“Hello Mr. ward it’s 3:00AM… This is your wake up call.”
Wake up call? Thoughts processes right that moment: ‘what is going on? Wake up call in life? I can’t open my eyes I’m that tired, but I have GOT to get up’.
That mid- dream, half asleep mode has got me wondering what the deal is here. Why on earth would I want to be woken up at 3:00AM? I consider telling Siri to wake me up in 5 minutes, but then I decide to jump up out of bed and make my way to the bathroom with my eyes lids plastered together to get ready for the day. Or to get ready to get ready to wait for the day. I am going to the top of Piz Nair. I am going up a mountain, 3,027 feet up. St Moritz, Top of The World is what I’m going to select for my location on my Instagram photo. Yeah, that will be cool, although you don’t think that when you’re in zombie mode. Your monkey mind is racing with the worries and ‘can’t be arsed’ thoughts that clamber around in your head. On top of that, the “I wish I could stay in bed” statement is even vocalised, however, being on auto pilot, I soldier on and decide that today will be a good day.
After lugging a mountain bike through the transition of three cable cars, we reach the top of the mountain. It’s pitch black. I don’t know where I am. I have no context of how high I am after having no chance to take in the sights and conceptualise the height I will be reaching. I find myself in a café for an early breakfast with some companions. The café is serving my transformation from exhaustion to anticipation with unlimited coffee. And because I’m in Switzerland, I have brie for breakfast…
It’s a strange experience to be sat in a café with a contingent of vibrant cycling fanatics from different areas of the world, with the panoramic view windows appearing jet black. We are that high up and that far from any external light or interruption, I feel a dash of escapism and joy. The confirmation that something special is going to happen is underlined by the smiles and anticipation of fellow sunrise seekers and mountain biking epic disciples.
I finish my bacon, eggs, brie, salami, bread and then moved on to the oats. And then moved on to the toilet… Come on it’s the oats… Anyway after I’d just simply gone to the bathroom to wash my hands after finishing my messy porridge, Talking Heads- Road to Nowhere was playing through the speakers. A song that my parents constantly played in the car when we were on our way to Wrexham to visit relatives. Take that point as you will, but even more fitting, is the idea that I don’t have a clue where I am going to be cycling at this moment. The space-like feel that surrounds the café and forecasted thunderstorm seems to stir some butterflies and good nervous energy. Zombie mode no more.
3 images are engrained in my mind of the setting that I find myself in.
I step out in to the 5-degree chill feel for a few minutes. The clouds seem to be tinted by a distant light but take on a dark blue and steely grey blanket appearance, covering a formidably scary drop in the middle of the valley. A beacon of radiant orange peeks over a far – away mountain. I start thinking that this is a little bit different to anything I’ve seen before. I’m starting to think that this is a little bit similar to what I imagine Pluto to be like. Freezing, isolated and… like another planet… (pretend that Pluto is still classed as a planet for now). I go back inside and wait with a bit of naivety. I’m thinking that it might look nice, of course. Will it just be a gradual rise of the circular sun from behind the mountain? I’ve seen a few of those, it’s a bit different when you see the sun move quicker than usual, it’s pretty cool.
But I just couldn’t account for what was going to happen next.
There’s a sudden rush to get outside. People head to the edge of the mountain and stand in awe. There’s a collective desire to just admire the sight and stand in the sideways rain to take in the moment. The moment won’t be forgotten in memory but onlookers have to supplement the urge to capture it on camera. Now Jupiter comes to mind. A fiery crack in the sky forms above the distant mountain and overlaps the prior blue tinge. A radiant orange bye product of natural beauty. The sun sends through a lightening warning that the day is going to begin. And in our case, a warning that a thunderstorm will accompany it. The cold chill and dusk feel is absurd when looking at a beam of heat in the distance. A mountain goat statue stands there on the verge of the cliff Omni presently. Waiting for the ultralight beam to appear and only devil horns can be made out by the wide eyed spectator when the scene is put together. Formidably brilliant. Dauntingly excellent. It feels like time slows down and another reality is breached for five minutes whilst the electric sky is a forewarning of the circular all – powerful star to join the party for real.
The imminent power is exposed and the centre of the influence makes itself known. The surrounding clouds and jagged mountain tops catch fire. The steam which is blanketing the valleys drop reminds me why I’ve never seen this before. I have been too low down. I haven’t been in this scenic beauty before and I’ve previously been caught admiring the sun from below the mist – not above it. The smokescreen to real beauty. I suppose like anything in life, you have got to get to the real crux of it and go deeper and further to understand it. A lot of people do stuff on the surface and scathe across things. When you go more intimate and straight to the source, it’s riveting because it’s so rare.
I screw my eyes and probably appear to give a pained sight. Not because of the blinding radiance. But because I wonder, why I have never done this before? Why have I not come here to experience this before now? The triumphant joy that I have along with a strong sense of gratefulness is overwhelming.
The weather is bad. Very bad. The brewing storm has unleashed thunder and lightning just after we had seen everything that the sunrise had to offer. Mountain biking down? In this weather? Probably not the best idea. We jumped on the cable car after the show had finished, bright eyed, with the feeling that today was going to be a good day, whatever may happen. Pro’s had been informed not to cycle down from the top because of the weather. But we are at the last cable car with bikes in tow and… we need to have a crack. We jumped off at the last stop with some of the mountain still to be descended. Nostalgia kicked in as I jumped on a bike but came straight back up because it had the most suspension known to man on there. I master a few bunny hops after realising that I’m not a beginner again and I decide I’m going to make the most of this opportunity. Grit on top of loose mud is the surface that I ride on and pulling the back brake is satisfying, even if I get splatters of mud all the way up my back. Just less than 90 degree corners are hard to do at a pace and if I keep the skids up on the trails with these sharp turns, I’ll make it to the bottom of the mountain a lot quicker than planned. After shifting and bouncing down the humble depths of Piz Nair, I return to the flat beauty of St Moritz.
I finish with an almighty sprint to the Kulm Hotel which is the mountain bike’s terminal. St Moritz is after all, is home to many of the Olympic teams in preparation for the Olympic Games. Sure, the reason for this is because of the altitude, but uniquely St Moritz is relatively flat. So it provides a perfect training camp. With this in mind, I get some extras in and finish off the whole experience with a virtuous effort.
Feeling top of the world, I dismount and stroll into the Kulm Hotel, like coming home from a night shift at 7am in the morning. However, I’m not tired and fed up or eager to get to bed, I do feel humbled and I feel different. I feel like I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and doing something that is once in a lifetime.
There’s one for your bucket list…
Ticket price is 95 Swiss Franc per person which is just under £75
- Buffet breakfast at Piz Nair peak, 3,057 metres above sea level
- Sunrise experience
- All day mountain bike transport and use of mountain railways
- Visit Engadin Bikeschool for full details of all the trails/days out you can enjoy: http://www.bikeschool-engadin.ch/index.php/en/ Bikeschool Engadin
This experience is offered 3 times a year in the Summer only.