Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Jungfraujoch is a glacier “saddle” between the mountain peaks Jungfrau and Mönch in Switzerland. To get to Jungfraujoch, you ride a very scenic train from the bottom of Lauterbrunnen Valley up to the station Kleine Scheidegg. There you transfer to another train which goes through a very steep, uphill tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch mountains, and then stops underground at the highest elevation railway station in all of Europe at 11,332 ft (3,454m). I made this train trip in June of this year while solo traveling in the Swiss Alps.

 Route planning at my guesthouse in Stechelberg

Route planning at my guesthouse in Stechelberg

 Transferring trains at Kleine Scheidegg

Transferring trains at Kleine Scheidegg

 The mountain view as we ascend to Jungfraujoch

The mountain view as we ascend to Jungfraujoch

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 The train makes a stop at an underground station, Eismeer, which is situated within the well known Eiger mountain. From here you can see icy peaks and Ischmeer glacier.

The train makes a stop at an underground station, Eismeer, which is situated within the well known Eiger mountain. From here you can see icy peaks and Ischmeer glacier.

Once I arrived at Jungfraujoch station, a long elevator ride brought me up to the the Sphinx Observatory. The Sphinx Observatory looks like something out of a James Bond movie… it’s a sci-fi looking metal building that sits perched on the tippy-top of a pointy mountain, looking like the lair of a billionaire villain. Sphinx observatory is one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world, and a very popular tourist destination by day. I queued up with the hundreds of other tourists to make my way out to the viewing platforms, waiting an absurdly long time for each member of a large group to take a selfie at the “Jungfraujoch: Top Of Europe” sign. When I made it out on the viewing platform, the view of the mountain peaks and Aletsch Glacier was mostly obscured by clouds. When I found myself a spot along the railing to watch and photograph the views, I was tapped on the shoulder and rudely told to move out of the way so somebody could take a selfie where I was standing. Dealing with selfie-obsessed tourists became tiresome, so I went inside to write postcards and eat some spicy noodle soup while waiting for a break in the clouds. The cafes and restaurants in the observatory have adapted to their clientele, serving Asian noodles and a full Indian menu at Restaurant Bollywood. Swiss food isn’t the greatest in my opinion, so I was excited about the $8 cup ‘o noodles.

 The Sphinx Observatory balcony, surrounded by clouds

The Sphinx Observatory balcony, surrounded by clouds

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 A clearer view of Aletsch Glacier, seen much later in the day

A clearer view of Aletsch Glacier, seen much later in the day

 Jungfrau peak in the distance from the Sphinx Observatory

Jungfrau peak in the distance from the Sphinx Observatory

 

Mönchsjochhütte

 Mönchsjoch Hut

Mönchsjoch Hut

I the elevator back down, this time to a tunnel that led out of the mountain to the glacier. Once outside, I saw signs advertising cold beer that said “45 minutes” and pointed off into the distance. As I started walking, the observatory faded away behind me, and there was not a single selfie-er to be seen. I trudged uphill in the slippery glacier snow, and found it increasingly difficult to put one foot in front of the other. I was hiking uphill at 11,000 feet elevation where oxygen is sparse, so I felt weak and slow. The clouds were coming in thick, and I couldn’t see 50 feet in front of me when I realized I was alone on this pilgrimage for cold beer. By now it was mid afternoon, and the weather had probably discouraged anyone else from making the trek out here. When finally I made it to the top of the ridge, I turned the corner and saw this cool metal-clad hut.

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 Selfie in the window of Mönchsjoch Hut. Many of my photos up here were shot on film with this Leica M6.

Selfie in the window of Mönchsjoch Hut. Many of my photos up here were shot on film with this Leica M6.

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The Mönchsjochhütte (Mönchsjoch Hut) is the highest elevation occupied mountain hut in Switzerland. From here on a clear day, the views must be spectacular— but currently the hut was inside of a cloud. As the only other guests in the cozy cafe finished up their meal and left, I ordered myself a soup and beer to warm up. I asked the woman behind the counter if she thought the weather was likely to remain like this, to which she replied that it probably would.

I enjoyed my second soup of the day while gazing out through the windows that were perfectly framing the the wintery landscape outside. The weather is hard to predict in Switzerland, it changes minute by minute, and I watched as the clouds finally broke apart to reveal patches of blue sky.

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 Drone photo looking back at the Mönchsjoch Hut. The speck in the middle of the frame is me.

Drone photo looking back at the Mönchsjoch Hut. The speck in the middle of the frame is me.

When I emerged from the hut, there were crystal clear views of distant mountains to be seen between fluffy white clouds. I took a few minutes to fly my drone, but kept my flight quick and low. I was unsure of what the wind was like higher up, and I was self-conscious about being a potential nuisance (sound really carries up in those mountains).

As I made the much easier walk back down the hillside, the visibility was the best it had been all day. I snapped as many photos as I could before taking the elevator back down to jump on the last train of the day.

 The view of the Sphinx Observatory and a cloudy Jungfrau peak on my walk back from Mönchsjoch Hut.

The view of the Sphinx Observatory and a cloudy Jungfrau peak on my walk back from Mönchsjoch Hut.

 Closing time in the observatory

Closing time in the observatory

Denali flightseeing with Talkeetna Air

Denali flightseeing with Talkeetna Air

Traveling solo in Switzerland

Traveling solo in Switzerland