Wednesday, 4 September 2013

OUR JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF EUROPE (Wednesday, September 4)

Jim woke me at 5:00 a.m. Standing on our balcony staring upward, he excitedly pronounced, "Nothing but stars in the sky". Perfect weather! Our adventure was a "go". 6:15 a.m. found us clothed in heavy coats (for the chilly mountaintop climes) and hiking to the train station. Today we had reservations for a train ride through the Eiger to Jungfraujoch, at 11,333 feet, the highest train station in Europe. We were taking the granddaddy of high altitude excursions.......on a cog railway, no less!
The train grinds (loudly "grinds") steeply, first through wooded mountainside and then into the mars-like landscape above the tree line. Rising early morning sunshine began to highlight our destination and we both felt increasing excitement. At Kleine Scheidegg, an isolated mountainside settlement, we changed trains to the Jungfraubahn, the cog that would take us up through the tunnels of the Eiger and ultimately to the Jungfraujoch terminus. I should mention that Kleine Scheidegg, during any attempted team climb of the Eiger, becomes populated with what the Swiss disparagingly refer to as "Eiger Birds", thrill seekers giddily awaiting a morbid outcome. The Eiger, truthfully an ogre, has claimed more than his share of lives. So dangerous is the climb, that Eiger was the training grounds for Mallory before his assault on Everest.
Our train stopped twice for five minutes. Large panoramic windows reveal the face of the notorious Eiger. This mountain truly psychs me out; I find it menacing. The windows are used by rescue teams, when climbers become stranded. Tragically, in most cases this ogre claims his victims.
At the first stop in the tunnel, Eigerwand, I began to feel the flutterings of altitude sickness. I had read once, that passengers should take an aspirin in the event they feel "odd" on this journey. Funny thing, at least a dozen passengers, upon seeing our aspirin bottle asked if they could have one. Jim's new position is "medic". By the way, aspirin works and you sure make a lot of new friends when you hand out drugs for free on a train - New Zealand, USA, England...and the list goes on!
Finally we reached the Jungfraujoch terminus at 11,333 feet. The end of our journey? Hell no! A high speed elevator took us up another 346 feet to the Sphinx Observation Terrace. This cantilevered terrace makes looking down more than just a little nerve wracking! However, the adventure was worth every wobbly step. I will try to let my pictures tell you this whole story. Perfect weather, visibility reaching as far as France and Germany, the Aletsch Glacier extending south eleven miles, crevices, snow, sunshine and jaw-dropping views. Had we ordered a day, it could not have been more perfect. It was the experience of a lifetime.
We descended in the early afternoon, grabbed some lunch and headed out for a hike up behind the town's stunning Staubbach Falls.
So now I sit on our balcony, exhausted, weary, but so fulfilled. We "just did it" and what an adventure!
I am adding too many photos. The photo taken of the Sphinx Observation Terrace is obviously not mine, but I wanted my family and friends to understand its incredible location. The rest of the photos are mine and should be self explanatory. I hope you enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment