Each year a group of intrepid Fellwanderers leave the UK to undertake an ambitious two week trek overseas. This year was no different. The chosen trek was the breathtaking Tour of the Jungfrau, winding its way among some of the most spectacular and best-loved mountain scenery in the Swiss Alps.
The circular trek took the group through the Bernese Oberland’s most spectacular mountain scenery, in the shadow of such iconic peaks as the Wetterhorn, Monch, Eiger, and Jungfrau finally summiting the iconic Schilthorn at the end of the route
The start of the real hiking was from Schynige Platte, which was accessible by mountain railway so we stayed the first night a little lower down at Wilderswil. Tired from the long journey and early morning, we went to bed early, excited about getting the real walking the next day. So the next day, we got the mountain railway up to Schynige Platte. On the way back, we actually saw the mountain railway come apart as it left the station so we appear to have been quite lucky in not encountering problems. On the first day, we walked from Schynige Platte to First via the Faulhorn (2686m). We walked the last 40 minutes in ridiculously heavy rain and then got to the hut. As we were cooking dinner, Jim had the first porridge spillage disaster of the trip – his bag of porridge had come open and the rain had mixed with it to form porridge. It stuck to all his stuff and the hallway when he emptied his bag out.
The next day was lovely and warm, and we walked from First to Grindewald, a valley town. On this walk we really started to get our first views of the amazing mountains we were going to see throughout the two weeks. We walked past the Wetterhorn and were heading down to the valley. At this point, Jim, Joe, Ande and Ben decided to extend the walk to the Gleckstein Hut (2317m). Treading in the footsteps of Winston Churchill (who used the hut as a base to summit the Wetterhorn), they traversed up steep-sided slopes above a gorge before emerging into a high alpine valley in which the hut lay. Here, Ande’s coke addiction was satisfied as they were rewarded with the first view from within the high alps of the first days of the tour. However (and this will become an emerging theme) I decided on the easier option and walked down the valley to the campsite.
We originally just planned to stay the night at Grindewald but after much discussion we decided to stay at the campsite for an extra day, the justifications being we could eat more food, therefore carry less up the mountain, and there was more to do in Grindewald than Alpiglen in terms of rest day fun. Jim, Joe (these two didn’t actually have a rest day for the whole trip!) Ande and Ben decided to attempt to reach new heights by ascending to another hut lying next to a glacier at 2800m. After a very precipitous ascent, they were forced to turn back some 200m from the top due to worsening weather conditions in the face of a tough climb up rocks. The rest of us learnt crazy dominoes, courtesy of Rafal. He won… Coincidence? I think not. But then Yvonne and I beat Peter and Rafal at bowls. So balance was restored, despite (false) allegations of witchcraft. That evening Chris arrived and we watched a World Cup match on the TV at the campsite.
So the next day we went to Alpiglen, taking us out of the valley. We got there just before lunch, ate lunch and got shown into a lovely hut. It wasn’t so lovely the next morning when we were woken up by flies at 3 in the morning. That night I was introduced to President, the card game with a player hierarchy that actively encourages social inequality by making it almost impossible to get out of the peasant role once you’re there.
The next day we walked on to Kleine Schliedegg, past Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Jim, Peter, Joe and Ande bravely “climbed” all of 3 feet of the North Face of the Eiger. We then walked on to Kleine Sclidegg to a campsite behind a restaurant and were joined by some rather charming French children and musical goats. The restaurant had a lovely view of Grindewald and the route we had walked. The next day we started our descent back into a valley, we went to Schetlberg to the campsite Rutti. This was quite a nice campsite location-wise, but some thieving foxes stole both Yvonne’s and my lunchboxes (they just couldn’t resist the taste of the amazing Polenta we cooked….) and the washing machine stole Rafal’s socks. Very strange. We decided to extend our stay here by another day and do a day walk up to a hut where Jim’s clever disguise fell apart and revealed he was actually Gollum. We have evidence: climbing down a moraine and trying to fish in a lake on the way back.
