There are many things that I hope for in life and among them is sharing the journey with friends and family, but above all, to be healthy enough to do so well in to my golden years. My grandfather was active into his 90s and was heralded at his local fitness center and pool hall where he remained active up until the last year of his life. He lived to be 100! He was and has always been an inspiration. Although I may have good genes, this is not a guarantee of good health and longevity. It takes dedication to stay fit and it’s not always easy. I’ve been complaining a lot recently about my declining fitness level and I am finding it easy to make excuses to miss my workouts. Recently, I was re-inspired!
Living in Switzerland means having a plethora of opportunities to stay active in paradise no matter your fitness level. It’s hard not to be blown away by the beauty of this country. Central Switzerland is the heart of paradise and I had the chance to savor my good fortune with a stunning and challenging hike up one of the most striking mountains in Canton Schwyz, the canton which gave Switzerland it’s name: The Grand Mythen or the Grosser Mythen in German. To make the day even more special and inspiring, I was accompanied by my husband and my 84 year old Father-in-Law who is fitter than either my husband or I! He continues to hike and bike and cross-country ski. He has slowed down a bit, but his “slow down” would put many of us to shame!
Being plagued with a bit of acrophobia and a general desire for self preservation, I was super nervous about the hike. It is steep, rocky, and narrow. The stones are slippery in places after years of traffic and it is easy to see a hundred different ways to twist or break an ankle or worse. Furthermore, the steep drops in places can rattle steely nerves especially if you make the trip on a weekend, with gorgeous weather and perhaps half the Swiss population joining you!
I have to commend the trail workers who maintain this route. They have gone to great lengths to attach chains and barriers to protect you from the more dangerous parts of the trail. I read some reviews that suggest that the “adrenaline” rush has been neutered by these aids. However, with the amount of traffic on the trail, the safety measures seem to be good sense and to hell with the idea of adrenaline. There is enough it to be found for the average outdoor enthusiast.
We began our day by driving to Einseilden, then to Brunni where we took the tram up to Holzegg. Standing at the way station looking up at the Mythen, I almost lost my nerve. I could see a line of people ascending what seemed to be a vertical wall. I kept my concerns to myself because my father-in-law had been looking forward to this climb for 20years! I was surprised by that confession. I was sure he had done every mountain in the the country. Learning this fact made the day more special. To be able to share the experience with him was a gift for both my husband and I. So, with my father-in-law in the lead and my husband bringing up the rear, we set off for our great adventure.
The beginning of the trail is nothing unusual. You meander for a moment through a meadow at the base of the Mythen and then begin the rocky ascent. With encouragement being called back to me, I followed my father-in-law’s foot steps. Stepping where he stepped and planting my hiking sticks as he did. I had the distinct impression that he was going “slow” for my benefit. As you ascend, the terrain becomes increasingly more complicated for foot placement, but not unmanageable. I did well for most of the way getting agitated mostly when “passing” became necessary. Being passed evokes my competitive nature and I forget to focus on my own hike. My husband, who is half mountain goat, was a constant reminder to me to “run my own race”. Before too long, I began to get the hang of the trail and my balance. I was able to stop and enjoy the incredible views, the warmth of the sun and even laugh and joke a little with the other hikers.
As we approached the summit, the traffic was backing up which meant that “the saddle” was becoming a bottleneck. Oddly people were stopping on it and fiddling in their backpacks and further narrowing the route for passing hikers. Without the chains as a barrier, this stretch of the trail would have been more than an adrenaline rush! Once safely passed the saddle, we continued to the summit to find it swarming like a beehive, but with views that knock your socks off! We found a bench and dug into our well earned picnic before the descent.
The descent was much tougher for me courtesy of a bum knee. The hiking sticks were invaluable most of the time but became too unwieldily to use safely. My father-in-law, with his years of experience, was unhindered and made his way without issue. I gave one stick to my husband and used the other like a cane for the steps that asked more of my knee. The descent, in terms of traffic, was as bad as rush hour! My husband and I had to stop several times. My father-in-law was in command of his hike and continued on. Truly amazing.
I can not deny that once we reached the bottom, I was glad the hike was over. I had a great time and would climb the Grosser Mythen again but I would not do it on a weekend if I could help it. It was far removed from the hiking experiences I am accustomed to in the US. The best comparison I could make is saying it felt like being in Yosemite Valley on a holiday – just too many people.
Overall, I found the Jochpass hike much more invigorating than this one. Perhaps, it has to do with the absence of the rocky terrain making it possible to ascend quickly thus turning it into a good cardio workout. The Mythen is steeper and much more challenging of a hike, but the more careful movements turn it into something resembling an anaerobic workout. I did not feel any significant cardio impact, but I had nicely tired legs!! The noted climb time is 1h35 minutes. I have no idea if that accounts for stopping and passing, but we made it to the summit well within that time.
The Grosser Mythen is a spectacular hike! I recommend it but advise you try and do it during the week if you can. It is utterly insane on the weekend.
Hike with care for your own enjoyment and those of other enthusiasts!
Many accidents in the outdoors are a result of foregoing basic safety measures. This is never recommended and especially true on the Grand Mythen. You are reminded at the start of the trail about Trail Etiquette and Safety Measures. I find it worthwhile to share some of them with you …
- Sturdy Hiking Shoes
- Walking Sticks *Optional*
- Sunscreen and Hat
- Basic First Aid Kit ( I needed mine for the IBU and the Blister Pads)
- Appropriate fitness level
- Understand the weather forecast
- Pass hikers when it’s safe to do so
- Stay ON the trail
- Be Polite! ( Seems obvious but you’d be surprised!)
Hiking with Children:
- This is a challenging trail!
- Use good judgement before selecting it as a “family” hike
- It is recommended that young children, if you choose to take them, are to wear a harness/rope.