August 1, 2010

Day 1 ~ by Christopher Ngoi (Swiss National Day)

Today is Swiss National Day and the first day of our expedition!

After a filling breakfast, we started to equip ourselves for the trek ahead. Everyone was given a harness, sling, and carabineer as we would be doing some simple climbing activities later in the afternoon.

We started out along a trail from our base camp leading into the mountains. Soon the beauty of Switzerland emerged before our eyes. I was utterly captivated. Everything from fat lazy cows to dancing tadpoles, I felt that the experience was unlike any I had before. We went deep into the mountains and had a picnic at a small clearing. We then proceeded to do some climbing activities with some of the obstacles that were along the trail. It was a refreshing start and a good preparation for our future treks.



During our trip out into the wild, we managed to have some time to explore a preventive dam that was built around the region. This dam was constructed to mitigate the effects of the melting glaciers on the beautiful valley below. This dam was also a tool used by a famous Swiss artist to raise awareness for global warming. Using colorful poles to attract attention, he hopes to send a message out to those around the region to come together and prevent global warming.


Interestingly a side of the dam was filled with rocks for those who are interested in free lance rock climbing. I felt it was a really good use of space as well as a good addition to the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

As the day came to an end, everyone gathered around the campsite to perform the solemn ceremony for the Swiss National Day. Children were given lanterns and everyone walked together singing folk songs around the campsite. When night came, the great stack of wood along the lake was lit and everyone silently watched the fire burn. When I saw another great fire lighting up in the mountains, I wondered how bright Switzerland must be from the sky.

When the fire died down, the Swiss national anthem rose from the crowd- as if trying to keep the fire burning. It was an amazing sight and a perfect end to my first day of my expedition.

Posted by dario at 9:40 AM

August 2, 2010

Day 2 ~ by Wang Nuan [Debbie] (Segantini's Castle)

This was my second day in the campsite. During our breakfast, Dario explained the schedule for the whole day. The original plan was modified slightly because the weather was cloudy and seemed like it was going to rain. This was also because he wanted the kids to participate and enjoy the day fully.


We first went to see a great nature phenomenon - the "gletscher muehle". (Glacier Holes) These can be found in at least 6 spots around the mountain Marmitte glaciali del Maloja.


They are fluvioglacial landforms occurring as the result of blocks of ice calving from the front of a receding glacier and becoming partially to wholly buried by glacial outwash. Glacial outwash is generated when streams of meltwater flow away from the glacier and deposit sediment to form broad outwash plains called sandurs. When the ice blocks melt, kettle holes are left in the sandur. When the development of numerous kettle holes disrupt sandur surfaces , a jumbled array of ridges and mounds form, resembling kame and kettle topography. Kettle holes can also occur in ridge shaped deposits of loose rock fragments called till. Thanks to Stephan, who was a really good geography teacher that patiently explained to me the details of how these holes are formed, I became interested in this phenomenon.


We continued our trek and finally arrived at a castle of Giovanni Segantini. It is located at peak of the mountain, where one can view the beautiful landscape around the region on the roof. This castle is completely opened to the public, so everyone that passes can visit the castle freely. It is now an exhibition of the local natural environment. The first and second floor was filled with photos about animals and plants around Maloja and I feel that it's a perfect classroom especially for kids to get to know the different creatures around Maloja.

On the third floor, there are pictures depicting different stories on the discovery of the environment and measures for protection of Swiss environment. The story that affected me the most happened in the early 1960s.During that period, the locals of Maloja cut down the trees along the river to make money, resulting in the deterioration of the local environment. Floods came and destroyed the houses along the river, making them realize how important it was to protect the trees, which were the guardians for the local people from floods. From then, they replanted trees and laws were erected so that no one is allowed to cut these trees in the future, which contributes a beautiful Maloja. I think the same thing happens in China. We now gradually realized how serious it would be if we continue cutting down the forest. So we should take action, and the example of Maloja tells us that it is never too late to do that.


The exhibition on the fourth floor is an introduction of the designer and the history for the castle. Interestingly, he had a dream to take part in the first world expo in Paris showcasing his unique design of a construction which allows one to view the scenery from every direction. But he did not make it. I think if he knew that the Swiss pavilion in Shanghai Expo was very special and famous for the special chair lift, he would consider this dream realized. For tourists can sit on the chair lift along the specially designed route like the Alps to view the beautiful landscape of Switzerland.

After visiting the castle, we started to head back to camp. It was a short but fulfilling day, we luckily viewed both the natural and cultural beauty of Switzerland. I realized I love this charming country even more than I did before.

Posted by dario at 9:50 AM

August 3, 2010

Day 3 ~ by Tiffany (Soglio)



Waking up from my stormy first night here in Maloja with slightly wet tents and cold brisk morning winds, a hot coffee and filling breakfast was perfect. Us students, Stephan, Celine, Mercedes, Anne-Marie and Meera (a beautiful 9month old hound) began to prepare for our hike to Soglio. We walked to the Post Office and caught the bus at 10:44am to Lobbia. Situated in the valley, is a hydro-electric power plant which is an excellent solution of 'green energy' which uses the water stored in the mountains to produce electricity. We were able to receive a private tour from the chief of the plant, explaining the processes of the EWZ (Electricity Facility Zurich) in Switzerland.
Afterwards, we continued on with our hike to Soglio. The walk was very interesting as we passed by many examples of sustainable energy sources; such as solar panels and rainwater catchments.

The clean energy ideas which are used by the local Swiss people are innovative and practical. To be able to power electric-fences by using the power of the sun and keeping troughs full for animals using rainwater as well as natural streams flowing down from the mountains.
We crossed many beautiful waterfalls and passed by countless abandoned firewood houses. After an amazing picnic situated infront of an old farmhouse with a picturesque view of the Alps, we finally arrived in Soglio, taking 4.5 hours of continuous walking. Our hard work was definitely rewarded once we reached the stunning village. The olden-day looks of the stone roofs and closeness of the village buildings was nothing short of disappointing!
We enjoyed the awesome scenery with a cold drink before catching the bus back to our base camp for a late traditional Swiss dinner, then an early nights rest.

Posted by dario at 10:35 AM

August 4, 2010

Day 4 ~ Mohit Agarwal (Fornohut)

10.00 am- Started from the camping ground at Maloja.

8 people - Merceds, Anne Marie, Stephan,Chris, Gaopang, Debbie, Tiffany, Mohit (me)


10.45 am- Passed by Salecina. Installation of colourful poles on a dam by contemporary artist GOTIFRIED HONEGGAR could be seen from a distance.

12.15 pm- Reached Lake Cavloc by trek route "963". It was serene and beautiful. Stopped for lunch.


12.50 pm -Started again

1:30 pm - Into the Forno valley. Saw archeologists on the way. They had found remains of humans from the ice age 10,000 years ago. Mercedes and Tiffany go back to the restaurant at the lake.


2:15 pm -- Bridge to cross to the other side of the river Orlegna (Made by the melting Forno glacier).


The tongue of the glacier can be seen 200 metres away.AnneMarie, Debbie and Chris return

3:00 pm- Stephan, Mohit and Gaopan started ascending the mountain to the Forno Hut, after walking on the glacier.
The Forno glacier has actually two ice rivers meeting, and an interseting feature arises because of this- there is a long trail of moraines exactly in the centre of the glacier.
Also, there is distinct line along the valley, running some 40 metres above the glacier which shows how high the glacier was some 200 years back in the little ice age.


4.00 pm - Reach the FornoHut. Altitute- 2574m above sea level(700 m higher than base camp). Eat at the restaurant up in the mountain.

4.45 pm- Start descending.

5. 30pm- Found an old lady (Mrs. Lizbet Farley from Buckinghamshire) who had tripped over, and had a bleeding nose.

Her husband was unaware of her condition as he was a good 200 metres ahead, out of sight. [Important lesson: When in the mountains, never leave ur partner alone]. I summoned the husband(Mr. John Farley) while Stephan and Gaopang helped Lizbet. She was able to walk, so came back with the couple, carrying the lady's rucksack.

7:45 pm- Stopped to buy cheese at a small alpine cheese factory.
9.00 pm- Back to Maloja.

Posted by dario at 10:36 AM

August 5, 2010

Day5 ` Gao Pan (Pontresina laret market)

Day 5 (5th August/ 2010) - (Reported by- Gao Pan)
Team building, Report making and visiting typical Swiss market.
Due to the heavy rain, we had to change the plan today which was sailing.Instead we did team building and making report for the last several days.
After discussion, 3 teams were built up as: Team 1, Wang Nuan from China and Christopher Ngoi from Singapore;
Team 2, Jacqueliwe Hocking from Austrilia, Tiffany Kaesermann from Japan and Gao Pan from China;
Team 3, Mohit Agarwal from India and Sandrock Macarena from Chile.
Every person will take responsibility for one single day's report and each team will make a final presentation to summarize all the expedition.
10.00 - Team working, report making at restaurant in Maloja camping base. 20100805_Pontresina_Gao_04.JPG
After whole night's raining, the up part of mountains were covered with snow making the veiw more beautiful.

16.44 - left for Pontresina for the Swiss typical market

It took 55 minutes from Maloja Posta to Pontresina by bus, everywhere along the road are nice views, Lush forest, the mountain covered with snow and clear lake, which are always the precious gift from nuture. As human being, shouldn't we return something? 20100805_Pontresina_Gao_06.JPG

17.40 - Reached Pontresina Rando around which the fortnightly "Laret Market" is situated.
The town is not so big, no crowds of people, no shouting noise, it's so quiet, even though today is market day! 20100805_Pontresina_Gao_07.JPG

Among the 4 basic human being survival requests, living requires the most consumption of the energy and natural resource. So for the building, it's very important to be designed and built in sustainable way to protect the nuture. 20100805_Pontresina_Gao_08.JPG

Here's one simple example in Pontresina, not only the old type of houses, but the luxury modern hotels have windows with wood cover plates outside. It's not only for cool façade, the most important is the wood window cover can prevent the thermal energy transfering so easily, so the energy comsumption for air conditioning can be saved. Less consumption, more enjoying of the nutrue.*

18.45 - Enjoyed the concert in the tent
Wang Nuan, Zofia, Mohit and I enjoyed the band performance so much that we missed the 19:48 bus back to Maloja.

20.48 - Left Pontresina back to Maloja Posta
After 55 minutes bus, we had to walk in dark rain and wind evening another 30 minutes back to camping base. Was hoping the tent and sleeping bag is relatively dry, haha, you can not expect more in such weather.

