After the Schwarzorn on Sunday, Monday was meant to be a rest day. But this mountain weather is playing tricks on me again. I saw the forecast for tomorrow and it looked bad, particularly in the afternoon. So I decided to take the train up to Jungfraujoch, and try to climb Monch 4,107m today. By this time though it was already 9:30am and the train up to Jungfraujoch 3,545m takes 1 hour and 42 minutes.I cobbled my high mountain gear together and set off on the 15 minute walk to catch the train. When I got there I almost turned straight back, the ticket is 166 Francs, as the robotic German speaking guy told me. I had to think how much I wanted to take a train up there, knowing full well that; A) I may not even get to a summit, and B) that I would feel like I cheated to get there anyway. I decided that, like Aiguille Du Midi (nowhere near as expensive) the journey up there and spending some time at a high altitude would be good anyway, and the forecast was very good; too good. This I thought was certain to be a one off.
So I forked out the £120 for the ticket and sat on the cramped train, changing once, and then all the way up through the tunnel under the Eiger and Monch to the highest train station in Europe. it is no luxurty train either. Cramped and full of Japanese tourists. Their ineterpreter was non stop chattering all the way up into a microphone for them. Gettiing up on the train without going insane was the sum of my achievements unfortunately.
I exited the station and walked towards the mountain hut about 2 miles away. Having no idea of the ascent line on Monch, as it is not on any maps I have found. I think the snow covers too much of the route for any path to be seen properly. Good for the mountain guides though! Finally after donning lightweight crampons I saw the line of prints off to the left and an obvious ridge line to the summit dotted now and again with climbers.
As I cut off the path to the ridge I sank to my knees and beyond in the snow. It was very soft, and I was soon to realise these were the deep holes left by descending climbers. I struggled to the part stone, but mainly snow covered ridge and scratched up 100 feet of rock in the crampons. I then got my jacket and ice axe out for the snow ridge as a guide and his client came down. They stopped to take crampons off, and he said “it’s late” I told him I knew and had been misled by the weather forecast. He said the snow is soft and dangerous on the ridge further up. Not knowing this climb at all and remembering how soft the snow was at the base, I made a quick decision to not go to the summit, it didn’t mean that much to me in truth. The train did most of the ascent. Next time I could get a helicopter, it might be cheaper! A few more climbers came down, as I put my gear away, and I am pretty sure laughed at my foot wear. They had huge crampons on over solid boots. I must admit boots and gaiters may have been good for the deep snow. But to me this was only 450m and a quick up and down, they were all roped together and moving like snails. They were laughing at my gear, but it’s not the gear but who’s wearing it. Cheeky sods.Instead I visited the climbing hut and got some good pictures. One of the guide’s recommendations was to spend a night at the hut. But knowing the expense and the fact that I had a day return on the train, it didn’t take long to dismiss this. Nice though the hut turned out to be on inspection.
I then had a run back down to Jungfraujcoh to get a feeling of what high altitude running, whilst laden with gear feels like. It was no problem. This bodes well for Mont Blanc. Recently I have started thinking that overnighting in the Gouter hut, if Nick and I can get space might be most manageable option. If there is one lesson learned from this it is that you need to be high up early on a hot summer’s day. This is a lesson that I will take to the Mont Blanc attempt.