Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Post Sabbatical


It’s more than 10 months since I posted my last article on May 7th, 2009. While this blog was originally intended to introduce various experiences during my sabbatical trip over the world, the last two articles focused on my devastating shoulder injury.

This new article still puts a substantial focus on what’s going on my injured shoulder, but I’ll try to include some international experiences in medical care. There are not so many patients who got a surgery in two different countries rather than where they were born. My case is Switzerland and US.

First of all, here is a brief summary of my left shoulder/arm/hand/fingers improvements: I regained the motion of my fingers, wrist, and elbow by 5/7/09; I began to lift my shoulder a little bit by 6/14/09; then suddenly nerves came back to allow me to lift the shoulder up to 80 or 90 degrees in 6/21/09; and I regain my shoulder motion up to 140 degrees by 3/22/10. Even with this restricted motion, it was possible to enjoy skiing. I skied for 21 days during which I skied with Kent, my son for 12 days.

Toward a full range of my shoulder motion (so as to play tennis :-)), I took a surgery on 3/23/10 that removed the bone-supporting plate and thick scar tissue from my shoulder. Here is my story:

At 8:15am, I checked in at University of Washington Medical Center’s Surgery Pavilion. The waiting room seems like a hotel lobby: a bunch of sofas, chairs, and even stools as well as work desks with many electronic/Internet outlets, so that families and friends do not have to waste their time or just get relaxed. I just recalled that, when Kyoko was in labor at Evergreen Hospital, the lobby had nice chandeliers and a grand piano that of course gave live music. When my dad and I waited for my mom’s coronary surgery at a Japanese university hospital two years ago, I recalled that the waiting room had just many long seats and its floor was just titled (but not carpeted.) When I waited for my PT session at a Swiss university hospital, I used to sit at a long seat on a long hallway. Is this culture of having a gorgeous waiting room only in America?

At 9am, a nurse called me but advised my wife and kid to stay at the waiting room, because kids are not permitted to enter a pre-op room. However, they are supplied with my code name, (i.e. FU07MU) with which they can check a waiting room’s monitor to see how I am doing. I don't know about Swiss hospitals, because I was alone when I was hospitalized in Switzerland, but I’ve never heard of it in Japan.

Each pre-op room is a complete compartment. I dressed a surgery gown and laid myself on a bed. Nurses and anesthesiologists visited my compartment one after another as introducing their names and roles as well as checking my name, DoB, and procedures I will take. When I took a surgery in Switzerland, I didn’t even meet any anesthesiologist while I met an ER doctor, a surgery doctor, and a couple of nurses. Anyway, the first anesthesiologist explained about a planned procedure of anesthetizing me during this surgery: giving general anesthesia (i.e., putting me to sleep) and thereafter injecting anesthetic into nerves under the neck so as to make all from my shoulder to fingers numbing for the next 20 hours, which controls post-surgery pain. When he asked me “is this what you are interested in?”, I quickly responded to him, “yes, but I hurt brachial plexus, too when I broke my shoulder”. Then, he needed a consultation with his colleagues. Murphy’s law: nothing goes well smoothly to me. The 2nd anesthesiologist showed up 30 minutes later (probably after a meeting with the 1st guy), asked me about the details of my injury, checked my online medical record, and said to the 1st guy “Look. Dr. Winston mentioned about his brachial plexus injury.” They told me that they would need to change their plan, because they should avoid any risk to worsen my damaged nerves. According to them, I might take a local, static anesthesia onto only my shoulder, which may increase post-surgery pains. Again after waiting for 30 minutes, Dr. Warme Winston visited my pre-op room. “Hello! Dr. Fukuda”. It sounds strange to be called Dr. Fukuda by a doctor, though. Two more doctors, Erika and Rick also showed up. (I forgot their last names.) Dr. Erica pointed out a possibility of thick scar tissues limiting my shoulder motion. Dr. Rick checked my pre-op health condition a week ago. It seems like they are all ready. Dr. Winston marked my left shoulder with his initials, placed his hand on it, and prayed for a successful surgery and a full recovery of my shoulder motion. After waiting for 30 more minutes or so, another nurse showed up, gave me an anesthesia injection, and began to carry me to a surgery room as saying “I am a good driver but not so good at carrying a stretcher.” I lost my consciousness even on my way to a surgery room. I still recall that, at St. Moritz, I was carried on a stretcher to a surgery room, saw the surgery room’s entrance doors open, and looked up really bright lights.

My wife checked the waiting room’s monitor frequently. She knew that I was carried to a surgery room at 11:40am and was moved to a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) at 2:50pm. So, it brought 3+ hours to my surgery. At the same time, Dr. Winston visited the waiting room to explain to Kyoko about my surgery with some pictures. She was advised to wait for 15 minutes to check if she can enter PACU but actually had to wait till 4:30pm. It seems like I woke up at 4:10am. I immediately realized that my left fingers were not numbing, which means that the anesthesiologists took plan B. Dr. Winston came to PACU to give me the plate and screws taken out from my shoulder, and mentioned that my shoulder got lifted 180 degree and my arm’s external rotation is about 60 degree. He has also explained to my wife that I will gain all full motions through physical therapy. Now, I have to take 3 PT sessions per week for the next 6 weeks. Thereafter, Kyoko and Kent came to PACU. She helped me with eating some yogurt. My wife told me that the doctor suggested that, if I suffer from pain (because of the local/static anesthesia), I could stay at hospital over a night. From my former experiences, (one at Evergreen in 2007 and the other at St. Moritz in 2009), I was sure that EKG cords would keep attached to my body, an ivy would keep inserted into my arm, and I would have to be checked by nurses frequently over a night. I asked Kyoko if she likes me to stay at hospital. I really wanted to go home as initially planed as an outpatient surgery. After receiving another injection to relieve from nausea, I walked around PACU and left the surgery pavilion at 5:30pm. Yes, even after having a 3+ hour surgery, a human being (of course including me who now came back from a cyborg :-)) is quite strong to walk soon! But again I’ve never heard of a 3+ hour outpatient surgery in Japan. At St. Moritz, I had to be hospitalized for 5 days! This is another experience only in America.

It was 6:30pm when we came back home after having driven through a traffic jam on the SR-520 bridge and stopped by Trader Joe’s to buy some ice cream. It was very delicious mango ice cream.

This finally closes my blog. Thank you.

Picture 1: White Scar Tissue between Upper Arm (left) and Shoulder (right)


Picture 2: Cleaned Joint between Upper Arm (left) and Shoulder (right)


Picture 3: Plate Taken Out from My Shoulder


Picture 4: 10 Screws












Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Life After Injury

English first/日本語は英語の後

Some of you may be interested in what's going on to me after my injury (photos 1 and 2,

My shoulder/arm/hand/fingers stopped their mobility right after my ski accident. Almost 10 weeks after that, my left hand/ fingers regained their mobility but their power is only a half of my right part. My arm and shoulder began to move but can't sustain themselves against the gravity.

Here are some of my memorable experiences after my injury:

1. Bread, Blueberry Jam, and Coffee:
While the dinner on day 2 after my injury was my first meal at hospital, which I had still in pain and vomit-like feeling, the breakfast on day 3 was the meal I can't forget. It was just a cup of coffee with bread and blueberry jam, but I then realized my survival from the semi-fatal ski slope and felt glad to make sure that I'm still alive to have this breakfast. I couldn't stop my emotion from the bottom of my heart with thankfulness and a big sigh, and tasted every bite as running tears down.

