Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 17: Pontresina Hike


We woke up in the morning to dense looking fog and forecast of afternoon rain. Dinner the night before was nothing special, but breakfast actually looked pretty good, with lots of bread, jam, ham, cheese, and fruit juices, we could stuff ourselves full in readiness for the hike. We also met Lydia and Marrijtje. Lydia was a medical student from Chicago who was doing a term in Zurich. Marrijtje was a runner who was in St. Moritz for altitude training, and had spent the last 2 weeks at the hostel. As a result, she knew every menu item for every day in the week!
From Tour of the Alps 2011

After breakfast, Phil and I hopped onto the train to get to the Punt Muragl funicular train. We were disappointed that the train didn't take half priced tickets, but since we were there for the hiking we paid and went to the top. The views from the end station was nothing short of spectacular, and only properly viewed via a panorama viewer:

From Tour of the Alps 2011

Far off in the distance we could see St. Moritz Bad. Below us, we saw the dense fog in the valley we had just left; since we were high above the clouds, we were bathed in sunshine. Any misgivings about paying for the expensive funicular went away with the view.

We hiked along the trail that went along the ridge. I had given Phil the option of hiking to one of the peaks in the area, but he said he wasn't sure how much hiking he was actually capable of, given that he had injured his toe a few weeks before getting on the plane. Even the "low" trail was gorgeous, winding us around pastures with cows that did not have the characteristic cowbells. Peculiarly enough, that made the cows more vocal, and we could hear them mooing away at each other from across the valley.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

The trail went over a stream and then up over a ridge where we could look back and see the train station. Despite being only around 7000 feet we were well above the tree line.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

Eventually, even the pasture gave way to scree. But the trail had been built to Swiss standards and we had steps cut into the scree for us to walk on.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

We reached a mountain restaurant at 10:30am, but it was too early to lunch, so we pressed on towards Alp Languard. Past the restaurant the trail headed steeply down, in places cable ways were installed so you could hang on to them while hiking.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

While these cableways looked dangerous, we saw folks of all ages doing it, including children around 6 or so. I guess that's why the Swiss are so strong. They get started on the outdoors young and they never give it up.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

At one point we ran into a bunch of Italians who were hiking over to the restaurant we had just left, and they advised us when we got to Alp Languard to go up the mountain for another hour to take in the view of the San Bernina glacier. The area we were at was already pretty, but having climbed Bernina pass last year I was now curious about how the glacier looked.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

The trail turned steeply uphill just before Alp Languard, and as we approached the intersection we were told that trail looped so we could just take any direction we liked and we would get to the same place. We decided to pick the less steep trail, which happened to be right off a stream.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

We finally got to Cafe Paradis, which had the view of the glacier. Behind the mountains we saw tendrils of fog floating over the peaks, threatening to invade where we were. There was no sign of the promised rain, however, so we were in luck! "I guess we can hike all the way down to Pontresina and save on the cable fare!" I told Phil. We were out of water and there were no free water fountains anywhere nearby, so we were forced to pay 6CHF per bottle from Paradis for more water.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

The descent from Paradis down to Pontresina was short but steep. It started with a bunch of stairs and then turned into a regular trail that was nevertheless steep enough to make me wish I had hiking sticks.
From Tour of the Alps 2011

We had eaten all the food we had brought, so when we got to town we headed to the supermarket for more ice cream, fruit, and chocolate.

At dinner (which was spaghetti with as many different types of sauce as we wanted), we caught up again with Lydia and Marrijtje. Lydia was going out for an evening run after dinner as the sun was still out and it looked like it would be a nice sunset. Not being runners we declined to join her, but that gave us an idea. We picked up our bikes from bike storage and rode around St Moritz Lake instead. It was blocked in one direction for cyclists but riding it all the way around from the other direction was ok. The sun set over the mountains just as we finished our little after dinner jaunt.
From Tour of the Alps 2011
From Tour of the Alps 2011

All was not well in St. Moritz Bad, unfortunately. The hostel decided to place a fourth person in our room, and he stunk. Literally. After smelling him for 2 minutes I couldn't stand it any more and told him pointedly to take a shower. Unfortunately, despite the shower he didn't smell any better. Phil (who had a more sensitive nose but also had a bunk near the window) told me later that not only did he stink, all his stuff stunk too. So not only had he not showered for months, he hadn't done laundry for months.

Fortunately, with enough hiking, sleep over took me fast enough.
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