Tom, Robin, John, Lino, and Mark re-grouped for another ski adventure. The mountains of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland host the largest glacier and some of the higher peaks in Europe. The trip was supposed to be a gala of skiing and climbing, with the potential to bag seven 4000m peaks in eight days. Instead, the weather was full- on winter with snow, wind, white-out, and cold. In the end we managed three peaks, none over 3900m. More importantly, despite our good efforts we didn't get lost, didn't get avalanched, and didn't end up in a crevasse.
We started our eight day tour by taking the train up from Grindelwald to the Jungfraujoch on Sunday March 28th and into the wind and fog of the high glaciers. We roped up for the hike to the Moenchsjoch hut, only to find the next day that it is a path groomed by snowcat - although with the wind, snow, and fog the route was not so easy.
Sunday and Monday nights we had reservations at the Moenchsjoch hut, with plans to climb the Moench and Jungfrau. As for most of the trip, our objectives were shaped more by the weather than our ambitions. The Jungfrau was out of the question due to snow and heightened avalanche risk. We tried for the Moench but turned back due to bad weather. We tried to ski down toward the Walcherhorn only to turn back due to heavy fog.
We left the Moenchsjoch hut early for the easy walk to the Jungfraujoch. We stopped in for coffee before heading down the Jungfraufirn to the Konkordiaplatz, then up the Gruneggfirn and to the Finsteraarhorn hut. Except for a short period of improved visibility on the Konkordiaplatz it was all snow, fog, and difficult navigation. We made it to the base of the rib below the Finsteraarhorn hut about 5pm, but could not find the correct route up to the hut. We eventually struggled up the summer route and made it to the hut about 6:45pm for a welcome dinner.
The day started clear. We abandoned any idea of climbing the Finsteraarhorn itself because of avalanche danger, and instead headed to the Wyssnollen (3590m) across the glacier. A decent climb, but it had fogged by the time we made it to the top and the ski down was in white-out conditions. Robin, John, and Tom decided to take a second lap but only half way, earning the well-deserved title of "half-lappers".
Wednesday night in the Finsteraarhorn hut ended our string of solo hut-nights - 16 in addition to our five. Three guided groups, one with a story of a hard trip from the Jungfraujoch to the Hollandia hut - leaving at noon and arriving at the hut 2am.
Our plans called for an easy trip back over the Grunhorlucke and to the Konkordia hut. The three other groups decided to exit, either down the Fieschergletscher or over to the Oberaarjochhutte. We decided for a late start and made our way up the the Grunhornlucke in warm fog. We met three groups heading towards the Finsteraarhorn, one large French-speaking group at the top of the col.
The fog started to clear on the way down and we took a second lap back to the col for some wonderful skiing in nice powder.
The Konkordia hut sits about 100m above the current level of the glacier (the glacier has receded about 90m since the first building there in 1877). The steps up to the hut are intimidating and would be tiring after a long day. The rosti at the hut was well-worth the climb. The hut had guests but was only about half full.
Friday was forecast as the best day of our trip and we decided to try for the Grosses Grunhorn via the Grunegghorn (3860m). The Konkordia hut-master recommended the route over the Grunegghorn over the direct route because of the open crevasses on the normal route. We got breakfast at 5 and were out of the hut about 6:10. The descent of the stairs was probably easier in the dark without the view of the glacier below.
The hike up to the base of the Grunegghorn was uneventful, but it was our first day with real views. The views over the Konkordiaplatz, toward the Kransberg, the Hollandia hut, and up towards the Jungfraujoch were spectacular. We traded lead on the way up with a three-some (team Marmot) who were climbing to the base of the Grunegghorn. The Grunegghorn itself was a knife-edge ridge with steep snow and rock face off the north and corniced cliff to the south. We used running belays along the whole route. In the end we did not have the time or energy to continue down and up to the Grosses Grunhorn.
Friday night the Konkordia hut was packed. During the day we had seen groups out on the Konkordiaplatz, coming and going. The whole area filled up with Easter weekend.
The day started beautifully clear and we decide for a late start since we were just heading to the Hollandia hut. We decided to take in the Kranzberg (3666m). The skin up was uneventful once we gained the toe via a too-steep SW face, but the fog came in just as we gained the summit. The ski down was a challenge in white-out and flat light. In good conditions we could have taken an alternate route down that would have cut a few km off our trip up the Grosser Aletschfirn to the Hollandia hut, but with fresh snow and no visibility we could not chance it. The skin up the Aletschfirn (from 2800m to 3240m) was a slog in warm, foggy conditions.
The night at the Hollandia hut was uneventful, but once again the hut was full.
It had snowed, maybe as much as a meter of soft unconsolidated snow. The ski down immediately below the hut was delightful. Avalanche conditions became tricky a little further down the valley and we had to go on the glacier and rope up. There were a few tracks in front of us. To start we followed a large group of snowshoers, and when we passed them we started following a group of three French-speaking randonee racers. We eventually caught them, and then following tracks became challenging in the white-out and flat light. Eventually, just as we exited the glacier, visibility cleared, and the ski down to Blatten was uneventful.
|Date||Time||Ascent (m)||Ascent (ft)||Descent (m)||Distance (km)||Laps||Description|
|28-Mar-10||2.4||Easy hike from Jungfraujoch to Moenchsjoch hut|
|29-Mar-10||3.77||415||1,361||430||2.6||2||Morn: Try to climb Moench but weather coming in|
|29-Mar-10||1.95||320||1,050||320||2.6||2||Afternoon: try to ski but too fogged|
|30-Mar-10||10.35||970||3,182||1570||18.4||3||Transfer Moencsjoch hut to Finsteraarhorn hut.|
|1-Apr-10||3.92||670||2,198||815||9.0||2||Transfer Finsteraarhorn hut to Konkordia hut|
|2-Apr-10||10.63||1485||4,871||1475||11.8||2||Climb Grunegghorn (3860)|
|3-Apr-10||8.17||1540||5,051||1140||15.7||2||Transfer Konkordia hut to Hollandi via Kransberg|
|4-Apr-10||2.80||25||82||1790||14.5||1||Exit Hollandia to Blatten|