The MARCH is hitting the Swiss Alps for a little mountaineering! We arrive in Grindelwald on 25 August, planning to spend a few days in the valley before heading in to the rarer atmosphere. Hoping to take a look at the Monch and the Jungfrau, then have a crack at the Eiger. We are going to plog (picture blog) the adventure! As always, this will be a live plog so if you are new to the plog read from the bottom up.
9. Plog 9 – Post Mountain MARCH – a photo montage
(Camo on the summit of the Monch)
(Camo & Casino Dave nearing the summit of the Jungfrau)
(Casino Dave & Camo working a steep section of the Jungfrau)
8. Plog 8 – 2 September 2013 – The Monch, Switzerland
And to be a twofer, there needs to be two mountains! For the mountain historians a ‘twofer’ was coined by Ed Visteurs, the first American to climb all 14 8,000m peaks – all without oxygen! To get it done he used to smash out a twofer – climbing back to back 8,000m mountains!
So, following the Jungfrau we took on the Monch. At 4,107m a similar height & right next to the Eiger. And the thing about alpine starts is that they start early! After ‘sleeping’ at 3,600m here’s a shot of Camo looking a little dazed & confused heading up, before the sun is up!
The sun’s up, the hair’s up – but Camo still seems to be struggling to wake up! MARCHing well up the Monch now with cracking views. The predicted bad weather never arrived so another stonking day in the mountains!
The summit ridge! A really classic mountain scene with the welcoming sight of the summit!! But also a very dangerous spot. A sheer drop either side to oblivion with a thin path, and buffeting wind, where a crampon point could easily catch – spelling disaster. The day before a climber fell to his death from this very spot.
BOOM! The summit of the Monch. Camo celebrating the twofer at 4,107m. Clear sky with cracking views in every direction. The wind is up (providing yet another classic Camo hair style!) & its cold enough for the cameras to struggle. In the top right you can see yesterdays summit – the Jungfrau.
Not a bad view on the route down from the summit of the Monch!
And so, the mountain MARCH is coming to end. The final day is complete. 2 days of rock & 2 rock summits. 2 days of mixed ice routes & 2 summits. A strong 4 days in the mountains! But as our man Ed Visteurs says, ‘getting up is optional, getting down is mandatory’ – so we still have a job ahead of us.
Happily the job is completed with ease bringing the mighty MARCHers back to Grindelwald. Resting, refreshing & remembering the words of Mallory – “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life”
7. Plog 7 – 1 September 2013 – The Jungfrau, Switzerland
The Eiger is off! Thwarted by the weather. 15cm of snow & ice on the Mittellegi Ridge, which is meant to be a bare rock route. Not sensibly climbable in those conditions. Disappointing but that’s mountaineering. Happily there are 2 higher mountains alongside! Not as technical (or as iconic) but cracking climbs. Each doable in a day so we settled on a twofer. First off the Jungfrau. 4,158m & a sister mountain to the Eiger & Monch. It is the highest point in the top right of the picture above Camo in the photo.
Quite a long & steep haul up the Jungfrau. It hits 45 degrees pitch, which is steep climbing. Here you see fellow MARCHer Casino Dave heading upwards, with the summit in the distance.
Success! Camo on the Summit. Nice to put a long ice route down after having had a couple of days on rock. 4 hours up & 3 down and then another 1 across to the hut for the evening. With breaks and faffing we were out on the ice for 9 hours in total, which was a solid day. The Bergschrund was massive too, requiring an ice belay and abseil, which added a little interest!
And the two MARCHers Camo & Casino Dave on the summit of the Jungfrau at 4,158m. Another summit in the bag & another great day in the Swiss mountains! BOOM!!
6. Plog 6 – 30 August 2013 – Furkka Pass, Switzerland
Still in the Swiss Canton of Uri searching out better weather. Rubbish night sleeping at 2,700m. Not that high really, but from sea level you feel it & feel it most during the night. Here you see Camo heading up the Gross Bielenhorn. We have MARCHed up the ridge line you see behind him.
