Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

A nerve-wracking trip to Birg cable-car station

My only cable-car trip into the high Alps this past winter season was in February. Webcam confirmation of a fabulous cloud inversion encouraged me to get into the mountains after a long abstinence. I expected the visit to be be a nerve-wracking experience thanks to so many people wearing their coronavirus face-masks around their chins, and I was proven correct.

The visit was made more difficult because the indoor cafe at Birg, to which I would retire to get out of the bitter cold, was out-of-bounds thanks to coronavirus restrictions. The additional challenge of finding a suitable take-off and landing spot for my drone was complicated because of my usual spot being roped-off, and the most suitable area being filled with skiers and snowboarders heading for the top of the adjacent ski run.

Luckily, there were comparatively few people on the large cafe terrace and so I waited for the least amount of people possible to be around before sending my drone up to take photos. After 15 minutes at around -10°C, with a reasonable breeze bringing the temperature down further, I tried and failed to warm up by loitering near one of the small electric heaters in a through-passage. Abandoning the attempt as pointless, I re-packed my drone and headed up to the Schilthorn to get some warm food.

Building work is scheduled to begin on the long cable-car route next year, which will replace the entire cable-car system and all stations on the route between the valley floor at Stechelberg and the mountain-top revolving restaurant on the Schilthorn. This visit was specifically to take some winter shots of the famous cable-car station, which features in its current shape in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The building work will massively improve the stations and amenities, but these improvements will also mean that Birg will lose its iconic look.

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