Posted by dario at 3:49 PM

August 6, 2010

Day 6 ~ Marcarena (Sailing at Maloja)

Today we woke up at 8.30, or at least I did. As always Dario told us what we were going to do during the day. "Prepare yourself because we're going to sail". So, after the breakfast everyone went to finish their report and put some clothes for the activity. It was a very cloudy day and very windy too. Then,Mohit and I washed the dishes, cleaned a little the kitchen and picked up some papers that we found all over the place. We also helped Mercedes to take her tent down. A lot of people were leaving. Dario and Stephan went to pick up the boats. There were two groups, two boats, Dario and an instructor (they were leading). We sailed in the lake that was there in the camping in Maloja.
I was in the group of Dario with Jaqui, Tiffany and Gao. And Sophie, Debbie, Chris and Mohit went to the sailboat with the instructor. We had to kayak to the sailing boat in other little boat that was very unstable, that was very scaring. Fortunately we managed to get to the sailing boat without falling into the water. Over the boat, Dario told us what to do, Jaqui was in the back with her Camera, then Dario was controlling the boat and Tiffany, Gao and me were like in the front in charge of the ropes that controlled the sail and impulse the boat.
The first time we didn't get Dario's instructions and we got stuck so we had to row to be able to move with the wind. After that, we start sailing for real. It was very tricky because the wind was changing all the time and very fast. Also, we had to be fast inside the boat. It was really teamwork. I cannot imagine sailing without a good team, I mean, that is very important if you want to enjoy the day and the things to work.
It wasn't difficult to learn, because we just had to pull the ropes but there were two times, that we almost flipped. The first one happened fast. In only seconds we were in a vertical position, the water was getting into the boat Tiffany was in the border and thanks that she climbed up she didn't fall. Dario managed to control the boat and everything went back to normal. The second one, was because of the strong wind, and we were like doing a turn and then we were again vertical and Tiffany got her sleave into the water before controlling the boat. After an hour we ate lunch while Dario was still sailing with the kids. The other part of the day was very relaxed.
I was thinking, what kind of teaching I can extract from this experience? And my conclusion was, if you are working with some other persons for the same objective is very important to work together to get better and faster to the goal. I also invented a phrase from this sailing day, that I like a lot to remember, and is:"Be alert because you never know when the wind will change".

Posted by dario at 9:20 PM

August 7, 2010

Day 7 ~ Jacqui (Morteratsch Glacier)


Today was, in one word; incredible!!!!

After an early morning of preparing breakfast, we took a short bus ride through to the train station. Here we enjoyed the scenery as we travelled to our second destination; Pontresina.

On the way, Dario pointed out these strange Barriers we could see on the top of the mountains as we drove past. They are designed to stop the avalanches from destroying the towns and villages below; caused by the melting permafrost. The Swiss Government has invested Billions of dollars for this solution, and the barriers can be seen all over the country!

Once we arrived, we crammed into a little cable car, along with plenty of tourists, including a large japanese tour group! The cable car ride was interesting, as we swung from side to side with thrilled cheers from the crowd! Andri and Salina got the best view sitting on the lap of the cable car driver!

When we arrived at the top- the impact of climate change was already relevant. From the cable car station on the top of the mountain at "Diavolezza" we could see these strange squares of snow. We were later told by Dario that these were large sheets of plastic; which were put over to cover the snow before summer would hit, to try to prevent the snow from melting quite as fast. Earlier, this region used to be a popular skiing destination; even in Summer; but due to Global Warming; there is not enough snow to support an industry of keen skiers!


We walked across to the other side, and took a grouped photo in front of the Bernina Mountain Range. The snow stunned everyone, and we were quite glad that it had snowed the night before!!

We learned that these were the mountains where the TOPtoTOP tradition and foundation began, and we could all tell that they meant a lot to the Swiss Members of the TOPtoTOP foundation! Specifically "Piz Palü"; one of the mountain peaks we could see clearly in the distance.

We began the decent into the glacier; what a climb! Chris was finding it difficult to keep his feet in the wet snow; and everyone had their turn at falling over into the ice!! Except the children - who all fearlessly scattered down the mountain side!!!

Once we reached the bottom; we took our first steps onto the Glacier! Dario informed us all about the dangers of the "crevasse" and how these are created. We learned that the crevasse shape changes depending where they are situated; like a "V" most of the time (running horizontally in the middle of the glacier), and an "A" shape if they are located where two glacier bodies merge.

After climbing over the first section of glacier; we started hiking up to a great viewpoint to have a break! Debbie was especially impressed by the view, and admitted that it was probably the most amazing place she had ever stopped for lunch!!!

Although is was beautiful on the top of the mountains; it was also daunting. The bold lines where the Glacier once was; seemed prevalent everywhere around us. We could see how much the glacier had decreased in size, even in a short space of only 50 or so years, and we could also see where the glacier had once expanded too through the valley. We could see smaller glaciers, that were once connected to the bigger flow; that no longer supplied the valley with water. All of this was very inspiring to continue our work for the environment; because it was so clear from this view that the environment around us was being effected drastically and on a scale that we couldn't imagine until we had witnessed it for ourselves.


But aside from the formidable impact the effects of Climate Change had on us; we couldn't help but to enjoy the trip through the valley! It was breathtaking!

There was a big surprise on our decent further down the glacier, when we made a stop by the river. To our astonishment; little Salina and Andri started to undress; and Dario suggested we go for a swim!!!! (Before I knew it; even I was splashing about in the FREEZING water!) It was utterly a great experience!

After our swim, we walked on the ice down towards the Morteratsch station. Melting water was everywhere, and the sound of small waterfalls and falling rocks echoed in the valley and below our feet!

When we reached the valley floor, at the end of the glacier, we started the flat walk back to the train station. There were intervals of several hundred meters, with signs telling us the previous locations of where the Glacier had once ended.

It was alarming to see that in only 1970 the Morteratsch Glacier had extended so much further!

Our original plan was to visit a cheese factory; but we had spent so much time climbing, and swimming on "the Morteratsch" we were much too late! So we hopped on a train, and after a long journey; made it back to our campsite and into our warm sleeping bags for a good night rest...


Posted by dario at 9:36 PM

August 8, 2010

Day 8 ~ Christopher (Wall Climbing)

At 815 today, Dario stood on top of a small hill and started singing. This interesting wakeup call had everyone up by 830 for a filling breakfast and a full day ahead. Today is our last day in Camp Maloja and there is much to do. The remaining member families of ToptoTop will be leaving today and only the students will be left for the expedition in the days ahead.

In the morning, the weather took a turn for the better and we decided to go for some rock climbing on the dam near our base camp. For many of us, it is the first time to scale such a wall. However, many of us did better than expected and some even reached the top of the rock wall. It was an interesting morning filled with many laughter and cheers. There was even a very special moment when the ToptoTop family were all on the wall and racing against each other. It was especially endearing when the couple reached for one another and kissed each other in mid air after the "race".

When we came back from rock climbing in the afternoon, we proceeded to dismantle most of the tents. This is because it would be better to dismantle the tents now when they are dry instead of tomorrow morning when they are wet. So we packed most of our bags and moved everyone to the kitchen tent where we will spend the night today. After we finished, Mohit and Gao went to the lake for a swim. Debbie, Zofie, and me went to retrace our steps in the morning to search for Zofie's jacket.

Finally in the evening, we ended the night with a hike to the nearest village beside the lake with a yummy plate of spaghetti and a stunning view of the surrounding.


In a final note, we would like to show our sincere gratitude to the members of the Camping Plan Curtinac Maloja-namely Flurina, Max, Claudio, Malvina, and Tony. They were really helpful and made our stay in the base camp extremely enjoyable and comfortable. Personally they were really nice as they helped me fix my broken flip flops numerous times. That is on top of the many aid they give to our expedition mates. In conclusion, thank you very much!

Posted by dario at 10:15 PM

August 9, 2010

Day 9 ~ Debbie (Glacier Express)

We got up very early this morning as we have to catch up the 7 o 'clock bus.The fog was very thick looked like the cloud of the sky was kissing the Maloya lake , you could not tell the difference from the fog and cloud. If we didn't get up that early we would not see such a significant phenomenon.

The most exiting activity for today was we took the Glacier Express from Chur to Zermatt. It's the most unforgettable train experience in my life and will be my lifelong last memory. It is the world's slowest express train travels what is indisputably one of the most beautiful stretches of railway in the world, linking the famous holiday resorts of St.Moritz and Zermatt. Every moment in the train we could enjoy the fabulous mountain landscape of the Swiss Alps from the train's massive panoramic sightseeing windows. It feels like we were in the paradise all along the long journey, blue sky was hanging in the ceiling , all around you are mountains with larch woods,cabins, springs decorated in it .We can enjoy the beautiful scenery from every aspects and every moment.

We took an one -hour tour around Chur before we caught the Glacier Express from there where Dario was bored. With a history of settlements spanning approximately 5000 years, It's also the main town in the canton of Graubunden. Today, Chur is a modern, busting town with a wealth of historical architecture, like the ancient market, cathedral and historical square and so on. It now becomes the cultural and economic centre of the Grisons, thanks to its excellent location on key transport routes through the Alps.

At about 12 o'clock, We took the Glacier Express from Chur,then it followed back the course of the Rhine through the gorge of Ruinaulta and climbed slowly the valley toward Ilanz (698 m/2,290 ft), Disentis/Mustér (1,142 m/3,747 ft) and Sedrun (1,404 m/4,606 ft). From Sedrun the line became steeper to finally reach its summit, the Oberalp Pass at 2,033 m (6,670 ft). From there the train entered the Canton of Uri in Central Switzerland and continues down to Andermatt (1,447 m/4,747 ft).

From Andermatt the train went forward in the Urserental valley passing the villages of Hospental (1,452 m/4,764 ft) and Realp (1,538 metres / 5,046 feet). From there the train enters the Furka Base Tunnel, leaving the old railway line which climbs the Furka Pass (operated today by the Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway), to emerge in Oberwald (1,368 m/4,488 ft) in the Goms Valley, in the Canton of Valais. The train then continues toward the Brig following the course of the Rhone and passes along the villages of Ulrichen (1,346 m/4,416 ft), Münster-Geschinen (1,359 m/4,459 ft) and Fiesch (1,049 m/3,442 ft), before going through another spiral.
From Brig (678 m/2,224 ft) the train continues to Visp (651 m/2,136 ft), then entered the valley of Mattertal and went up, passed the villages of Stalden (799 m/2,621 ft), St. Niklaus (1,127 m/3,698 ft) and Randa (1,408 m/4,619 ft), where a spectacular debris avalanche completely disconnected the railway and road in 1991. After a steeper section the train finally arrives in Zermatt at 1,616 m (5,302 ft), after more than 5 hours of travel.

