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Best of Europe 14-Day Tour -- Swiss Alps hike (scared of heights)

Anybody know what the Swiss Alps hike is like? I'm in good shape but extremely scared of heights. I'm going on this tour next month and was wondering what the paths are like. I'm thinking that perhaps the issue might be the gondola ride, which I believe goes up 10,000 feet. Should I just opt out and go for the valley hike instead?

Posted by
7765 posts

Miriam, if you read the itinerary you'll see that whole day described as being on your own. Hike if you want, or not. Schilthorn trip is optional, etc. You are never required to participate in any of the daily activities, as long a you let your tour leader know. Unless you pick an extreme one, paths are usually well-marked, sometimes groomed or gravel paths, and well-used by local families enjoying a pleasant day. There are some on the valley floor if you want to stay down there, but yeah, most are on the mountains, so you have to get up there somehow. Your leader will advise.

Posted by
4 posts

The itinerary mentions that you can join your guide for an optional tour, so I'm considering doing it but I just wanted to know if it was too scary for someone with a fear of heights (but a love of hiking). I'll discuss it with the tour leader, but I wanted to know from people who have already done it what they think about it. :)

Posted by
1107 posts

How about this: go up to Mürren and walk to Gimmelwald, take the gondola down (short trip). But in Gimmelwald, you can relax at the hostel and have lunch and an adult beverage. When down in the valley, you can either walk back to Lauterbrunnen - if that is where you are staying - or take the post bus. I know there is a map on this website somewhere or in the books. Don't stress. You don't have to go to the top of the Schilthorn to see what the mountains look like. You could also take the short funicular from Mürren to Allmendhubel and do the easy strolls there - another opportunity for lunch or snacks.

Here is a link to a webcam of Mürren. Visit it during the morning east coast USA time. If you stay in Mürren, this is most likely your view. Of course, it has been snowing for a bit recently and will look not so wintery when you are there. No need to go to the top of the world (so to speak).

As it happens, I was quite frightened of heights too and got over this in the gondolas up to Zugspitze and Mont Blanc. Now, I like to be near the open windows! But you should not feel compelled to do this. Myself, I would enjoy the Mürren area and see the mountains from there. And, the weather will be a bit of a deciding factor. Speak with your guide. You will have options.

PS, I did not do this tour but did the MyWay Alpine and Best of Switzerland both of which stay in the area.

Posted by
1628 posts

I haven’t been on that particular tour so it’s not clear which hike is being described.

I have done the hike from Mürren to Grutschalp and it’s relatively flat and offers beautiful views. Trail was well maintained and offered sure footing. The hike from Mürren down to Gimmelwald does have some steep sections but once again it’s well maintained and offers sure footing. If I recall correctly it’s mostly if not all paved. The are sections where if you look off to the side you’ll see a steep drop off into a hillside or cow pasture.

The gondola to the Schilthorn is large not like the small ski area ones that seat 4 to 6. I would estimate it at a little larger than a one car garage. Most people tend to take the perimeter area near the window when they board, so it should be fairly easy to find someplace in the middle to stand. I don’t believe there are and windows in the floor.

I think there was one area at the top of the Schilthorn that had open grate walkway but it was easy to avoid. At the next station down (Birg?j there’s an open grate walkway that goes around and partly down the mountain side. Felt really secure in that it didn’t bounce but you may want to avoid.

Enjoy your time in the alps and the rest of your trip.

Posted by
4 posts

Wow, thank you all for your amazingly detailed responses! Much appreciated.

Posted by
371 posts

This sounds like the optional hike with the guide:
We have done this hike, and I didn't think it was at all scary.

We have also done the hike between Murren and Grutshalp (another great choice). Along the way you can stop at the restaurant at Winteregg:

For either of these hikes you will need to use a lift of some sort, but it will be nothing like taking the gondola to the Schilthorn.

You can decide once you get there. If it all looks too scary, you can opt for the valley hike and then maybe take the train up to Wengen.

No matter what you decide to do, you will see amazing scenery:)

Posted by
11294 posts

Since everyone is different, no one can know for sure what will and will not trigger your fear of heights.

I can say that my sister-in-law couldn't even watch my videos taken in the cable car from Schilthorn down to Muerren! In general, I do think cable car (gondola) rides will be hardest. However, as said above, you can always go to the middle of the car. You can also look forward (on the way up) and backward (on the way down), so you're mostly looking at ground rather than open air. And finally, you can close your eyes (not a joke - sometimes I've done that, and I don't have a prominent fear of heights but it can still be an issue at times).

As for the specific rides:

To get to the Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg hike, you have to take a gondola from Wengen to Männlichen. This one should be OK if you follow my tips above.

To get to Muerren, you have to take a gondola from Lauterbrunnen to Grutschalp. This one is pretty close to the ground; by facing forward on the way up and backward on the way down, you will probably be fine.

