Paragliding on the Niederhorn

(Click on the pictures to make them big and pretty!)

My first view of the Niederhorn was from the boat on Lake Thun:

There it is, that big triangular mountain in the middle!

And here’s how we got up it:

Once I was up there and saw the views, I just couldn’t bear to leave. I’d been looking for a place to rest and relax, and this was definitely it. The hotel at the top was decorated like a lodge (except modern and clean), excellent lunch and dinner were included in the price, and at night it was lonely and quiet, the better to wrap yourself in a blanket and lay on the deck and look at the stars. The summit (about 1900 meters, so not actually that high compared to some other place in Switzerland) has a panoramic 360 degree view of pretty much everything. You can look across the lake to the south and see the three famous peaks: Eiger, Münch, and Jungfrau (In that order, from left to right. I gleaned somewhere that the names come from folklore: the Münch (monk) guards the Jungfrau (the maiden) from the evil Eiger (ogre).

Jungfrau is a little hidden behind that cloud…

Or to the north you can look out over the edge of the Niederhorn to look down on the valley floor three thousand feet below…

This was probably my favorite view. I spent hours lying on my stomach right on the edge, just looking. At night, the clanging of the cowbells would rise up from the valley floor so clearly you could hear the individual bells, even though the cows were too far away to be seen. The mountains have strange acoustics…!

Every night I would watch the sun set to the west…

And the herds of friendly mountain ibex kept me company! I’m actually not kidding, it really was that idyllic…

I knew I’d pass my 22nd birthday while on this trip, but had been looking for a special way to celebrate it. When I got here on the 22nd, I knew I wanted to stay in this spot through my birthday on the 24th. On the 23rd, I spent an afternoon watching the paragliders take off from the top of the Niederhorn, and I knew: this is what I wanted for my birthday.

I mean… how could you not want this?

So I made a reservation for the day of my birthday…!

This is what I expected would happen:

After all, I’d seen probably 30 or so take off the day before, and the day of my birthday was clear and beautiful. Absolutely perfect! Except… my guide and I couldn’t get airborne. The winds weren’t quite right. So we hiked down a bit and tried again. Still no luck. So we hiked down further and tried again. And again and again. We tried six times in total, and at the end of 6 hours (he had told me we’d be out about 2 hours) we were halfway down the mountain, sunburned, thirsty, hungry, tired, AND my parachute had dragged me through a nice pile of cow dung on the fifth attempt. This was no longer my lovely birthday present, and definitely not worth the couple hundred dollars I was paying for the perfect paragliding experience… So the guide and I called it off, we hiked the rest of the way down the mountain (and he proceeded to hit on me and ask me to dinner while we discussed his wife and son… ummm… Awk. Womp womp.), and I took the cablecar back up to my hotel.

What should have been…