As the cloud rolls in Camo & fellow MARCHer Casino Dave heading up towards the summit with the route helpfully led by uber guide Andy Perkins.
Fellow MARCHer Casino Dave & Camo on the summit of the Gross Bielenhorn at 3,200m. Quite a testing rock climb, just under 5 hours up, multiple pitches with an abseil necessary near the top to cross between two chimneys.
But the summit is only half way! Here you see fellow MARCHer Dave abseiling off the summit. 5 hours up & 2 hours down!!
5. Plog 5 – 29 August 2013 – Furkka Pass, Switzerland
The only way to start a climb – driving the famous Furka Pass!! James Bond etc. Weather on Eiger still poor so we drove a couple of hours for better weather – and what a drive !!
Camo MARCHing ever upward ! About 2,800m at this point. We’ve parked up in the Furka Pass and are heading up to the Turtle Ridge, or Schildkrotengrat, in the Swiss Caton of Uri
Crazy Camo the MARCH mountain man ! Below the summit at 2,900m
4. Plog 4 – 28 August 2013 – Grindelwald, Switzerland
Eiger anxiety! This may not look great – and it’s not (compare the photos on our plog from the first day below – but it’s the most we’ve seen of the Eiger for 24 hours! Forecast is rain all day today but then good for next 4 days….Guide is saying Eiger is off – too much snow and verglas with hut guardians now off the mountain (when they leave you know the mountain is closing down) – but we’re not so sure. Safety first of course, but we think he needs to suspend his final decision until he sees our bulging quads…!
3. Plog 3 – 26 August 2013 – Grindelwald, Switzerland
After a tricky arrival from the airport (an hour in the pouring rain and dark driving round Grindalwald with upset mini-MARCHers, trying desperately to find the apartment (no street lights, few numbers, and an obscure spur off the named street through an industrial car park to locate our address)) we made it. And as you will see below, it’s quite a pad!
(No zoom, no fancy tricks – this is the view from the front deck of our apartment! The famous and infamous North Face of the Eiger!! Yawning in to action in the rising sun. Arriving late, in the dark, as we did, we had no idea we were sleeping below a giant)
(And it only gets better. The Swiss know how to plan their mountain villages. Directly in front of the apartment two donkeys embrace below the power of the North Face. No issue with housing density here. Next to the donkeys there is a small field of hardy black sheep – impressively still sporting their tails!)
There was only one thing to do – get up closer! Today would be a day of getting a little altitude and taking bearings. Showing family old and famous haunts and settling in to the mountain air.
(And the best way to deal with mountain air is with mountain food! It’s VERY hard to beat an alpine rosti, with bacon and eggs. And we doubt a better one has ever been served than that above – as you’ll see from the menu we started our MARCH at the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes, in Kleine Scheidegg. We mention this iconic hotel in plog 1. The scene of so much history – and where Clint Eastwood stayed when filming the Eiger Sanction – it was a delight to dine in their beautiful wood paneled restaurant below the North Face).
(But after food like that – well, for the adult MARCHers anyway – you need to pay with a hard day climbing! Here you see mini-MARCHer Master Finlay working hard on an early pitch. Grafting away at 2,300m, without any hesitation. Note the confident stance and strong use of both feet and hands. Impressive pose as the crux of the route is dispatched with ease)
(And our summit! Master Finlay surveys the North Face of the Eiger having reached his high point with Camo. Topping out just over 2,300m, which isnt bad arriving from sea level yesterday. There may have been a train ride to ease in to things but even at this altitude there is an oxygen deficit of circa 23% compared to sea level)
Having brought the family back down to the valley for a well earned rest and refreshment Camo decided it was time to lace up the runners and start MARCHing!
In a place like Grindelwald, with 4,000m mountains in every direction, the only way is up! And we swear it only got steeper after this, before losing the asphalt and turning to mud and rocks….