Definitely plan on skipping the Schilthornbahn excursion (the gondola ride you're referring to, which freaked out my SIL). However, the Allmendhubel is one you can consider. It's a funicular (so, not elevated above ground), and the area it goes to is lovely. You can see all three peaks from there (you can't see the peaks from Muerren itself). It's also cheap, so if you have to come down quickly, you haven't wasted a lot of money.

As said above, you have the option to take, or not take, any hike or walk or lift that day. Note that even if you do plan to do something higher up in the mountains, the weather may not cooperate. Our regular poster Chani said that when she was in the area on her RS tour in June 2015, she had lousy weather, so going to higher elevations (which she was looking forward to, particularly after I hyped them to her) would have been a total waste of money.

Also, the valley floor walk is wonderfully described by Rick as being ideal for the "cloudy day, weary body, or tight budget." It's quite nice as well; the waterfalls are a show in themselves. So, whether you are avoiding the lifts for heights reasons or because of weather, you can still do this walk and have a good time. If you have time, visit the Talmuseum, just on the outskirts of Lauterbrunnen. It's got very interesting exhibits on rural lifestyles in the region (again, I only went because it was raining, but I'd recommend it even in good weather, particularly if you're not going higher into the mountains).

Posted by
3765 posts

I am also very scared of heights but am ok in enclosed cable cars-I like having walls around me

Posted by
3883 posts

We didn't hike down from Schilthorn (approximately 9750 ft.) and can't comment on it. It is my understanding, though, that it can be a bit hairy.

We did hike the North Face Trail from Allmendhubel via Gimmeln and back to Murren. I do not recall any part of it being close to the edge of good old mother earth. Most of it was through wide pasture like fields along mostly paved walking paths.

There are cable cars involved, but the advice about staying in the middle of the card and looking at the floor is a good idea. So is the idea of looking up toward the station whether going up or down so you feel a connection with the ground. I also have experienced some problems with heights and that seems to work for me. And I also have a good shot of whiskey just beforehand.

Posted by
11495 posts

Miriam - I’ve done the hike , and I am afraid of heights too . The hike was fine , but I did not enjoy the gondola ride up - by far the worst part , I closed my eyes most of it and made it ( I had my 11 yr old with me so I had to be brave lol ) .

The hiking paths themselves were not scary - obviously there are amazing views , but you never have that feeling like you are looking down a steep height ( so no edge of drop hikes ) , I have to say it was a highlight of our visit

Posted by
5735 posts

Hi Miriam,

We went to the Lauterbrunnen location during the RS Germany, Austria, Switzerland (GAS) tour. A few years later, we returned to that location on a subsequent independent trip.

Sadly, I can completely relate to being extremely scared of heights. I get horribly dizzy & disoriented in open heights. So, I will tell you my experience. At our RS tour, we all paid to take the train & gondola up to take the level alpine hike. We started in Lauterbrunnen and took the cogwheel train up to Wengen. From there, the gondola goes to Mannlichen where the flat hike ends at Kleine Scheidegg. The group would then take the train back down to Lauterbrunnen, stopping briefly at Wengen on the way down.

When we reached Wengen, I knew there was NO WAY I could take the gondola! So, I gladly spent my time in Wengen, telling the group including my hubby to go have fun, and I would meet them at the Wengen train station again when they were coming down. I enjoyed my time in the small village of Wengen and was able to enjoy the amazing views without getting into the hanging box, i.e. gondola. ; ) The next day, my husband & I walked from our Lauterbrunnen hotel over to Trummelbach Falls - an interesting set of falls inside a mountain - definitely recommend it. By the way, my husband & the group loved their hike, so if you're able to go, do it.

When my husband & I returned to Switzerland a few years later, I reserved a hotel in Wengen, and we took the train up to Kleine Scheidegg. That was such a better option for me than the gondola! We were able to do some short hikes up there, and I could see the North Face, etc. much better up there without feeling that open height dizziness. I saw the level hike they had taken, but it would have been too "open height" for me. We also took some short hikes around the edges of Wengen, including a spot where the composer Felix Mendelssohn sketched a relaxing spot.

If you have questions, feel free to PM me. But, to summarize - it's an amazing location! Do what YOU feel comfortable. If you're able to get up to Wengen, the views are breath-taking!!


Posted by
18 posts

Hi Miriam,

I've had tour members that were afraid of heights go on optional hikes. I suggested that they stand in the middle of the gondola so as not to see the windows. The gondolas are large, they fit about 40-50 people and are pretty smooth. The one thing that I want to caution you on is to call the tour department tomorrow to find out where in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, your tour is sleeping. Lauterbrunnen and Wengen are reached by bus or train but Murren is only reached by gondola.

I hope this helps and you enjoy your tour.