2. An Apple:
On day 3 again at hospital, I was served a dinner with an apple. I was going to just bite it, but the Italian guy (who broke his right leg because of skiing) walked on crutches to me, talked to me in Italian which I couldn't understand, and began to cut and peal off my apple. I understood that kindness and help is worldwide common despite linguistic difficulty. Thank you, Roberto.

3. Schweizerhof Blanket:
On day 4 at hospital, Mr. Martin Scherer, my life savor visited me at hospital. He brought his hotel-signatured blanket as a present to me. I should've visited him first with a present as my appreciation for his kindness, though. Before my injury, I thought that Swiss preferred their privacy and were exclusive to strangers. But, this was a moment when I noticed their hospitality and kindness. Thank you, Mr. Scherer.

4. Lake Zurich:
After being discharged from hospital on day 5, I rode a train going back to Basel. The train ran by Lake Zurich at twilight. It was very beautiful but gave me a feeling of regret, anxiety, and loneliness. I just looked at the lake view from the train as again running tears down. This was another view I can't forget for the rest of my life.

5. Medical Appointment:
My wife contacted the representative of the Japanese group living in Basel who made a medical appointment at the University of Basel Hospital for me. Over the phone on day 6, she told me that, if I couldn't pay a deposit to the hospital immediately, she was ready to loan money to me. At that time, she even didn't meet me at all. I felt that I was not living by myself but in support from many people whom I haven't even met yet. Thank you, Hiroko-san.

6. Email from My Former Director:
My wife and parents wanted me to return to Japan as soon as possible for my rehabilitation in their direct assistance. I asked my wife to let me try if I could sustain my life at Basel by myself for a week. On March 11th, (exactly after the week has passed), I received email from Chuck, my former CSS director. He just heard about my injury, and gave me a message: he hopes that I'm healed rapidly and my work is going well on my sabbatical. Yes, he is the person who gave me this valuable opportunity. This was the moment when I decided to continue my sabbatical research as planned.

7. Canceling My Cancellation of Physiotherapy:
At Basel, I took 10 physiotherapeutic (PT) sessions at the University of Basel Hospital. One day I canceled a PT session in order to get in time for attending the NetArch'09 conference. Christine, my therapist pointed out that an almost week recess from physiotherapy would delay my recovery, canceled my cancellation, and rescheduled a PT session at 8am just before my departure for the conference. I really appreciated her pursuit for professional responsibility.

8. Kent, My Son:
My wife and kid visited me at Basel on March 22nd (photo 3). The next morning, I did some exercises for my shoulder rehabilitation as usual. It of course entailed a lot of pain and made me face to the reality: how far from my ordinary life I previously spent. I kept lying down on bed after my rehab. as feeling void. Kyoko told Kent, my son to stroke his dad's head gently as saying "a good job". I wondered if I could hold him up again with my both hands like I used to do, and if so, when it would be. I sobbed.

9. BA49:
On April 1st, I left Basel for Seattle via London. I've reserved a right-side of the bulk seats where I can get more space in front and protect my left shoulder from the isle. However, an Indian couple with a baby wanted to take two adjacent bulk seats including mine. As a result, I had to move to the left side of this bulk seats. Although a cabin attendant asked me if I'd be happy, I couldn't say "I was unhappy", because, as a dad of a kid, I knew that this couple really needed these two seats for their baby. Meanwhile after the take-off, another cabin attendant talked to me and kindly assigned a premium economy seat to me. It's just like a Japanese saying: kindness is not for someone else. Anyway, thank you, British Airways. I'll use this carrier again.

10. Green Lake:
I stayed at Shinko-san, a ski-school colleague's house in Seattle till April 7th before my departure for Irvine, CA. April 6th was a perfect spring day in NW (photo 4). It was warm, sunny, and beautiful. I walked around Green Lake near by Shinko-san's house, as enjoying the view of Green Lake in the background of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains (photo 5). I ran into the same woman with her injured leg twice. It seems like she walked clockwise and I did counter-clockwise. So, when we saw each other again, she began to speak to me. We talked about each other's injury, hard life, and emotional unstableness. At the end, she taught me her positive-thinking way: pick up one of my photos taken when I was physically healthy, look at the picture, and imagine how my shoulder will be healing back like I used to be. This was what I didn't even come up with into my mind. April 6th was a really nice day because of not only its weather but also this woman's suggestion.

11. UC Irvine:
Suzanne, my friend flew up to Seattle and drove me down to Irvine with my Honda CRV. After the three-day drive, we arrived at Irvine in the evening on April 9th. When my CRV ramped off from I-405 to CA-73 that was reaching to UC Irvine, I was trying to look outside and swallow my emotion. But tears couldn't stop after all. As the car exited to University St. and turned right on Campus Dr., I saw the sign of "University of California, Irvine" on which I sat 15 years ago for a photo pose. I felt very glad to come back here again after my survival from the ski accident and at the same time was filled with thankfulness to all my friends and colleagues who extended their unstinting help with taking me from St. Moritz to Basel, Basel to Seattle, and Seattle to Irvine: Hiroko-san, Shu-san, Kato-san, Lidia, Shinko-san, Dane, Suzanne, and John, (her husband who allowed me to ask Suzanne to drive me down to SoCal.)

12. Prognosis Postponed:
I met Dr. Rose, an orthopedist at Newport Beach on April 16th. He did some motion test on my left shoulder and arm: put my left thumb onto my mouth; stretch my forearm forward; put my left hand on my hip; etc.. I was unable to do any of them. His comment was "a very devastating injury". Although Suzanne asked for his prognosis, he postponed to mention about it for the next three weeks. He scheduled a neurological test on my injured shoulder. April 16th was truly a nightmare to me; I felt that my paralyzed shoulder and arm would even remain permanent; and so I cried tears of hopelessness.

13. Deltoid Muscle:
Dr. Rose referred me to a new physical/occupational therapist in Costa Mesa, named Wendy. Upon my 3rd visit to her on April 24th, she suggested to move my upper arm up in her support so as to check if my shoulder muscles could react. Since she supported my left arm and shoulder, I really couldn't tell if I moved my arm, using my shoulder muscles or she moved my arm. However, Wendy told me that, while it was very subtle, she felt my shoulder muscles reacting. She kept saying, "let's try one more time". As you can easily imagine, I followed her instructions as crying on a big relief but not a big pain. :-)

14. Neurological Evaluation (a.k.a. Extreme Excruciation)
I visited Newport Neurology on April 30th. The physician told me that the evaluation was made up of two steps, each taking 20 minutes: first tapping a bunch of probes on my left shoulder/arm/hand and transmitting subtle electrical pulses, and second sticking very thin needles into the muscles like "acupuncture" and evaluating electrical conductance. However, I realized that he extremely exaggerated the subtleness, thinness, and painlessness. These electrical pulses were so shocking that my body reacted unintentionally; the needles are like ordinary injections rather than acupuncture; and despite the pain, I was asked to move my muscles with needles stuck! After the evaluation, the physician pointed out that my brachial plexus must have been stretched thin, which was resulted from repetitive impacts onto my shoulder rather than just a one-time fall-down. I recalled my accident's scene and said in my mind: "bingo!". But I kept quiet, because Suzanne explained to him about the details of how I rolled down on the slope. Anyway, good news was that he didn't say "your nerves are dead". :-)

15. My 46th Birthday
On May 7th, I visited Dr. Rose again to listen to his prognosis for my brachial plexus injury. His comments were: "There is a very guarded prognosis for your brachial plexus injury but patients with brachial plexus lesions are observed for spontaneous recovery for several months. Typically patients who do not demonstrate clinical electrical activity by three to six months often undergo operative intervention." How nice! What a birthday present! It seems like my timer keeps counting down for the next 3.5 months to see if I'll be recovered or permanently handicapped. Anyway, all I have to do is keep engaging in my rehabilitation program and using my left hand as much as possible even in support of my right hand.




