We got going around 10 am and I drove us to Lauterbrunnen, where we bought tickets for the 11:30 train to Kleine Scheidegg. (It is very expensive to go all the way up to the Jungfraujoch, so don’t do it unless you know you will have good weather at the top!) We were now old hats at all this, having done the identical journey up to Kleine Scheidegg with my parents last fall, and we settled into our compartment on the cog train for the 45-minute ride up from Lauterbrunnen and through Wengen (view from the train, left). The train was quite full; we sat across from a couple of British guys and an American family with two teenagers. The mountains were totally clear on the way up and we agreed that it could not have been a more perfect day for this journey. We saw a few of my favorite Swiss cows along the way, wearing their characteristic bells (remember this detail for tomorrow, too). We had a short wait at Kleine Scheidegg so we went into a gift shop and bought some magnets (I recently started collecting magnets from all of the countries we’ve visited since we’ve been in
We boarded our train around 1:00 and started the long, slow ascent up to the Jungfraujoch. After the first stop, we entered the 7.3-kilometer long tunnel that traverses the massive wall of the Eiger. The train stopped twice on the way up, each time for about five minutes, so we could walk out to the viewing platforms and look straight down the wall of ice, all the way to the green
The Jungfraujoch station is an enormous multi-level complex, most of which is built inside the rock itself (see photo, left). (Here is a good picture of the complex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Siteoverview.jpg) We stepped off the train into what felt like a cross between a subway station and an amusement park, with an array of colored arrows pointing the way to the various attractions. We first walked through the
We opted not to eat lunch at the station (the “nice” restaurant was far too expensive and the “casual” restaurant was a glorified cafeteria), and instead decided to make the short hike across the glacier to the Mönchsjochütte, a typical Swiss hiker’s lodge. The 45-minute trek across a gently rising slope covered in fresh snow was a lot harder than it looked – at 11,300 feet, we were gasping for air! It was definitely worth the effort, as the crowds dispersed as soon as we got a few hundred feet away from the station. (You can rent sleds and even ski equipment up here, but the ski slope is pretty pathetic.) Signs warned us to stay on the groomed trail, because if you head off into untouched snow you just might fall into a hidden crevasse in the ice. Walking across the blinding white snow under impossibly blue skies, with views of craggy peaks and the vast glacier spreading out before us, was simply mind-boggling (view looking back towards the Jungfraujoch, below). Finally the hütte came into view – a rugged-looking structure on stilts, clinging to the “hip” of the Mönch. Below us we could see a climbers’ camp consisting of a snug circle of dome tents clustered in a not-so-sheltered hollow and agreed that we would leave snow camping to the die-hard mountain climbers.
We were starving when we finally arrived at the hütte, so we decided to share a plate of bratwurst and potato salad along with a couple bottles of Apfelschörle (that’s German for sparkling apple juice). We sat at a window looking out beyond the Mönch to a wide expanse of rock and ice. While we were sitting there, John just happened to see a sign on the wall with the train schedule and he realized that the next train was leaving at 4:45, and then there wasn’t another departure until the last train of the day at 6:05. It was already 4:15, which gave us exactly 30 minutes to get back down to the train station. We literally ran, slipping and sliding through the snow, all the way back, and arrived at the station at 4:40. Clouds were starting to move in over the
We arrived back in Lauterbrunnen (photo from the descent, left) at 7:30 and then made the 45-minute drive back to Kandersteg without incident. We had dinner at the Hotel Victoria across the street, where we were served by a very nice waitress from
More photos from the Jungfraujoch: