Both ends of the Aletsch Glacier
April 28-30, 2007

Leila and I spent a few days touring the big hills of Switzerland. First up we stayed a couple of nights in Wengen, a small village situated on a high alp above the Lauterbrunnen valley near Interlaken. While there we rode the Jungfraubahn all the way to the top of Europe - the Jungfraujoch, something I have wanted to do for a very long time indeed (I had my first opportunity almost exactly 29 years earlier, but it was too expensive for us back then). At an altitude of 3571m we could see the tops of both the Jungfrau and the Mönch.

We then walked up to the Mönchsjochhütte to have a lunch at 3650m. At that altitude drinking one beer feels like two! The walk went across the top of the Aletsch Glacier and around the peak of the Mönch, we could clearly see climbers ascending and descending the final ridge leading to the top. Off in the distance we could even make out a party of climbers crossing the last snow col just below the Jungfrau's summit. The weather was brilliant, but hiking at altitude is definitely no fun!

After lunch we trudged back down to the Jungfraujoch and rode the train back down to the base of the Eiger Glacier (2320m) were we got off and from there walked back down to Wengen (1274m). On the train I was experiencing what felt like periodic apnea, and I had to consciously take a couple of deep breaths to be comfortable again - it was a very strange feeling.

The next day we took a train around to canton Valais where we went up to Riederalp (1905m) which is situated on a south-facing alp not far from the other end of the Aletsch Glacier. We specifically came here because we want to spend Christmas in Riederalp in a chalet with my mum and dad, Leila's mum (Gudrun) as well as Christoph and Anneli. Leila and I spent the night in a room above the Derby pub which was actually very good and breakfast was laid out for us in the morning down in the pub. We found the locals to be very friendly and helpful, particularly when we we couldn't find the chalet we wanted for Christmas. We spent most of the first day walking up to the high ridge above Riederalp to look over the other side at the Aletsch Glacier terminus. I ruined an old pair of street shoes in the process (this hike wasn't exactly planned, it just sort of happened) as we struggled up over the ridge and then crossed the snowy plateau at the top, occasionally sinking to our thighs in mushy wet snow. The glacier terminus was a very long way when we finally spotted it. Perhaps another time we will walk down and have a closer look.

These next few pictures are, respectively, (i) view from our room at night, (ii) the Christmas chalet, (iii) view from near the Christmas chalet (right) down into the valley.

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