1. パンとブルーペリージャムとコヒー

2. りんご

3. シュバイツァーホッフの毛布

4. チューリッヒ湖

5. 診察予約

6. 前の上司からの電子メール

7. リハビリ予約の取り消しの取り消し

8. 健人、私の息子

9. 英国航空49便

10. グリーンレーク

11. カリフォルニア大学アーバイン校
私の友人のスザンヌがシアトルまで飛行機でやってきて、私のホンダCRVを運転して、アーバインまで私を連れて行ってくれました。3日間の旅程の後、4月9日の夜にアーバインに到着しました。私のホンダCRVが国道405号線から州道73号線に折れて、いよいよUC Irvineに着くとき、私は外を眺めて、感情を押さえようとしましたが、結局涙は止まりませんでした。車は大学通りに出て、さらにキャンパス通りへと右折するとき、15年前に写真のポーズを取るために腰掛けた大学の看板が目に入りました。私は、スキー事故から助かって、再度ここに戻って来れたのだと言う喜びと、サンモリッツからバーゼルへ、バーゼルからシアトルへ、シアトルからアーバインへと私の移動に惜しみなく援助の手を下さった友人と同僚(ひろ子さん、秀さん、加藤さん、リディア、信子さん、デイン、スザンヌ、そしてスザンヌが私を南カリフォルニアに連れて来るのを快く許してくれた、彼女の夫のジョン)への感謝で一杯でした。

12. 予後(回復の見通し)の延期

13. 三角筋

14. 神経科での検査(別名、究極の拷問)

15. 46回目の誕生日
5月7日に、私の腕神経叢損傷 についての回復の見込みを聞くためにローズ先生を尋ねました。彼の見解はこうです「あなたの腕神経叢損傷の回復の見込みについては、とても申し難いが、数ヶ月程度で腕神経叢損傷 を自然治癒する患者も見受けられる。通常、3ヶ月から6ヶ月の間に医学的な(神経の)電気伝達活動が回復しない患者は、そのまま障害が残ることが多い」あ〜ら素敵!何て誕生日プレゼントなんでしょう!私が回復するか、このまま一生障害者になるか、残り3ヶ月半、タイムウォッチがカチカチと動いているかのようです。とにかく、私がしなければならないことは、リハビリを根気よく続けて、右手の支えを使ってでも左手を可能な限り使い続けることだけです。

Photo 1: My injured left upper arm (right on the photo)

Photo 2: A plate attached on my upper arm

Photo 3: my wife and kid

Photo 4: Spring in Northwest

Photo 5: Green Lake

Sunday, March 8, 2009

St. Moritz Ski Report

English first / 日本語は英語の後

My third destination was St. Moritz where the Winter Olympics took place twice, each in 1928 and 1948. It was a bit farther than Engelberg and Grindelwald, taking me 4.5 hours to reach the St. Moritz station. Despite the long train ride, views from the train window on my way to St. Moritz never bored me. During the ride from Zürich to Chur, I enjoyed a spectacular view of Lake Walen (or Walensee in German) in the background of mountain rocks with sharp and zigzag ridges which were covered with snow and lit up in the morning sunshine (photo 1). Take a left seat from Zürich or a right seat from Chur for this view. The train then ran through a peaceful valley. While I didn't completely notice, the train must've passed by Mainfeld that was the village of the very famous novel "Heidi". The mountain railway from Chur (elv. 1916ft, 584m) took me up to Preda (elv. 5900ft, 1800m) and then lost an elevation slightly to St. Moritz (elv. 5823ft, 1775m). Taking a right seat was really a good idea. The reason is, after getting out of a tunnel, I was amazed to see the railroad track almost vertically below the train, which was actually where the train ran on several minutes ago. Yes, this means that the train ran through a loop tunnel to gain a lot of elevation. I think I enjoyed this experience a couple of times before reaching St. Moritz.

The train arrived there 15 minutes later than scheduled. It was 10:13am, and so I ran up the road leading to the city center, which I soon realized was no a wise idea. Recall the city is located at 5823ft(=1775m) or above. Today's skis and boots were Atomic Race GS and Nordica. The price was 65CHF, the same as Grindelwalt. I got out of the rental shop in a little hurry to the street, where I ran into a long march of youngsters wearing regionally traditional cloths. A rental shop staff told me that it was a march to bring spring. Right. Despite that St. Moritz records colder temperature than any other ski resorts, today was really hot, probably more than 45F or 8C. After patiently waiting for the march to pass by, I again ran up the road, as totally relying on the google map. What I saw was, however, a cable car getting out of the tunnel. I asked a man taking pictures of the cable car about the directions to the base station. He kindly guided me to the station, which was really below from where I lost my way. What a mess of people who rushed to only two ticket counters. I even saw a woman sneak into the middle of these waiting cloud without ignoring other people's attention. It wad 11:15am when I got on the first cable car. I then transfered to the second cable car, and finally rode the gondola to Piz Nair (elv. 10030ft, 3057m). It was 11:50am. So, it was more than 6 hours since I left Basel with the 5:33am Inter-City train, and 30 minutes later than when I arrived at Männlichen in the Grindelwald two weeks ago, but I was actually standing at the highest point of the St. Moritz - Corviglia area (photo 2). So, it was good enough.

Now, let's talk about skiing at St. Moritz. Please look at the trail map:
First, I skied down course #16 to char W. I found out that my rental skis carved the snow really in sharp but needed quite a longer time to rotate their tails than I expected, which I feel became a factor of what I encountered 1.5 hours later. I rode the cair W to Fuorola Grischa and then cruised down on course 17 as enjoying the view of brown mountain rocks on my both sides, covered with white snow and clearly contrasted with the deep blue sky. I then got on char U, and ran down course 19 to chair V, which took me back to the Fuorola Grischa - Piz Schtattain peaks. On course 18, if I had taken right, I'd had reached course 30, the most difficult one where I might be able to enjoy skiing in deep fresh snow. But, whenever I tried to go right from course 18, I saw wind-smoothed solid snow like stripe-patterned dunes. So, I ended up with reaching the base of course 18, and decided to try it again. From the top, I saw two skiers traversing right, and thus followed them. As I took some pictures on my way, I lost them and had to keep traversing alone (photo 3). At the end, no more ski tracks. I began to carefully skied down on these snow dunes (photo 4). I finally saw them approximately 100+ yards or 100m ahead of me, but also realized there was a short cut to go back to course 30. I think I was standing near by the right portion of the mountain rock between courses #30 and #17 in the trail map (, This short cut starts from a very narrow corridor between rocks like the course Shu-san, Kato-san, Shinko-san, and I tried in Chrystal Mountain, WA, but it leads to a big open space after 3 or 4 turns (photo 5). The slope was very steep but still not so steep as the slopes I've been ever scared of.

