Hiking the Dangerous Mt. Salève
January 1, 1970
by Susan Rother
Switzerland always welcomes people who love outdoors. There’s skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, biking, hang-gliding, and most importantly, hiking. Hiking is possibly the easiest and cheapest outdoor activity to do in Switzerland. With Skiing and snowboarding, unless you have your own equipment, it can cost up to $300, including the ski/snowboarding pass. Hang-gliding is more than $100 because unless you are personally trained to hang-glide alone, and have your own equipment, you have to rent and pay for a professional to make sure you don’t die. If you do it all the time, biking gets expensive since you need the proper clothes, and bike upkeep. Kayaking is a bit cheaper, but you still need to rent out the kayak and pay for a pass depending on where you go. The only thing that isn’t expensive is hiking–the only thing you need to pay for is the train/bus ticket to your destination, because I’m betting you already have good tennis shoes (unless you want to hike seriously, then you’ll need to buy hiking shoes, but let’s face it. I only hiked for fun).
Things you will need:
- Good shoes (tennis shoes will be fine)
- Snacks (Chex mix, dried fruits, crackers, etc.)
- Boxed Lunch (Longer hike than you’d think)
- $30 (Only if you are lazy. You can purchase a pass to take you up and another pass to take you down. Completely optional)
- Sunscreen/jacket (Depending on when you go)
Optional items to bring:
- Hiking boots (This is for the hardcore people)
- $30 (Again, it’s safe to bring this much. You don’t have to, but you don’t know what you’ll feel like at the end of our hike and may want to buy a pass to get down te mountain)
- Camping gear (If you want to spend the night on the side of the mountain)
- Thermos (Depending on weather. You might want some soup. I know I did, so I’m adding it here)
A Fine Sunny Morning
Hold your seats because this is going to be a long story.
One fine sunny Saturday morning, my friends and I decide to hike Mt. Salève, one of the mountains joining France and Switzerland. We all wake up early, fix ourselves a packed lunch, prepare our journey, and go to the bus station. All of us are on the bus for about half an hour before we get to the destination.
It takes a good ten minutes to find the hiking path. None of us wanted to ask where it was–we are too independent for that. We find the hiking paths. One was a beginner/intermediate/for everyone path and another was an advanced only path, take at your own risk. Of course we take the beginner/intermediate course.
We begin to hike. At first it was easy. Just a small hill to get to the bottom of the mountain–simple. Then out of the blue, satan decides to fuck us all over (mainly me and a friend because I was dealing with a cold and got easily out of breath and my friend had a jank knee. Why did we hike you ask? Because we wanted to). The hill turned into massive lumps of cliffside as the stone steps got steeper and skinnier and more dangerous. I sweated my ass of, and we were only hiking, actually hiking, for ten minutes.
It takes about 1.5-2 hours to get to the halfway point (There’s a cute little town that was built in the middle of Mt. Salève, which is the halfway point (Salève). If you have time, I truly suggest you spend some time in this town because it is so precious. Aesthetically pleasing). Some of us eat lunch, and others (like me) caught their breath.
Danger Along the Way
This is when everything goes to shit (looking back now, I had fun and enjoyed it. However, in the process, I was scared as shit).
(Photo on left: On a rock is the word ‘DANGER!’ We both think it’s a joke and laugh it off. Can I say an omen?)
You know how I had a cold and my friend had a jank knee? Well, when we hike past the halfway point, my friend and I take several breaks to chat and take in the view.
“But what if you guys get lost?” one of my friends says to us when we tell them that they can go on ahead without us.
“How can we get lost on a mountain?” I say as we catch out breath (My thought exactly, still to this day).
Well, you done guessed the fuck right. We got lost, my friend and I.
You know that expert hiking path in the beginning? Well, the hiking paths meet in the middle, and we accidentally took the path when the hiking began. Now this expert hiking path, when neither of us has hiking shoes or, you know, hiking experience, it was pretty dang difficult to say the least. We were hiking 75 degree angles mountainside. Not hiking–we were scaling a goddamn cliff with mud and wet grass. Yes it was fucking difficult. If it weren’t for the trees to catch our fall when we slipped, then we would probably be dead.
When we get to a safe point with a ledge, where we can sit and stand and walk around without sliding, we hug in joy. Of course we are happy–we accomplished an expert level hike with not even beginner-level equipment and slippery tennis shoes.
Thus we take a break, catch our breath, and realize that we accomplished the hike in 45 minutes. At this point in the hike, both of our phones are dead. So that was depressing.
Yet we continue.
To the right of us, facing the mountain, there was a sign in French that said, “BEWARE: Hike at your own risk of falling to your death.”
You would think I would tell my non-French speaking friend what this sin meant word for word right? Nah. I tell her that’s where we oughtta go. I tell her that’s the correct way to get to the top. No, I still do not feel bad because I eventually told her. Was she mad? Sure. I would be too.
Possible Doom Ensues
The photo above in part two is possibly the best one I could find with the cliffside we were dealing with. It looks like there’s a bit of land after those trees, but that area is a cliff. Meaning, if I slip, and trees don’t catch me, then I die.
Now, you would assume that once we realized, after three hours into the hike, that we would turn back around right? No. We are too stubborn. We continue until we reach the other side of the fucking Mt. Salève. Do you know how I know this? Well. There was fucking snow. We hit snow. The side that the sun doesn’t hit. The side that hasn’t melted yet (do you see snow in any of these pictures? Fucking exactly).
During this journey, we almost die (really though. It’s slippery. Both of slide down a bit of the iny tiny hill leading to the cliffside, but we either catch each other before we fall to our death, or we are stopped by a source of divine spirit).We contemplate. We discuss. We think about our possible night we have to spend on the mountain (getting dark). We try to turn on my dead phone with access to internet (don’t know why, but whatever. My friend’s phone couldn’t call/text/seek help online because she didn’t have an international plan). Then we decide to hike back.
When we hit the snow, which is around 5pm that night (we all left to go hiking at 10am and start the actual hike around 10:45. You do the math), we decide to eat. My friend didn’t pack a lunch/dinner, so I split my bombass sandwich with her (honey smoked ham, broccoli sprouts, dijon mustard, turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayo, avocado, nut-infused whole grain bread, all the good shit).
We Come Out Alive and Well
For those of you who say that hiking down is easier, well you are fucking wrong. as. shit (wrong as shit). We slipped 3x more than hiking up that goddamn mountain.
Anyway, we make it down in time as the sun begins to set (See picture on left as we get to the town in the middle of the mountain. A huge celebratory “We’re not dead!” photo).
Don’t take the goddamn expert hiking path unless you are a professional.
Either way, I still don’t regret not telling my friend the direct translation.