Vicuna is one of my best friends and wherever the wind takes him I will catch a paraglide to meet him. I did so, when he chased turtles in Polynesia and now, when he is digesting cheese in Switzerland. My prerogative was to hit a mountain on my birthday and so we did. We conquered the mighty Mount Rigi.
Switzerland is awfully expensive, so you better go far away on a mountain, where you cannot spend so much money. Unfortunately the way getting there isn’t cheap either. To reach Mount Rigi we embarked on a 2-3 hour train ride to Arth/Goldau in the south of Switzerland, close to Lucerne. Which was still ok, but the real price-bummer was the cable car going up Rigi. Of course it’s a monopoly, and the people living there try to exploit the mountain as much as they can. And by the way the Rigi Railways is Europe’s oldest mountain railways – there you go.
But sitting in this cable car offered great scenes. People from each corner of the world, Russians, Indians, Thai, Chinese and Canadians sat cheek to cheek on their banks and saw the mountains pass by. Very peaceful and picturesque.
In May it’s still very chilly on top of the Swiss Alps. I guess it never really is warm up at 1,798 metres height. People pour out of the cable car and stream to the various viewing points. Me and Vicuna always take a little time at this point. Let the sheep go pass by, looking for the right frame, waiting for the weather to change. The great thing of going together is always having a model. Sometimes for me feet are enough though.
When is the best time to on a mountain in the Swiss Alps? Good question, it depends on various factors. I guess it’s always the best time, when you are there. But especially if you consider photography you would have to take some facts in account.
What speaks for spring is, that you can both see the green grass and the white snow, which gives nice contrasts. The off-season is also regulating the amount of tourists coming on top and blocking your way for a photograph.
One thing that made me consider coming back in the winter time, were these amazing snow sleigh signs. Going on a sleigh is one of my fondest childhood memories and these graphic signs made me long for it. It makes it official and there seems to be some joyous curvy sleigh roads going down from the top. I wanna do it!
I discovered a few little Swiss huts on the mountain. We left the normal trail, walked knee high through the remainders of the winter snow, down to the the wooden structures, with snow on the roof. The combination was beautiful.
The snow was dripping and it was only a question of time until it was all gone in the sun, that became stronger and stronger. I love those moments of passing time. Sure in a year time there will be new snow, the circle is revitalizing. But for this very moment life and death are very close to each other. This is what creates a little drama in a picture.
I particularly value analogue photography on a mountain. I always like scope and the shades within large collective clouds way more on film. And a panoramic camera was made for these kinds of scapes. I especially like the revolving lenses as you can play a little with perspective and distortion. According to the weather I chose slide, x-pro or black and white and I was always happy with my choices. Eventually, that’s why I wanted to share these pictures with you.
For us it was the best possible day trip to Mount Rigi. Of course you could stay longer, you could even hike up and down and explore the various sides of the mountain. But as the walls are steep and a lot of the nature is in its beautiful natural state you definitely need the right gear and possibly the right expertise for this.
Sleeping on the top might be an option, or maybe not. Walking down to the cable car stop I passed a pretty hotel and a tiny bungalow, and saw a guy exiting. I asked him how spacious the little hut is. I got curious and asked him about the hotel rate on this exclusive spot. He said, that they rent only out to large groups.
And don’t let me lie, but the weekend was a slim 10.000 Euros for the premise. Well, I guess if you have everything, you could also take your giant family on a weekend to Mount Rigi.
The Swiss Alps are definitely a must, when you are in the area. Look for good weather and good companionship. Take an extra bundle of cash with you and a little pack of Swiss chocolate.
Oh, and don’t forget to take a few kilos of cameras and films along. You should be prepared for any kind of weather, but any kind of drama gives good motifs. Gruezi from the top of the world.