So, after taking some pictures, I started to ski down on this exciting slope. The slope was smooth but still slightly stripe-patterned dunes. I cleared through this corridor, reached the open space, took a sigh of release, and tried to continue skiing down with short turns. But in my next left turn, I noticed that the skis didn't rotate but even caught the snow with their left edges. My upper body began to lean down to the valley side, and then fell down from my left shoulder. It was a strong impact. While I worried about my left shoulder, both of my legs rotated in the sky and quickly hit down on the slope, which of course released both the skis from my feet. Due to this momentum, my upper body began to get up in the sky and then fell down from my left shoulder again. I think I repeated this roll-down three times or so, and afterward I lay down on the slope as watching the sky. But this falling-down motion didn't come to the end. Now my body slid down from my feet and I felt the speed got increased. What? I saw a big rock ahead of me. I still was on the very right edge of this open space which might have been even leaning right toward rocks. "Hit the rock! Hit the rock! My feet may get crashed. Or am I dying?" This was the first moment to feel like I'm dying.

Luckily I saw the wall of rocks on my right side. Did I pass by the rocks? No. I felt my boots scratched probably by one end side of a rock. While I felt that I was still alive, the momentum resulted from this rock scratching now changed my body-sliding direction perpendicular to the fall line. As soon as sliding finished, my body began to roll down again but side by side, I hit my left and then right shoulders repeatedly. Quite fast spins I've ever experienced. I don't remember how may times my body spun on the slope. I felt that bones of my body would crash if this spinning motion lasted all the way to the base of this slope. I repeated in my mind: "I'm dying but I don't want to die." This was the second moment where I got scared of death.

Finally, I said in my mind "let me stop this spin!", and did some motion like extending my legs wide or grabbing snow with my right hand. This was something like a drowning man will catch at a straw. But it worked out! This spinning motion changed into sliding down from my feet again. I extended my feet straight and pushed the slope with my heels as shouting in my mind "stop! stop! stop!" The boots vibrated crazy and even repeated bouncing. It was a long natural slider. Suddenly, I felt the snow changing softer from solid dunes, which helped my boot heels dig the snow more in deep to stop sliding. I was totally in a big panic. While I should've checked my injury, I flipped around to see where my rental ski gear was left and even tried to search for it. But now a big pain attacked my left shoulder and I noticed my fingers were numbing. It was obviously impossible to climb up this steep slope as fighting against this strong pain. I saw some skiers on the other side of this open space, (i.e., course #30), but they were far away, probably more than 150+ yards or 150m away from me as if colorful small rice crops were sliding down on the slope. I couldn't shout. I barely managed to wave my right hand. 10 minutes passed. 20 minutes passed. 30 minutes passed. I began to feel tired of thinking what I should do. I even began to shiver. This was the third moment to feel like I'm freezing to death.

Meanwhile, a man in a red jacket approached from course 30 to me, as asking me "are you okay?" (He told me later that it was unusual for someone to sit alone in the middle of the slope where no one was skiing down.) He called a rescue team by his cell phone. Although it was a warm sunny day, I couldn't stop shivering any more. He took off his jacket and put it on my back. The rescue team came, checked my body condition, put a jello-like portable body warmer on my chest, moved my body on a warm-keeping sheet, and called for a helicopter. (I felt, too that using a sled would be out of consideration because of this steep slope.) As a helicopter approached, two rescue members covered me from big snow wind caused by the helicopter. I asked the man in a red jacket (actually no longer in his jacket) if he would need his jacket, but he responded that he was okay. A paramedic doctor came out from the helicopter, gave me a pain-killer injection, and tied him and me together with a rescue rope. The propeller sounded louder, the rope was pulled up, and finally the doctor and I began to move up in the sky. Since the rope spun, we spun in the sky, too, which amazingly gave me the most unforgettable panorama view in my life. I saw the corridor I challenged. It was actually much steeper, longer, and more dangerous than I thought, as if it said, "hey, loser, do you wanna try me again?" I replied in my mind, "not really." Oh, St. Moritz. I should keep this view in my life-time memory. I'll never forget this moment.

The helicopter arrived near by the base of chair U where all rescue member met together to help me get on the helicopter cabin and put all my belongings in the aft storage. At that time, I couldn't afford to check if the man in the red jacket, namely my life savor was in the group and so didn't have a chance of asking his name.

This is my St. Moritz ski report, which should be graded as "incomplete". Without any further action, "incomplete" will be "F".

By the way, how's my left shoulder? From the very initial x-ray, the ER doctor thought that I just dislocated my shoulder and put it back to the correct position. The x-ray technician took the post-treatment x-ray photos. I still recall that she opened her mouse quite wide and then covered it with her hand when I stared at her. Murphy's law: I dislocated my left shoulder, broke the joint of my upper left arm into three parts, and hurt some spines, causing numb from the shoulder all the way to the thumb, pointing, and middle fingers of my left hand. Day 1 finished at 10:10pm when I recovered consciousness after the 2-hour surgery. Day 2 was a repetition of nausea and pain. Day 3 made me aware of the seriousness of my injury and I cried for my left arm/hand/fingers, all immobile despite my intention to move them. In day 4, my life saver visited me in the hospital at Samaden, two train stations away from St. Moritz. He was not a rescue member but the director of St. Moritz Scweizerhof Hotel. He suggested me to visit St. Moritz again with my family, and I nodded my head to him (photo 6).

So, here are conclusions: (1) I'll come back again as promised; (2) no more pursuit for challenging slopes alone; (3) no more rental ski gear; and (4) I'll put on a helmet. To make them happen, I'll do my best for the rehabilitation until I can come back to my usual sports activity.

For more photos, please visit:


列車は、15分遅れでサンモリッツに着きました。10時13分になっていたので、市の中心街に向かって坂を駆け上がりました。しかし、これは余り賢い考えではありませんでした。町が標高1775mかそれ以上のところにあることを思い出すべきでした。今日のスキーと靴は、アトミックレースGSとノルディカでした。お値段は、65フランでグリンデルヴァルトと同じでした。少し急ぎ気味で貸しスキー屋から通りに出ましたが、この地方の伝統的な衣装を着た少年少女達の行列に出くわしました。貸しスキー屋の人は、春を呼ぶ行列だと言っていました。そのとおり。サンモリッツが他のスキー場よりも低い気温を記録するにも関わらず、今日は本当に暑くて多分7,8度以上はあると思われます。この行列が通り過ぎるのを辛抱強く待った後、完全にグーグルの地図を頼りに、再度、坂を駆け上がりました。しかしながら、私が見たのは、ケーブルカーがトンネルから出てくるところでした。ケーブルカーの写真を取っている人に、山麓駅への道順を聞く事にしました。彼は、私が道に迷ったところから遥か下にあるケーブルカーの駅まで、案内してくれました。2つしかない切符売り場に人々が殺到していて、混乱状態です。周りの人達の視線も気にせず、この群衆の中に割り込んでくるおばちゃんすら見かけるのでした。最初のケーブルカーに乗ったのが11時15分、2つ目のケーブルカーに乗り継ぎ、最後はピッツネイル展望台(標高3057m)に向かうゴンドラに乗ります。到着したのは、11時50分でした。バーゼルを5時33分発の都市間連絡列車で出発してから6時間以上、2週間前にグリンデルヴァルトのメンリッヘンに到着したときよりも30分も遅くなってしまいましたが、実際のところ、このサンモリッツ ー コルビグリア スキー場の頂上に立っているのですから、良しとしましょう。(写真2)

