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Between 15th to 20th July, Jim, David and I travelled into the vastness of the Oberland south of Grindelwald. This is quite simply the largest area of high altitude glacial territory in Europe.
Let the train take the strain unless you want a very long walk. Check out Jungfraubahn
and be sure to catch the very first train in order to save a substantial amount of francs!
During the train journey to Jungfraujoch you will catch a glimpse of the North Face of the Eiger. This year it had plenty of new snow on it around 15/16th July. Much of this disappeared in the following week. Many teams avoid the Eiger these days in the summer months due to stripping of the snowfields, which makes it even more serious than historically has been true. October onwards and colder conditions are more favourable.
This shot looks across the Second and Third Icefield, past the Flat Iron and Death Bivouac into the Ramp, which lies in shadow. The Traverse of the Gods and Final Chimneys are all in view.
As this was our first day at altitude we dropped down from the Jungfraujoch to the Konkordia Hut.
At an altitude of 2800 metres this hut is a far better place to spend the first night compared to the much closer Monchjoch Hut at around 3600 metres.
The two images above show the massive flights of steps to be climbed (466 in all) to gain the hut. Bear in mind that the glacier now, although measured as 900 metres thick in recent years, used to come to the door of this hut just over 100 years ago.
Even though we had found a good lower hut for acclimatisation, there are few easy options for training peaks of any worth. The new snow had turned reasonably solid underfoot, so we set off for an eleven hour day on the Gross Grunhorn at just over 4000 metres. Dave and Jim are hardy lads and it was selfishly a first ascent of this peak for me! Initially the Grunegghorn at 3800 metres must be climbed and that is no pushover as can be seen above. It has a sharp rocky ridge and a descent of around 100 metres to an intervening col, before the final ascent.
The early morning image above taken from the Finsteraarhorn shows the Grunegghorn on the left and the large bulk of Gross Grunhorn on the right. The ordinary route from the Konkordia Hut follows the left skyline. A descent from the connecting col is possible by abseil and fixed gear is in place, although two teams failed to find it whilst we were there. Maybe it was covered in snow. The col also provides an approach to the ridge from the Finsteraarhorn Hut.
The picture above shows the approach via the ridge on the Grunegghorn towards the Gross Grunhorn. The right-hand ridge of the distant peak forms the ordinary route. In descent we reversed our route of ascent and got back to the hut for a well deserved good afternoon ‘kip’. In fact sleeping formed a large part of our life that week!
As the Gross Grunhorn holds a central place in the Oberland it is a very fine viewpoint. Sunrise on the Aletschhorn above.
Another view of the Aletschhorn. The col on the right is a simple glacial trek towards Lotschental. The Hollandia Hut sits on the right of the col.
To the east can be seen the Finsteraarhorn, the highest peak in this area at 4273 metres and that is where we headed the next day. A short pleasant walk over the Grunhornlucke after a late (0700) breakfast and we arrived at the newly re-furbished Finsteraarhorn Hut in around four hours.
The hut is situated on the low spur of rock showing in the image above. From there th
e route heads up diagonally to the final flat crest at the Hugisattell, before turning up right to the summit.
The old building in the foreground is now the winter room. The new hut Finsteraarhorn Hut is exceedingly ‘posh’ and friendly.
The climb towards the summit of the Finsteraarhorn was plagued with soft snow in the mild conditions. Only just below the Hugisattel did it relent and harden up. We were however blessed with glorious weather and a quiet mountain, with only two other parties on the route. The photo above shows the final ridge, which was mixed and solid on this day.
A fine view towards the Schreckhorn
Looking north from the summit towards the South Face of the Eiger.
Back at the hut and time to relax, dry clothes and boots and sleep.
Considering the harsh alpine environment the hut area is well populated with flowers. We also followed a Fox track over the glacier for many kilometres.
A south-west facing veranda offers time to dry out in the afternoon sun.
We had planned to travel to the Monchjoch Hut via the Gross Fiescherhorn, however the temperature went through the roof, new snow fell and we were left with few options other than to retrace our steps to the Jungfraujoch by Konkordiaplatz. I have done this a few times and it’s not too bad as the route will nearly always be well tracked-out.
The usual dirty summer area at Konkordiaplatz with big glacial streams to cross and rugged glacial architecture.
Six hours into the journey and an empty waterbottle. Not to worry the Beer Kellers and glass panelled shelter of the Jungfraujoch beckons on the horizon.
Finally after just over eight hours we make the Monchjoch Hut at the start of another storm. The next day we descended to Grindelwald as the wind was still strong on the tops and we had all had a good trip and showers were in order!
That evening we toured the hotels and bars of Grindelwald trying to find a free WiFi connection to upload this page……”Nothing is free in Switzerland”….said the lady at the tourist office. She was correct, at least that is the case in Grindelwald. We did however have a great evening out trying to logon. Well done Dave and Jim.
Check out this method of ordering home-made beer in a five litre tube bar across the road from the train station in Geneva at Les-Brasseurs
And Geneva City Hostel where I was staying also offer free WiFi and a free Geneva Transport ticket. This allowed me to get to the Airport for nowt the next day. Back out to the Alps at the end of August, so watch this spot.