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  Ramblers Abroad: P & O Tours tackle the Eiger (from the bottom)
 

For our eighth trip to Big Mountains P & O Tours, aka Messrs Patten & Ollerenshaw, were joined by our worthy Somerset Rambler Editor, one Ed Levy, who gallantly tore himself away from his typewriter to swell the ranks. This time to the Bernese Oberland - or more precisely - the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

The nearest village was Wengen, like Zermatt, an internal combustion free village but this time perched halfway up the mountain, reachable only by rack railway. The line continued to Kleine Scheidegg the traditional leaping off point - if that is the appropriate word - for the North Face of the dreaded Eiger.

Eiger trail

Your webmaster on the Eiger Trail

The journey was uneventful: Easyjet from Bristol to Geneva, then swift minute perfect Swiss Rail via Bern, Basel, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen and then toy train rack railway up to Wengen.

Our hotel was a friendly family run business where the owner/chef delighted in producing excellently decorated and deliciously varied dinners. The only snag was the price of wine - at £25 a bottle. We'd not been to Switzerland for four years, and in that time the pound had halved in value: another reason to curse The Bankers.

Our first day was a gentle stroll up to Kleine Scheidegg to wonder at the Eiger, and the swarms of Japanese, who seemed to have made Switzerland their second home. For crowd watchers they were a source of constant amusement: every one had a camera constantly in action, all wore almost the identical white hat, some wore gloves - we were of course in shorts - one even wore a mask. It would be hard to find purer air anywhere in the planet. Fortunately they kept in groups of never less than 30 strong and did not stray off the well worn paths.

For the Japs and wealthy you could continue via the tunneled Eiger railway up to the top of the Jungfraujoch - dubbed the Top of Europe - for an ambitious £170. This remarkable railway was built in 1912 and featured in Clint Eastwood's The Eiger Sanction. The three railway tunnel windows are occasionally used for rescue purposes.

To escape the Japs we walked down the valley beneath the Jungfrau and saw and heard a most impressive avalanche pouring off the other side. This was the first any of us had seen. (Your don't see that on Dunkery).

Storm at 6000ft

Another day we took a delightful toy train up over 6000ft to Schynnige Platte with stupendous views over Interlaken. Walking from here the mist swiftly came up to be followed by the greatest darkness I'd ever seen in daylight. This was then followed by thunder and lightning very close by - remember we were on a ridge - which caused some excitement. But then we were stung painfully by a fierce hailstorm as large as lumps of sugar. It made me yelp out loud I don't mind confessing. There was nowhere to hide. I had thought of holding my rucsac over my head as some protection but it was difficult in a cape and with strong winds. Somehow we ran back to the station and the storm stopped after a quarter of an hour.

Hail storm

After the hail-storm

But then there came an announcement that "a technical fault" meant no trains would be available for two hours. Several hundred walkers were stranded up this mountain, so we all went into a fortuitously placed hotel and the staff kept us warm and fed. After 2½ hours three trains arrived to take us back down.

Another longer day was spent walking down from Wengen to Lauterbrunnen, up the cable car to Grutschalp, then beside a railway track to Mürren, another primarily ski resort. The mystery is "how did they get the trains up there?" Our hotel thought "by road" but it is a tortuous way, and we have our doubts. From here we wended through an idyllic hamlet Gimmelwald where they still cut grass by scythe to the valley floor. A short bus ride took us to the foot of the impressive Trümmelbach falls and an extremely steep path back up to Wengen. 15+ miles in all, but worth it.

Wengen is a delightful place to stay and explore, though expensive to us Brits. Still if you call yourself A Rambler, you can't miss out on seeing the Eiger. Put it on your list.

(Dave Patten)

Eiger

The North Face to the left: John O trudging towards.

Dave, Ed & John O

Webmaster, Ed and John

Eiger gletscher

Eigergletscher from Kleine Scheidegg

Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen and hanging waterfall

John O

John O with the North Face behind. Do it next year John?

Schynige Platte

Schynnige Platte at over 6000ft, before the storm hit.