Dario is a good touring guide. He told us a lot of historical stories and environmental problems about the Alps. Making the unique landscape be much vivid to us.

When the Glacier Express enters the lower part of the Rhone valley near Brig (661m). Dario told us something about the resource of the river Rhine. The Rhine is one of the lengthiest, most important river in Europe. It runs for over 1,320 kilometres -from its source in the Swiss Alps (in Switzerland), running down from the Rheinwaldhorn Glacier 3,353 m above sea level.

When we travel the Oberalp pass , the engine pulls the train up to a height of 2033m above sea level with the help of the cog wheel, making this the highest point of the journey. The other significant construction of the railway is Furka Pass (el. 2436 m.) , it is a high mountain pass in the Swiss Alps connecting Gletsch, Valais with Realp, Uri. The Furka-Oberalp-Bahn line through the Furka Tunnel bypasses the pass. It took us 20mins to pass the Furka Tunnel.

Along the railway, we passed a hydro-power station and a wind power station, which gave me a chance to know more about Swiss clean energy production. The wind power station is named Guntsch on mountain Audeomatt,we could see it when we pass the Oberalp Pass,Dario introduced it is more for research. I learnt that, the first wind energy facility in Switzerland was put into operation near Soolhof (Längenbrück) in 1986 with a capacity of 28 kilowatts. As of 2007 there are 30 wind plants in operation in Switzerland with a total capacity of 14 gigawatt hours (GWh). The largest of these is on Mont Crosin, near St Imier in the Bernese Jura: it has eight wind turbines with a total capacity of 7,660 kilowatts. Other sizeable wind plants are located in Collonges (canton of Valais), Entlebuch (canton of Lucerne) and on the Gütsch above Andermatt (canton of Uri).

But from the other aspect, locations in Switzerland all lie at altitudes over 800m in hilly or mountainous country - with correspondingly difficult general conditions such as climate (ice, cold), turbulent wind regimes, difficult access and landscape protection problems. Previous experience shows that wind energy plants can be operated even under these extreme conditions in Switzerland.

We can also saw some small-scale hydropower plant along way. From reading some information from the Internet, I know that small-scale hydropower plants (facilities that produce a mean mechanical gross capacity of up to 10 MW) in Switzerland have been around for a long time in Switzerland. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were already around 7,000 in operation. Today there are more than 1,000 small-scale hydropower plants in operation, with an installed capacity of approximately 760 MW and an output of 3,400 GWh per annum. Electricity production in small-scale hydropower plants is attractive from both an economical and an ecological point of view, and an expansion of output is perfectly feasible, as long as ecological aspects are duly taken into account. The potential is estimated at around 2,200 GWh per annum. Technological innovations and measures to lessen environmental impacts make small-scale hydropower plants inexpensive energy sources that provide renewable energy on an independent basis and help protect the environment. In addition to small-scale hydropower plants in the Alps, it is now possible to utilise it for drinking water systems.

20100809-Express Train-Debbie-7.JPG

What's more, we learnt that nature can at times be violent in this alpine country. People here have been living with these dangers for centuries. Dario told us a true story witted by himself 5 years ago. He told us how the local people protect themselves against avalanche. They prevent the snow from sliding and rocks from rumbling into the valley by building barriers made by iron, they store rainwater and release it gradually however heavily fell by digging large holes in the mountain. As long as the14th century people living in the Alps banned anyone from felling trees in the forests that protected their villages. The first Swiss Law on environmental protection I learnt from the Internet is the Forest Law of 1876, which was aimed at averting the natural hazards.

It was really a relax day for us all, fulfilled with fabulous Alps landscape and abundant environmental knowledge. I think the Swiss people is so wisdom that they develop the Alps tourism by building this splendid Glacier Express to attract people from every corner of the world for a unique experience, they explore the green energy and also know how to protect the natural hazardous ,living harmoniously with the nature.

Posted by dario at 8:03 PM

August 10, 2010

Day 10 ~ Tiffany (Briethorn)

5am wake up call for an early start, the participants and I scrambled around to gather all our equipment for the climb up Breithorn with Dario and Gabi. We made our way to the gondola station at 6am and arrived on top of Kleine Matterhorn where we strapped on our harnesses and were roped together. The girls were tied onto Dario's rope and the boys on Gabi's. It was shocking to feel so cold in the summertime as there was so much snow and people were skiing down the slopes at such an early time.

We were on the move by 7am, walking towards nothingness and feeling the snow crunch beneath our shoes.
The beginning part of the trek wasn't so difficult, until we reached the continuous uphill stretch where we were all quickly became exhausted. Dario marched on however, and we followed. To our relief, the first break finally came when we had to attach our crampouns to our boots. Within such a short time, our bodies cooled down and I was freezing instantly.

On the move once more, after having rested, our energy levels were slightly lifted as we continued the climb with our new ice-proof feet. My new energy however was drained very quickly as we trudged further uphill onto an even steeper incline, still in the blinding white of fog and snow. Suddenly the fog disappeared and the sun came out to reveal the ever beautiful Breithorn. In awe we persisted with the climb, all the way to the top, with the encouragement from each other and especially the belief Dario had in us to make it to the summit.

The view was incredible! Slightly scary, but amazing! The struggle was definitely worth it. We took our time, taking in as much of the wonderful atmosphere as possible, being completely surrounded by the Swiss Alps. After we took some photos, we began our descent, which was lead by Jaquie. It was the most nerve racking part of the day, where we had to watch our every step, praying that our crampouns didn't knock into each other and cause us to fall over the ridge of the mountain or placing a wrong foot on an unstable ridge. [2]

We made it down safely towards the second peak, which wasn't as challenging. Once we made it to the top we turned around and began the trek back to Kleine Matterhorn. Halfway down, we removed our Crampouns which made the remainder of our descent a slippery and fun, but an exhausting experience. The take-home message of our hike however was that in no time, the glaciers will and have been receding dramatically - ie: 200m back within a timespan of 10 years. [3] As the melting glaciers also result in strong flowing rivers and streams of glacial waters will and are leading to rising sea levels.

Once we arrived back at Kleine Matterhorn, us participants relaxed in the restaurant, as Sabine, Salina, Andre, Noe, Dario and Jaquie went for a walk towards Breithorn. On their return, we visited the Glacier palace, situated in a glacier under the main building on Kleine Matterhorn. [4] There is a unique display of the beauties of glaciers, through a number of stunning ice sculptures, as well as natural cave-like creations. Following the glacial visit, we climbed the staircase up to the peak of Kleine Matterhorn where we took many photographs of the mountain we had accomplished and the famous Matterhorn. [5]

Shortly after, we went to the gondola station to return to Zermatt. On the way there, Dario pointed out an environmentally friendly alternative to supplying kleine Matterhorn with power - solar panels. [6] They were lined up in rows and acted as a wall. It is a fantastic solution to try slow down climate change, especially in the Swiss Alps where melting glaciers and permafrost is a number one issue.

The end of the day was spent returning equipment, taking it easy and reflecting on what an unbelievable day we had all just experienced!

Posted by dario at 9:13 PM

August 11, 2010

Day 11 ~ Mohit (Gorno gorge)

Day * ~Mohit Agarwal

Little did I know, that today was going to be the most exciting day of my life. SEE THE PICTURES on TopToTop Picasa Album
The plan was- pack your stuff as soon as u get up early in the morning, have breakfast, check out of the hotel, take a gondola to the gorge, come back to Zermatt through the gorge, see a electric car manufacturing facility, take you bags and leave for grindewald. Sounds Simple?
Not of the most exciting days in my life...easily! WHAT A DAY!

We had some safety gear donated from a skier and close friend of Dario. To make up for the remaining gear, we went to local sports shop and Dario rented it for the day. As soon as we got out of the cable car, at the Furri station we strapped on our harnesses, tied on our slings and set out for a memorable excursion into the Gorner Gorge. A signboard "No entry without mountain guide. Zermatt Alpine Center does not take responsibility if without a guide" gave me a good idea of what lay ahead. But we the best person to guide us - Dario. So I hooked on my carabiner to the steel cables and prepared myself for the exhilaration that lay ahead.
The Gorner gorge between Furri [1865m ]and Zermatt [1620m] has awe inspiring rock formations and a lot of water polished rocks, within thundering floods of water - a wonderful creation of nature!
The way through the gorge is around a kilometer of fixed rope route. It has three abseiling passages, a pendulum swing and three flying foxes. One of the flying fox was really long, the longest I have ever done in my life.
Traversing the gorge was the most amazing thing I have ever done. Switzerland has these beautiful creations of nature, and the Swiss people also know how to enjoy the bounties of nature. Who would have thought that such a safe "fixed rope " route existed in such a treacherous gorge. And the most interesting part is, it is open for general public, even for tourists. You dont need to be a professional to do this, but professsional help from a mountain guide. See " Zermatt Alpine Center"

After we came out of the gorge, we went to the Forest Fun Park, Zermatt (Which is another beautiful example of how Swiss people love to be close to nature and adventure). Salina and Andri had their share of fun and exercise at this park, which can bring out the child in anyone. Sabine even arranged for all the adults to enjoy a trail.

On a hindsight, this day brought three observations for me. First one is the Swiss love for nature and their idea of environment sensitization. When you get really close to nature, so close, that u can feel its power and beauty at the same time, that it sends adrenaline pumping in your blood, it is then that u start having a feeling of respect for nature. The gorge route and the forest fun park are both examples of this respect instilling process. If you are exposed to such adventures from childhood, you grow up to be a sensitive man/woman towards the environment. You cannot even unknowingly harm nature, which is then a source of extreme exhilaration and joy for you. And the Swiss parents do a great job in building this attitude in their kids (maybe it is a culture here). A mother or a father cylcling/trekking with their kids is a very common sight

Then we went to "Sombit" car manufacturing facility in Zermatt. Some 45 years before,in 1964, Zermatt had a public voting which banned cars in the village! Wow! If a small village in the hills of the Swiss Alps can have so much foresight,(that too half a century back), why can the cities of the modern world wake up now??

