(all pictures are low res, for high res click here)
Before I jump in and discuss our climbs based out of Wengen, I want to spend a moment going over our entry and departure city of Zurich, Switzerland. Before I left for this trip, I spent a lot of time thinking thru the gear list. . My goal was to go as light as I possibly could, but more on that later. Zurich actually is a gorgeous town, and one of the more fun places in Europe. As I took one step out of my hotel I knew that I was in for a treat, as I saw one of Europe's unique SmartCars parked across the street. Incidently, the Smartcar has been on display at MoMA in NYC as an outstanding representation of automotive art. I've only seen one of them in the US, but if you want one, check this out. As I continued thru Zurich , I walked to old town while going over some gorgeous water . Finally we left Zurich and drove to Interlaken for a nice lunch and some outstanding views of the Jungfrau.. After lunch we continued our journey to the town of Lauterbrunnen (see if you can find the Swiss flag in this picture!) where we had to ditch our van and continue on via train to the town of Wengen at 4180 ft. .
Besides being home to the Lauberhorn Skiing World Cup, Wengen is also a gorgeous and quite little village where most cars are not allowed. The only vehicles found are electric cars owned by the hotels. In Wengen, we stayed at the Hotel Falken which was a quaint little place that offered great views from our rooms, even when it was cloudy . Once there, Lansing (my climbing partner on my rope team) and I, decided to take a telepheric ride to the top of Männlichen where we could look down on the village . From the top (7,300 ft) we were given some great views of the high grasslands used for grazing and some stupendous views of the Eiger and Jungfrau . Meanwhile I also thought I'd take some artistic shots of the avalanche fences .
That night began the first in a series of horrendous weather that plagued most of Europe. We reluctantly headed up to Kleine-Scheidegg where the view of the Jungfrau and Eiger were impaired due to the impeding weather system.. We continued on to the Jungfraujoch - the Top of Europe via the Jungfraubahn thru the center of the Eiger. Yes, the train actually goes thru the center of the mountain. Here's a map of our railway journey. At the top, you are finally at the Jungfraujoch (11,782 ft), which is essentially a little touristy observation deck that includes (weather was still bad) a resturant , an ice palace with sculptures cut into the glacier and other attractions (like dog sledding and tyrolienne traverse rides) as well as a tunnel that leads to the actually glaciers . This was the starting point for Wengen climbing adventure.
After a quick bite at the restaurant, we headed out on to the glacier and hiked for about an hour up to the Mönchsjochhütte (11,976ft) which is where lived for the next couple days. The beautiful thing about climbing in the Alps is that you don't have to bring a sleeping bag, food, stove, or tent with you anywhere. There are huts built on most climbing routes. These huts are staffed with cooks who make your food (Steve, Bill and Lansing are in this picture), have plenty of water (though if you want bottled water it cost about $9 a bottle! - so most people bought melted snow water which was about $1.50/liter), and the beds are fairly nice (here's Bill and Steve - two of the other clients on the trip). The only problem is that there are tons of people who stay in these huts, so it can get noisy. The cost to stay there was about $30/night. The weather up top was not cooperating, so the next day we had to cancel our climb of the Mönch and climb the Walcherhorn instead. The Walcherhorn (3,692m ~ 12,000+ ft) is fairly easy peak, which gets to be a little bit harder when you are climbing in a whiteout . However, we made it to the top within a couple of hours (3, I think). After a quick break we headed back (Lansing, Bill and Paul) to the hut. It's funny how climbing without acclimitization has a profound effect on the body. I was super tired after just this 4 hour trip. When we got back to the hut, we learned that the weather was supposed to clear up the next day, so we made plans to climb the Jungfrau the next morning.
At 4:00 am we got up, ate breakfast and began our climb of the Jungfrau . I had a super light pack (no down jacket, no shell pants) and we headed up the mountain at a fairly fast clip. As the sun came up at 6, we were blessed with some amazing views of the Alps . Here's a view of the Jungfraujoch and the Mönch . As daylight crept up the mountains, the beauty increased. . The climbing became a little more technical with this rock face we had to climb. We guessed it was mainly class 4, with a couple easy class 5 moves -- however we were on belay for most the rock climbing anyway. At the top of the rock, we stopped for a few more photos (Lansing) meanwhile the route flattened out a little bit for us . At this point we also had a pretty neat view of the Jungfraujoch . We kept going higher and higher until we came upon some pretty scary knife ridges that had to be traversed - each knife ridge easily had over 1,000 ft exposure on each side. This scared the crap out of me.. After some 80 degree ice climbing and rest stepping (oh my god this was tiring!) we finally made it to the summit (13,641 ft)!!! (these are a couple really neat pictures! If you look closely behind me you can see the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc. Also, if you look into my glasses you can see Paul and Lansing taking my picture). Lansing - Me - Paul
On the way down, we had to once again traverse the knife ridges and down climb the 80 degree ice. However, the sun had been out for a while now and the ice had turned to very crappy snow - the type of snow that is great for snowballs but terrible for crampons. As we were climbing, I am super grateful that there were belay stantions there, as Paul had us on belay for this part. Of course, the snow balled up my crampons and I actually fell twice, and Lansing fell once. Let me tell you, falling down 80 degree snow that has a 1,000+ ft drop below will scare the crap out of you -- and needless to say, this did. The lesson I learned was that downclimbing is so much tougher if you don't have antiballing plates on your crampons. After our little scare, we climbed back to the Jungfraujoch and took the Jungfraubahn back to Klein-Scheindegg for celebratory brat and beer at the resturant. .
After a couple fun days of climbing, we were off to our next adventure city -- Chamonix, France.