I don’t remember ever not being afraid of heights. I’ve never liked window seats on planes (or flying in general), skiing (since childhood lessons required a terrifying gondola ride), or even standing on high apartment balconies.
So how did I find myself peering over the side of a cliff in Switzerland?
My favourite vacation spot in the entire world is Wengen, a small resort village perched above the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland. There is nothing I like better than to wake up there, stand on my balcony and take in the views knowing that a few hours later I’ll be striding through those mountains. I adore looking through my hiking maps and books planning each day’s adventure and I’ve never had a day there that was less than spectacular.
On my last trip, I decided it was time to visit Schynige Platte, a high plateau with stunning 360 degree views that every visitor raves about. I’d also heard the Panoramaweg there was a fabulous and easy hike. Perfect!
But I’d seen photos of the hike and knew it also involved a section where hikers picked their way along a ridge. It was more than safe but for someone who had a panic attack on a high ropes course once (such a proud moment) it was a concern.
I feel safe in Switzerland to do things I wouldn’t do other places. I know they’re not going to let me hike places where 100 hikers have fallen to their deaths. Swiss insurers are anything but careless. So, with the knowledge that I was unlikely to die (no matter how much it may have felt like that was exactly what was going to happen) off I went.
It was terrifying. But, as is usually the case, I am so glad I did it.
The views were incredible. Just going up the old cogwheel train you see so much – Thunsee, the Lauterbrunnen Valley, the Grindelwald Valley, and every mountain you could imagine. And once you’re at the top and start hiking the views get even better. (For a detailed stage-by-stage description of the hike and wonderful photos, check out Moms:Tots:Zurich.)
Did I conquer my fear of heights? Not entirely. I still found those ridge sections difficult to get through. But I took it slowly and almost calmly and in the end it was a day I’ll never forget. Both because of the extraordinary views (honestly the best of any hike I’ve ever done) and because I didn’t let my fear get in the way of doing something amazing.
- Check the weather forecast and weathercam before you head up – Schynige Platte in the middle of a cloud is not quite the same experience as on a clear day
- Make sure you have good hiking boots! The trail is rocky and the last thing you want is to turn an ankle at the top of the ridge. Poles may also be a good idea
- Know the train schedule before you start your hike. It’s a long, long, long hike down if you miss the last train. Alternately, there is a hotel at Schynige Platte where you can spend the night if stuck
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