最初は、第16コースを滑ってWリフトへ向かいました。今回の貸しスキーが実に良く雪面を刻んで行くのが分かりましたが、思う様にテールに回転をかけるまでに結構時間がかかる気がしました。これが1時間半後に直面する事象の要因の1つであったと感じます。Wリフトに乗り、フオロラグリッシャと言うところに登り、第17コースをクルージングしました。両脇は、茶色の山々と岩肌が、白い雪に覆われていて、真っ青な空と対照的です。それから、Uリフトに乗り、第19コースを滑り降りて、Vリフトに乗り継ぎます。このリフトは、先ほどのフオロラグリッシャ ー ピッツシュタッタインの頂上まで戻ります。第18コースでは、右に進路を取ると、深雪を楽しめるであろうと思われる第30コース、最も難しいと表示されているコースへ辿り着くはずです。しかし、何度も第18コースから右に折れようとしても強風で滑らかにされた縞模様の砂丘状態の固い雪しか見当たりません。とうとう、第18コースの麓まで来てしまったので、再度挑戦することにしました。頂上から、2人のスキーヤーが右に折れて斜面を横切っているのが見てたので、彼らに着いて行く事にしました。途中、幾つか写真を撮ったりしていたので、彼らを見失い、1人で斜面を横切ることになりました(写真4)。最後はスキーの滑走跡も見当たらなくなりました。それで、この砂丘状態の雪面を注意深く滑り降りることにしました(写真5)。ついに、100メートル程度前方に彼らを発見。と同時に第30コースへ戻る近道にも気が付きました。地図(上では、第30と第17コースの真ん中にある山の岩肌の右側辺りに立っていたのだと思います。この近道は、両脇を岩肌で挟まれたかなり狭い回廊から始まりますが、3,4回ターンをすれば、大斜面にでます。多分、秀さん、加藤さん、信子さんとクリスタルマウンテンで試したのと同じ感じです。斜度は、結構きついですが、今まで恐怖を感じる程の斜面ではありませんでした。










photo 1: Lake Walen

photo 2: Piz Nair (elv. 10030ft, 3057m)

photo 3: Traversing right from course 18

photo 4: Solid stripe-patterned dune-like snow

photo 5: 1 minute before my injury

photo 6: Mr. Martin Scherer

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grindelwald Ski Report

English first/日本語は英語の後

I checked the weather forecast day after day, and realized that February 15h, Sunday would be sunny after the week-long rainy, snowy, and stormy weather. Therefore, I decided to go skiing. My next destination was Grindelwald. I rode a 6:01am Inter-City train from Basel via Bern to Interlaken Ost, (East). After arriving at Interlaken Ost at 7:57am, I transfered to the 8:05am mountain tram (named BOB). At Zweilütschinen (two stops away from Interlaken Ost), the train separated into two: one for Grindelwald and the other for Lauterbrunnen, from both of which one can however reach Jungraujoch. So, you can enjoy either a clockwise or counter-clockwise trip from Zweilütschinen through Grindelwalt, Jungfraujoch, and Lauterbrunnen back to Zweilütschinen.

The Jungfrau region has three ski areas from east to west: (1) Grindelwald - First, (2) Kleine Scheidegg - Männlichen, and (3)Mürren - Schilthorn. The second one, (i.e., Kleine Scheidegg - Männlichen) seems the biggest, and that's why I decided to ski there. However, The first gondola leading to this ski area does not actually starts from Grindelwald. As soon as I arrived at Gridelwald at 8:39am, I had to transfer to another mountain tram (called WAB) departing at 8:47am for Grindelwald Grund. But, the trick of this Snow'N'Rail pass is to exclude this short distance between Grindelwald and Grindelwald Grund. Furthermore, the pass requests a customer to obtain a lift ticket with the attached voucher here at the Gridnelwald station! Now, Murphy's law works as usual to such a short transfer time, for which there were a bunch of passengers including me who had to wait in front of two ticket counters. Needless to say, I had to wait for 30 more minutes to catch up the next tram (photo 1).

I arrived at Grund at 9:25am and rushed into the Intersport ski rental shop. From my previous lessons, I reserved a premium ski set. :-) Today's boots were Head. I became a little happy, because Head and Nordica boots tend to fit to my typical Japanese flat feet. (At Engelberg, I put on Salomon boots that were narrow enough to keep pressing the both sides of my feet.) However, despite their US size 8, I felt these Head boots were a bit too large, and asked a staff to get a one-size smaller pair, which were too tight and old Technica with some humidity. So, I ended up with the Head boots. It seems like they didn't classify boots in premium, economy, and even budget while the website did so with a different price. The skis they rated as premium were Salomon 3V race: (I'll tell you about how they were later in this blog.) Anyway, this rental shop charged me of premium skies and non-classified boots without any insurance, which was 65SFr in total. Hey, this was exactly the same amount as I paid two weeks ago at Engelberg for the economy skis, (i.e., Salomon Aeromax) and the insurance!

Anyway, when I got ready for skiing, it was already 9:50am. Then, Murphy's law worked again. I saw too many skiers slowly but eagerly moving toward only one small entrance of the gondola station like stagnant water almost clogged in a drain. It was just a chaos. No station staff arranged smooth gondola riding. In fact, I saw no staff helping skiers ride a lift all day long. This means every single lift-riding zone was just chaos unlike ski areas in US and Canada. It really appeared strange to me here in Switzerland where everything else is carried out under rules. I spent 1 hour before getting on this Europe-longest, 70s'-made, 4-people-riding, and tiny gondola which even took me 30 minutes to reach Männlichen, the first top of the mountains. There, the first thing I had to do was to insert my daily-use thin gloves into the boots' toes to adjust their fitness. It was 11:30am. More than 6 hours since I left my guest house.

Okay, I should talk about skiing and mountains. Visit the following website and click the map:

Slopes near by Männlichen (elv. 7317ft or 2230m, photo 2) were all groomed, packed powder, gradual, and thus very good for beginners. As a matter of fact, there were several groups in lesson. From there I saw Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau (photo 3), but their foot view was slightly blocked by two smaller mountains such as Tschuggen and Lauberhorn just standing in front of me. Behind these two is Kleine Scheidegg where I could enjoy a perfect view of the entire mountains. So, I had to hurry up. I skied down on course #4 to the Läger chairs. Salomon 3V ran fast, worked very stable, and carved the slope well. So, I clearly felt the difference between economy and premium skies. :-) From Läger, I skied on course #8 to the Gummi chairs. Gummi's right-side slope #16 had numerous ski tracks but still kept untracked spaces with deep fresh snow. Its sun-shining surface was really moving my mind if I should spend a little time to try it or save my time to Kleine Scheidegg. But, my wish to watch Eiger's north wll closer beat out my hesitation, and so I skied on #12 and rode Arven.

It was 12:30pm when arriving at Kleine Scheidegg where big mountain huts or actually hotels stood just next to the tram station. Right, if I hadn't depend on a Snow'N'Rail pass and had rent skis at Basel, I wouldn't have had to spend 90 minutes for riding the first gondola at Grund. The 8:47am mountain tram would've taken me from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg by 9:20am, so that I could've saved 3+ hours. But no use to cry on spilt milk, because I was actually watching this astonishing view of these three mountains (photo 4). From here, I rode Lauberhorn to the place named Start Bar where I looked down the crowd of Kleine Scheidegg, while looking up Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The restaurant here was also packed with many skiers and the picnic area was full, too. No wonder, because it was 12:45pm on Sunday. So I kept skiing on #44 to the Fallboden chairs.

