Saturday, March 23, 2013

Snowshoe Glacier Tour: Moosfluh -> Jungfraujoch in two days

This weekend we did a tour with the Basel SAC. The plan was to hike the length of the Grosser Aletschgletscher to the Konkordiahütte on Saturday and then to head through the Lötschenlücke and down into the Lötschental on Sunday.

On Saturday we started quite early: meeting some of our group at the SBB for a 6am train. After changing in Bern and Visp and taking the gondola up from Mörel, meeting the rest of our group near Riederalp, and then another gondola, we were on the Moosfluh between 9 and 9:15. The weather is somewhat variable: a fair amount of high cloud cover, but still some sun and good views. Snowshoes on, LVS's activated, the seven of us head down the steep side of the hill towards the glacier. Along the way down one of our number realizes that he's going to have fitness problems, so he turns back along with one other person. The remaining five of us rope in at the bottom of the hill and set out across the glacier.

There's a good amount of snowcover on the glacier and only the biggest crevasses are not covered, so the going is pretty good (this route would be somewhere between incredibly frustrating/dangerous and outright insane in the summer time).
We don't have to do too much weaving around and are able to just walk. We "enjoy" the usual pleasures of being roped in: different step lengths, different preferences for hiking speed, etc., but it's not overall too bad. The clouds start to close in as we hike, so the view is constantly changing.

After some hours of hiking we reach Konkordiaplatz and the beginning of the stairs up to the hut. We're now on familiar territory. We unrope ourselves, take off the snowshoes, and Andrea has time for a couple quick pictures before the clouds completely close in. Up the damn stairs we go (120m of vertical on stairs at the end of the day... joy) and then we settle in at the hut.

It's early season and the forecast isn't great, so we have the great pleasure of being in a hut that's less than 1/3 full. After a very pleasant evening and a really nice meal we make our plans for Sunday: given the crappy forecast and the moderately high avalanche risk, we're not going to head through the Lötschenlücke; instead we'll head up to the Jungfraujoch. Plans made, it's off to bed.

On Sunday we start pretty late: we get up shortly after 6 and are underway between 7:30 and 8:00. The weather is every bit as crappy as forecast: we're either in or just under the clouds and visibility is not great. Down the stairs, on with the snowshoes, rope in, and off we go. The route is nominally quite simple: straight ahead and up, but things are always more interesting when you can't see much more than 50m. It's "fun" to look ahead and see nothing.

 In order to keep some sense of orientation and avoid a couple of heavy crevasse areas (on the map at least), we keep the cliffs of the Trugberg visible to our right as we climb. After what is subjectively quite a while thing start to flatten out a bit.

At this point we just need to find the Jungfraujoch. There's not any particular risk of getting lost: worst case we just walk straight ahead until we find the cliffs of the Mönch and then turn left. Still, it's quite windy now and walking in these conditions isn't the most pleasurable thing, so we hope that won't be necessary. Not too much later (again, subjectively much longer), Andrea spots one of the posts marking the route between the Jungfraujoch and the Mönchsjochhütte. Yay! Now we just follow from one post to the next until the cliffs of the Jungfrau and the entrance into the tunnel complex appears before us. We unrope and take off the snowshoes as quickly as possible and then head inside. More fun with tourist madness, a quick lunch break, and then we start the very long (4.5 hour) trip home.

Track for day 1:

Track for day 2:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Biel to Sonceboz

Our plan was to take advantage of the nice weather and do a longish snowshoe tour.

We started in Biel and headed up through the green (no snow in sight), along the tracks of the funicular, to Magglingen. From here we enjoy the excellent Alp views, then head to the big sports facility at End der Welt (!!) and down through the forest on the other side to Jorat. Now it's up, up again the next ridge. At this point our bellies are starting to grumble and, fortuitously, there's a restaurant open at La Bragarde. We have a very satisfying lunch (pea soup with smoked ham hocks... mmmmm) and then head onwards and upwards, still with amazing Alp views, until we reach the Jurahaus (we've been here before).

That's it for the climbing for the day; now we head down the other side of the ridge until we hit the cross-country skiing trails on the other side (plenty of snow on this side of the ridge, but we still don't need the snowshoes). Across the lovely open field and towards the Pont des Anabaptistes and the Combe du Bex. Towards the bottom of the mostly snow-covered road to the gorge, we get passed by a dogsled (!!!).

Through the gorge, then along the side of the hill, descending the whole way until we're above Sonceboz. At this point we see a train coming from the other side of the valley, so we pick up our pace dramatically and end up getting to the station just as the train pulls in. Whew!