The Bernese Alps lie right at the bottom of Switzerland. Named after the Canton of Bern, which it falls under, this mountain sub-range consists of numerous peaks of varying levels of difficulty. The three most popular mountains of this sub-range are “The Bernese Trilogy” which consist of Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch.
Eiger of course, is infamous for its North Face. The North Face of Eiger has been the cause, or rather been a witness of numerous deaths. At one point during the race, the death toll has risen to such an extent that the Local Authorities prohibited climbers to attempt it. It was eventually climbed by Heinrich Harrer in 1935. The second mountain in the trilogy is Jungfrau. A mountain made famous by the observation and tourist centre at the col of the same name. Jungfrau is the highest among the three and is quite a strenuous climb. Its name literally equates to ‘virgin maid’ in english. It is metaphorically guarded by Mönch and Eiger. The last of the three mountains is Mönch (4,107 meters). Placed right between Mönch and Eiger, it is the perfect mountain for anyone to begin their journey in the world of alpine climbing. With the start of the Summer Holidays and the beginning of my annual holiday to Switzerland, I knew that I had to pay my visits to the Alps atlas once during my stay there. That opportunity came early July in my last two weeks in Switzerland with the plan to climb Mönch. I had contacted the Grindelwald Mountaineering School and planned to climb on the 8th of July, exactly two months after summiting Island.
The first part of the journey involved driving from Lausanne, where I live, to Grindelwald, a village nestled in the Bernese alps. Grindelwald is absolutely beautiful, and the stunning view of Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau, which tower behind it, is spectacular. After having had made contact with the faculty at the Mountaineering School, which is essentially run out of a shop, my father and I made use of time by exploring the scenic surroundings of Grindelwald. After we finished exploring, we had an early dinner and called it a night, keeping in mind the early start I had the next day.
I woke up at around 5:30 buzzing with energy. I had a quick shower, got dressed and checked all my equipment. After saying bye to my father, I went for a quick grub to the breakfast area. Breakfast was supposed to start at 6:30, but due to the timing of my train to Jungfraujoch, I entered slightly early. Sitting alone, I tried to eat while gazing at the seemingly impregnable Eiger. Whenever adrenaline rushes through ones body, eating does become a task and something I always need to force myself to do before a climb. I quickly finished up and set out for the train station, which was only a five minute walk from my hotel.
From Grindelwald to Jungfraujoch (the saddle between Jungfrau and Mönch), it was a one and half hour train ride. The train was mainly filled climbers such as me and a few tourists who wanted to reach Jungfraujoch early. The train journey was quite uneventful, except the fact that they kept on playing a tourism advertisement for Jungfraujoch which starred famed speed climber Ueli Steck. Ueli had slipped and fallen to his death on Nuptse the same time Stanzin and I were in the region and seeing him again and again, especially before a climb, gave me quite an uneasy feeling. The fact that they were still using this advertisement made me question the sensitivity of the administration of Jungfraujoch. I finally met up with Freddy, my guide for the trip, at the cafe in the observatory and began my climb.
The first 45 minutes or so involved us navigating from the saddle to the approach point of the mountain. Freddy and I quickly got into a conversation about climbing and trekking and my experiences of the two, which were quite minuscule when compared with his. We reached the approach point where we left behind our trekking sticks and began tackling the first part of the climb which was a steep rocky face. It was my first time climbing on rock, on such a scale, and the first one hour was quite an education. I quickly got a grasp on the basics of finding the small friction points, thinking three steps before and the usage of your hands to enable one to climb such steep faces. We soon reached the crampon point after an hour or so, after which we encountered a steep slope of ice and snow. We slowly made our way through this slope. While non the slope, we came across a number of rocky patches which quite slippery due to the melting ice which made it quite tricky to cross these rocks. We soon reached the summit ridge which, with a slight incline, was nearly 200 meters long. But between us and the summit was not any summit ridge, but a summit ridge of a maximum width of 1.5 meters. On top of the daunting metrics of the ridge, the number of people climbing it did not help the situation.
After Freddy checked our belay just to be sure, we started off on this knife like ridge. We initially made good progress but were slowed down due to heavy traffic. With deceptive cornices all along the ridge, giving way for climbers going up was quite risky for the ones going down (in accordance to alpine etiquette). While going up, Freddy and I discovered a group right at us. Following the expected etiquette, the climbers gave way and started digging themselves on the side of the ridge. One women did not seem as confidant as the others, and while trying to dig herself might have disturbed a cornice, which triggered a mini avalanche. The snow below me shook and I immediately dug my ice axe while bracing myself, but to my luck, nothing happened to the snow on the main ridge. The lady herself was just able to keep her balance and was in quite a shock which led to more of our time being wasted, while her guide try to explain her that the world had not come to an end. After the crowd cleared, we moved upward and onward and were soon able to see the summit. With the pleasing site of the summit, we quickened our speed and soon found ourselves on the summit of Mönch.
