady we’d be OK. 

So, the tracks did zig and zag a bit, but I was not prepared for just how relentlessly steep the ascent was. I mean, compared to the other mountains in the resort, Mannlichen looked like a baby one, but the hike was savage. 

Every few minutes we stopped, panting out of our arses, staring at each other thinking “Who’s fricking idea was this?”

I remarked to a very sweaty Kev that we seemed to be the only people walking in the uphill direction on the mountain. 

He said, “There’s only one reason ski resorts put on gondolas rather than chair lifts - and that’s when it’s f*cking steep, and we’re climbing the route of two separate gondola rides here!”

Despite it feeling really tough, I absolutely loved it! I checked my smart watch for my heart rate every few minutes and it was flitting between cardio when I stopped, and peak when I was moving. 

It was a brutal but beautiful workout! The scenery was breathtaking, and we felt fully rewarded when we reached the top of the mountain and took in the view - we were so lucky that the weather was kind to us, and we could see for miles. 

We had started in the 28 degree sunshine at the foot of the mountain, and at the top we had our coats on in the snow.

The beer at the top tasted amazing!

The walk down wasn’t much easier - I went from having burning glutes to red-hot quads - and I had to focus hard on where I was putting my feet as the gravel was quite slippery. 

We were both pretty busted afterwards, but we felt a real sense of achievement. It took us 3.5 hours to get up the mountain, 2.5 hours to get back down and 3 days to be able to walk again properly, but we did it!

When I was chatting with my walking-mad son, Jay, recently he said the 1200m ascent we did that day was high than the tallest mountain in England, Scafell, and almost as high as Ben Nevis!

If I’d realised that before we did it, I might have been more intimidated and possibly thought it wasn’t achievable because I hadn’t trained enough for it, but I think the marathon walk we did in May gave us the leg-conditioning we needed.

My biggest takeaway from the experience was I thought it looked achievable because the mountain was relatively small compared to the other 3,000+metre beasts around it. 

Perception is everything when it comes to making judgements, and it really matters what you are comparing things to.

I feel lucky I made that particular lapse in judgement because it meant I found out I could achieve more than I thought I could. 

You’re probably capable of more than you think you are, too (although I suggest you always aim to make the best judgements possible when it comes to safety on mountains!) 

The author 

Vicki LaBouchardiere