The entire story about Zermatt turning into a car free town and the growth of the local electric car manufacturing company is very interesting.
In 1964, a public vote in the village was conducted, and it was agreed that the village would have no cars. But Mr. Imboden father had a taxi business, which implied that he could lost his means of living. But then his father and friends had an idea. What if they run electric cars in the village. They don't pollute like petrol cars and are not noisy. So they bought 4 electric cars from Zurich. But the laws of the village did not permit any cars (who had thought that some taxi drivers would be such big visionaries), so there was another public vote and it was agreed that electrical cars could be allowed in the nights. People found the cars really useful (at times of medical emergency, etc. these electric ambulances were more effective than horse drawn carriages) and with time businesses were allowed to drive these cars whole day.
Now a little about the "STIMBO electric car company". Its owner Bruno Imboden was generous to give us a tour of his factory in Zermatt. His brother used to repair electric cars in Zermatt and thats how it all started. Since the last 25 years the STIMBO company has been maufacturing custom made electric cars for its customers. They make from 10 to 40 cars a year.Currently there are 500 electric Cars plying on the roads of Zermatt. since the last fifteen years, the cars are made with an all aluminum body and have a max speed of 20kmph.

The visit to the electric car company brought me to my another observation.In this strange phenomenon of global warming, people who are the most environmentally conscious are the worst affected. Although the earth as a whole is warming up, but some people/nations have a greater role in it , but everyone has to bear the consequences- and it is not fair. For example - Zermatt, which was so far sighted to ban cars 45 years ago, has to struggle with the receeding glaciers on the mountains around this town. If the rate of melting remains so high, probably this towns beauty and consequently its tourism industry will be gone!! What a price to pay for being so caring towards the evnironment. You have underdeveloped countries which have extremely low CO2 emissions, but have been facing strange issues due to earth warming up. Bangladesh is losing its islands slowly to the rising Bay of Bengal!
Switzerland, being a rich country can somewhat mitigate tricky situations presented by a warmer climate, but it always has a constant anxiety of a lurking disater. But again it is a very environment friendly country, and it is not justified that it has to spend so much effort and money tackling problems for which it is not at all responsible (The huge wall at Pontresina to hold the permafrost and the tuunel at Grindewald to drain the glacial lake, are two of numerous such examples)

After completing the visit to the car factory, we had to take a train to Grindelwald, where we would be staying in Tiffany's chalet for a couple of days. The train was in 30 minutes. I had to buy something from the "Coop" store, which took me a lot of time, and I could not make it to the station on time. Just as the train was about to leave, with everyone else from ToptoTop on board, Dario shouted out to me that I have to come to GRINDELWALD by the next train.
I took the next train, and had to change at Tasch.
There was a huge parking lot at Tasch station, which was meant for parking of private vehicles headed to Zermatt. People had to park their cars right near the platform and take shuttle train of Matterhorn Gotthard Railway to Zermatt.

It was then that I realised the power of network integration for public transport to work successfully. The Swiss system of transport is that all modes of transport are available at the same place. For example at Zurich airport, I did not even have to step out of the premises to take a train to St. Moritz. At St Moritz, I just had to cross the platform to get a bus to Maloja. In India, I would probably have to take an intermediate transport from the airport to railway station and another intermediate transport from the railway station to bus stop.
You have a Network~1 and Network~2, and you want to get from node A in Network~1 to node B in Network~2.
Now Network~1 has a node C which is closest to node D in Network~2.
A normal travel system would mean, you would have to find a system to transport you from Node C to Node D. But what if you could bring Node C and Node D so close that they just overlap. Then then two Networks effectively make one bigger seamless Network, in which it is easier to move around.
Also a lot of fuel and time is saved in the process.
So when you want car owners to leave their cars at Tasch, and take the railway to Zermatt- the best way is to integrate the Road Highway Network with Gotthard Railway Network. The huge parking lot at Tasch Railway station is the point where the two nodes overlap.

Posted by dario at 4:21 PM

August 12, 2010

day 12 ~ GaoPan (Baregg)

August 12th
Reported by Gao Pan

Today is the first day for our expedition in Berner oberland, Jungfrau region which is known as a holiday paradise.

After warm, dry and soundly sleeping in Tiffany's nice chalet, everyone got recovered well, thank you so much, Tiffany.

The plan for today is to hike from Pfingstegg to Baregg, look Unterer Grindelwald Glacier from far away. Along the path the connection between climate change and natural hazards can be observed clearly, means the area is already beyond normal beautiful scene spot but a place where the people can get direct and strong impression of the negative impaction derived from the global warming. Due to this, the Bern University developed Climate Guide Iphone system which can be rented in Tourist Center. With the help of the Climate Guide Iphone, the visitors can get more aware of the climate change happening in this region with passing days. This is also nice reminder for you who are reading the article, don't forget take the Climate Guide Iphone before your hiking here.

After a short riding of cable car, we started our hiking around 10:00 from Pfingstegg in the rain. Looking down from the middle mountain, the village - Grindelwald is so quiet and beautiful. The need to co-exist with nature - both with its beauty and with its dangers - has shaped the life of the people living in this valley, but now days, they have to face and handle more frequent natural hazards due to the climate changes.

In 1900's, when the visitors first step in this area starting the tour, the Unterer Grindelwald glacier was just located beside the village.

Since 1850, the Upper Grindelwald glacier has lost about 1.2 km in length, and the Unterer Grindelwald glacier more than 1.8km. Due to the global warming, the natural disaster happened more frequently and the locals got more threatened during last 150 years.

From the picture, you can see the moraine of melted glacier falls from the steep mountain. Without the glacier, stones lost the strong anchor inside the ice which means they can be carried easily by flood down resulted as mountain collapse.

The worst land sliding / mountain collapse disaster happened in Mt Huascaran in Peru in 1970 which killed around 40000 people in Jungay city. One particularly spectacular event, which was clearly connected with climate change, also occurred in 2005, above Grindelwald. The small restaurant (mountain hut) in the picture found itself virtually overnight standing on the edge of an abyss. One main reason for the landslide was melting of the Unterer Grindelwald glacier, which until then had supported the terrain because normally, the glacier can form only with snow covering on it all times for several years, if weather gets warm and the snow cannot exit so long, the glacier will not be stable anymore and get easily to melt and fall down. Actually during our hiking, we heard 3 times loud sound of rock fall or glacier collapse.

By the way, definitely there are a lot of safe accommodations or restaurants on the mountains for the visitors, please check link , and click for the summer activities and winter activities

Apart from the mountain collapse, another big risk is the huge rock glacier dammed lake which could collapse at anytime. In 2006, as a result of glacier's rapid retreat, a gigantic rock detached itself from the mountain, in a series collapse, the rock fell onto the glacier and combined with glacier ice to form a natural damn behind which is a glacier lake. For avoiding the flood disaster, the local government had to build tunnel to drainage the blocked lake water, the project costs totally 12 million CHF.

During the hiking, we also met some small friends called Salamander, one kind of black lizard which is already very rare and very seldom to see

At the restaurant, the solar power is used for outdoor lamps, it's friendly to the environment though its energy consumption is very limited. The important is the idea of using renewable energy should be deeply rooted in human beings' mind, no matter it's small or big issue.

Posted by dario at 11:13 PM

August 13, 2010

Day13 ~ Macarena (Jungfraujoch)

See the pictures
Today we woke up early, because we were going to Jungfraujoch for the weekend, so we
had to take some trains. In the station we met a tourist guide, Ronald, who explained us some stories of the mountains while we were in the train. He gave us a little tourist book, which had a lot of information about the mountains, railways, and about the research that are being done in the labs up in the mountain. When we arrived, we met other guide, Toni, who showed us some of the installations of the place. Toni explained us how the railways reuse the kinetic energy to transform it in electricity, so when a train goes down the mountain it provides energy to the train that has to go up. I personally think that this method is very productive and intelligent way of recycling. Then, we saw all the process for obtaining water. This was very special, because they use the ice like water resource. They melt ice and purified it to make it drinkable and also they transport some water with the train. The reason is because they are far away of some water supply. The waste water is store and transported through a pipe down to the Kleine Scheidegg, that does not get frozen, because of some heating systems installed in the pipe.
Later we went to the ice palace, were they have a lot of nice sculpture of ice. In a special
room covered from ice we had a little cocktail and then we went to lunch. We ate in one of the restaurants. In the afternoon, Felix and his wife showed us the research labs at top of the mountain. They are working in the Sphinx two weeks a month, doing weather observation. There are also working some other measures, like the amount of molecules in the atmosphere, how fast the glacier is moving, and the amount of particles in the atmosphere. There was also a telescope to do astronomy observations but now is not being used. This lab is an important contribution to the environmental research. All the information obtained from the weather observations goes to the forecasting center in Zurich.
In the end we walked to the Monchs hut, were we had a warm dinner and slept over.
What really amazed me was the idea of recycling electricity for the trains. That is something I'm wondering if it can be used for the elevators in every building, that could be a very good way of reusing the energy by using physics.

Posted by dario at 10:18 AM

August 14, 2010

Day 14 ~ Jacqui Hocking (Crevasse)

See the pictures on our ToptoTop Picasa Album

I absailed into a crevasse on the Aletsch Glacier today, which is the longest Glacier in the Alps. I can't express myself more than saying today was the most exceptional day of my life!

But lets start from the start!

This morning, we woke up to what seemed to me like a snow storm - the sky was white, the wind was cold, and it was a fast run to the drop-toilets outside the building! Breakfast was at 6 - and then it was time to pack our bags, put on our snow jackets, and make our way back to Jungfraujoch.

It was only a short walk - but we couldn't see more than a few meters in front of us due to the snow and fog! Although the cold was biting through our boots - Dario made me realise that for the Global Climate Expedition; this was the best possible weather to experience on the glacier!! Snowfall is imperative to protect the glacier ~ the thicker the layer of snow; the more preserved the Glacier would be.

We arrived at Jungfraujoch, and then the others waited while Dario and I went to visit our friend Felix to check the latest weather report. It looked pretty grim. Obviously it's not just about being wet and cold - it's a decision that has to made based on our safety. With heavy snowfall, it makes it hard to see Crevasses in the Glacier, which could be potentially fatal if someone was to fall in without being properly roped in and acting with the utmost caution. Also - due to global warming, we have been told that this year the Crevasses are larger and more unstable. So the decision was made - we would not be making our way to Koncordia Hut, the trek we had planned through the valley.

