One Giant Leap

One Giant Leap

Imagine jumping off a cliff at 7,000 feet strapped to a paraglider that was heading straight into clouds. Picture stunning views of the lake and villages below from this mighty alpine perch. That’s the adventure that awaits you at the summit of Mt. Pilatus in the Swiss alps.

There are a number of great ways to experience Mt Pilatus. Paragliding from the peak is definitely the most exhilarating. Hiking up and/or down through the steep and narrow passages is another. If you like stunning views and a variety you can’t beat the “Golden Round Trip.”

Pilatus Golden Round Trip

This adventure is all about perspective. It combines three modes of transportation: trains, boats, and aerial cableways.

We started off taking a local bus to the aerial cableway base station. That takes you across the valley and rising hills to a transfer point where you board the Gondola. The Gondola takes you through the steepest parts of the journey until you reach the summit at about 7,000 feet.

At the end of your stay at the summit – which could be overnight at one of the hotels – you can take the world’s steepest cogwheel train back down to the base in the town of Alpnach. From there you can choose to continue by a regular train on flat ground, or take the more scenic route back to the town of Lucerne by boat.

The Heart of Switzerland

Pilatus is just outside of the lovely Swiss town of Lucerne. Even though it’s a town that depends on tourism it’s somehow able to maintain the charm and grace of the surrounding natural wonders.

Lucerne and Pilatus border the Vierwalderstättersee, translated to english as “Lake Lucerne.” The “four forest special sea” sounds better to me, but heh. It’s a beautiful lake that is surrounded by mountains. The waters are crystal clear and offer all sorts of sport options. The fishing is great, as it kayaking, sailing, or stand-up paddle boarding SUP.

View from the Top

We hiked around the summit for a few hours. The steep paths give you absolutely fantastic views of the Alps surrounding you. And to think, you can stay at one of two hotels at the top of the mountain.

There’s a network of man-made caves in the summit area. It gives you a chance to see other vantage points – allowing a 360 degree view around the area. There are “windows” punched through the sides that give you a view through the rock.

A Hole in the Wall inside the summit caves

A Hole in the Wall inside the summit caves

It’s not all about tourism. There’s a Swiss military installation at the summit with sophisticated radar for both civilian and military air traffic control. I suspect the tunnels and viewports originally had other more security-minded uses.

A Leap of Faith

While I didn’t do it myself, watching people take the plunge by paragliding was pretty amazing. Had we had the time, I would have loved to try it. They have tandem rides, so you piggyback an experienced pilot.

The photos are pretty cool, but make sure you check out the video of a pair taking off from the summit.

Completing the Circuit

You can go up and down the same way, but where’s the fun in that? We went up the mountain by aerial cablecar. Going down by train was pretty unique. It’s hard to picture just how steep the railway is until you’re actually inside. The cogwheel gears allow the cars to methodically go up (or down) in a controlled manner.

The final stage of our journey was by boat. As I said before, the lake is really clear and the views are outstanding. You realize just how far you’ve come when you see the peak from the lake’s surface below.

Mount Pilatus

Site of our adventures at 7,000 feet
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