Again, many skiers were pouring into this double-seat lift. Despite that, I saw several chars occupied with just a single. This was because no staff controlled the waiting line and Swiss skiers still want to keep their privacy. This can't happen in Japan and of course in US. I recalled that, when a friend of my ski group inevitably used a chair of High Campbell at Crystal Mountain, WA without anyone else last year, the crowd repeated shouting "single! single!". But, it appears to me that skiers at Grindelwald must have a sort of contradictory feeling in that they want to get on a chair as soon as possible by a little aggressively approaching to the loading zone while wishing not to share a chair with strangers. Now, this gave me a good idea of where to have lunch. Yes, on a lift char. As I guessed, no one joined me for sharing a chair. Of course, I didn't hear yells of "single!". I took out from my daypack sandwiches and a water bottle (which I bought at Basel by 4.30SFr), and had lunch as enjoying a closer view of Eiger and Jungfrau on my right side from the lift chair for the next several minutes. But, I didn't imagine myself at the age of 45 just into hardcore skiing without any rests at a hut or a restaurant.

From Fallboden, I skied down on #25 to Salzegg. There was a sign saying "good skiers only" in multiple languages including Japanese (photo 5). Salzegg was a T-bar lift which was as steep as the very last section of the Horstman Glacier's T bar at Blackcomb but a way longer than that. This T-bar ride shows skiers a really close view of Eiger's north wall and some small holes below the middle, (which are probably sky lights or windows of Eiger's tunnel tram station). But don't be amazed too much with the view, you may lose your balance due to a variety of slopes.

Now, I stood at Eigergletscher (elv: 7612ft, 2320m) which is the highest point accessible by lifts. If you want to go up higher to Jungfraujoch, you must take a tram but of course can't ski down on glaciers from there (photo 6). Two courses #27 and #32 can take me back to the base of Fallboden, the lift on which I had lunch. Course #32 was smooth but a bit icy. From the middle, it gave a couple of branches to deep fresh snow. I chose one but it was short and already crashed by many ski tracks. Course #27 was more interesting. Although I saw a left-arrow sign and several poles behind it, probably meaning that this is the course boundary, I didn't see any ropes or any written signs clearly saying "boundary". Therefore, without any guilty feelings I skied straight down toward the Fallboden lift. The slope still left some non-tracked space even around 2:30pm. While the slope was not so steep or didn't have so much snow as the last year's Campbell or Silver Basin at Crystal, WA, it was an enjoyable experience to ski in powder snow in the background of Eiger and Mönch (photo 7).

It was 3pm when I was back to Start Bar by riding Wixi. Now I wondered which option I should take, option 1 to Wengen, the other side of the mountain or option 2 back to Grindelwald through Männlichen. If I had taken option 1, it could have allowed me to ski through the entire Männlichen - Kleine Scheidegg area. But I came up with one concern about what if the gondola from Wengen back to Männlichen were too croweded so that I couldn't come back to Grindelwalt Grund by 6:30pm when the rental shop would close. So, I took option 2: skied down on #42, took Lauberhorn again, follwed #41 and then #21, rode Honegg, and skied back to the top of Gummi leading to #16, the very attractive slope I saw in the morning. However, I realized that all slopes on Gridelwald's side are facing east. This means that they were all shaded around 3:45pm. I tried #16 anyway. No one was there. The snow on the slope was completely crashed and a bit solid (photo 8). Then, I skied down on #7. Following was #21 that would take me straight to Grindelwald Grund). However, since I spent 90.80SFr for this Snow'N'Rail pass, 65SFr for the rental ski set, 7.44SFr for a round-trip ticket between Grindelwalt and Grund, and 4.30SFr for lunch, (and thus 167.54SFr all in total), I still had a feeling to ride as many lifts as possible and ski on as many slopes as possible. So, instead of going down on #21, I rode Tschuggen, skied on #6, took Läger, followed #3, and rode the Männlichen quad lift at 4:28pm, just two minutes before its closing time.

After making a pit stop at Männlichen, it was several minutes before 5pm. I was finally satisfied with riding all lifts and skiing down on all major courses except Wengen's side, (i.e., the west side of this ski resort). I skied down to Grund, returned the rental skis, and jumped on the 5:38pm WAB tram back to Grindelwald. I then took a chance of buying postcards and a budge for souvenir during this 7-miniute transfer time for the 5:49pm BOB train heading to Interlaken Ost. Of course, Murphy's law worked again, and the train left just about 30 feet ahead of me. So, I had to wait for 30 minutes again. The very last Murphy's law on that day worked to the Inter-City train I rode. The train delayed almost 30 minutes at Olten, just one stop before reaching Basel. So, the time when I came back to the guest house was about 9:30pm, one hour later than I planned on.

Now, let me conclude this long story with some bottom lines: (1) the Jungfrau region including these three ski areas is probably much larger than Whistler/Blackcomb; (2) you can ski anywhere you like, since there are almost no boundaries; (3) children and beginners can also ride any lifts except the Salzegg T bar and ski down as choosing easiest routes; (4) use trams as much as possible, because they are much more powerful mass transportations than gondolas and lifts; (5) try to start from Wengen via Lauterbrunnen, (i.e., the west side) so that you might be able to avoid crowd at Grindelwald and furthermore enjoy the east side of this ski resort in the morning as well as the west side in the afternoon as coming back to Wengen; (6) go straight up to the Eigergletscher station via Kleine Scheidegg using trams if you wish to experience deep fresh snow on courses #27 and #32; (7) rent premium skies but don't expect the quality of rental boots, which means you should bring your own boots if possible; and (8) try on-lift lunch so as to save your money and time if you don't care about enjoying the atmosphere of this world-class ski resort. :-)

Photos and a video are found the bottom of this blog. For more pictures, visit:

来る日も来る日も天気予報を調べたした結果、2月15日、日曜日は、1週間もの雨、雪、暴風と言った悪い天気の後のつかの間の晴天になると言う事が分かりました。よって、スキーに行く事にしました。今度の行き先は、グリンデルヴァルトです。朝6:01 バーゼル発、ベルン経由、インターラーケン東行きの都市間連絡列車に乗り、7:57に到着するや否や、8:05発のBOBと呼ばれる登山列車に乗り換えます。2つ目の駅のツバイルシネンで、列車はグリンデルヴァルト行きとラオターブルネン行きに分かれますが、その行き着く先は、(途中で別の登山列車に乗り換えますが)、両方ともユングフラウヨッホ展望台です。ですから、グリンデルヴァルト、ユングフラウヨッホ、ラオターブルネン、そして、ツバイルシネンへ戻ると言う時計回り、または、反時計回りの周回旅行を楽しむ事が出来ます。

ユングフラウ地域は、3つのスキー場から成っていて、東から西へ列挙すると、(1)グリンデルヴァルト ー フィルスト、(2)クライネ シャイデック ー メンリッヘン、(3)ミューレン ー シルトホーンになります。2番目のスキー場、(すなわち、クライネ シャイデック ー メンリッヘン)が最も大きい様なので、そこへスキーに行く事にしました。が、しかし、このスキー場につながる最初のゴンドラはグリンデルヴァルトから発車しません。8時39分にグリンデルヴァルトに到着後、8時47分発の(WABと呼ばれる)別の登山電車に乗り代えて、グリンデルヴァルト グルンドへ向かう必要があるのです。ここで、このスノー&レール切符の罠が待っていたのでした。このグリンデルヴァルトとグルンドの短い区間は、私の切符で乗れないのです。しかも、切符についている1日リフト券の引換券は、ここグリンデルヴァルト駅で交換せよって書いてあるのです。さあ、いつものように、マーフィーの法則(希望とは逆の事が起きる法則)がこの短い乗り換え時間に起きる訳です。つまり、2つしかない切符販売窓口に沢山の乗客が殺到しました。私もです。言うまでもなく、次の列車まで30分待つ事を余儀なくされました。(写真1)