But it wasn't over yet.

We soon met with another Mountain Guide; the wonderful Stephan, along with more TOPtoTOP members: the daughter of Gabi, and the Wuthrich Family; Elizabeth, Tom and Hansjurg.

Now, with two groups, we decided we would venture out into the cold onto the glacier to experience what it is like - in a crevasse!!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn't imagine what it would be like - I was excited - but nervous too. I had learnt about the formation and dangers of glaciers; and the idea of absailing into one of them was pretty hard to believe!!!

We put on our harnesses, gloves, and snow gear - then Dario and Stephan helped to attach everyone to the safety line. This is vital to avoid unintentionally disappearing into the cracks below. Then we trekked down through the deep snow - but not too far. Before long - Stephan had spotted an amazing Crevasse - like a cave digging into the ground. This was it.

These caves - like I mentioned briefly in the last report from the Moterasch Glacier - are basically cracks in the ice are like vertical walls. There are different types - what we saw most of the time was the transverse crevasses, which are created where the rock surface below is sloping downwards, causing the ice above to crack as is moves forward. Crevasses interest me so much because of their stratigraphy ~ all the different layers of snow and ice they contain, dating back from the ice age to present day!

But anyway, it was time. I edged towards the natural "ice cave", connected safely to my harness and line. Then, slowly, stepped cautiously onto the soft snow ledge. Putting my weight backwards, I made the decent. Wow. Once I was lowered and secured, I lifted my head to have a look around - I was surrounded by a stunning landscape of icicles and a white cliff of snow - the further down the crevasse I looked, the more deep blue the colours became. It was beautiful.

From this position; I could film the other students have a go at defending and climbing out of the glacier. It was a fantastic experience to learn about the safety procedures regarding crevasse rescues; and an essential part of mountaineering. Gao has the most difficult position; as he was lowered below some solid ice. Putting safety as our first priority, Dario began to dig parallel to the line Gao was hanging from, and then pulled the rope out of the ice and into the path he had created - then Gao could use this as a way to climb out. It's important not to dig where the rope is, because if you touch the rope with your knife or pick axe, the tension could cause the rope to break!

Once everyone had their chance to learn about the experience; we all climbed out of the glacier, attached ourselves back onto the line, and made our way back to Jungfraujoch, with some incredible photos!!!

The day was still young ~ we had only been in the snow a few hours! We got back on the steep railway, and made the decent, saying goodbye to Felix, his wife, and the wonderful view! (although hidden by fog)!

We went straight to the information and adventure centre of Grindelwald, and deposited our heavy bags. Then, still with us, Stephan the guide handed out helmets and harnesses! More adventure was to be had!!

We walked down to the bottom of the valley, at the mouth of the glaciers river. Then, it was a bit of a steep hike to the top of the gorge. We looked over the edge - it was a looong way! And we wanted to absail back down!!! It took a long time for everyone to descend down the two sections of cliff - each a stunning 45 meters! (So nearly 100m from the top!!) and once at the bottom, it was an uneasy balancing act across some metal wire above the gushing rapids! But wow; what a buzz!!! We watched from the other side of the river as the rest of the team made their way down!

Afterwards, we made a quick rush through the gorge before we had to return our helmets and gear. The waterfalls trickling down were beautiful between the giant walls of rock!

After the gear was returned; we all walked back up the STEEEEEP mountainside to the Chalet!

That night we continued with our reports, and chatted excitedly over the dinner table about our adventures..... What an amazing day!!!


Posted by dario at 9:09 PM

August 15, 2010

Day 15 ~ Christopher (Indoor Obstacle Course)

See the pictures on our ToptoTop Picasa Album
Everyone woke up early blow balloons for Noi's 1st birthday! Due to the bad weather a few days back, we were unable to hike down the Aletsch Glacier. Hence everyone had time to work on their presentation in the morning. Breakfast started with a happy birthday song and a brief from Dario describing what needs to be done today.

Macarena and Mohit proceeded downstairs and worked on a short amazing cartoon clip about ToptoTop. Everyone else also made use of the much needed time to work on the upcoming presentation. Despite the lack of activity today, we still had our hands full with the preparation. Pictures were consolidated and sorted for those who need it and structures were created for the presentations.

After lunch, most of us went to an indoor obstacle course near the tourist information office. It was a piece of cake especially after our numerous experiences in the gorges and with glaciers. However it was interesting to note that this obstacle course was built on top of an ice hockey stadium. This interesting and effective use of space created profits for the building and environment. Resources can be shared and used efficiently.

Finally, we headed back for a really good pasta dinner. Sabine also took the time to create three cakes for Noi's Birthday. There were the flavors of Tiramisu, Fruit Yogurt, and chocolate cake. We sang happy birthday and quickly finished the delicious cakes.

To end the day perfectly, Roland joined our celebration at night with a big surprise for all of us. He gave each of us a piece of crystal and a stone that contains gold. Since he roams the Alps frequently, he took up the collection of these precious stones as a hobby. We were honored to have him share the night with us and especially happy to receive such wonderful gifts. It was a perfect piece of object to remind us about the beauty of this region and lovely memories created here. Thank you Roland!

Posted by dario at 10:14 PM

August 16, 2010

Day 16 ~ Debbie (Tropenhaus Frutigen)

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You could not image how much meaningful things we accomplished today, we visited a energy park in Tropenhaus in the morning for 3 hours and then we got to the capital city Bern, took a 2 hours' tour around the city. In the next 2 hours, we visited the Swiss Parliament .At last we arrived at Biel, our new living site for next 3 days. Many thanks to Gaby, she cooked us a really delicious dinner in the evening, which made us totally fulfilled not only in the spirit but also the stomach.

The energy park we visited is named Tropenhaus Frutigen, the builders got the idea in 2002, beginning with a very interesting story. With the construction of the Lotschberg Base Tunnel, the temperature of the water in the tunnel drainage system is increasing much higher than what the natural springs and lakes can bear, so the water must be cooled before it is drained to the natural water. Then a scientist solved this problem successfully using it for fish production, for the 20˚C- water is helpful for the fish to grow fast. What's more, the high latitude(+800m) of the water resources makes it possible to transfer the gravitation force to electricity with a turbine with 10,000 rotation per minute when the 11 liter per second water pass it. They also have solar panels on the roof and geothermal heat pump for the air condition. With the production of fish, vegetable and fruit from eight fishing pools and one big green house, they can serve fresh food in their restaurant. Meanwhile, the wastes from the kitchen and wastewater treatment pool can be used to produce biogas, which is also a kind of economical green energy for running the park.

There is also an expo in it, with exhibitions on mountains, lotschberg Bace Tunnel, renewable energy, healthy eating and sustainable farming. The saddest thing is to know that with the construction with hydro power stations in the world, the sturgeon fish cannot give birth because they cannot jump over the big dam. So, some of their species are extinct. I hope that we can one day successfully solve this problem, do less harm to the nature.

What I am most interested is the water recycling system in the energy park. There are three kinds of water in it, one is the drinking water, and others are rain water &mountain water. Each of them has different usage. Drinking water is from the water supply plant used for electricity production and close-circle air condition; the rain water is collected from the roofs of the houses and used for irrigation in the green house; the mountain water is used for the fish pool, which can be recycled for 12 times a day then treated to clean water with bio sludge treating system, after that, it's drained to a river nearby. The whole system is very scientific especially with the temperature and quality control system.

I have known a research building in China which can afford all its energy cost using green energy like solar, wind, bio-gas and so on. But this park gave me a great new surprise that it can combine the energy usage, environmental education, production of Switzerland's first caviar fish, green house of tropical fruit, restaurant and shopping together. Every element is unforgettable and interesting.

Then we got to the capital city Bern, I must to say it's the most beautiful city I have ever been. The first impression of Bern to me was its long track bus painted with red crosses running though the streets with historical architectures. There are no high buildings and no traffic jam, even if it is the capital city, I still can enjoy the peace and clean like Grindelwald and Maloja.

Dario is very familiar with this city because he ever studied in Bern. He showed us the city river and on its banks live the bears presenting the origin of the city's name .Dario told us stories and history about this city. Then we visited a famous church with over 500 years history, I was impressed by its elegant decoration, every statue of it is an art.

The most interesting visit is to Dario's college. We took a short visit in the library where everyone was concentrating in their books. With Dario's introduction, we know that in Switzerland, everyone who wants to study can get a chance for free in such governmental college, but he needs to pass the exam and gets to the top 200 for his medical degree. Which means every Swiss citizen can get an opportunity to learn, no matter he is rich or poor but he needs to study hard for the final degree. How nice and reasonable this educational system is! I really hope every country in the world can provide such opportunity like Switzerland, so that there will be no one who needs to give up his dream because of poverty.

At last, we visited the Swiss Parliament, I think it was our great honor to have this chance to know how it's like and the history of this powerful building .What impressed me most was its superb paintings and exquisite statues, each of them has a special meaning, seems like telling you stories and constantly give you wisdom, courage, trust and strong will. What's more, I felt that it's very unique for Switzerland to have different linguistic representatives from Swiss-German, French, Italian and Roman speaking parts. The linguistic and cultural differences are the defining feature of Switzerland. People from different part of Switzerland know to respect each other's cultural and they live in harmony with each other. I am sure such kind of feature also gives Swiss people a broad mind to live peacefully in the world with other countries.

I believe whenever I thought of today's experiences, I could get some new inspirations.

Posted by dario at 9:01 PM

August 17, 2010

Day 17 ~ by Tiffany (Biel)

See the pictures on our ToptoTop Picasa Album

Today we were privileged with a bit of a lie in, until 7.40am! With our minds and bodies having rested, we were able to continue working on our presentations for the morning. At 10:45, the students and Dario were off to the train station and heading out to St. Imier. As we were walking to the tram going up to Mont Soleil; the solar and wind plantation, a smart car drove past us, which reminded me just how pro environment Switzerland is. Smart cars are more environmentally friendly than other regular cars, as they consume much less petrol per km driven as they are more compact.

We went up the extremely steep tram track and walked over to the solar plant. It was closed however, due to the very typical Swiss lunch breaks. While waiting for the plantation to open, Dario took us for a small walk around the area, where in the paddocks, we were among the cows and their dung. Then back to the main building to shelter away from the cool winds. During our wait, Macarena, Mohit, Debbie and Gao sung for us their national anthems. Before Jacquie and I were able to sing our pride away, our guide Monique Voumard had arrived.

