Embedded: Why Some Trips Are Just Better Than Others
“I think I’m going to pass out.”
After striking out at the sixth place we thought might serve breakfast, we finally found a spot for a croissant and some cheese so we wouldn’t faint on the sidewalk on our first morning wandering through Grindelwald.
It was the first 24 hours after transcontinental travel: jet-lagged, off-rhythm, skipping one meal only to be desperately hungry an hour later.
We were there to catch up with family, play outdoors, and stay with our dear friends Kurt and Birgit (the same Kurt who’s been on our guiding team for over 20 years).
On day one they had things to attend to, so we spent a day on our own shaking off the travel sweats and situating ourselves in the fresh air.
After an inefficient start with breakfast, we opted for an easy, classic walk along a ridge, accessed by gondola to get up there, and eventually a train to get back down to complete the loop.
It offered a view of scenery so dazzling I don’t think the English language has an adequate superlative to match it.
Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are the centerpiece of what’s on display, surrounded by peaks in all direction, verdant slopes dotted with grazing cows, waterfalls and too-perfect-to-be-real chalet-style Swiss villages.
Just add cheese. And cowbells. (Both readily available.)
So we joined with other tourists, and walked a wide path from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg – wide enough that ideally people don’t fall off the mountain while staring up at the peaks.
It was a really nice day.
That evening, Kurt was officially on days off, and he had a suggestion for day two. A not-often visited alpine club hut at 2800 metres, perched between the Jungfrau and the Mönch.
“It’s not really climbing” he said, “just at some parts, but it’s easy.”
I knew that the Swiss were pretty imaginative about putting buildings where buildings don’t seem like they could go, but I mean…
It seemed impossible that someone could go for a HIKE and end up there.
I kept saying that, even after we had done it.
We started below the lower edge view of that photo, in the cool shadows of the early morning, and step by step, Kurt showed us the way.
It was steep, and loose, and exposed. I gratefully got on short rope when it was offered, and we inched, and inched, and clambered, and took short breaks on tiny ledges.
And all along the way, and eventually sitting at the hut with hunks of cheese and bread in hand, Kurt told us about the place.
He told us the history of the hut, the other alpine routes that connected from that trail, the valleys we could see in the distance, the type of rock under our feet.
The final stretch up to the hut (visible on the horizon line above us).
We got back home that day physically spent, but buzzing.
The day before we had strolled through a paradise, but this day felt like we entered a whole new world. It was the challenge and the adrenaline, no doubt, but it was more than that, too.
We went from wasting almost half a day trying to eat something, to a seamless and spine-tingling adventure of a lifetime.
The difference was striking, and we were so grateful.
So you sit with a cold beer at the end of that day, bare feet breathing in the evening air, and you know in your bones: there’s just no substitute for local knowledge.
Because the experience, the memories we come away with are more than the places we ticked off the list.
They’re made rich by how deeply we saw, what we were given to interpret the landscape, the people, the history.
It’s like if you spent a whole day with someone but you never said a word to each other.
A guide speaks on behalf of the place, so you get to converse with the land. You get to know each other. You relax. You notice more. You’re IN it, instead of just looking at it.
Take an awesome landscape, and add access, meaning and depth.
That’s what a guide can do.
When we take the role of the guest, we’re reminded how much that aspect of what we do matters.
And we’re just like you: always on the lookout for what makes for the most fulfilling, memorable experiences, so we make the most of every opportunity to do what we love.
We’ll keep sharing what we know and what we’re learning, from the practical to the philosophical, as we keep chasing that feeling, of being embedded in remarkable places, and savouring the appreciation that comes with great adventures.
If you want to join a guide for some deep (and meaningful) powder, there’s still some spaces left for this winter. You can check out our calendar and see if yours will let you fly.
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