Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Summit Fever

This trip - we finally made it up to the Jungfraujoch. A little explanation - this observation point sits on the 'yoke' of the mountain ridge at the base of the Jungfrau summit approach, next to the Moench (Monch -with little dots over the 'o'). The Eiger, the Moench and Jungfrau peaks are the 'Big 3' of the Berner Oberland peaks over 4,000 meters - over 12,000 ft. The Eiger is actually just a wee bit under 4k M but over the 12k ft - and is so well known/recognized/difficult that it gets included for being famous. Kind of like a celebrity mountain.

The weather here changes so rapidly - we've seen snow, wind, lightening, thunder, rain and complete sunny blue skies all in the span of a 12 hr period. We have planned several times to go up but always reconsidered due to poor weather/visibility on the summit.

The trip to the Jungfraujoch is via the Jungfraubahn railway on which construction started just before the turn of the 20th century. This railway is 100 yrs old! A cog-train that crawls through the middle of the Eiger, the Moench and then to the observation center at Jungfraujoch. Not that being in a tunnel deep in a mountain on a cog-train system started 100 yrs ago bothered me. Just keep watching the little promo movie, you'll be fine........

We have always felt a little sorry for the tour groups that come through - this part of their trip is already scheduled and paid for. They go up regardless of weather - and the tickets are not cheap.

Regular price for round-trip is 145chf/person. Fortunately for us, as tourism from the West is down with our poor, sick dollar, our 1/2 fare cards (we pay for a card which lets us buy 1/2 fare transport anywhere in Switzerland) and the kids Jr. cards were fully active on the Jungfraubahn this year. In the prior 2 yrs, there was only a 20% discount and kids were 1/2 fare. This time, the whole family was able to go up for only 145chf! 2 adults + 2 kids free (with their Jr. cards (cost of 20chf for 1 year), they are free anywhere in Switzerland with a paying parent).

Enough of the travelling in Switzerland lesson for today, here we go:

Below - Bart and girls on the train going up. We were early enough the tour groups from Interlachen weren't on the higher trains yet - we had a lot of room. The conductor didn't look too impressed. Felt like he needed a little 'Mr. Roarke' from Fantasy Island boost - "Smiles, everyone, Smiles..." The "Eismeer" or Sea of Ice that runs between the mountain peaks up at the top. You can only get this view from either the Jungfraujoch or via air - it was incredible to see this glacier up close.
One of our wishes when we came up - you can see the observation deck at the top of that rocky ridge in the pic below - was to hike across the glacier (via the Cat trail) to the Moench Hut. My mom and her husband John said this was do-able for us if we had on good boots and took the hiking sticks/ski poles with us. It is a 45 min to 1 hr hike there. 30 minutes for an acclimatized mountaineer. We went prepared and knew it might take a bit longer with the girls.

Here is our crew hiking up. The tunnel out onto the glacier is at the base of that rocky ridge. You can see that there aren't many people hiking out with us. And no other children.

We also knew we had to consider our girls feelings/condition on this hike. There is a medical advisement when people go to the Jungfraujoch as most of them travel from the Valley floor up to the Joch within 1 1/2 hrs - all of a sudden, they are at approx. 11,700 ft. And that can be hard on a body.

It is harder on little bodies and we made sure to let the girls pick the pace. About 3/4th's of the way into the hike, Kendra declared "everybody keeps spinning around" and starts dancing on the trail. Hhmmmm?

Then Rachel (who had been gung-ho to reach the Hut) began to say "everyone is walking so fast" it's just getting too hard to breath." Well, 'everyone' was pretty much us and we were shuffling our feet uphill - it's amazing how slow you go but how fast it feels when your body is working hard to breath. And we had been hiking at 6k to 8k elevation for several days.

Rachel had also not felt well about 3 days prior and I really wanted to watch her. We let her make the call on whether to go on or not. "Do what you need to do, not what you think will make Mommy and Daddy happy." So we stopped. Here she is doing her best to smile:

Bart and I had a little momentary conference: "we're so close" "see the little flag right there - its just around the corner" "we're so close" "but, but, we're so close"

And then we went back to the girls and said "Let's take a family pic and then we'll go back." So here we are on the glacier - almost to the Moench Hut (which you can't actually get into without crampons for the final approach but that's beside the point - it could have been in our picture!).

Very proud of the girls. And quite honestly, I've had altitude sickness as a child and it really doesn't feel good. Fortunately, we turned back at a good time and there were no incidents and no one danced into a crevasse.

We had a great time. We won't forget this cool (literally) experience.

Side notes:

Congratulations to John who summited the Eiger this trip and thus has 'conquered' the Big 3. I spent the day with my mom while they were up there so she didn't have to worry alone. Boy, that's a long day.

Check out Kris & Jason's blog to see how God has opened doors unexpectedly. He answers prayer in the most unexpected ways. Love my sister and bro-in-law.

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