After our 'warm' welcome to the Mont Soleil plantation, we went indoors to actually warm up. Monique gave us a very informative presentation about the solar plant which answered many questions I had about solar power. It was very fascinating to learn that within 20 years Mont Soleil has become a successful power plant.
The 3 goals of the plantation are:
1. Research centre
2. Development centre
3. Information and Education centre

Last year alone, Mont Soleil was visited by 16,000 people, most of which were school groups who have incorporated new energy courses into their educational programs, which I think is a very important step towards raising awareness. Mont Soleil is about the size of 3 football fields and contains 4575m2 of solar cells which produce 500kW of nominal power - which is the maximum production. It also produces 600,000kW/yr of direct current which must be converted, and if not, the direct current is used for batteries.

For solar cells to produce the most power, they must be in cool environments, obviously with maximum exposure to the sun which is 13,000,000oC. Mont Soleil is situated at an altitude of 1200m. Most solar panels are made of cells which are 0.2cm thick, which are made from Silicon. Sunrays hit electrons in the cells, which cause them to move, producing electricity in a closed circuit, some of which also contain antireflection sheets. For private solar panels on the top of roofs, the sun rays hit the cells - sending the electricity to the house into the converter and is then used internally, or sold back into a grid.

An alternative to solar power, to be able to save energy and money, there are storm water circuits which heat the water up to 80oC. It is approximately half the cost of solar cells, and works just as efficiently. Negative aspects of both solar cells and storm water circuits is that they do not produce throughout the night and the weather can also disrupt production frequently. Such disturbances as cloud cover and season; summer is the most producing and winter is the least due to shorter days and the lower positioning of the sun.

Solar cells are extremely costly to repair and are 3-4 times more expensive than basic energy; basic energy costs 20c - 1kW/hr and solar energy costs CH1.- - 1kW/hr. Although solar energy is a more expensive alternative, in the long run it definitely seems to be the more reliable energy source.

Currently, there are 4 nuclear power plants in Switzerland, however, recently, the Swiss public voted against the use of atomic energy, which will lead to the closing down of 2 power plants within the next 10 years. Therefore, before this time Monique strongly recommended that people should be investing in their own solar cells, as France had refused to sell their atomic energy to other nations and 40% of Switzerland's power is reliant on atomic energy. If everyone had at least 1m2 solar cells on their roofs I could solve the issue of the lack of energy available for Switzerland in the near future.

Innovative projects which Mont Soleil are invested in are:
- MobiCat, which is the biggest solar catamaran in the world. It was built in 2001 and can fit 75people on board.
- Bern Stadium has lined their walls with solar cells collecting energy and selling 1,200,000kW/yr back into the grid, which is an alternative green way of earning income.
- The Sphinx in Jungfraujoch which produces 50-70% more power than in Bern Stadium, as there is no pollution up there, it is cool and the light from the snow also helps.
- Solar impulse, a solar plane with panels on its wings, the size of an A240 (70m long) with 4 engines and batteries at the back to collect the energy from the sun during the day to be able to power the plane through the night.

Today, Switzerland uses approximately 60% hydroelectric energy, 37% atomic energy and 3% renewable energy. People have the choice to buy this renewable energy, which comes as a mix of energies through the grid. It sponsors organizations such as Mont Soleil to expand their plantations to be able to produce even more green energy, which could potentially decrease the costs of renewable energy.

In the plantation there are 110 solar tables, 19 of which are 20 years old. The older solar tables have monocrystalic and alluminium rods. They are 11.5% effective, where as the newer 'Rols Royce' versions are 20% effective and produce 0.5volts per cell is a 225W model. These solar cells are theones used on Solar Impulse as they are a lighter type, causing the plane to only weigh 1600kg.

Surrounding the solar tables are sheep, to maintain the grass pastures, acting as biological controls so that the grass does not over grow and block the sun rays from the cells. This is an interesting and historical solution for such a natural occurance.
As Mont Soleil is also a research station, Monique showed us some experiments done by Swiss, German, American and Japanese researchers. It was really interesting to see different kinds of solar cells and how effective they are in these conditions. One of the Japanese models produced the most kW/hr of 130, as they used antireflection shields and Silicon cells. There were also other models which were flexible and Monique said that these models will become more popular in the future, as they can be fixed onto backpacks and tents etc, to be able to charge small batteries.

After our solar plant tour, we moved on to the Wind Turbine farm for our next presentation. There are 10 wind turbines, 8 of which had been recently installed over the summer, 1 by 1 each week. These turbines produce 9,000,000kW/yr and with 10-12 wind turbines, they would be able to produce 40,000,000kW/yr. The turbines are situated within a 12km stretch between the furtherest turbine to the other. This project took 9 years to develop, as opposed to the 2 years the solar plant took.

The new wind turbines are 140m tall with 45m long blades. The construction of these turbines took whole days and a crane which is 190m high and can lift 1200 tonnes. Monique explained how difficult it was to build at times, because even though descent strength winds are required for the production of energy with wind turbines, the wind and bad weather are undesired factors when trying to insert blades into the cabins.The turbine poles are broken up into four and are built on 10x10x1m2 concrete blocks, covered up again by earth for grass to be able to grow again, due to grazing horses and cows.

The head of the cabins turn to face the wind, to produce maximum energy production. This is controlled through computer programmes and on occasion manually. The cost of wind energy is 38c and as it is already alternative energy, it does not need to be converted and is ready to use. The blades turn in a clockwise direction, 28 times per minute with a requirement of 40km/hr winds for effective production. If winds are over 80km/hr, the turbines are stopped and faced against the wind, to prevent damage or breakage.

The goal for Mont Soleil natural energy plants is to sell more energy into the grids to be able to expand their farms to make even more renewable energy. Wind is a great source as it is never ending and can produce energy throughout the night, unlike solar cells. The combination of both solar cells and wind turbines are complementing to each other, as solar cells thrive mostly in the summer where the sun is stronger and more available for longer hours during the day, and wind turbines thrive during the winter when snow storms approach the alps.

Today was a very educational and eye opening experience. I absorbed as much information as possible, gaining a deeper understanding of the power of sun and wind energy. The main point which Monique emphasized was that these energies must be harnessed correctly to be able to be used for maximum production. We thanked Monique very much for her time and expertise, then we were off back to Biel for dinner and a presentation by Christopher Schwörer.

Christopher Schwörer is currenty undergoing his PhD in the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and Institute of Plant Sciences in the University of Bern. He is studying the Holocene Climate and Vegetation Dynamics at the Treeline in the Northern Swiss Alps through Paleoecology. Christopher gave us a lecture on his studies as an overview of what he is researching. He showed us some statistical figures representing the relationships between the rise in temperature and precipitation patterns over the globe explaining that the climate is changing regardless of anthropogenic influences. However, by this stage, the climate is suppossed to be cooling, where as due to increased CO2 emissions, global warming is occuring.

Fluxuations in rainfall will cause changes in the natural environments biomes, which will lead to 3 different strategies for plants:
1. They will Migrate
2. They will Adapt
3. They will become extinct

As treelines are very sensitive to climate change, the rate and extent of change is largely unkown. For Christopher, this is what he plans to predict through 4 different methods:
1. Experimenting
2. Comparing different regions
3. Computer models
4. Studying vegetation changes in the past

As lakes act as natural archives with their distinctive sediment levels, methods to understand what changes will occur in the Alp treelines can be predicted through:
- Coring (extracting the layers of sediments through a pipe)
- Pollen/Macrofossil research (distinguishing what plants were around in what eras)
- Aquatic Organisms (identifying species in the sediment to determine temperatures)
- Charcoal (to determine forest size and human land use)
- Abiotic Proxies

I really identified and felt privileged to have Christopher give his presentation to us, what he plans to find out on this small scale, can also help determine and relate to other regions to predict treelines and thus temperatures at different altitudes in the future. I am also very interested in the biology of the alps because in Australia there is no such thing as the alps and we have seen just how beautiful they are here on this trip. As Christopher has just started his research, he does not have results as yet, but it would be very interesting to know what predictions he can make with his data.

I would like to thank Monique and Christopher for sharing their knowledge with us today, just opening our eyes a little more to the prospects of the future, to how we should be acting now and not when its too late.

Posted by dario at 9:27 PM

August 18, 2010

Special report: Ladakh

Please read the following email I got today from Silvia Hostettler from swissnex India and help. The same information I got from our webdesigner Thomas Lohbeck who is cycling at the moment from Leh to Manali and further to Dharamsal. Also our friend Beatrice Fischli just back from a cycling trip in Ladakh made the same experience.
TOPtoTOP is in September in India. At this very moment we try to organize help for children and students in Ladakh. More as soon as we have some results....

Here some pictures!

"Dear Dario,

As you know, we went treking in Ladakh in the Himalayas for the second time in June 2010. It is one of the most fascinating and beautiful regions I have ever been to and the Ladakhi people are extremely kind.

On 6 August 2010 intense rainfall led to flash floods in Ladakh.
Around 200 people were killed and hundreds are still missing, presumed to be dead by now. Houses, roads, bridges, fields and animals were swept away and buried by mudslides. Estimations of damage to Ladakhs infrastructure reach 80%. At least 25'000 people have lost their homes. There is an urgent need for food, blankets, tarpaulin sheets, medicines and clothes. Those who have lost their homes and livelihoods require some sort of housing before the winter season begins in a few weeks. Temperatures can drop to minus 30 C.

Ladakh is not well known and gets little attention from the media, especially now, overshadowed by the terrible inundations in Pakistan.
The people in Ladakh will depend on privately raised contributions to try to reconstruct their lives. For instance, our friends Cristina Martinelli and Tashi Chotak Lonchey from Hidden North have lost their uncle, their animals and land, their equipment and almost everything they have worked for during the past 15 years.

It is very likely that this unusual rainfall pattern is at least partly due to climate change. In order to raise awareness about this natural disaster and the potential links with environmental changes and their effects in remote corners of the world such as in Ladakh I would be very grateful if you could include this message in the TOPtoTOP reports on your website

A Swiss couple, Petra Schupp and Ueli Niederer who have been in Ladakh just a few days before the rains started, have taken the initiative of organising a collection. The funds will benefit the reconstruction of three villages where they have several friends: Phyang, Skurbuchan and Basgo. More information can be found on their website:

Donations can be transfered to:

"Hilfe für Ladakh 2010"
CH-8706 Meilen
Postkonto: 87-218378-2
IBAN: CH33 0900 0000 8721 8378 2

or to:

International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) ISEC has worked for 35 years in Ladakh. The funds collected by ISEC's Ladakh Relief Fund will be earmarked for the more far-flung villages, where hundreds of houses, water channels, and fields have been destroyed.

