Clutching the metal handrails, I turn to look at a mountain view that can only be described as breathtaking.
I’m not sure if the air’s thinner here at 6,500ft but I’m standing on a platform jutting 150ft out into the void and I can see the huge drop below me through small holes in the flooring.
As I take in the panorama of snow-capped peaks and verdant valleys, even the paragliders are lower than me. No wonder my heart is pounding.
I’m at the top of the First Cliff Walk, a thrill-seeking trail at First (a minor summit on the slopes of the Schwarzhorn mountain) high above Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps – and high on adrenaline too. But that’s the thrill of being here.
For while this Jungfrau region has long been a favourite of skiers and climbers keen to conquer the infamous north face of the Eiger, Swiss engineers have added all the toys to make it a non-winter adventure playground too.
Reassuringly, the cliff walk was made in conjunction with Swiss watchmakers Tissot, with £1.3million investment from Jungfrau Railways. I’m not sure I’d have felt as calm clambering round the side of a mountain in less ‘safe’ hands.
The five-minute walk starts as a trail, then turns into a narrow metal pathway, including a suspension bridge that bounces slightly as you move over the chasm below. Those with a fear of heights might find it too much and I’m congratulating myself on my bravery – until I cross paths with a local woman casually taking her dog on their daily walk.
Fortunately, you don’t need to hike for a day to get this type of view any more. To get up the mountain, I’ve simply hopped on a gondola from Grindelwald – a village made even more famous recently through being named in JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series.
And after that dizzying first adventure, I’m able to keep my heart rate steady all the way down the mountain, starting with a very fast descent on the First Flyer zipline. Safety always in mind (we are in Switzerland, after all), I’m belted into a harness alongside three others.
Moments later, we’re whooping with delight as we whizz down the 2,600ft long metal cable. I may not have reached the top speed of 52mph – but it’s definitely a rush.
To get down the next couple of miles, I hop on to a mountain cart, get a quick lesson in braking, then hurtle down the track. Look up and there’s that stunning view again. But it’s wasted here, really.
There’s no way you’d want to slow down and take in the scenery when you might be able to overtake your pals. A short walk from the end of the cart ride, it’s time to pick up another mode of transport.
This time it’s what the Swiss call a Trottibike – basically a cross between a bike and a scooter. It’s another thrillseeker’s favourite – leading from the mountain path and down through streets into Grindelwald.
With all that activity I’ve built up an appetite – even if my main impetus was gravity – and here in Switzerland cheese is an obvious choice to stave off hunger. I’m staying at the Eiger Selfness Hotel in Grindelwald, a family-run hotel that prides itself on health and boasts a huge gym in the middle of the building.
Passing crowds of fitness buffs working out as I walk to Barry’s Restaurant I almost feel guilty for the typical local fondue I’ve set my heart on. But if the Swiss say it’s safe to consume all that cheese, then that’s good enough for me…
More fantastic peaks in Grindelwald and where to find them:
No visit to this region in the Bernese Alps would be complete without a trip up the Jungfrau and it’s now easier than ever in the new Eiger Express.
Launched in 2020 after builders worked through the pandemic, the gondola takes just 15 minutes to whisk you past the north face to the Eiger Glacier station. From there, you switch to the Jungfraubahn for a trip to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest train station at 11,332ft.
There’s an amazing view at the top of the Aletsch Glacier. A Jungfrau Travel Pass, giving unlimited travel in the Jungfrau region and a special price for the trip to Jungfraujoch, costs from £167 for adults and £26 for children.
Take a half-hour train back down the valley towards Interlaken to take the funicular up Harder Kulm. The funicular takes just ten minutes to make the steep climb up to 4,340ft.
From there you can look out over the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch as well as Lake Thun. It’s an ideal evening outing – enjoyed best with a cocktail at the Panorama restaurant.
Adult return funicular tickets cost from £30.
Return flights to Zurich from London from £94 one way with Swiss; unlimited rail, bus and boat travel from £204 with a Swiss Travel Pass. Activities at Grindelwald First cost from £65pp for gondola ride and one activity to £106pp for four. Rooms at the Eiger Selfness Hotel from £219pn.
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