It’s said that in medieval times a dragon lived atop Mount Pilatus. I can’t think of any better reason to visit a mountain than that! Having already seen the Matterhorn and the Jungfrau, the views from Mount Pilatus were the last on my list of mountain must-sees whilst living in Switzerland. I’d been waiting to visit the beautiful area around Lake Lucerne for a while, and we finally had a long weekend available to make the trip from Geneva. And besides, I couldn’t wait any longer to see a dragon. 26 years is long enough!
In the days leading up to our trip the weather forecast seemed to be getting worse and worse. Cloud and rain were expected for each of the three days we’d be in the area, and although mountain weather can be terribly unpredictable it was not looking good.
Relying on the forecast we found a 3 hour window one morning where the weather looked to be marginally better. The first cable-car heading to the summit was at 8:30am, so we resigned ourselves to a wake up call at 6:30am to make sure we had enough wiggle room to make it in time for the first ascent.
In a futile attempt to beat the ridiculous expense of everything in Switzerland, we had decided to stay in the small town of Sursee which is a 25 minute train ride from Lucerne. This meant our journey included the aforementioned train, a 15 minute bus and a 10 minute walk before finally reaching the first of two cable car stations, which in just over 40 minutes would take us to the summit of Mount Pilatus.
It was a long journey from hotel to summit, but the chance of a seeing a dragon with my own eyes was motivation enough. Once we reached the top the clouds were becoming thicker overhead, but it was clear in all directions. There’s nothing worse than being at the top of a mountain with stunning views, only to find yourself with a face full of cloud. Our early morning wake up call was vindicated! I’ve been up a fair few mountains in the last few years, but the landscape around Lake Lucerne is something else.
There are two very easy climbs right near the cable-car exit which just involve man-made staircases – no difficult terrain to speak of. Switzerland is fantastic at making these things accessible to the public, and Pilatus is a great example.
The Esel and Oberhaupt summits both offer amazing 360 views with very little effort required. Although unfortunately I can’t confirm any dragon sightings from either. If you’re lucky you’ll be treated to a short performance by three chaps on Alphorns. I managed to miss the visual spectacle because each time they came out to perform on the main walkway I happened to be on the wrong side of the mountain out of sight. But I certainly heard them loud and clear!
If you’re looking for something a little more taxing you can take a longer walk to the Tomlishorn summit. About 40 minutes each way from the cable-car station, this walk is largely paved with a less comfortable ascent on very uneven rocks at the end. It is well worth the trip, if only to get away from the crowds and find some peace and quiet to enjoy the scenery. This was my favourite part of the trip, and I’m planning a longer more detailed post on this walk alone.
I thought that given the longer journey and greater effort required to reach this peak, I might be in with more chance of a dragon sighting. However I was sadly mistaken. If you’re feeling really ambitious there are hiking trails leading all the way to the foot of the mountain on both sides. Perhaps the winged beasts are hiding in some caves off the beaten track?!
By the time I’d made it back from the Tomlishorn summit to the cable-car station it was time for lunch. Fortunately there were a couple of restaurants on Mount Pilatus. In a moment that seemed to be pre-ordained, as soon as we stepped into the restaurant the clouds started to form around us.
Within 30 minutes the whole mountain was surrounded in cloud, with rain pouring down in every direction. Although slightly disappointed at the distinct lack of dragons, we sat eating our lunch feeling incredibly lucky that we’d had the opportunity to see the glorious views. At the same time we felt the pain of all those just arriving at the summit who wouldn’t have the chance.
So now that I’ve seen the big 3 of Switzerland – the Matterhorn, Jungfrau and Pilatus – I need to find some more mountain peaks to explore! Any suggestions?
If you’d like to find out more about Mount Pilatus, check out my post on World Spa & Travel for an in-depth look at the best way to reach the summit – the Golden Round Trip.