Archive for October, 2012

Walking in the Alps – A Quick Guide to the Schilthorn

October 10th, 2012

The Jungfrau Region of Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland provides some wonderful walking country in stunning scenery but the high peaks of the region offer few easy ways to their snowy summits. The walker wishing to scale the high peaks here has less choice than at say Zermatt or Saas Fee, for even with a guide he or she is faced with technical climbing to reach all but a couple of the big mountains. For the walker who doesn’t want the expense of guiding fees the Schilthorn offers an exciting walking route to a high mountain peak with the option of a cable car ride down.

Rising to the West of Murren above the Lauterbrunnen Valley the Schilthorn at 2970m or 9744 feet is the highest mountain in the Jungfrau Region with a marked path to its summit – topping the Schwarzhorn by 32 metres – and the route is both varied and interesting as it ascends from the forested slopes above Murren to the often snow covered summit.

Our route then begins at Murren which is traffic free and accessible by cable car and train from Lauterbrunnen which is itself on the main rail network and the road from Interlaken. We start by taking a short funicular ride – the one visible behind the village – from Murren up to Allmendhubel at 1907m. Alternatively walk up the forest trails to Allmendhubel but it’s a long way up to the Schilthorn from Murren.

From Allmendhubel, a trail leads through the forest heading slightly downhill at first before making a steep ascent of the slopes ahead with the signs indicating Schilthornhutte and the Schilthorn itself. The ski fencing seen here shows the route of the Inferno Ski Race which is a tough descent from the mountain’s summit down to Murren. Just before the gradient eases you pass through an interesting rocky gorge like feature known as the Kanonenrohr or cannon barrel before crossing wide alpine meadows then climbing up to the Schilthorn Hut which is just off the main path to the left at a height of 2432m.

The route now journeys up the wide desolate valley of the Engetal – often snow covered in early summer – before branching off from the main track which carries on to the midway cablecar station of Birg. » Read more: Walking in the Alps – A Quick Guide to the Schilthorn

On Location February 08 – Oman

October 10th, 2012

I’m a huge fan of Oman; I love the old and post 1970 history, the mix of landscapes and the numerous UNESCO sites but most of all I love the people. They must be amongst some of the most hospitable, kind and welcoming I’ve ever come across. Hence I wanted to go back.

Muscat is a new and shiny city, yet it still retains charm, not least as a harbor city, and its highlights – the souq and grand mosque – didn’t disappoint a second time round. I also revisited some hotels and inspected some new ones before heading via Wahiba Sands and Nizwa into the Empty Quarter.

En route I stopped at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary and the lost city of Ubar, which was only discovered by a NASA satellite. I reveled in the scenery on the way, enjoying the mixed landscape Oman has to offer before finally reaching the Empty Quarter.

I have to say I thought Wahiba Sands were amazing when I’d visited previously but nothing had prepared me for the sheer vastness of the desert wilderness of the aptly named Empty Quarter. Many of my colleagues in the Africa team have traveled to Namibia and often talk of the desert there – I imagine the Empty Quarter is much the same yet unspoiled with no luxury camps in sight. In the Empty Quarter you sleep under the stars, keeping a watchful eye out for camel spiders and scorpions. Luckily my guide, Mohammad was still serving in the Royal Guard as was his Bedouin driver so I was in very safe and experienced hands.

Further south I reached Salalah and its more South East Asian feel with papaya and mango trees lining the roads. The beaches here have whiter sand than Muscat. In the environs I found frankincense trees and Queen of Sheba’s port – again more evidence of the history to be found in this truly amazing country. » Read more: On Location February 08 – Oman