"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Geteillon & Berneuse - May 2022 - Leysin, Switzerland

As a lover of mountains - whether hiking or biking or running - I'm aware that I don't get up there and out there nearly enough. When a trip to the Swiss Alps (or it might be correct to say Pre-Alps) came up the opportunity was too good to miss. We two days in Leysin with meditation and music programmes in the morning and evening and the afternoons free to climb and explore. Our hotel was on the slopes of Berneuse, a 2000m mountain with a cable-car station at the top which was closed at it was neither Summer Season nor Ski Season. There were a few trails leading to the summit so we picked one that went over the little peak of Geteillon first.

To begin with we zig-zagged though the fields and chalets, contoured through forest on a mix of lanes and trails, then broke out on to the hillside on a wide trail that led to - of all things - a cheese-maker's barn at 1700m altitude. The air was clear and tasted pure and sweet, we were enjoying the climb and gaining height well. I was trekking with Suswara, Karteek, Rasmivan, Ambarish and Ashcharjya so we were a pretty international crew as per usual. I was using my walking poles, seeing as I hadn't climbed steep trails (or descended on them - which is probably more significant) since my knee injury sustained on the Mendips a few months before.

From the cheese shop (where we didn't stop for cheese) we headed off the mountain road on to a single track trail that climbed swiftly past avalanche barriers and between short, stubby pines dotted around the slopes. As we gained height we moved beyond the trees to stony scrubland, with a profusion of yellow, white and purple alpine flowers. The trails were dry and I don't remember crossing any watercourses, which is a stark contrast to hiking on the British hills. I guess the snow melt drains at the end of Winter and the summer is a kind of dry season? There were plenty of stoney gullies so I imagine those mutate into gushing streams whenever there is heavy rain.

We came to the summit of Geteillon at 2050 metres after around an hour and a half of steady walking in the air that was hot one second in the sun and bracingly cool the next as we entered the shade. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been at this altitude, with the rarefied air and panoramic views of lovely swiss valleys.

From Geteillon there was a short descent and some contouring past remnants of hard packed snow (the walking poles proving useful) then a short, sharp climb to the cable car station and retaurant at the summit of Berneuse. It was eery with everything closed, the cable car silent, just the twanging of steel cables in the wind and the sound of the breeze blowing up from the valley. The air was cool but surprisingly not that cold for the altitude, so we stopped to meditate on the decking outside the locked-and-bolted station.

Our only deadline was dinner at the hotel, so we took our time and Rasmivan explored the summit with its pond of meltwater and hollows between the buildings and cable-car pylons. Once we felt ready to go there was a bit of debate about a long way down over another peak or past some lakes, but we were all keen to keep it simple and just retrace our steps. The way down was easy going and we had time to soak up much more of the view - I had been focussing on planting feet and poles on the way up so the expansive vistas were a revelation.

At the high-altitude cheese shop we checked out the menu and found they served zero-alcohol beers, a great electrolyte drink, so for reasons of health and safety we stopped for a "beer" and soaked up some afternoon sun with views of the ski slope across the valley. We'd been warned in Leysin that the Berneuse would be a 5 hour round trip, but we were down in 4 hours even with a leisurely stop. It was great to be back in the hills, looking down from high above on the towns and villages, breathing in the pristine air. It had been too long.

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