(We’ve come from Grindelwald, so we’d better keep heading up! In fact, Camo made it from Grindweld Grund train station (at 944m) to Alpiglen (at 1,616m) and back. A very steep and hard slog. 50 mins up – 20 mins down! Fantastic to run to, and in, such an iconic spot, with the entire run taking place below the North Face of the Eiger. And Alpiglen has a cracking history. In the glory days of climbing it was where all the young climbers used to camp, waiting ever hopefully for the North Face to come in to condition – many to try and never to return)
(And if you’re MARCHing hard, you’ve gotta have the right kit! It proved to be a tough run. A little altitude and a lot of vertical. Some very upset quads by the end of it! On the quick descent there was, however, just time for an artistic shot of the MARCHman overlaying the Eiger)
So, that was day 1 in the mountains. A great introduction for all, with a bit of run time thrown in too! MARCH on!!
2. Plog 2 – 25 August 2013 – Basel Airport, France
No typo – Basel airport is in France – not Switzerland! Amazing!!
Angelic expectation. Anticipating the Eiger & looking to a future of other great adventures two young mini-MARCHers lay claim to the luggage needed for a week climbing in the Alps (& doing so with little ones in tow!).
The MARCH is alllll about the kit so lets run down on the luggage needs. Not huge fans of the North Face since they went a little too High Street fashion we would still always plug for a North Face base camp duffle. No weighty wheels or structure to use up your luggage allowance you get to keep every gram for kit. Super strong with a good range of sizes & just about manageable with backpack straps and handles. Here you see mini-MARCHers Dulcie & Finlay rocking a black XL (with a huge 155 litres of volume) & a red L (giving 90 litres). We also roll with a North Face Water Duffelo when going super wet (with a zip less roll down top its 100% water proof & kills it with a name like that).
Backing up the lower volume you’ll see a Patagonia daypack, which is where Dulcie likes to keep her nappies, wet wipes & emergency snacks (& change of clothes…). Below that you’ll see Camo’s Arc’teryx Khamisin 40, which is a 2 day summit bag. Full technical features & a veteran of several years of summits in the Alps & Scottish Highlands.
Adding a little style & glam for Mummy MARCHer you’ll also see a Roxy Wheeled holdall – heaps of space, style & a little more convenience when simultaneously moving kids & luggage!
That’s what gets us through the airport – wait till you see the goodies inside that’ll get us through the mountains….MARCHing to the mountains!!
1. Plog 1 – 23 August 2013 – London
The Eiger is an iconic mountain with a long and hair raising history. The north face was considered ‘the last great problem of the Alps’ and known as the Mordwand (or murder wall) for the vigour with which it claimed its victims. Situated in Switzerland and just under 4,000m it presents both an exciting and daunting challenge. We previously visited the mountain in 2010….
(A relaxed Camo sitting on the famous deck and viewing platform of the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes, in Klein Scheidegg below the Eiger. Built in 1840 and now managed by the 5th generation of the family it was here that a richly sad, yet compelling, drama was played out on the north face over many years as young climbers came and paid with their life – all within view of the diners watching the horror unfold through their telescopes)
The weather was nice when we started out and we had high hopes of a summit. We were taking the Mittellegi Ridge route, which is a 2 day climb.
(Here you see Camo and Casino Dave having emerged from the Eismeer Tunnel service hatch on the south east face of the Eiger. From here you work your way round to the Mittellegi Ridge, which is a fabulous knife edge ridge which you climb with the famous north face dropping thousands of feet away, no more than a foots width from where you are climbing)
(Here you see a purposeful looking Camo having gained the ridge line above the Mittellegi Hut. You can see the ridge wind its way to the summit with the formidable north face over his left shoulder. Unfortunately this was our high point. What you can’t see is the lenticular cloud racing in from the north west. A storm was coming – and coming fast. After this photo we had to turn tail and leg it down. By the time we passed back through the hut we were the last to leave. The right decision – but one that left unfinished business…)
Our plan for this coming week is to take the same route to the summit. Long range weather forecasts dont look great….We are hoping our MARCH to the mountains is not scuppered by the weather!