Bernese Alps (Switzerland), 20-28 August 2017
We were a group of eight people this year, and with the two complete rope teams we were ready to tackle the glaciers of Bernese Alps. The trip was inspired by the fine pictures from the Nizhniy Novgorod team, which did a very similar route back in 2014. However, the very thin snow cover this year, heavily crevassed glaciers and tight schedule made our trip harder and more exhausting than we anticipated. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed the trip, and the area of Bernese Alps is absolutely amazing!
The coloured lines show our track. The arrow shows the direction of travel. Dashed lines are journeys on the cable car and train, and the "P" icon shows the car park.
The walking time includes short breaks but excludes lunch break.
- Technical level. There were hardly any significant technical difficulties. We had a few patches of simple climbing (including via ferrata on the way up to Hollandiahütte; we even belayed each other climbing down the next morning). There were no steep glaciers. There was one rockfall hazard zone but we passed it before the rocks started coming down. Nonetheless, the glaciers were very crevassed. Thrice we found ourselves in the maze of crevasses, where we had to jump across relatively wide cracks, and cross crevasses on narrow bridges. Besides, there were many hidden crevasses on the snow-covered glaciers. Because of the thin snow cover, most snow bridges were very weak. One of us fell down in a deep crevasse, two people punched through and were stopped by their backpacks. We also saw many other punch-through holes. Our glacer travel hence required total concentration which exhausted our team. The snow cover this year was really much thinner than usual, as illustrated by the two Jungfraujoch webcam snapshots below. One is from this year, and another one dates back to the Nizhniy Novgorod team trip in 2014.
Jungfraujoch webcam, 28 August 2017
Jungfraujoch webcam, 28 August 2014
- Walking time. Unfortunately, we had little time for contingencies. This was supposed to be the plan for the beginning of the trip only. However, we were moving slower than planned on the glaciers. We might have saved a day (or may be even a day and a half) during the second part of the trip if we had no choice but it would have been really hard work. With the hindsight, it would have been better to leave a day at the end of the trip for contingencies and maybe also spend first night in a hostel or a campsite. The sun rose around 6 am; we were usually packed and ready to go at around 7.30-8.30. On the last day of the trip, we had to start at 6 am to catch the flights back home.
- The weather. We were very lucky with the weather. We had a few wet days but they did not affect our journey. Only once we spent an hour under a tent waiting for the rain to stop. We had no strong wind, and no fog. We had both cloudy and sunny weather, and while it was generally quite warm (we only had one night on the glacier with subzero temperatures), it was not too hot for walking comfortably.
- Gas canisters. Getting the right gas canisters proved tricky. We came to Switzerland on Sunday, when most shops were closed. Moreover, gas canisters with the screw valve are rarity here, as most people use CampinGaz. We had to order the gas via Amazon from Germany, to be delivered to our friends in Zurich. They live pretty close to the airport, but collecting the gas still took some time, so we had little walking time before dusk in the first day.
- Maps and paths. We used Swiss topomap available here. We also had a proper paper map. The paths below the glaciers were marked very well, but we met very few walkers. Decending from Lötschenlücke, we only found tracks of other people in the crevasse maze, where we met several guided groups. There were quite a few tracks near Jungfraujoch.
- Wild camping. It looks like wild camping in this region is allowed, unless clearly signposted to the contrary. We spent one night in a mountain hut (Hollandiahütte). We booked the hut in advance, but it was necessary: we were the only visitors. The hostess said that this is typical for the week days in the Summer, but the refuge is usually completely full in Winter.
- Mobile networks. Mobile coverage was good, we used it to check the weather forecast on several occasions.
- Weather forecast can be checked here and here.
- Webcams. Konkordiahütte and Jungfraujoch have good webcams.
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