Top of the Schilthorn


Go early. That is all.

We had arrived to the top of the Schiltorn on the first, maybe the second, tram of the day to the summit. We shared the cabin with no more than 5 or 6 others, most of whom were on their way to work at the summit’s spinning restaurant and other facilities. The operator greeted us with a smile and rattled off quite a bit of German before I explained to him as best that I could that I did not speak the language well. I beamed with pride the rest of the ride for having been mistaken - maybe, just maybe - for a local, just like the others in the cabin, commuting to work for the day.

Once we got inside the facility at the summit - “Piz Gloria” - we found the cafeterias, gift shops, special exhibits were still closed. Staff ran vacuums, mopped floors, stocked glass display cases with pastries and other foods, getting ready for the day and the onslaught of other tourists it surely would bring. As we strolled around and took in the views, it seemed we were hardly noticed, which was surprisingly nice.

On the observation decks, there was no one else. We were alone. You could practice any manner of view taking you desired, perch at the outermost edge of the platform for as long as you like, even that spot where you might have to wait 10 mins to get to and share, elbow-to-elbow, with 30 of your newest best friends at mid day. Or you could stroll slowly along the deck, looking far in to the distance, seeing how the white peaks shift, if only slightly, as you traverse the platform, not worrying about running in to anyone (except the wood cutouts of James Bond villains, haha). At one point, I spotted several brown mountain goats. They blended so well into the rocks, I doubt I would have spotted them if I had been surrounded by any other distractions that morning. They hopped about or lay in the sun, enjoying their own solitude that morning. 

There is something sacred about places like this, views like this, seeing nature like this. It’s humbling but difficult to connect with it if it’s crowded. To me, crowds breed competitiveness, and consumption of an experience rather than the experience itself. On this morning alone, at the top of this mountain, I took more quiet moments than photographs, and saw more rocks and animals than I did people. With no urgency, I found a place to reflect on the magnificence of what was around me, and my place in it. How very grand these peaks are with their ancient caps of ice and snow. 

On the way down, we shared our tram with a single other individual. He had been up early too to beat the crowds and was now returning to town, just like us. We saw he had a Rick Steves guidebook, and asked him about it. Turns out, it was a Rick Steves guide! He had just dropped off his group at the summit, and was about to go get some of his own sightseeing in, truly practicing what they preach!