Armin Schelbert has been hiking up his favourite mountain, the Gross Mythen, several times a day for about 20 years now. He has climbed it more than 4,600 times in his life – more often than anyone else. Boring? Not for Armin Schelbert. He never fails to be fascinated by the mountain, nature and magnificent views at 1,898m. And the magical sunrise from the top of the peak, of course.
… is a retired site manager and a true mountain man, with a dark tan, snow-white hair and a well-groomed beard. Now aged 74, he grew up in Schindellegi not far from the Gross Mythen. Today, he lives at the foot of the peak during the week, so he can pursue his passion every day.
The Gross Mythen mountain lies in the heart of Switzerland, between Schwyz and Einsiedeln. Together with the Klein Mythen and Haggenspitz, it forms the Mythen massif.
As a teenager, he and his friends would occasionally cycle from Schindellegi to the Mythen region, where they then hiked up the various peaks. His love for the Gross Mythen, in particular, only developed over the years. A great part in this story was played by a colleague back in 1999, who was a chef in Einsiedeln and always hiked up the mountain during his afternoon break – and gave Armin a taste for climbing the peak. He has been hiking up the Gross Mythen several times a day ever since, and has counted his ascents.
Early in the morning, when the world is still shrouded in darkness, Armin makes his way up the Grosser Mythen with his head torch and hiking poles. The Mythen trail is just under 3km long and goes from the Holzegg up to the peak in 46 hairpin turns. There are 500m of ascent. Armin needs just 40 minutes for the climb, which takes a normal hiker more than twice as long. Armin and the Friends of the Mythen Association have numbered the turns, so that hikers can report their precise location in an emergency. Even numbers for left turns and odd for right turns.
Armin particularly likes hiking at such an early hour: he experiences the mountain and nature especially intensively as it slowly welcomes a new day. He often encounters chamois on his ascent. There are many to be found here, because hunting is prohibited on the Gross Mythen and animals are protected. When he stands atop the peak for the first time, he helps hut warden Frank with preparations. The darkness begins to lift, and other mountain climbers begin to arrive at the summit. Head torches are no longer needed, with the rising sun now brightening the skies.
The sun slowly begins to rise over the mountains of Eastern Switzerland, turning the sky orange and red in an impressive natural spectacle. “The sunrise is different each day, and if there is no fog it is just out of this world,” Armin says, brimming with delight. As the Gross Mythen is in the Pre-Alps and stands alone, it affords glorious views of the Alps, Lake Lucerne and nearby villages and towns. This view and the magical sunrise make getting up early and the great effort worth it – leaving nothing but profound happiness!
While the hikers enjoy the first rays of sunshine, Armin helps serve refreshments. He gets on well with the hut crew and they are a well-coordinated team. The summit restaurant is open daily from sunrise to sunset between May and October. «Or whenever the Swiss flag is raised» says Armin. The Gross Mythen is a popular hiking destination, so there is much to do on the mountain. The Friends of the Mythen Association always takes on these tasks and is responsible for maintaining the summit restaurant and the Mythen trail.
The perfect summit feeling includes a legendary Mythen nut or almond croissant. Each season, up to 12,000 of these are sold. In the past, Armin helped carry these popular pastries up, but there were noticeably fewer then. Today, big deliveries are flown in by helicopter, yet Armin still likes to take little things up or down the mountain. Such as mail from the hut crew and colourful postcards that visitors from all around the world posted to send from the summit.
Before Armin goes back down, he fetches the summit log and enters today’s climb. This is Armin’s 298th ascent of the season. He will climb up at least twice more today – the goal of 300 beckons! So far, he has clocked more than 2.2 million metres in altitude with his 4,600 ascents up the Mythen – and more is yet to come because he simply loves this mountain!