Thank you and see you in Bangalore on 26 September, Silvia"

Posted by dario at 8:30 AM

August 19, 2010

Day 18 ~ Mohit (Solar Catamaran)

First of all I would like you to show you this document which is a collection of good Swiss environment solutions. (You might need Adobe reader. Download it here)

Also see the ToptoTop Picasa Album

The first half of the day was dedicated to making presentations for the 20th August Award Ceremony. The award ceremony is just after two days, which means that our expedition is nearing an end. It is amazing how much we have traveled and explored in these 18 days. See our entire route map.

Around 1:40 p.m we went sailing in the Lake of Biel. The wind not so erratic like the day we were in Maloja Lake, so it meant that the skipper gave us the control of the boat from time to time. It was interesting to know that that a sailboat can even travel against the wind. In this case the aerofoil created by the sails actually helps the wind to pull the boat.
When you are using the forces of nature for a good cause, nature helps to even go against its own agents to reach your goal. Otherwise, it is quite against the common sense that a boat can go against the wind direction without any mechanical intervention.
In this time of heavy dependence of machinery, if you are moving without using fuel and machines, it is in itself a good cause and nature helps to you move ahead

Then we had the opportunity to board the largest solar powered catamaran on Earth - The MobiCat.
The specifications of Mobicat are
Two 4 tonne 480 Amp H battery
Two 110 H.P 81 Kw motor
Max capacity : 150 people
180 sq m of solar panels with 20 KW peak production
Boat's Maximum Speed 15 kmph
2.7 million CHF initial investment
65,000 CHF for battery replacement every 10 years6 hour running time

It will be interesting to compare the economics of solar powered boat with the Diesesel Powered
A boat of this size would require 200 litre diesel per day (@ 1.6 CHF per litre)
The only recurring expense which the solar catamaran has is of battery replacement every 10 years. This means every day they effectively spend (65,000/ 10*365 = ) 17.8 CHF on battery. Now compare this with the (200* 1.6 = ) 3.20 CHF spent of Diesel.
The company(BKW FMB) saves almost 300 Francs per day on fuel costs, and also does the wonderful job of greening the environment. So what is preventing the whole harbor to convert itself to solar powered boats. The solar cells are very expensive. To recover the 2.7 million swiss francs just from the fuel savings, it will take the company 24 years. Probably this is what is a deterrent to corporations, organisatons, households, to convert to solar energy. Because the solar panels available today are vary vary expensive, and for a profit seeking company to start gaining from its investment, it needs a lot of time .
However the good news that comes out of this fun filled ride is that these technologies are working very well, only that they get to need more widespread and cheaper to use. And this surely bound to happen, as necessity is the mother of all inventions.

Posted by dario at 11:42 PM

August 20, 2010

Day 19 ~ Gao Pan

Day 19 - August 19th
See the pictures on ToptoTop Picasa Album
Experience electrical bicycle riding and visit the supplier - FLYER Company.

After around 20 days' expedition with full load of daily hiking, mountain climbing and so on, all the participates already got really tired. Every one is quite happy when the cycling day is coming because cycling normally is a sport which should be more relax than others and our special bicycle - Flyer, has good electrical engine which can provide force assistant to make the riding even easier. All of us were dreaming to take a rest at the end of the expedition and just have fun. But........hehe, you will see.

At 7:30, after breakfast and the belongings packing, we got a briefing of the electrical bicycle named "Flyer" from Gabi, who is a cycling expert involved in the cycling rules making, cycling signboard design and construction in many cities and villages in Switzerland, also she gives lessons to the kids of the cycling rules, meanwhile she is also Top to Top core member in charge of the financial management. In Switzerland, cycling is very popular because it's not only a simple sport good to your health, but also natural friendly life style for the environment protection. The electrical bicycle which we experienced today has 8 speed gears which you can choose according to the different path conditions, has electrical engine driven by battery which can provide the different force assistant to make your riding easily, marked as "Eco", "Standard" and "high".

We left Hotel at 7:50, heading to Hutwill which is 100KM far away from Biel. During the first 4 hours the road is quite flat and everyone enjoyed the riding so much because it's quite easy and the scene is so beautiful. The green meadows, colorful wild flowers, corn field, mountains covered by lush forest, clean air, clear river, flying bird, cows with soundly bell, and also the typical Swiss style old buildings........all the nice things which are described as symbol of beautiful Switzerland you can see, touch, smell and feel along the road.

9:30, Chris, Magerena, Danie (female member of Top to Top, who provided and guided us the boat for yesterday's sailing, also joined today's cycling) and me lost the connection with others. We four had to find the way by ourselves, I m very impressed with the amazing route signboards system which is very common seen in Switzerland and is so clear marked with different colors and number showing the direction at nearly every cross. As long as you know the destination's name, with the help of such kind of signboards, you can easily find the way even don't need ask so much. What's funny is when we arrived Burghurf around 12:20, we four found the others were still far away behind us. You see, sometimes the people who got lost can even reach the goal earlier, as long as you can gave up relying on others, and just react self-driven in the right direction.

After around 30 minutes waiting, we decided to move forward. From Burghurf to Emmental, we were not so lucky and easy because there are 11KM mountain road need to be covered, the riding got harder and harder, and the slopes were challenges one after one for us. Even though the distance is short as only 11km, it took us 1.5 hours to arrive Emmental where we waited others coming and took a short break visiting the famous "Emmentaler" chess factory.

14:55, whole team left .... , the road to Hutwill is quite easy because 70% distance of the road was just descending, which made all the participants so happy. After suffering the total pain and sour leg, knee and ass, finally we had opportunity to enjoy rushing down the slope with high speed. Actually, cycling has also a high risk especially when descend from steep slope, if the speed is too high to control, something dangerous will happen. Tiffany just fell down at one turn and got slight wounded with bleeding elbow and knee.

15:40, we reached the destination - Hutwill, where the FLYER electrical bicycle factory is located. In beginning of 1990's, the founder of FLYER company, Mr. Rotter Bufel, decided to develop electrical bicycle which can not only provide assistant for people cycling, give more fun to the riding, bus also encourage more and more people choose the bicycle instead of Automobile due to the environment protection reason. In 1993, he made the 1st generation of electrical bicycle which was named as "Roter Bufel". From then, he started the electrical bicycle business with some friends and their company was named as "BK-tech". In 1995, the electrical bicycle brand as "Flyer" was born. However, the business is not so easy at that moment, even though the 3rd generation of Flyer had cool outlooking and can run faster, the produce cost and maintenance cost during guarantee period make the business suspended temporally and "BK-TECH" didn't exist anymore. During the break time, FLYER company made a lot of renovation, more and more new models were developed for people to choose, for example, the sport series, urban series and so on. The Flyer what we experienced today is 5th generation of product, which is around 23kg, with force assistant for maximum 25km/h, means if you like ride faster more than 25km/h, the speed beyond 25km/h should be achieved by yourself and the electrical engine cannot help anymore. While the mountain series product can provide force assistant to Maximum 45km/h with 400W engine which is really like motor-cycle but without any pollution. Due to the increasing market, FLYER is expanding the factory and storage and expect to sale 45'000 bicycles this year. For more information about FLYER, please check the website

As a company concerning on the environment protection product, FLYER constructed their own factory and office also in a sustainable way. The wall is just concrete without any decorations which save a lot of material such as plaster, painting...., also the solar panel is widely used in the company to save energy. As a middle size company in Switzerland, like the others, FLYER consider the benefits of all shareholders and like offer work to locals because the owners focus on long term plan and like the company has sustainable development in the future.

Posted by dario at 10:15 PM

August 21, 2010

Day 20 ~ Macarena (Ibach)

20 August by Macarena Sandrock

This was a crazy day!! After breakfast in the hotel, some of us went with Dario to little hike around the place and others packed our things. Then we left the hotel to catch the boat. We met there with Fabienne, the representative of the Swiss government, Peter from Swiss Pavillion and with Sabine's father. In the boat everyone was finishing the last details of their presentation and at the same time, looking the nice view from the mountains and the lake. I really could not believe that this amazing trip was finally getting to the end. The boat brought us to Ebach. There we visited Victorinox, where the world-wide-known knives are done. They had a meal prepared for us that we enjoyed with the view of the valley. After lunch we change our clothes and we dressed our national or typical costume. It was very nice how everyone has a different style.
The tour started. The process is certainly amazing; they have two different processes to assemble the knives. One is automatic and the other one is hand-made. So, they first cut the steel with the shape that they want for the knife. They put some pieces in a machine with ceramic stones and water to polish and make them shiny. The pieces also go to a hardening process. Not all the pieces have the same hardness; it depends on the composition of the steel. They change the composition exposing the pieces to a 1050 degrees heat aprox and changing they molecular structure. Here they define the flexibility and the hardness for every piece. Then we saw how they adjust the thickness so every piece has the right dimension. They also produce the plastic coverts with twenty different colors, but the red one is the predominant. Then they let us assemble our own knife. I think this was the most exciting part of the tour! Everyone was very happy and interested in doing this for themselves. We saw how two ladies were working and then they guide us to put the right part in the correct place. We also wrote our names in the knife, I mean, we told them our names and they wrote them down. So, there is a department where the specials knives are done step by step by persons, and after others check them so they can assure the quality of the product.
The automatic process was very interesting too. A lot of machines assemble every part perfectly. And finally two or more persons check the knife to see if everything is ok.
What really surprised me was the recycle system that they have implemented in the company. Every piece of steel they send it back to the steel supplier to make cheaper steel, and even the leftovers of the polishing process they reuse, compressed them again. For the heated water that they use for cooling the processes down they also have a use. They heat the entire building and other 120 apartment in the nearby with the pipe-tube system. That is really something amazing! How they are using even their waste for something useful! I hope more companies in Chile could start using this system so we can reduce our consumption of wood for the heating.
Other important and valuable thing of this company is that they offer job for local people and also to persons who have some incapacity, for example, persons that cannot see. That is the case of Mr. Heinzer who is blind and has worked for the company for forty-six years, he really loves to work assembling knives and he is also afraid for the future cause in two more years he will retire, but he loves his work so much that he doesn't want to leave! That is impressive!!! He could have a normal life thanks to Victorinox that gave him the opportunity to work there. But Mr. Heinzer is not the only one, there are at least other 25 people who have some kind of problems but with the help that Victorinox provides them they can have a normal life now. That show us how this company cares about their workers and how helpful and enjoying the work can be for them. This is part of the tradition of the company that for years has been in the hands of the same family, this is an important fact for the environment inside Victonrinox.
The moment of the presentation was finally there. We were nervous but at the same time we wanted to finish this last challenge. One by one the groups presented their ideas. It was a special moment, some cried others laughed others keep in the same normal mood. We voted one for the other one and finally we had the winners. It was a hard decision for the jury to choose, because all of us have done our best. Finally, for my surprise Mohit, Debbie and I were the chosen ones. I still cannot believe it! We received a wonderful watch from Victorinox and all of us had like 200 ChF to spent in the store. That was a crazy moment, we couldn't decide what to bring, and thinking in our family and friends, and what was the best choice. Some of us were practical and bought some stuff for the kitchen, others brought knives for their entire family and others just picked the best thing they could for themselves. Then, we rushed, packed our things and run for the bus. We had to change trains a lot! Like in the entire trip! Now we can say that we are experts catching trains and moving fast. Little by little we left Gao and Tiffany behind, cause they were already going back to their homes. The rest of us continued traveled together to Sabine's parent's house. Night has come. There, in Jakobstahl, they received us with a beautiful path with little candles all over the garden. It was very romantic and we ate dinner outside. For the end of this report I leave the best part, we saw volcano firework with all the family, and Mohit Chris and I slept in the treehouse! Our child dream came true! Tomorrow we say goodbye, but I know that we will meet each other, hopefully soon. This was the best experience I had have in this years that opened my eyes and made me aware of what is happening around me, this was really revealing and I hope I can share this with my friends back in Chile.

