Wow. What a trip. My first trip to Europe was amazing.
The group was made up of 24 people. Five of those 24 were leaders (4 second year Kellogg students and one wife of one of the second years). Of the rest of us, 17 of us were first year students and two were the significant others of first year students. Some were strictly MBA students, some were JD-MBA, some MMM, etc. The group was also very diverse, which made for some amazing insights and discussions that would otherwise have been lost. I think it was about 1/2 male, 1/2 female and about 50/50 international students and US students, too. Perhaps amazingly, everyone was really nice, really cool, and we all got along.
Sunday, August 28
We spent the morning cleaning and working on a park in northern Chicago. After that, we met up and took a big-yellow school bus to O'Hare. (I've heard that you get to fall back in love with school buses while a Kellogg student.) The flight to Zurich was nonstop - thank goodness - and left around 5:30 pm. I was lucky enough to get stuck with a middle seat. When you're as tall as I am, this does not make for a comfortable flight.
Monday, August 29
The plane arrived in Switzerland at about 8:30 am. We took a combination of trains and buses to get from Zurich to Muren. Once in Muren, we hiked a short distance to our first hut. We had two rooms and there were about 15-20 mattresses in each room (on two levels) from which to choose. This hut had running water, a nice restaurant, friendly staff, and modern bathrooms. Also...SHOWERS! A great place to stay. We spent the night just hanging out and recuperating from the west-east plane flight.
Tuesday, August 30
Our first day on the trail. There were several first time backpackers in the group. (I considered myself a sort-of first timer. I've done a lot of hiking in the past, but never on this scale and never with so much weight on my back.) I don't know the total distance or rate of incline, but we spent most of the day moving higher. We had lunch at a hut along the way while all of the stragglers made it up the trail. The afternoon saw our first major obstacle, as we encountered a sheer hillside that took a toll on all of us. Once we made it over that pass, we still had several hours to make it to the hut for the evening. The hut itself was set on the side of a hill and had a great view of several glaciers. We arrived very late in the day (around 8 pm if I recall correctly). The hut had good food, outhouses, and no showers. Our sleeping arrangements were similar to the previous day. Very tiring day.
Wednesday, August 31
We hiked down from the hut and over the bottom part of a glacier. I had never touched a glacier before. This was pretty cool. The morning was not so difficult as we did a lot of down and then some up. However, I didn't eat anything for lunch. The lack of lunch, fatigue, and the unbelievably steep ascent in the afternoon really put the hurt on me. I stumbled and straggled to the top...but I made it. We were at our highest point at this hut (around 9000 feet). The view from the top was the best of the entire trip...or maybe I was just so tired that it seemed good. :) The people at this hut weren't so nice. At 10 pm, a lady came through with flashlights to see if we were all sleeping in the proper direction (we weren't). They did have modern bathrooms, but no showers.
Thursday, September 1
My favorite day in terms of effort as we went all downhill. One thing I learned on the trip: I'm really fast downhill, but really slow uphill. This hike was a bit shorter than the previous two days and we got to our destination (Kandersteg) relatively early in the afternoon. In Kandersteg, we stayed at a house with...SHOWERS! It also had modern bathrooms. The only bad news is that we had to cook for ourselves (the huts we had stayed at previously had fixed our meals for us).
Friday, September 2
I helped with breakfast. It only took about 3 hours to prepare. What can I say...I'm in b-school not culinary school. :) Most of us then took a chairlift up to a lake we had hiked around the previous day. We rented boats and paddled about a bit, but mainly just recuperated from the previous days of hiking. The perfect weather of the week was broken up by 10 minutes of sprinkles. I suppose I can't complain TOO much.
Saturday, September 3
We took a morning train from Kandersteg to Zurich. This was a direct train; much better than the train, train, bus, train, bus combo that we took on Monday. We spent the afternoon wandering around Zurich. The city has fabulous architecture, great cathedrals, and some great shopping (or so I was told). I'm always amazed when I walk into a building that is older than the United States. In fact, one of the cathedrals was built in the 1100s, so it was old before the US was even an idea. In the evening, we had our final dinner as a group and then went out on the town. We stayed at a decent hotel (showers, modern bathrooms, AND Internet access!).
Sunday, September 4
Back to Evanston. I lucked out and got to sit in an aisle seat. However, I spent almost all of the flight watching movies and talking to help get myself re-acclimated to the central time zone.
Overall, it was a GREAT trip. One of the hardest things I have ever done, but the people made it worthwhile. I'm in awe of the caliber of people with whom I will be attending Kellogg and I sometimes wonder how I made the cut. I think this is going to be a great two years.
I'd like to say that I would write more about KAOS later, but since the next couple of weeks are going to be extraordinarily busy, I doubt I will get to it.