27th June Monday and 28th Jungfraujoch the highest train in Europe


 
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.





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26th June Sun Ascent of Schwarzhorn

 
Well that was a tough ascent.  I think that most people I passed on the way to the summit had got the cable car to the “First” station (slightly misleading in that it is actually the last stop) and then set off for the summit, with a 1000 meter head start on me. The” first” cable car stop is at 2,000 meters, and Grindelwald is at 1,000 meters, Schwarzhorn is 2,930m. It is the highest in the Brienz commune.
The first part of the ascent to about 1,800 meters is on roads. So the fact that I was wearing my newly repaired fell shoes didn’t seem to matter (the sole had pulled away slightly). But higher up at about 2,400 meters I was glad I had them as there was some loose scree and the final ridge needed a bit of care too. I enjoyed the ascent although it was a bit on the hot side.
Whilst descending I noticed a sign that I didn’t see on the ascent. Thinking back a large group if hikers were sat covering it up. I can’t help thinking on purpose too, as they never said to me that the route I was taking was towards the rock climbing and via Ferrata route. Luckily I veered off and onto the correct route by following a chap ahead.

The descent was good though and it took me 1hour 10 minutes, the ascent was 2 hours 45 minutes, making it a long day out in the heat. The ascent is 1,950 meters, making it the longest continuous ascent I have ever done. Good training for Mont Blanc, but not enough snow. Maybe a trip up to Jungfraujoch on the train can fill that gap in the training. I will see if the budget will stretch to the £50 round trip.






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25th June The Eiger Reveals herself

 
Today my friendly Swiss next door neighbour pointed out to me that the rock face 600 meters from the campsite, which has been mostly covered in clouds the last two days, is in fact the North face of the Eiger.  I had thought we were looking at the North East face. But tonight when it finally revealed all of itself I instantly recognised the ascent line from books I have read. We are in fact looking side on to it. It is an impressive sight unfortunately my camera doesn’t do it justice so I will try and get better photos tomorrow from my planned ascent of Schwartzhorn 2928m an ascent of 1,870m. That will keep me out of trouble!

I didn’t do much today. But when I bought a loaf of bread from the local-ish supermarket, I first was almost barged out of the way so she could stock the shelves. Then when I walked off she almost ran me over with her pallet cage. I think she was of the opinion that the people whom effectively pay her wages where getting in the way. Pretty dumb I would say. I also was going to buy a map with a plastic sleeve for the bargain price of £25. When I went to pay she slipped it out of the sleeve, saying it was because it was kept outside the kiosk. Yeah right, I know that they are sold like that; anyway did she think I was going to climb a mountain indoors! So I bought one with no sleave for £18 instead. I also saw a parked up Ferrari Italia that was a sight almost as beautiful as the Eiger this evening
This is not the Eiger but another stunning peak ending in horn I think at the other end of the campsite.

24th June Morzine to Grindelwald Switzerland

Prior to packing away in Morzine I got chatting to Nick and his wife. They are a really nice couple who I have got to know a little over the last couple of days. I had a post breakfast chat and we discussed my plans for an attempt on Mont Blanc. Nick is a fell runner and also expressed an interest in climbing it with the same philosophical approach as I had. That is to try and do it in one continuous effort from the valley floor to the summit and back down, with no guides (they are seriously expensive). So we loosely made plans to meet in a weeks’ time in Chamonix. I look forward to the prospect of tackling this with someone else. Maybe bringing that 2nd ice axe was a good idea after all, as he has no winter kit. I think the minimum you need for Mont Blanc is Kahtoola spikes and an ice axe.
Nick also warned me about how expensive Switzerland was, so I decided to go to the supermarket on the way. I missed the planned supermarket Just outside Morzine, don’t know how, but managed to find a huge one about 10 miles from the Swiss border and it was the cheapest place since Andorra, so I struck it lucky. I also managed to get a canister of Camping gaz so this will see me through to mid-July. I think the amount of food I bought will last me almost until the end as well. I could almost feel the car groaning at all the extra weight. She is a true work horse.
Grindelwald is an impressive place, steep high cliffs jut up in front of the campsite and less daunting terrain surrounds the rest of the village. A river provides a soothing back ground noise. The only thing that has took me by surprise; although I knew Switzerland has French, Italian and German as its languages; is that this is a German speaking region of the country. My learning of French has just come to a screeching halt.