グルンドに9時25分に着き、インタースポートスキーレンタルショップへ駆け込みます。以前の経験から、プレミアムスキー1式を予約しておきました。:-) 今日のスキー靴はヘッドでした。ヘッドとノルディカは私のような典型的日本人の扁平足に合うようなので、ちょっと嬉しい気持ちでした。(エンゲルバーグでは、サロモンを履きましたが、足の両脇がずっと締め付けられました。)しかしながら、米国のサイズ8(26cm)にもかかわらず、ヘッドのスキー靴はちょっと大きかったので、店員に一回り小さいのをお願いした所、今度はちょっぴり湿っぽくて、古い、かなりきつめのテクニカを持って来ました。結局、ヘッドにしましたが、どうも、この店はブーツをプレミアム、エコノミー、バジェットと言ったクラス分けをしていないようです。インターネットではそう宣伝していたんですけどね。この店がプレミアムとして扱っているスキーはと言うと、サロモン3Vレース(です。後でこのスキーがどうだったかお話します。とにかく、このお店は、プレミアムスキーと特にクラス分けされていない靴を保険無しで65フランで貸してくれました。あれ、この値段は2週間前にエンゲルバーグでエコノミースキー(サロモン アエロマックス)、靴、それに保険を含めて支払った金額と同じじゃないですかってね。



メンリッヘン(標高2230メートル、写真2)付近のコースは全て圧雪された固めの雪から成るなだらかな斜面で、初心者にはとても良いコースです。実際のところ、幾つかのグループが講習中でした。ここから、アイガー、メンヒ、ユングフラウの三山(写真3)が見えますが、麓の方が手前のシュッゲンとラオバーホーンという2つの山で隠れてしまいます。これら2山の背後にクライネ シャイデックがあり、そこで全体の山々が見えるものと思われます。そうです、急がないと。レガーリフトへ続く第4コースを滑り降ります。サロモン3Vのスキーは快速に滑り、安定していて、斜面をよく切る感じがしました。、そう、プレミアムとエコノミースキーの差がはっきり分かりましたよ。:-) レガーから、第8コースを降りてグミリフトに行きます。グミの右斜面、第16コースは、既にシュプールが一杯走っていましたが、それでもまだ滑走跡の無い深雪がキラキラと太陽に輝いています。ここでちょっと時間を潰そうか、それとも時間が勿体ないからクライネ シャイデックへ直行しようか迷いましたが、とにかく、近くでアイガーの北壁を見るとという意思が強く働いて、第12コースを滑り降り、アーベンリフトに乗りました。

クライネ シャイデックに到着したのは昼過ぎの12時30分、登山電車の駅の横に立派な山小屋と言うかホテルが経っています。そうです。もし、スノー&レール切符を使わずに、しかも、バーゼルでスキーを借りていれば、グルンドから最初のゴンドラに乗るのに、90分も費やさなくて良かったのです。グリンデルヴァルト8時47分発の登山電車にのれば、クライネ シャイテックには9時20分までに着いていて、3時間強も節約出来たはずでした。覆水盆に返らずな訳ですが、息を飲む様な山々の景色を目の当たりにしたのですから、良しとしましょう。(写真4)ここからラオバーホーンというリフトに乗って、スタートバーと呼ばれる場所に行きます。すると、眼下にクライネ シャイデックの賑わいが、頭上にアイガー、メンヒ、ユングフラウを見上げることができます。ここでもレストランはスキー客で一杯で、ピクニックエリアも座るところがありません。日曜の午後12時45分なので仕方ありません。それで、第44コースを使ってファルボーデンリフトへ向かいました。



さあ、標高2320メートルのアイガー氷河駅に到着しました。ここが、リフトに乗り継いで来れる最高地点です。もし、これより先ユングフラウヨッホまで登りたければ、登山電車に乗って行くしかありませんが、もちろん頂上から氷河を滑り降りることは不可能です(写真6)。第27コースと第32コースが昼飯を食ったファルボーデンリフトへ戻るコースです。第32コースは滑らかでしたが、ちょっとアイスバーン気味で、中間から深雪へそれる脇道が2、3あります。その1つを選んで滑りましたが、短くてしかも既に相当数の滑走跡で雪が砕け散っていました。第27コースはもう少し面白いコースでした。左矢印の看板とその後ろに幾つもの杭が打ってあり、多分、ここがコースの端っこだよって諭しているものと思われますが、ロープも「コース外」と書かれた看板も見当たりません。それで、何の罪悪感も無く、ファルボーデンリフトに向かう坂を滑り降りました。斜面はもう午後2時30分になっているにも関わらず、滑走跡が無い所が残っています。斜面自体はワシントン州クリスタルマウンテンスキー場のキャンプベルやシルバーベースン コースほど急でもなく、雪も深くは無かったですが、アイガーやメンヒを背に柔らかい雪をかき分けスキーをするのは爽快でした(写真7)。

ヴィッヒ リフトに乗ってスタートバーと言う地点に戻ったのは3時頃でした。ここで、このスキー場の西側にあるヴェンゲンに向かうか、それともメンリッヘンに戻ってからグリンデルヴァルトに返るかの選択に迫られました。ヴェンゲンに向かえばこのメンリッヘン ー クライネシャイデックのスキー場全体を滑った事になります。しかし、もし、ヴェンゲンからメンリッヘンに戻るゴンドラが混雑して、6時30分までにグリンデルヴァルトグルンドに辿り着かないと、貸しスキー屋さんは閉まってしまいます。それで、メンリッヘンに戻るコースを選択しました。第42コースを降り、再びラオバーホーンリフトに乗って、第41、第21コースを滑り、ホネックに乗って、グミリフトの頂上まで滑り降りました。今朝見た結構面白そうな第16コースに辿り着いた訳です。しかし、グリンデルヴァルト側のコースは全て東向きだということに気が付きました。つまり、午後3時45分の時点で、これらのコースは皆日陰になってしまっていました。とにかく、第16コースを滑ってみる事にしました。誰もいません。斜面の雪も完全に砕け散って、少し固くなっています(写真8)。それから、第7コースを降ります。それに続くのは第21コースで、これはグリンデルヴァルトグルンドまで一直線に降りれるコースです。しかしながらです。このスノー&レール切符に90.80フラン、貸しスキーに65フラン、グリンデルヴァルトとグルンド間の往復切符に7.44フラン、昼飯に4.30フラン、(総計167.54フラン、13400円)を使ったからには、できる限りリフトに乗り、斜面を滑って元を取らなければなりません。それで、第21コースを使わずに、シュッゲンTバーリフトに乗り、第7コースを使い、レガーに乗り継いで、更に第3コースを下って、4時28分、リフト運行終了時間2分前にメンリッヘン4人乗りリフトに滑り込みました。




Photo 1: Transferring at Grindelwald

Photo 2: Arriving at Männlichen by gondola

Photo 3: A view from Männlichen

Photo 4: Kliene Scheidegg in the background of Eiger and Mönch

Photo 5: A warning sign at the Salzegg T-bar lift

Photo 6: The glacier view from Eigergletscher (elv: 7612ft, 2320m)

Photo 7: My ski track as if it flowed from Mönch

Photo 8: Course #16 shaded at 3:45pm

Video: an entire view from Kleine Scheidegg

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mt. Titlis Ski Report

English first / 日本語は英語の後

After spending almost a month here at Basel, now this time finally came. I got information on near-by ski areas, purchased a one-year half-price travel card from SBB (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen in German or Swiss Federal Railways in English), and bought a snow-N-rail discount package including a round-trip ticket to Engelberg, a day lift ticket at Mt. Titlis, and a 18% ski-rental discount at Inter Ski Rental.

