In the summer of 2010, my Girl Scout troop traveled half-way across the world to Our Chalet, Girl Scout World Center in Adelboden, Switzerland (www.ourchalet.ch/). We had planned and saved for this trip for three years, so our excitement on the flight absolutely defied sleep. Yet, even jet-lagged, we bolted up the 1,000 meter assent from the sleepy town of Adelboden to Our Chalet, a surreal Alpine collection of hillside meadows, woods, cabins, and tent sites.
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Waiting for us, were Girl Scouts from all over the world: Denmark, Slovakia, Switzerland, Croatia, Germany, Egypt, England, Australia and even from exotic locations like Houston, Texas, Connecticut, New Jersey and Virginia. Surprisingly, language was no barrier, though we did have to tune our ears to a wide variety of “Englishes”.
As we had hoped, Our Chalet was the very essence of adventure. In preparation, we had hiked every Saturday for a year. The idea was to transition as fast as possible from the flats of Dallas to the heights of Alps. That first hike, from Adelboden up, turned out to be the “cake-walk” of our stay. In fact, in Switzerland, hiking is merely transportation. Beautiful, demanding, even exhausting, but transportation by foot was how we got to and from almost everything.
We hiked to adventure days of ab-sailing, bungee jumping, zip-lining, high ropes and rock climbing—all precariously above beautiful mountain streams (www.alpinschule-adelboden.ch/adventurepark). We also hiked on “relaxed days” to wood carving, swimming glacial lakes and riding a tram up a mountain (www.niesen.ch/). We quickly learned that hiking downward is just as demanding as hiking upward. So naturally, on our “off” days, we walked multiple flat miles through beautiful villages, a 16th century castle (www.oberhofen.ch/), rafted through rapids (www.alpinraft.ch) and learned both Swiss culture and Girl Scout history. This was definitely, uber Girl Scouting. Yet, it was merely a warm up. Our ultimate challenge was an overnight hike to the peak of the mountains that formed the valley we’d been traversing all week. Our week of adventure turned out to be try-outs to see who had the fortitude to scale Mount Bunderspitz. I was thrilled to get to go.
Unlike our prior challenges, the Bunderspitz climb began at night.The trek was grueling and up such steep, slippery slopes I was grateful for my LED hands-free headlamp. We stopped mid-way at a Cheese-maker’s hut to get a little sleep. That is, if you call three, aromatic hours of shut-eye, to cow-bell serenades, overnighting. Up again at 3:00 AM, we reached the summit at 5:00. My back and legs ached and my stomach was growling so painfully I began to question whether this adventure was worth it. Then the most miraculous thing happened. Rays of sunlight exploded over the mountain tops, showering the valley in golden light. The beams glistened as the sun slowly came into view. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. No picture could ever do it justice. felt like I was literally beneath heaven. All the hikers quickly forgot their pains and struggles as we could only gaze, breathless, at the beautiful Swiss sunrise. That moment drew our group together. Through our joint effort and determination, we conquered the mountain. We bravely stepped up to the challenge and were victorious.
As we left Switzerland, winging 30,000 feet above the now “tiny” 8353 foot Bunderspitz, I realized that travel and life have a lot in common. For the best results, come prepared and step up to the challenges offered. The surprises and rewards are indescribable, yet wonderfully fulfilling and radiant, even if painful.
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