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Images of Mt. Pilatus and Lake Lucerne in Switzerland

Our plans for the day were fairly straight-forward, a climb of 7,000 foot Mt. Pilatus by aerial tramway, descent of Mt. Pilatus by way of cogwheel railway, and a walking exploration of the town of Lucerne, including, in the case of your webmaster, the gletschergarten ("Glacier Garden"), a unique geological museum in the middle of the town. The day had its thrills and chills, but thankfully no crises, or disasters.

Heading Up Mt. Pilatus

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Flower garden along Lake Lucerne Lucerne is a beautiful, well-kept town. The long walkway along the lakeshore was lined with gardens and had wonderful vistas of the surrounding alpine scenery. It was hard to believe that we were only about 1,500 feet above sea level!
Lake Lucerne As noted before, Lake Lucerne is a glacial trough, carved during the four advances of ice during the Pleistocene epoch between 12 thousand and 2 million years ago. The sediments in the bottom of this very deep lake contain evidence not only of climate change in the last 12,000 years, but also a record of seismic activity, in the form of underwater landslide deposits. A magnitude 6 quake in 1601 caused a 10 foot high tsunami along the lake's shoreline.
Mt. Pilatus from the porch of our hotel One of my complaints about alpine landscapes is that sometimes it is difficult to keep powerlines out of the view! Mt. Pilatus rises almost 6,000 feet about the shores of Lake Lucerne. It is part of the thrust fault system of rocks that have been pushed up and over the sediments and crust to the north. As the mountains were being pushed up for the first time, the earliest mountains shed debris and sediment as flysch and molasse deposits which were later over-ridden by those same mountains as they were pushed northwards.
A bit of science.... In other words, the rugged upper slopes of Pilatus, composed of contorted limestone layers, are older, and are sitting on top of the softer underlying younger sediments. This diagram is a geological cross-section of Pilatus.
Tramway to Pilatus The tramway climbs Pilatus in two parts, the lower in 4-person cars, and the upper part in...well...we couldn't see that part yet. The lower tram hugged the topography, rarely more than a few tens of feet off the ground. Heck, this wasn't so scary! We passed quiet meadows with grazing cows (the cowbells were a distinctive sound), and nicely kept farm houses. Occasionally we passed over hikers climbing the mountain the hard way.


View towards Lucerne A look behind us confirmed that we had climbed a considerable distance up the flanks of the mountain. We could see the north shore of Lake Lucerne and the site of our hotel. 'What a beautiful clear day', I thought, but I shouldn't have. There's Murphy's Law to contend with. Looking up the mountain, I could see the clouds building up!
The second tram station We arrived at the transfer station where we would be catching the trams that would take us to the summit of the mountain. Looking up the hill from the tram station, I noticed what I thought were telephone or electrical wires...then I noticed something was moving...that little dot up in the cloud...
The upper gondola ...was the gondola car, which was carrying somewhere around 40 people. My arrogance of not being nervous on a tram of any sort was about to dissipate....
Leaving the tram station But, what was to be done? I was gonna see that mountain-top. We crowded into the claustrophobic little cabin and headed up the acrophobic cable up the mountain. We rose quickly into the air.
Where did everything go?  

And just like that, the world disappeared...we rose into the clouds that had been building all morning, and it was just strange. The cable to which we hung disappeared into the cloud above us, and below us. There was no sense of height, of gaping depths...there was just grayness all around. And now I was getting upset...would there be nothing visible from the summit? Darn it, I had been waiting more than a year for this moment, and I felt a rising sense of disappointment...


Overview of the summit complex on Pilatus We arrived at the top station still enveloped in fog, and nothing was visible at all. Oh, well. Maybe a walk to the summit another 100-200 feet up? I start climbing up the steep trail, and the sun starts to come out! We can see the summit complex, the store, hotel and tram station!
Summit ridge trail And, yes! The clouds are clearing and I can see the high Alps in the distance!
Summit View I heard someone ahead of me say "Wow!". I turned the corner and said "WOW"! The high Alps were playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. It was a glorious sight.
Sustenhorn and Titlis It has taken some map work and Google-Earthing to get myself oriented, but I have started to identify some of the mountain peaks on the skyline.Sustenhorn on left and Titlis on right
Titlis Titlis (3,238 m).
  Triftgletscher? I am still working on this one!
  European Ravens were all over the place.
  I'm not saying they're regimental in nature or anything....
  Folded carbonate rocks from the summit of Pilatus

 Heading Down Mt. Pilatus

Yes, we had made it up the mountain, now it was time to go down the mountain! Off we went to the train station...

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Gathering our wits Why are these fine people smiling, and yet at the same time experiencing trepidation? Well, they are sitting in the cogwheel train about to go down the steepest railway in the world, with some slopes greater than 45 degrees. Remember that feeling on the top of a roller coaster, or the log ride, or Thunder Mountain? It was kind of like that....
Over the edge! And down we plunged!....slid!!....well, crept. As steep as it was, it was not fast, and not as scary as you would think. It's not like we were hanging in open space hundreds of feet above the rocks....
Avalanche Tunnel The upper slopes of Pilatus are exceedingly steep, so avalanche protection is a necessity....
Limestone cliffs  
Access road on lower slopes Does somebody mow this grass?? The lower slopes have a really manicured look about them.
Lucerne Lake  


Exploring Lake Lucerne (under construction)

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