The conditions on the summit were noticeably deteriorating, with cuticles forming all around the summit. After taking some pictures, drinking water and having a quick bite, we began our descent. Our pace was quite quick and before we knew it we had reached the bottom half of the mountain, which consisted of the rock face. Initially abseiling down the rocks with Freddy making a line on the cracks of the rock, we later on resorted to down climbing which of course required a lot more concentration. We made slow progress while down climbing, especially with the slippery conditions caused by wet snow. We eventually made it down safely and made our way towards the observatory.
With the worries of technical climbing off our head, Freddy and I broke into conversation regarding mountaineering and my expedition to Mt. Imja Tse with Stanzin. While closing in onto the observatory, we noticed many of my national compatriots (Indians), enjoying the snow which they had come to experience, in many cases for the first time. Both of us observed their inappropriateness for a place such as a glacier (some of them were wearing heals). Freddy nudged me slightly and whispered into my ear, “it seems like your friend (Stanzin) and you are whats left of mountaineering in India”. We both burst into laughter.
Took about 2 hours up from the visitor center and the same back down. Stayed at the hut overnight with an attempt at the Jungfrau the next day - unfortunately the weather had other ideas!
Climbed the normal route in a whiteout with my climbing partner Helmut.
Climbed first the Jungfrau and than the Monch later in the morning.
On the second day of my Swiss alpine weekend in October I climbed the Mönch over the normal route. As this was almost in the end of the season I was all alone during my solo climb.
As daybreak was late I did not start earlier than 7.00am.
The conditions were great and the corniched summitridge was very easy to negotiate. A nice and fun little climb which did require full concentration during certain movements.
Climbed during the Jungfrau and Monch Mountain Madness Combo.
Very enjoyable climb. Gorgeous weather after 5 days of steady downpours. We followed a well-trodden path in fresh snow. It was so warm that we climbed in short-sleeve shirts all the way to the spectacular summit! Done in the company of my son Christoph and Dominick, our local guide. Highly recommended as a day trip (took first AM train from Grindelwald, had no problems with high altitude sickness).
Climbed through AMS to successfully summit, then watched another climber trigger a moderate avalanche on the way down!
Got a late start due to a luggage snafu that kept my partner in Zurich until the morning of the climb, but we had perfect weather and decent snow travel. What a wonderful place!
Very nice climb. WOuld repeat.
Had aimed to get the first two trains of the morning up from Kleine Scheidegg but it was reserved for fat, lazy tourists, so we had to wait an hour. By the time we got the final arete near the summit it has turned to slush and was too dangerous. Retreated to Monchsjochutte and the next day retraced our steps and made it to the top. Beautiful views all round
Great weather and route was in decent condition. Snow was hard and went fast with crampons. Absolutely loved the summit ridge and view. Climb was over too soon; really wished the route was longer!
Turned back on the snowy ridgeline, as my partner had old crampons, and ice balling made things difficult. Crampon walking skills are essential on such an exposed ridge. It's not the same as experience on flat/not exposed snow. Really fun scramble, I'd recommend ropes, but they're not essential for more experienced climbers. All in all well worth it, even without the summit :D
Nice short climb onto a snowy 4000er with a beautiful view over the green middle area of switzerland.
Climbed the SE ridge normal route. The final ridge on the top is very nice.
Our first attempt was a failure due to nasty weather... the other 2 parties who attempted the climb on this day also bailed. Stayed at the hut (we were the only guests!!!!) and awoke to a beautiful but windy day. Had the entire ascent to ourselves in virgin condition! Nobody had summited in a couple of days and breaking a track along the narrow ridge was a bit unnerving. Incredible experience, our 1st 4000er in the Alps without a guide :)
60 cm of fresh snow. First party to climb Mönch on this day. It took its time but we made it up. The third time on Mönch..I never had a summit view... ;-(
More challenging than I expected but made the summit along with our guide Stefan. Gabriela relaxed at the rain gauge part way up while we summited. Nice day only a fe clouds here and there. Two other teams also summited.
Soloed via SE ridge. Tried once, but got stormed off, tried a second time, and had a blast. Totally do-able as a solo route.
With Jan and Karl Gunnar