When You Hike Up Mountains and Check Out of your Comfort Zone

Jeff and I stayed in four different mountain inns on our trip to Switzerland. The other inns were in small towns with accommodations more in line with what we expect from hotels. Three-star accommodations in Switzerland aren’t fancy, but they are clean, comfortable, and quaint. Most of our hotels were booked with “half board” which means they included a prixe fix dinner meal as well as breakfast. Since we aren’t picky eaters and I love surprises, this was great for me. Two of the mountain inns became favorites. Both were in incredible locations off the beaten path.

Three days into our trip, our itinerary took us up to the Berghotel Obersteinberg. The mountain inn, hostel, and nearby working dairy farm are only accessible by foot. Our destination, perched on the side of a mountain, gave us stunning views of snow-covered peaks, including the Jungfrau, the tallest peak in the Swiss Alps. Across the valley, the giant Schmadribach Waterfall cascaded over a granite rock wall thundering toward the river below. It took several hours on a steep climb to get there, but the panoramic view above tree-line was one of the best on our trip.

We “cheated” on the length of the recommended hike, which would have taken us from the car-free ski town of Wengen (where we had stayed in a modern-ish hotel with a fabulous shower) across to the other side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley for the hike to Obersteinberg. Our feet were still aching from our long walk in the clouds. After a beautiful American-style breakfast, we tied up our boots and caught the train to the valley floor, transferring to the trailhead by bus. This edit in the plan saved us half the steps, which in hindsight was a good move.

We filled our water bottles at an open spigot (or a spicket as we say in these parts), found the Wanderweg sign, and began our journey. The trail rose at a reasonable incline before we hit a steeper section that was groomed with stones and blocks of wood forming what amounted to steps. The trail, marked strenuous with red and white markers, was less a path and more like a ladder---a very long ladder. 

Our itinerary said we would receive a candle to light our room when we checked in. Because the inn is so remote and is only open in the summer, there is no electricity. This sounds like we'd be roughing it. I like electricity, but if roughing it is what a stay at the Berghotel Obersteinberg is called, then it was the “softest roughing” I’ve ever done. 

The simple room was clean as a pin; the bed made up with sunshine-scented linens. Ceramic pitchers and bowls sat on a table ready for washing. Only a few of the panes on the windows were covered with lace panels. A single picture hung over the bed. Candle in hand, we hung our packs on wooden pegs and settled in.

The prix fixe meal that evening was traditional fare served family-style---a green salad, seasoned ground beef rolled in dried beef and baked, served with a mushroom gravy, spaetzel, and a creamy plum pudding for dessert. Our Swiss tablemates seemed happy to answer our questions regarding their country and their home. Better than the food was the opportunity to sit with natives, learn about their lives, their kids, their mountain adventures and to find all of it very familiar.

Later, as daylight vanished from the sky, we pulled puffy comforters up under our chins. The warm air slipped away into a cloudless night. The stars peeked in the windows when we blew out the light.

We were fortunate because the shared restroom was outside our door at the end of the hall. Since there were only five or six rooms on the floor, it wasn’t busy with coming and going. Yes, we shared the restroom with strangers. This is probably the thing about the mountain inns that isn't appealing to most Americans---shared facilities. I’ll admit it takes some getting used to, but we found it to be only a minor inconvenience and a reminder of how spoiled we are in life in general.

Our hike up to Obersteinberg, the hotel stay, and the beauty of that part of Switzerland reminded me of how much we need beauty in our lives---and simplicity. Simplicity is a beauty in itself, but often we are afraid of the simple. The enemy tells us if we aren’t prepared for every possible need, if we put ourselves in situations that could be inconvenient or uncomfortable, we are being careless. He wants us to feel exposed. He stirs us toward complexity, confusion, and chaos. He understands our addiction to comfort. He wants to keep us from joy.

When we believe his lies, we forfeit the good stuff.

If this wonderful mountain inn hadn’t been on the itinerary, we might have passed and opted for something with an ensuite bath. If we had held to a level of comfort that we're accustomed to and familiar with, we would have missed a highlight of our trip---which, of course, was a bathing with cold water from a bowl. (I’ll leave the details to your imagination.)

When we intentionally check out of our comfort zones, trade anxiety for expectancy, we have some of our most memorable experiences.

I encourage you to stretch yourself by doing something outside your comfort zone to see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

I know I was. 

You don't have to go to Switzerland to get out of the zone. Last week, I got out of mine right here at home. All I did was go to the grocery store where the opportunity presented itself. Where have you been that you have blessed to experience even though you had to face your addiction to comfort?


  1. Your photos are glorious! My feet/knees/balance would not allow that hike, but I enjoy living vicariously through your lovely reports.


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