Clicky

badge

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Niesen Peak, Switzerland- Great views and greater ride experience!

Train journey with 68 degree upward slope, world's longest stairway with 11600+ steps, mesmerizing view, 2362 meters high and boarding+lodging options thrown in- that is Niesen peak in Switzerland for you.

On my last day in Switzerland (that is just Day 2 of my trip, don’t get an impression I spent a month there), sitting in my hostel room in Interlaken,  I was trying to finalize my plans for the day. Facebook friends suggested few peaks which were at different parts of Switzerland- but I had a flight back that evening from Geneva, so I couldn’t afford to go in opposite direction. After browsing some materials in hostel reception, I found that Niesen peak is a viable option- it was between Interlaken and Geneva so I don’t have to go in opposite direction.

Thus I went to Spiez, then took another train to a station called Mulenen. From here had to take a cable car to Niesen peak. My 210 Euro swiss pass won’t get me free access to Niesen tram. But I got 50% off on regular ticket fare (26.5 swiss francs after discount)

Niesen is a peak 2362 meters above sea level. While view from top is a sight to behold, the journey to top is also highly memorable. Let me explain one by one.

View from top of Niesen Peak, Switzerland
Spectacular view is the main reason people visit Niesen, but this depends heavily on weather god. Most of the time it will be either foggy or cloudy and you can't see a thing. But when wind is moving, for a minute or two it may clear the clouds and you may get some amazing views. On the day I went, after waiting for sometime, I got clear view of 2 sides (picture below) for a minute or two but other 2 sides were still thick and I couldn't afford to wait longer. But whatever I could see plus the journey to top was totally worth it.

Below: View of the Thunersee lake and farmland from top of Niesen peak


Above the clouds at Niesen peak. Thick clouds often block your view, unless you can wait patiently till they clear up



What is there on top of Niesen peak?
There is a restaurant, and a few trekking trails. Overnight stay options are also available at the few rooms available here. But many just spend about 30 minutes here and return.



On the top there's also information on the history of Niesen peak and train system that operates, list of fauna and flora that can be found around the area and so on. It makes an interesting read while waiting for transportation down, but seeing all of them is highly dependent on weather and luck.

The experience of reaching top of Niesen peak
There are steps to reach top of Niesen peak. In fact, Niesen is world's longest stairway, with 11674 steps. Unfortunately tourists can't use these stairs to go up or come down, due to safety concerns. But once an year there will a competition for athletes to climb up these stairs and prove their stamina. This event is called Annual Niesen Step Race.

Below pictures do not do justice to actual slope. The track is between 60 to 68 degree steep in most places- that is just 20 degree short of near vertical climb.


Steps gone, so the only way to reach the top of Niesen peak is Niesen Bahn. It is a single compartment mini train pulled up on a rope. Technically it is not cable car, it is not tram, it is not a train either. It is referred to as Niesenbahn Funicular.



Notice the cargo holder in above pic.
The Driver's cabin (he has taken his control levers and is operating from the other end)

To reach top of Niesen, we need to change trains in between. At a midway point, we get off the Niesenbahn and change to another one, which takes us to top. Reverse while coming down. May be it is a risk mitigation strategy- having one track for entire distance is little risky and may put too much strain on the system. Experience in this Niesen bahn funicular is a thing to remember. As the landscape around you changes and wind gets colder, the funicular moves up the rope+track in a steep slope. I could see clouds coming in and engulfing the mountain as we rode up. Pic below. It felt as if we are racing with clouds and the experience is priceless.
First funicular covers a distance of 2111 meters in 14 minutes. The second one covers 1388 meters in 12 minutes, at 68 degree slope. Apparently when the facility was set up initially in 1910 a trip to top would take 50 minutes. Overtime improvements in technology has reduced this time to 43 mins in 1922, 33 min in 1929, 29 minutes in 1947 to 26 minutes in 1948. Looks like past 65 years they are unable to make it any faster (without any compromise on safety). I think that is fine. If it goes faster, you can't enjoy the ride.

Train from Mulenen back to Spiez was tricky- once every hour (at 10.37, 11.37 etc)- so note this train timing and plan accordingly, else you will have to wait one hour for next train.

The Funicular runs every 30 mins or so. Below is building is the starting point of Niesenbahn Funicular.
Above: Starting point of Niesenban Funicular. When I got down from the train at Mulenen, though this building was right opposite, it took me a few minutes to figure out that this is the building from where the ride originates and then how to reach this building (had to walk a bit around the railway track and walk under it.
 Beautiful Swiss country side around Niesen peak



So overall I was totally glad I could explore Niesen that day. Beautiful landscapes, amazing mountain engineering make Switzerland a great place to explore.

7 comments :

Indrani said...

Wow! Amazing views. Worth the effort to make the trip.

Paresh Kale said...

Superb details, spectacular views

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Paresh and Indrani

Renuka said...

Wow! Beautiful post :-) Switzerland is truly a dream...

Arun Prasadh said...

Beautiful views. The country side looks stunning. Nice details.

rupam sarma said...

Amazing, Thanks for sharing Awesome photos.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Arun, Rupam and Renuka