Posted by dario at 12:05 PM

August 28, 2010

Final Report of the TOPtoTOP Award Expedition

Please add text, links and pictures:

Picture gallery of the TOPtoTOP Award Expedition, if you want to add some pictures email Mohit to get the password.

Picture gallery from the start of the TOPtoTOP Award Expedition in Maloja

Final Report TOPtoTOP Climate Solution Award 2010 in Switzerland

This event under the lead of Presence Switzerland was possible thanks to the two main sponors SGS und Victorinox, as well as swissnex, Mammut, Jungfraubahnen, Bergbahnen Engadin, BKW, Zermatter Bergbahnen, Camping Maloja, Biketec (Flyer), Glacier Express, Bielersee Schiffahrtsgesellschaft, Grindelwaldsports, Grindelwald Tourismus, Hochalpine Forschungsstation Jungfraujoch, Tropenhaus Frutigen, STIMBO, Speedrunner and many volunteers.

31. Juli - 20. August 2010
Winners of the "TOPtoTOP Student Climate Solution Contest" from 1 Chile, 1 Australia, 1 Japan, 1 Singapore, 1 India and 2 China plus 1 reporter from Chinese TV ICS plus 5 members of the Schwörer family, Gabi Bolliger as a main volunteer plus 1-5 supporters depending on the activity; participants listed below:
# name nation email school / university*
1 Tiffany Käsermann Japan, University of Queensland, Australia
2 Mohit Agarwal India Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
3 Macarena Sandrock Chile Universidad Austral de Chile (UACH)
4 Joqui Hocking Australia high school Melburne
5 Gao Pan China, Sichuan University
6 Christopher Ngoi Singapore, Nanyang Technological University
7 Wang Nuan China Shanghai, Jiaotong University
8 Zofie Feytons ICS TV China, RITS University for Audiovisual arts

Concept and goals:
Each winner works together in a team with another student and takes part in the "Swiss TOPtoTOP Tour" through Switzerland.
On the tour they will collect the most exciting examples and efforts to protect the climate and study the impacts of global warming during their climbs in the Swiss Alps.
Each participant has done 3 daily reports on and each team did a PowerPoint presentation about their tour and findings. The students from Chile, India and China got a Victorinox watch for their best reports and presentations. All students got a voucher for Victorinox products and the "TOPtoTOP Award" diploma signed by PRS and TOPtoTOP.
The DVD about the event will be produced by Jacqui Hocking from Australia till mid October. Together with their presentations they created great tools to be "ambassadors" for a better future and to present the most innovative solutions to protect our climate.


First Week: Saturday 31.07. - Sunday, 08.08.2010
We met the goals we set:
• All arrivedl between the 29.07.2010 and the 05.08.2010, during the TOPtoTOP 10th anniversary camp, where the participants had the opportunity to meet more TOPtoTOP members and their families
• Acclimatization to the alpine environment
• Team building
Program: for details check
• Reunion on the campground Maloja in the Engadin Valley..
• Outfitting members with MAMMUT sport equipment
• acclimatization with sailing, cycling and climbing activities
• Impacts of climate change: Morteratsch Glacier, protection of Pontesina village cause of permafrost melting etc.
• Solutions: hydro electricity etc.

Second and Third Week: Monday 09.08. - Friday, 20.08.2010
We met the goals we set:
• build a strong network trough the adventure
• collect innovative climate solutions
• produce a documentary film of good hopes
Program: for details check

Monday, 09.08.2010: St. Moritz - Zermatt: GLACIER EXPRESS• Activity: preparation and safety to climb a high mountain, overnight in Zermatt
• Topic: Swiss public transportation
• Overnight in Zermatt

Tuesday, 10.08.2010: Zermatt: CLIMB OVER 4000 M: BREITHORN• Activity: cable car up to Klein Matterhorn, climbing mount Breithorn 4200 m, overnight in Zermatt
• Topic: study inside a glacier, permafrost on Matterhorn

Wednesday, 11.08.2010: Zermatt-Grindelwald: A VILLAGE WITHOUT CARS
• Activity: cable car up to Furi and Via Ferata in Gorner Gorge plus sail park, visit of electic car factory Imboden, public transport to Grindelwald
• Topic: electric factory Imboden

Thursday, 12.08.2010: Grindelwald: CLIMATE TRAIL
• Activity: Climate trail with iPhone support to Bäregg
• Topic: tourism and climate change

Friday, 13.08.2010: Grindelwald - Jungfraujoch: TOP OF EUROPE• Activity: Unique railway to Top of Europe, scientific and technical tour, overnight in Mönchsjoch Hütte
• Topic: visit of limate laboratory in high altitude, technical tor of TOP of Europe

Saturday, 14.08.2010: Jungfraujoch - Grindelwald: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE
• Activity: glacier trek on the longest glacier in the Alps, because of bad weather we did a crevasse rescue exercise on 3800 m. Each participant was in a crevasse. In the afternoon we did 100 m abseiling and visiting the gorge behind Grindelwald.
• Topics: rescue and team bilding

Sunday, 15.08.2010: Grindelwald: BIGGEST INDOOR SAIL PARK
• Activity: time to work on presentation, in the afternoon fun in the biggest Indoor Sail Park in Europe
• Topics: team building

Monday, 16.08.2010: Grindelwald - Frutigen - Bern - Biel: THE SWISS GREEN HOUSE
• Activity: visiting Tropenhaus in Frutigen and Bundeshaus
• Topics: recycling the warm water from the Lötschberg tunnel, direct democraty

Thusday, 17.08.2010: Biel: SOLAR + WIND ENERGY
• Activity: wind + solar energy, scientific presentation
• Topics:
o Solar plant (14-15h), hike (15-16h) and windfarm (16-17h)
o Climate and vegetation dynamics by Christoph Schwörer, Institute of Plant SIence & Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research, University of Bern

Wednesday, 18.08.2010: Biel: WORLDS BIGGEST SOLAR CATAMARAN
Activity: sailing on the Bielersee sailing boats and the biggest solar catamaran worldwide (MobiCat), public presentation as a exercise for the Award Celebration
• Topic: in the morning: coordination of documentary film, production of presentations for awards giving

Thursday, 19.08.2010: Biel - Luzern: ELECTRIC MOBILITY REVOLUTION
• Activity: from Biel by electric bike (Flyers) to Huttwil to electric bike factory "Bike tech" and from there by train to Luzern
• Main topic: electric bikes
• Other Topic: Swiss Cheese factory, Schaukäserei Affoltern

Friday, 20.08.2010: Luzern - Brunnen - Ibach: CLIMATE SOLUTION AWARD• Activity: Sailing from Luzern 09.12 to Brunnen 11.09 and further by public transport to Victorinox in Ibach for lunch at 11.45h and visiting Victorinox 13.30 - 14.30h
• Topic: Award giving at Victorinox in Ibach plus presentation, 14.30 h - 16 h
• Event ends at 16 h in Ibach, final dinner and overnight in Jakobstal at Sabine's parents

On the expedition we made a press release and give interviews to local- (i.e. Engadiner Post), national- (i.e. Beobachter) and international media (i.e. HAARETZ daily, Israel).
The participants communicated and will communicate the success of the event to their media back home.
ICS TV from China joined us for the event and produce of the 80 h of footage 10 documentaries with 20 Million visitors each.

The feedbacks were all great from all sides! Here some examples:

"... Everyone in my school is now very interested on my 3-week trip to Switzerland, So I plan to give a presentation in my school the day after tomorrow and I will invite them to taste the chocolate and chess I brought back. I would like to talk about our stories and my feelings..."Debbie, China
"Thank you very much for such an amazing experience! I will never forget it for the rest of my life!!" Tiffany, Japan
"I just arrived safely in Singapore! Thanks so much for this amazing experience!" Chris, Singapore
„Es freut mich natürlich auch, dass die Tour in der Schweiz so erfolgreich war. Wir konnten gut spüren, dass alle Teilnehmer sehr beeindruckt waren, bleibende Erinnerungen mitnehmen und positive Botschafter geworden sind. Auch unser Team war vom Besuch in Ibach tief beeindruckt." Carl Elsener, Victorinox
„Juste un petit message pour te dire que j'ai eu beaucoup de plaisir à prendre part à la journée du "Climate Solution Award" dans ses locaux de Victorinox à Ibach. J'ai été très impressionnée par le travail consciencieux et de qualité livré par les 7 participants à ces 3 semaines intensives que vous avez organisées pour eux en Suisse. Leurs présentations finales nous ont permis de découvrir et ressentir à quel point leur séjour en Suisse a été marquant pour chacun d'eux, et cela à divers niveaux... » Fabienne Bavaud, PRS

For any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the main coordinator Dario Schwörer:

Posted by dario at 1:52 PM