Tag Archives: Jungfrau

Jungfrau Peter Jones Pietro Place

The Journey up Jungfrau

The journey from Zermatt to Lauterbrunnen, up Jungfrau, was a feast of Swiss mountains, green pastures, and alpine chalets.

The descent on the cog railway from Zermatt to Täsch was on the Glacier Express.  It was the first part of a journey that would take us around three and a half hours.  Our final destination was Zurich and in between we would climb the Jungfrau, stop in Wengen, and pass the magical town of Lucerne.  All of this within one day!

We were driving and so we had to figure out a way to successfully get from Tasch to Lauterbrunnen efficiently. The new Lötschberg Basistunnel is the answer. It is 36 km long. The train goes through the mountain with your car!   It is a fairly easy process.  You queue up, buy the ticket, and drive your car onto a long metal ramp of open carriages.  Put the brake on, turn your engine off, sit in the car, and watch the world go by as the train takes off.  Alps in the background, mountains looming, and then total darkness as you enter the tunnel!  25 minutes later you pop out the other side and you’ve just saved yourself four hours of driving.  It’s that simple!

Eventually we got close to the town of Interlaken (between the lakes) and parked the car in Lauterbrunnen to catch the train that would take us up to Wengen.  The train is a cog train and was full of skiers and tourists alike.  In Wengen, which is the staging post and midpoint, the town bustled with activity. It was full of hotels, cafes, restaurants, and is the beginning point for all of the lifts that will take you onto the ski slopes of the Jungfrau with the Eiger mountain in the background.  It looks like it has a decent nightlife and it is flanked by a number of open bowls so the light is good all day.  Many of the colors of the houses are yellow ochre and as the sun drops down the colors against the cog railway and the snow is stunning.  It is definitely a place you can hang out for a couple of days.

We changed trains, hopped on the Jungfrau cog railway, and before you know it we were headed up to the very top of Europe.  The train stopped inside of the glacier two or three times so that we could take pictures.  By that time we were already well over 10,000 feet!

At the Top of Europe, as they call it, we were at 11,782 feet.

Time for pictures and taking it easy as the altitude definitely affected your step.  I had a dodgy meal in the canteen at the top, experienced the highly civilized toilets and got to walk through the glacier ice village.  After we hung out for a while we caught the express train back to Lauterbrunnen.  At the top of the Jungfrau you can see the possibilities of skiing over to the open, broad expanse of Grindelwald.  The beauty of this area is that you can buy a pass that takes in the whole mountain….. and the skiing looked pretty good.  It may not be as extensive as Zermatt, but it looked awesome to me, especially if you had grown up skiing the ice in Vermont.

A coffee at the bottom, a jump in the car, and within two hours we would be in Zurich for dinner.


Matterhorn Peter Jones Pietro Place

The Mystery of the Matterhorn

Zermatt, as a holiday destination, is famous for its skiing, summer walks through the open trails long left by skiers–and for extreme climbers it’s the challenging ascent of the iconic Matterhorn.

I have been to Zermatt many, many times but I have never actually visited the Matterhorn Museum. Even though I received a frosty reception by walking straight past the cashier’s desk without paying (oops), I was pleasantly surprised by the contents of the museum – but not surprised by the reaction I got from the lady at the desk. She had specially trained in unfriendly customer relations. No smile, only a suspicious smirk as she thought I was trying to skip around her! No credit cards are accepted here; just good ol’ Swiss Francs. It costs 10 Swiss Francs (approx. $10.15). Most days it is open from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm.

The museum depicts a mini Zermatt, with recreations of original houses, interiors, and a chapel, and shows how the town started.

But the biggest focus of all is on the drama of the first ascent of the Matterhorn on the 14th of July in 1865.

This was the story of the last unconquered 4,000 meter peak in the Alps. There were seven mountaineers, four of whom fell to their deaths during the descent after their climbing rope broke. The survivors were the British Edward Whymper, and two Zermatt mountain guides, Peter Taugwalder and his son who happened to be Peter as well.

There is a whole mystery attached to the tragedy. Depending on whether you are British or from Zermatt, you will likely get different versions from different sides. There is even a movie that recreates this climb which was shot in 1937 and includes scenes from “the deadly fall” following the first ascent. In the museum, the snapped rope is right there and some of the effects of the climbers that perished are in preserved cases. There are also Neolithic age things and a whole bunch of black and white photographs of the early mountaineers. The exhibition that was on was all about who caused the fall. Was it the dastardly English guy who came down to claim that he was the first to conquer the Matterhorn? Or the guides who may or may not have cut the rope to save themselves? The intrigue is brewing everywhere. To this day, it is the main talking point of the museum. If you ask anybody who has lived in Zermatt for a number of years, they all have their own version. What is absolutely amazing is that the climbers seemed to wear suits, hats, and mostly looked like they were heading out to dinner, not climbing the most difficult precipice in Europe! Everyone carried a sling of ropes around them but beyond that it was all pretty much down to the knowledge of the mountain. The fact that these guys even made it to the top in those outfits is testament to their skills, their endurance, and frankly their craziness. The museum is worth a visit if only so you can write a column like this. It is a perfect “who done it” and really very interesting.

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