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Alps 2 Schilthorn 96

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Published on Aug 6, 2009

We take Europe's longest cable car ride to the top of Schilthorn mountain. Four different cable cars are needed to get up this highest cable run in Europe, from an elevation of 2,844 feet at the beginning to 9,748 feet on top of the Schilthorn mountain. The views from the first stage of this cable car ride are so fine they alone would make the day worthwhile, looking out the length of the valley and to the waterfall and dramatic rock cliff a few feet from the gondola, but it gets better as you reach the peak.
You change cable cars in the villages of Gimmelwald and Murren along the way, gaining different perspectives on the mountains as you rise. Perhaps you stop off for a quick look at the tiny hamlet of Gimmelwald, with its few scattered chalets for the 140 residents. Then resume your journey up the mountain, saving other stops for the return because you are still trying for clear morning weather.
Even if it is cloudy in the valley, there is a chance it might be clear up on the mountaintop, for the high elevations have their own special weather systems, as we found on this trip. You certainly hope for clear weather when investing so much time and money to get to the top of an Alpine peak, but you never can tell until you get there. To maximize chances of clear conditions, take the first train out of Interlaken at 6:35 a.m., which will enable you to reach the top by 8:30 a.m., but that means getting up before dawn!
The Schilthorn is worth the effort, for you will be in the middle of a massive range of snow-covered peaks that stretch to the horizon, offering what some feel is the best mountain view in Europe. On a clear day a vast panorama of over 200 high mountains extends all around you, reaching from Titlis to Mont Blanc and all through the Bernese Oberland. The Swiss engineers have done it again with superb facilities at the observation center, including a rotating restaurant and escalators to bring you to the different levels, all run by solar power. Have a gourmet meal at Piz Gloria or a simple lunch in the self-service cafeteria while soaking in the amazing view.
A large outdoor terrace provides an excellent vantage to look back across the valley at the three great peaks, the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, whose complete forms can be seen better from this distance than close-up. Be sure to walk out into the snowfield following the guided rope trail along the crest of the ridge to immerse yourself in the environment, rather than merely looking at it from the deck. Then cap it off with a drink in the Crystal Lounge and imagine watching James Bond in the frantic chase scene from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, filmed here in 1969.
The view from the Schilthorn is just as spectacular as the view from the Jungfrau, but different in its own way, with that amazing panorama of peaks all around. While the Jungfrau observation deck is about 2,000 feet higher, with that endless glacier, both mountains are covered with snow all year round and give spectacular views of mountains, glaciers and valleys. On a sunny summer day the temperatures hover around freezing but usually feel quite comfortable when you are properly dressed.

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