24 July 2019
Today was Jungfrau day. We packed walking poles, long trousers, layers, gloves and bubble jackets just in case but dressed in shorts. We caught the 8.36 to Interlaken and changed for Grindelwald, joined by more people clearly going in the same direction. Grindelwald was much bigger than anticipated with a sheer cliff towering above on one side and green mountains on the other. The chalets were nicely spaced and it is clearly a popular hub for outdoor pursuits.
We changed again, this time to a rack-and-pinion line and the train filled making us glad we had reserved seats for the final stretch, Kleine Scheideg – Jungfraujoch. We climbed steeply, looking down on walkers on the tracks below and for a while watched helicopters ferrying materials from a depot on the moutainside to workers higher up. The scenery opened out below us as we climbed and at Kleine-Scheidegg we got our first view of the big mountains and their glaciers.
It was here we finally realised just what a huge multi-cultural tourist destination the Jungfrau is – there were many groups from Asia – China, India, Japan and Taiwan – as well as Europeans, Americans and Australians.
The last stretch gave great views up the Mönch and its glacier meltwater-created waterfalls cascading down sheer cliffs. Then darkness as we headed into the long steep tunnel through the mountainside finally disembarking into the passageways carved inside Jungfraujoch (3454m) where we followed the masses into the shopping area – yes, a shopping area! The Jungfraujoch is spread over several floors with restaurants, the highest Lindt shop in the world, and the opportunity to buy Swiss Army knives, Swiss watches and other expensive products on “the Roof of Europe”. It is also the hub that provids access to otherJungfrau experiences – the Ice Palace, the Sphinx and other viewing platforms, and if you follow the tunnels far enough you emerge into the snow on the shoulder of Jungfrau.
Our first impression was of a mass of people and the zing of zip-wires operating overhead. But we carried on past the Snow Fun area – sledges, snow tubes etc – and away from the crowds onto the trail that leads up through the snow to the Mönchsjochhütte, the highest-altitude serviced hut in Switzerland. It says 45 minutes but it took us just over an hour to do the 1.5 mile, 1,300 foot ascent partly because we kept stopping to admire the views – and get our breath!
As we approached the hut we saw the bright yellow mail plane take off downhill and fly off down the glacier – what a job!
The views on the catchily named ‘UNESCO World Natural Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch’ are stupendous – they would have taken our breath away if the walk hadn’t altready done it! We sat in the sun and ate our boiled eggs at 3840m (12,631feet) above sea level, drinking in the views – we sometimes can’t believe how lucky we are, but we really do appreciate it!
Back at the centre we re-joined the hordes and visited the Sphinx – a viewing point on a peak. We had been been looking down on it during our walk!
Where we took the obligatory selfies then escaped the crush. ut we did learn that Jungfraujoch is the highest permanently staffed meteorlogical station in Europe, operating since 1922. Since 1961 the days where the temperature remains above freezing during the entire day have increased by 60% – it was certainly warm enough for Danny to do the entire day in shorts & T-shirt.
Danny had discovered there was an Indian buffet in Jungfraujoch so we immediately gave up thoughts of ‘traditional Swiss’ and hunted it down, joining the queue of Indians to load our trays with dahl, channa bahji, chicken curry, rice and roti and filled our boots. Lovely.
The journey back was via Lauterbrunnen rather than Grindelwald which gave excellent views but the trains were packed and not air conditioned making it a bit of an endurance test to say the least.
We had loved Jungfrau but most of all were glad we had done the walk up to the hut. It wouldn’t have been the same experience if we hadn’t.