I associate Mario-kart with my childhood. Issy was the evil turtle (Bowser), I was the dinosaur that made weird noises (Yoshi) and Pinny was the princess (peach). I’d seen videos of Grindelwald First and I knew it was something I really wanted to do, mountain karting from nearly 2,000m with a snowy mountain backdrop seemed almost too good to be true.
We entered Switzerland from near Argentiere in France. Switzerland is without a doubt, the most expensive country we’d travel through on our van trip. Diesel went from €1.00 (in Spain) to €1.70. A baguette tripled in price from €0.90 to €2.70 and a modest sandwich in a cafe would set us back at least €15 each.
Nevertheless, we bit the bullet and made a plan:
– Take in the scenic beauty of the Swiss Hills on a gorge hike
– Indulge in unlimited chocolate samples at Maison Callier
– Try some gorgeous gruyere and see it being made
– Ride a gondola and do some adrenaline stuff
I took some ideas from Intrepid’s ‘The Best of Switzerland‘ trip. After our chocolate and cheese indulgence that we excused for being quintessentially Swiss, we arrived in Grindelwald 3 days after crossing the border from France.
Using park4night, we sourced free parking at a large gravel car park near Hotel Gletscherschlucht, a 30 minute walk away from Grindelwald town centre. The next day, we purchased Adventure Package #2 for 86 CHF (approx £70.00pp) which included two adrenaline activities and unlimited rides on the cable car. We chose ‘First Glider’ and the mountain karting excitedly.
We ventured on First Glider which involved 4 participants, hanging down in the ‘superman’ position, beneath a giant eagle. We were pulled back on a steel cable at over 60kph, whilst hanging from a full body harness. Rolling green hills, patches of snow, hikers and a glacial river blurred beneath us as the wind whirred against our ears. It was a brand new sensation for me, I’d been down some incredible ziplines before, but not pulled up backwards on one. Even adrenaline activities are created with Swiss ingenuity.
We came to a gentle stop at the top. I noticed that Alex’s knuckles were paper white. Time stood still at the top of the zipline. It was within that moment that I wondered if we would be thrown forward, or if gravity would do the work. In the end, gravity did the work – we glided quickly yet gently back to base with the incredible view of the Swiss mountains flying beneath us. It was a brilliant and well recommended experience.
I was nervous but excited about mountain karting. There is something about driving and my lack of spatial awareness that makes me wonder if I’d ever be a competent driver. I have accidentally pulled friends into revolving glass doors, trodden on too many toes and been kicked off a quad-bike in Namibia for bad driving. Nevertheless, a 3-wheeled go-kart downhill with a low centre of gravity sounded exciting!
We filled out a health and safety disclaimer, were given a helmet and warned of a couple of no-gos: “Do not put your feet on the ground, this can break ankles. Do not use one brake only, you can tip the kart over. Do not drive too near each other, no one wants a multiple go-kart crash”.
The mountain kart started on flat gravel with a slow and steady descent (it was so slow at the start that I had to get off my kart and push it to get some momentum!). After crossing a wooden bridge, the real fun began.
The wheels immediately caught momentum as we drifted downhill pass the craggy white fingers of the Swiss Alps. The go-karts sped very quickly with a steep descent, we started to control our speed with the braking system on the go-karts which worked very well. We travelled from the cable car station (Schreckfeld, 1990m) down to Bort (1,530m) in approximately ten minutes with the brilliant and unique thrill of downhill karting! I’d describe the feeling as exhilarating without being too scary.
Upon arrival in Bort, we left the mountain karts back at the depot and ascended to the top of Grindelwald First at 2,168m. We spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the mountain scenery and enjoying a swiss sour cream pizza.
- We booked both activities with Grindelwald First for 86 CHF (approx £70.00pp) which included two activities and unlimited use of the cable car.
- There are 3 cable car stations First at 2,168m, Schreckfeld at 1,990m and Bort at 1,530m. Nearly all of the activities are on Schreckfeld, you can ascend up to First to do a cliff-top hike and Bort is where you return the mountain kart after your descent.
- The brakes worked very well on the mountain carts. On the day we went, all the riders were taking it easy and riding responsibly. Each kart takes just one rider and you are given a helmet.
- There are 4 activities available: Mountain carting, First Glider, First Flyer and a Trottibike. The ‘trottibike’ is a large scooter where you descend downhill standing. The First Flyer is an individual zip-line where you sit in a sling.
- Although the package seems fairly expensive, the ticket allows unlimited cable car rides and you could spend a whole day in the mountains with a lake hike, the adrenaline activities and the cliff top walk that has been recently installed.
- If you have any questions or would like any other tips, please feel free to comment here and I’ll be happy to help.