Engelberg, (i.e., Angel's Town) is the base for getting access to Mt. Titlis and is located 85 miles, (= 136 km) southeast from Basel, which, if I think about going skiing from Seattle, is a way farther than Snoqualmie, yet a bit father than Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain, but much closer than Mt. Baker, (probably even before Bellingham.) Comparing its distance with ski areas close by Tokyo, Engelberg is much closer than any ski areas in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures but probably in the same distance to Karuizawa. Unlike all ski areas in Washington State, Engelberg is accessible by train. An inter-city express departs every hour from Basel. Of course, I got on the very first train at 6:03am, transfered to a mountain railway at Luzern, and arrived at Engelberg at 8:12am.

Amazing was this mountain railway. Waking up at 4:30am, I dozed off in the train, but suddenly felt the train now running up a super-steep slope. While automobiles were driving up on a zigzag road, the train went up straight like a cable car (watch the attached video clip). Again if I compare it with my experience, the gradient is much larger than Hakone Mountain Railway in Japan. I think Kent, my son would really enjoy riding this train when he comes to Switzerland in March.

The Mt. Titlis cable car station is just only a 3-minute "free" bus ride from Engelberg (see photo 1 below), where I rent a ski gear. (To be honest, I mistakenly stopped by a different Inter-Ski rental shop near by the Engelberg station that leases even ski wears and of course has restrooms (probably used for changing cloths). However, this cable car station has nowhere to change cloths except a tiny restroom fully packed with skiers and tourists. That was the reason why I saw many skiers already wore a ski wear and even ski boots in the train. On the other hand, a lot of 2-sfr (= $2) lockers were available to use. Despite that everything is expensive in Switzerland, it is quite reasonable to use a spacious locker at $2 that can even store a pair of skis.

To reach the top of Mt. Titlis (with elevation 10000 ft = 3020m), skiers need to ride the cable car first and thereafter transfer to the 1st, 2nd, and even 3rd gondola (photo 2). Although this series of rides would give a kind of sensational experience to tourists, (and of course to my son if he has a chance of coming here), upon every transfer, I had to wait on a long line for the next gondola, (like the Hakone cable car and rope way in Japan), which took about one hour in total to get to the top.

Finally, I arrived there at 10:40am, (after spending 5+ hours from the university guest house!) The view was just like the heaven as if angels were landing soon. The beautiful and gigantic rocks color-striped in horizon with snow's white and rocks' gray slightly reminded me of the view I saw at Alta in Utah, it was stunningly overwhelming and beautiful as if they were islands floating on the sea of white clouds. Check photos 3 ~ 7.

Now, it's time to ski down. It was my first skiing in this season which was 2+ months later than usual, (i.e. mid November). I saved my money by rending economy skis and boots at 60 sfr (= $60) rather than a premium set at $80. Okay, my excuse is enough. Yes, you can imagine. To accelerate my speed, I just skied straight down, and quickly noticed that skis were bouncing, shaking, and vibrating, which was because I forgot to put my center of mass on the right position of the skis? Or was it because of these cheap and lightweight skis? To be worse, the left ski's tip caught snow too much while its tail was rotating quickly during my first right turn, and I almost fell down at the beginning of my first skiing in Switzerland! Anyway, I recovered my body position quickly and fortunately didn't fall down at all during the day. :-) The actual tip was that, after my first run down to the mid station at 2428m, I switched the left and right ski, which made me much comfortable. Or I got used to the skis.

The snow condition was so-called packed powder or a bit icy. Almost all slopes were non-gloomed runs. Still 90% were smooth surfaces, while the rest were bumpy slopes. Those bumpy slopes were icy but not so steep. All in all I didn't see quite steep slopes on piste. All slopes on piste were guarded by ropes and I saw many signs saying "stay in course, many crevices ahead", which scared me of crossing the rope to off-piste slopes that however seemed easy to ski down because of numerous traces on them. In fact, I constantly saw several skiers skiing down these slopes. Only one concern was that off-piste courses from the top of Mt. Titlis at 3028m to the mid gondola station at 1800m named Starterland seemed like leading to a big plateau on their way, (i.e, Steinberg in the map: where skiers would have to detour to either side of it, or make a fatal jump from the edge of the plateau. Repeatedly saying, the slopes were not so steep like this ( So, if I skied with my B3 and together with Shu-san and Kato-san, my ski school colleagues, I would probably follow their devil's whisper: why not? (And, I would reglet about my decision on my way. :-))

Since I spent 83.40sfr for a Snow'N'Rail package, $65sfr for this rental ski gear, 19.5sfr for lunch, and even .5sfr for using a restroom at the Engelberg station, all of that brought the total to 168.4sfr, (excluding a 150sfr half-price travel card), I really wanted to try all slopes, and within 5 hours I did so except #7 and #10, which were worthlessly easy. The course #1 from Gletscherlift to Stand (a yellow line in the map) was the most difficult and bumpiest course that was however not so difficult as Snoqualmie Alpental's International but probably the same level as the upper slope beside its quad chairs. See photo 8. Then, how about skiers' skill at Mt. Titlis? Well, I believe that best skiers must have all gone for off-piste skiing.

The quality of 19.50sfr lunch was probably the same as Timber Wolf at Snoqualmie West . Noodles, two pieces of warm spam meat, and steamed baby cabbages which must have been taken out from frozen packages. It seems like paying 1000 yen, ($11) for curry and rice at the Naeba ski resort in Japan, which I think may be taken out from instant packages. To be worse, they don't accept a credit card if a customer don't spend more than 20sfr, for which purpose there were a bunch of drinks just before the cashiers, each actually with 5sfr. Since most people don't want to carry cash with them, they end up with picking up one of them, which I think is a way of the restaurant business.

In summary, the view was the most impressive among all ski resorts I visited; there was not so much snow as last year's Crystal Mountain and of course as Mt. Baker; the snow condition on piste was slightly icy like Alpental's Upper International; the scale of Mt. Titlis is definitely larger than all Washington State ski areas but smaller than Whistler BC, maybe the same as Snowbird UT; you should rend premium ski gear (if you need) by bringing your own lunch instead of buying a $19.5 lunch set; and there were much less annoying snowboarders than Washington State!

Finally, although all seats of the train returning to Luzern were taken by skiers, a half of them got off on the way to Luzern, which means that local skiers commute using this lovely mountain railway. When I arrived back at the university guest house, it was 8:20pm.

Please visit:














Photo 1: Mt. Titlis Cable Car Station

Photo 2: Transferring to a gondola

Photo 3: Up beyond the sea of clouds

Photo 4: Now reaching to the top

Photo 5: Looking north from the top

Photo 6: Looking south from the top

Photo 7: Rocks floating on the sea of clouds

Photo 8: The most difficult slope?

Video 1: In the mountain railway train