23rd June A run up Pointe de Ressachaux

I delayed my planned run to, and up Pointe de Ressachaux due to the weather playing tricks on us again. The forecast was for worse weather in the afternoon, but it was transpiring to be the other way around. So when my new next door neighbours offered me a lift into Morzine I couldn’t resist. It saved me doing the run to Morzine, I still needed to do the run back but this was a lot better.
So after getting dropped off in the centre of Morzine, I set off for the steep forested slopes of Pointe de Ressachaux. The weather was cool and the clouds were down, but this meant that I didn’t get too hot on the ascent.  This was probably the reason for a rapid ascent I reached the top at 2173m in just 1 hour 25 minutes.  It was cloudy, cold and drizzly on the summit so I took a couple of pictures and descended using the same ascent route. I was down in 40 minutes and a further 20 minutes running got me back to the campsite.
I had got friendly with a lot of the new arrivals. The campsite, and Morzine has turned into little England, it is kind of nice after 4 weeks of hardly hearing an English voice and struggling with the languages. Now I talk assuming people are English. So instead of Bon Jour it is Hello. Just as I was heading into Morzine, to have a rare treat of a dinner out, my next door neighbours invited me for some dinner. It was very good of them, and it was a beautiful stir fry. They even gave me a glass of wine. Cheers Guys.

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Some Video of last nights storm. When it rains in the hills it really does tip it down.

22nd June A quiet day then a storm

After the previous two days, I needed a rest. My legs were tired and my grazes a bit sore. So I had a walk into Morzine to look for some more Camping Gaz (pictured). I have about a week worth of gas left so I will need 1 more, maybe 2 as Grindelwalds (next destination) weather forecast looks like it could be cold (9c high, 4c low!). It was a fruitless trip, although I could have bought some of that at the outdoor market. So dodging the sun, as I had forgotten my hat and had no sun protection on, I made my way back. Whilst on the way back I noticed a dear sheltering from under the trees out of the strong sun. I fumbled about to get my camera out and he/she didn’t bother at all, hence the fact I got the photo. It was a really chilled out dear.
As I type this in my tent I can barely hear the music playing on my notebook (full volume) for the rain battering on the down on the roof. It was a good day up till about 5 pm when a thunderstorm came in, and it has rained ever since, it is now 10pm!
The main crash wound. A Souvenir to take from Morzine.

21st June a 2nd day of downhill Mountain biking

On my 2nd day at about the same rate as my fingers blistered I became better and more confident. The key to being fast at Morzine is being good in the berms. Gradually I have become better, and so I can carry more speed out of them. Early in the day I had a go at the straightest lined, and thus steepest black run into Morzine. I had already tried the less steep black run that is parallel to it and found it o.k. But this was in parts very difficult. There are Very steep sections and very steep parts with tree roots mud and wet rocks. It is the toughest track I have ridden. After walking sections through sheer terror I made it down relieved not to have had an off.

That came later in the day. After a 7 mile out and back to the campsite I carried on, and it started to rain as I started my decsent on the red run to Les Gets. A route I have done more times than any other. I was going well until I heard riders closing in behind I then took too many risks and jumped into a berm too late to take it and came off quite badly. The French guys following stopped and retrieved my, or should I say Torricos, bike from the bushes. They were really nice, asking in broken English if I was o.k. After I worked out which way was up, I realised that apart from a badly grazed right knee, arm, and hip I was o.k. I think all those falls from fell running must have helped. The only thing wrong with the bike was that the handle bars were not lined up properly with the front wheel.

 So I decided whilst me and the bike were still in one piece, to call it a day. I still did parts of the easier run into Morzine and parts of the black run, as they say you have to get back on the bike.

20th June Mountain biking and mountain running


 

Having hired a mountain bike last year, I knew what to do with the lifts and passes etc. So on Monday morning, after collecting the bike, I was straight into it. Riding a full on downhill bike for the first time was difficult. They are heavy and have wide handle bars, not good if you lack upper body strength! But after a while I was getting better. Even the muddy rutted areas weren’t too much of a problem. The weather today was good but on some of the routes there was a lot of standing water, especially under the trees. So I learned the best routes to take to avoid these.
I decided that as the weather was so good, I would do 4 hours of downhill nonstop and then run / walk up the local hill Pointe de Nantaux (2170m). So when 2pm came I washed the bike and tried to find an open shop for food. I couldn’t so I rode back to the tent to eat some fruit (not enough). Sorted my mud spattered self out, and headed for the mountain.

