We were over in Lucerne, Switzerland, for the Christmas markets, and as the Ibis hotel we were staying at in Kriens Mattenhof was in the shadow of a mountain we decided to go to the top of it. We needed to travel by train to and from Lucerne each day, were planning to do at least one other long train journey, go to the top of another mountain, and needed to use the buses today, so it made the most sense to buy a Mountain Pass ticket, which would cover all the travel for the week plus associated costs for the mountains in the area.
We caught the bus number 1 from Lucerne Station and took it to Linde Pilatus, near to Kriens Station. At one point it looked like a ticket collector had got on board, but instead it was a man from the bus company giving out squares of chocolate. It was just a short and very well signposted walk from there, past the church, to get to the first cable car station and the panorama gondolas. We showed our travel passes and were given day tickets for the mountain, which would cover all travel up and down.
I just hoped that the weather would clear because it was very foggy at ground level (516m/1694ft), so foggy, in fact, that as we set off in the first cable car, barely going over the houses in Kriens, at times we could only see the cable car directly ahead of us, if even that. It took about 10 minutes to reach the cable car station at Krienseregg (1029m/3375ft), by which point we had moved above the fog, and we immediately changed to a new cable car to take us the 15 minute ride to Frakmuntegg (1415m/4650ft), during which we could see snow on the ground below us. These first two sets of cable cars were on a continuous loop, so we just climbed in as an empty car came around. Now we had reached the treeline and would be taking a different type of cable car, the aerial cableway “Dragon Ride”, which meant we had to wait for the car, which went every 15 minutes. This was a very quick 3 and a half minutes to get us to the top, but was more than time enough for the spectacular views to open up below us. We did not have a view of Lucerne Bay, but we did have a stunning view of a sea of clouds. I could not wait to get to the top so that we could see it properly. In no time at all we were there, at Pilatus Kulm, 2132m/7000ft, with massive ice stalactites outside the window of the cable car station.
We walked through and went outside, to the front of the Pilatus-Kulm Mountain Hotel, where people were relaxing on sun loungers. The sun was shining, we were above the clouds, and although we were surrounded by snow-covered mountains it was not cold. The world’s steepest cogwheel railway comes up the other side of the mountain from Alpnachstad, and although it was closed until April that did not appear to have put off a couple of walkers who were slowly making their way up the slope. I had to take a work conference call while we were up here, but before that happened we decided to explore one of the two out of five waymarked paths at the top which was still open at this time – the Dragon Path.
This one led us into a tunnel carved through the mountain, giving some stunning views of the other peaks around us and the ground down below, but, unfortunately, it was closed at the half way point so we had to come back on ourselves instead of going all the way around. The paths leading to Esel (6953ft) and Tomlishorn (7000ft), the two highest peaks on Pilatus Kulm, were also closed, and we decided to take the one up to Oberhaupt (6913ft) after my call. I found somewhere secluded to take my call but it was postponed, and when I got back to where I had left Debbie she had gone.
So I went outside again to find her, saw a man out on one of the slopes preparing his paragliding equipment, enjoyed the music from two accordian players, and then decided to follow the route to Oberhaupt, the other waymarked path which was open. It was an easy walk up some stone steps, which were covered with some ice and snow in places but mostly clear, to a metal cross and a wooden building at the top, and once there I enjoyed an absolutely spectacular 360 degree view.
Unfortunately, I do not know the area I was looking out on at all, so I will trust the information leaflet, which tells me I had a view of the Alp massif (Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau), Black Forest, Santis. Although it also says I had views of six lakes.
All I could see was that remarkable sea of clouds, and just the one lake shining far, far down below on the Alpnachstad side of the mountain. Not far down below on the other side I could also see the Klimsenhorn Kapelle and the Klimsenhorn, and I did wonder how anyone could actually get to them.
By the time I came back down, another walker had come up the Alpnachstad slope and the paraglider had jumped off, heading out towards Tomlishorn before coming back around Esel.
I went back inside and found Debbie, so we both went to the top of Oberhaupt this time, seeing another paraglider jumping off while we were up there.
The weather was starting to draw in and we decided it was time to head back down to Kriens, this time stopping off at Krienseregg to have a look around the area below the cable car station.
As we reached Kriens and were walking away to catch the bus back to Lucerne, another paraglider floated down to earth and landed in the field next to us. We stopped briefly to look inside the church, and then at a square below the church to watch the Wettchlöpfen, a pre-Christmas tradition intended to wake Santa Claus.
As we rode the bus back to Lucerne we spotted a Christmas market at the Kriens Bellpark, so we walked back to that in the evening, but not before we had encountered the llamas at the Christmas market at Lucerne station. It had been a most wonderful day.
You can see more of my photographs from the day here.
You can see more of my photographs from the Christmas market here.