Have you ever climbed inside a mountain to see a waterfall? There aren’t many of them around. Trümmelbach Falls, located in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, is the only accessible, mountain-enclosed, glacier-fed waterfall in Europe.
Each year the waterfall transports over 20,000 tons of boulder detritus from the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau glaciers. The water flows through the mountain at an incredible 5,200 gallons per second.
To get there, take the train from Interlocken to Lauterbrunnen, then a bus to the waterfall. The village looks like an idyllic scene from a child’s picture book: a few buildings nestled in a quiet valley, cows munching bright green grass, and steep mountains surrounding everything. It feels almost mystical, with wispy clouds spilling over the peaks and down to the valley below. The gray cliffs are banded with yellow-green lichen, while long mineral streaks of white and yellow, like the tears of a mythical giant, splash down their sides.
There are ten waterfalls inside the mountain. A glass elevator, which takes you to the top four, ascends through a spookily dark shaft lit only by spotlights. I didn’t realize we’d be standing quite so close to the water when we got out. And I didn’t expect the noise, like the whine of a hundred chainsaws right in my ear.
As we moved up the slippery, narrow steps inside the mountain, I wondered about the workers who had first climbed inside that pitch-black mountain to carve those steps and install the tourist-friendly ground lights and guardrails. How could you climb higher and higher, each step getting darker, not knowing what the next turn would bring? Whether you’d find a safe landing or get washed away?
There were numerous overlooks along the climb where you could stop and gawk at the giant rocks, caressed by foaming water, slick and shining in the spotlights as though covered with crumpled cellophane.
I thought I could see faces in some of them – an eye and nose here, a nose and mouth and chin on the next one. Despite the darkness the rocks were colorful, shades of tan, gray, white, and shiny black, with little clumps of yellow-green and red lichen growing intermittently where a bit of sun made its way into the cavern.
There are multiple flights of steps to get to the top, but a great reward – sunshine, a glimpse of a tree, and a welcome sky.
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