I started at 3:15 and the ascent went well I reached the top in 1hour 55 minutes (1200m ascent). The descent was tricky on a mix of slippery rocks and mud. But I took 1 hour to get back to the campsite. I ended the run on a partial bonk. I clearly hadn’t eaten enough during the day and the last 15 minutes of flat and slightly uphill were tougher than they should have been.  A total outing of 3 hours.
It was a good day though, I squeezed a lot in. At one point on the mountain bike I thought that I had pulled a tendon. But later on, on inspection a bee’s sting was still sticking out of my leg.  I suppose it is better than a damaged tendon.





19th June The Fantasticable

Whilst in the pub last night on the internet; drinking coffee so as not to create more condensation in my tent; I learned that the Zip wire, called the Fantasticable, near Chatel would be open tomorrow (Sunday) then shut until Friday.  As I am moving on Friday I decided to alter my plans of tackling the mountain opposite the campsite (Pointe de Nantaux 2170m) and go to the zip wire instead. It was even more important as I don’t think I will go to Locarno to the Goldeneye bungee jump.
The normal route to it is a 56 mile round trip, around the hills. After studying the map I realised that I could head up the valley out of Essert Romand and past Lac de Montriond to Les Lindarets . It would be a round trip of 16 miles. All I had to do was walk up to the zip wire (about 1,300 feet) do it get the cable car back up and then run down to the car. That is exactly what I did, and I am proud of my 40 miles saved. After all I am clocking up enough car miles as it is (about 1700 so far).
After being forced to negotiate a herd of cows on the footpath I found that the zip wire looked closed; it was shrouded in mist and looked eerie.  But by the time I figured out that the workers were sheltering in a hut, paid 34 euros, and got suited up, the clouds parted and it was time to worry a little. This is no 190 meter bungee jump, but it still gets the heart going a bit. The rides; I say rides because you do two switching half way; were really enjoyable. Apart from the wind speed it doesn’t feel that fast. The ground being far below sees to that. The ending is a bit jerky but nothing too bad.
It was a good day out and the sun had even dried my tent out when I got back. On that journey back for the first 5 miles I averaged 101 mpg! Needless to say you don’t get figures like that in a Golf GTI unless it is all downhill.
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18th June Saturday Rain and more rain


 
Whilst avoiding my tent so as not to make the condensation worse, I was clocking up the miles walking 1 ½ hours to an internet pub. Along the way I took some photos of the strange weather I was enduring. They were mainly near, or in the case of the one below, from the campsite as it turned out.

16th and 17th June Thur and Fri and Sat am Move form Palavas to Morzine

The night prior to my move to Morzine I decided to treat Thomas to some pasta accompanied by his recommendation of Greyer cheese. I bought some wine as well; the wine was the same price as the cheese! All in all a good evening, and a late bed time after more strained French – English and English – French conversation. If he was English or Moi French I think we could have discussed everything we talked about since meeting him, in about 1 hour.

Packing my tent and gear away is always more tricky than it looks, and to prove this for Friday mornings move I had a photographer to take some action shots, that photographer was Thomas. There was a whole menagerie of insects living in, or on the tent. Apart from the normal snails spiders and ants; we found a scarab beetle (I didn’t know this Thomas said it was a Scarab) , a frog and I found what looks like a very big moth having a snooze on my tent, he took some waking up to send on his way, and he flew off like a small bird.

On demolition, as Thomas liked to refer to it as, of my tent, it was time to leave Eden Camping and Thomas. I offered him 20 Euro trying to say that in terms of my budgeted 1100 euro a month (which I am currently way exceeding) 20 Euro is very little. Still he didn’t want to accept, until finally he accepted 10 euros, but only after I told him that when he comes to Lancaster he can buy me a drink; a proper pint not a euro measure.
After a 5 ½ hour drive I arrived in a drizzly, cloudy Morzine. I set up the tent in the wet with the inner still attached, not a good idea as I was to find out. As soon as I got it up it started dripping through water into the sleeping area. I managed to wipe the underside of the tent and stop it, but this morning Saturday 18th, after a whole night of nonstop rain it has started again. I think it is wetting out with the condensation of cooking and my breath on the inside attracting the rain through from the outside. I pray the manager is right and better weather is on its way.

I had a couple of pints, yes pints not mini strong euro beer, in a local English style bar last night. Ialso heard the first English voices for 20 days!