We got to the hut, really impressing the owners with our massive bags and obvious hardcore hiking spirit, only to disappoint them the next day by lying in and going on pathetic short walks. This hut was the nicest place we stayed, we had a lovely view of the mountains and the people that owned it were absolutely lovely. The food was delicious and plentiful, they actually managed to fill Jim up both nights in a row, a task up until now thought impossible.
On the rest day, Jim and Joe went off and did their mental walk down to a hut somewhere miles away, and up something that people with climbing gear turned away from because it looked a bit hard. This was The Vendre Butlasse and at 3031m, the near fatal scrambling it took to get to the top paid off as they finally broke the 3000m. The dodgy scrambling undoubtedly amused the on-looking Ibex, seemingly always above the two.
The rest of us did a mixture of either walking up to a pass nearby that had a view of some mountains further on and then swimming in a lake made of snowmelt (freezing but beautiful) or staying in the hut playing games. There were some rather sweet American kids who watched the game playing, giving out handy tips and insulting Ande, so they were pretty popular with everyone, especially Rafal who got on with everyone like a house on fire.
We had another night of lovely food and discovered the game Blokus, a funny variation of Tetris that was completely impossible to everyone except Ande who almost exploded because he couldn’t quite believe we made the moves that we chose and kept asking scary questions like “But why did you put that there?” when there was probably no right answer.
There was a massive cable car all the way up the mountain and we all felt very smug reaching the top with our heavy bags. There was a cable car load that arrived about when we did and Chris and Ande accosted some poor tourists and told them all about our trip for hours (I was told it was the other way round and they wanted to know about our trip but I’m not sure either Chris or Ande know how to stop talking).
While we were up there, we watched a video about the Schilthorn being the set for the Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” which featured not just clips from the film but a lot of cheesy shots of Switzerland and a crazy dancing lady dressed in white who popped up every so often for no apparent reason. The view from the Schilthorn was fantastic; we saw all the mountains we had been walking past for the last week and more much further on.
We walked down to Blumenthal to camp behind a restaurant again that had a trampoline (!!), and Raf had his first ever go on a trampoline. We also washed the MSR pots properly for the first time on the trip. They were SO SHINY. Then we went down to Suls to the hut there. We had our last dinner which didn’t quite trump the infamous Gouda cheese cake of last year for inventive inedibility, but it was at least tasty. The starter was a slightly bizarre tinned-meat-and-pastry-twists thing (the less said the better really), then we had chilli which resembled real chilli in that it was made with smoked sausage, ginger and celeriac… The win of the evening was the waffles with fried pineapple, chocolate, condensed milk and apple puree. The next day was the final walk back down to Wilderswil to complete our circle. We stocked up on chocolate to take home and alcohol to drink and went for the last supper at a local restaurant.
The next day we went to Zurich to get the flight home. We spent a few hours looking around at all these lovely shops we could never afford to buy anything from and then went to the airport to find that our flight had been delayed, by what was to become 4.5 hours. But some of us managed to swindle EasyJet out of an extra food voucher and we did manage to get on the plane in the end – it was a bit of a squeeze because after noon some sort of noise reduction law meant that there were no flights allowed and we boarded the plane at quarter to, but it happened and we got back.
Thus concludes the tale of one group’s tour through breathtaking scenery, defying backpack-induced hardship, painful ascents and questionable cuisine to complete one of the most awe-inspiring routes on the planet, the Tour of the Jungfrau. The summer tour finished off what has been, for me, an amazing year with the Fellwanderers. The club is accessible for people of any level of fitness or experience and everyone in the club is really sociable, friendly, fun and up for a challenge. The weekend trips throughout the year were a great way to get away from work and out of London and the tours are fantastic holidays that give a real sense of achievement.
If this appeals to you then come and get in contact with this yearís president, Jim Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you soon!