Saturday, April 30, 2016


The mountain forecast predicted a clear day after several days of snow. A perfect ski forecast, so I hooked up with Dave Miller, one of the guides from our Haute Route, to ski off the Jungfraujoch.

Mary and I met Dave at the Grindelwald train station and boarded for the first leg up to Kleine Scheidegg. The views from the train were magnificent.

At Kleine Scheidegg we switched trains. The line to the Jungfraujoch is mostly inside tunnels bored into the mountains, but makes two stops for viewing before reaching the top.

The first stop provides a look out of the north face of the Eiger.

The second stop is along the southeast face.

The Jungfraugoch is the highest train station in Europe and home to the "Top of Europe" tourist attraction - which we completely avoided. Once out of the station we found ourselves in this stunning alpine setting near the head of the Aletcsh Glacier, the largest in the Alps.

We skied down a bit in nice snow and then headed up this ice field.

The Jungfrau. The tallest peak in the vicinity. 

Looking down the Aletsch with the Fiescher Gabelhorn and neighboring peaks center.

 Dave skins up beneath the Jungfrau (upper right).

The new snow brought heightened danger with it. Winds had created shallow, yet dangerous slabs and drifts had masked crevasses in the glaciers. We took a conservative approach for sure!

Mary hiked over to the to the Monchjoch hut while Dave and I skied. The hut is in the gap to the right of the imposing Monch here.

Dave nears the top. For the first time during my trip to the Alps we were breaking trail!

Another view back towards the Monch and the glaciers. The Jungfraujoch, our starting point, is just out of view along the left shoulder of the Monch.

I mistakenly took this photo, but it turned out interesting.

The first few turns off the top were a bit wind affected, but below the skiing was terrific!

We finished our tour at the same time Mary finished her hike. All of us elated for spending a beautiful day in the alpine. Back on the train!

The train ride down from Kleine Scheidegg was again impressive.

The north face of the Eiger. The scale is difficult to comprehend. That's about 2,200 meters (~7,500 feet)!

The Wetterhorn (left) rises above Grindelwald.

Much of the commerce around Grindelwald is agrarian.

We enjoyed a fine dinner at our chalet.

While watching numerous avalanches thundering down the nearby slopes.

The barn behind our chalet at last light.

We stayed in the bottom of this chalet. Very comfortable with amazing views.

A simply amazing day!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Travel Day. Zermatt to Grindewald

After nearly two full days in Zermatt under cloudy skies and little or no views, I woke up at daybreak hoping to see the Matterhorn only to be disappointed again. I resigned myself to the idea that I would not enjoy the view of that most iconic mountain.

But shortly thereafter the clouds briefly parted to this glorious sight. 

 Mary and I were positively giddy!

Our visit to Zermatt was complete!

At the train station the Swiss military was making preparations for the Patrouille des Glaciers (the PDG) which is a famous ski mountaineering race held every other year, traveling from Zermatt to Verbier along a very similar route to the standard Haute Route.

The race is in some ways similar to our Elk Mountain Grand Traverse except there are about 5,000 racers competing over several waves on two days instead of the 400 or so at the traverse. The course is also a bit longer, has more elevation gain and has huge checkpoint/aid stations run by the military. The winners are superstars in the European mountain sports culture.

We boarded the train to Grindewald. I dig trains!

Nearly all of the trains are electric powered, but some of the switching trains and small freight engines are diesel like this one.

The views along the way out the Matter valley were fine. Note the huge avalanche which had fallen down to the river.

More huge avalanche debris piles alongside a gravel quarry.

and a massive rock slide to boot. This one briefly dammed the river and severed the road and railway lines back in 1991. More info here.

Train travel rocks!

Amazing geology. Check out those folds lower right. Beyond 90 degrees!

Enjoyed lots of waterfalls along the way too.

We arrived in Grindewald to a snowy scene. The view from our chalet.

After our late night out and a solid day of rail travel we were pooped!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Skiing in Zermatt

The group decided to ski in Zermatt for the day and again see what the mountains would give us.

Down low there were but two small slivers of snow allowing skiers to ski right into town if they wished.

Now and again the sun would break through and illuminate the huge slopes.

We boarded the tram which goes up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. The winds up there were 75 km/hr or close to 50 mph.

Here comes our car.

With the high winds they throw a crate of cinder blocks in the car for ballast.

 Ascending into the clouds, the other car is seen on it's way down.

At the top.

It was pretty intense on the observation deck. Not much observing to be done.

We made a stop into the plush gift shop where Nicki found a little oxygen for sale. Could be handy for my next cross race!

Stuffed animals could be had too. Bizarre.

We eventually got around to skiing which proved to be surprisingly good. We found creamy, largely untracked snow, with just enough visibility to provide fun turning.

I took a few runs with the crew.

Then headed back via one of the trails into town which proved to be exhausting with mushy snow, small rises requiring skating, and a descent that seemed to go on forever.

Once back into town I reunited with Mary, cleaned up, and we went for a walk in the historic part of town.

Some of these buildings dated back to the 1700s!

Buildings for storing meat, cheese, and other food were built on flat stone footings to prevent rodents from entering. The cat provides extra protection in that regard!

It was our last night together as a group and we celebrated in fine fashion at a bar with this fun band.

It turned out it was the last day most of the ski area was open and for many local workers it was the beginning of their holiday, so they were in a mood for partying too.

What a night! What a trip!