Ski touring in the Swiss Alps: Bernese Oberland via the Jungfraujoch
The ski mountaineering playground of the Bernese Oberland is hidden from the alpine ski resort of Kleine Scheidegg by the forbidding ramparts of the Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau. The buildings of the Jungfraujoch – Europe's highest railway station - nestle like turrets or battlements on the ridge that connects the Jungfrau to the Moench. They provide a halfway house between the familiar world of buildings and trees and the unseen realm of the Oberland, with its glaciers and kilometre thick ice, an echo of the Karakoram lurking in the middle of Europe, like a stowaway in a ship’s hold.
The Jungfraujoch is visible in the col between the Moench and the Jungfrau. Kleine Scheidegg is in the foreground, just right of centre. The Eiger is out of shot to the left.
As we awaited the Jungfraubahn at Kleine Sheidigg, the sun popped into view, perfectly and centrally located in the col between the Eiger and the Moench. All that had been shaded was now bathed in light. As the sun's rays caressed my face I felt that our timing was auspicious, astronomically perfect, as if we had arrived just in time to catch the light of the solstice illuminating the back wall of a neolithic tomb.
The Jungfraubahn (Eiger railway) with the hotel at Kleine Scheidegg and the Eiger in the background. the train goes through the north face of the Eiger, stopping at windowed galleries en route.
The Konkordia hut is to the right of this photo, above and to the left of the obvious gully that splits the lower face. The infamous hut ladders can be seen zig-zagging up the face to the left of the gully
Euphoria engulfed me as I skinned up the Konkordiaplatz. Teams ahead were swallowed by the white desert, dwarfed. The North wind carried a carpet of spindrift across my path. Occasionally a lone spiral pirouetted in front of me. Ten thousand years ago the great Moor of Rannoch may have looked similar to this. If the Konkordiaplatz were to turn to lochan-studded moorland, what would the rest of the world look like? Clouds began to form; a dark shadow below the glacier tricked me into seeing a lochan, into glimpsing the future?This trip took place in the winter of 2009 (March 16th – 20th).