After a long day of traveling, I somehow navigated myself and my hundred plus pounds of luggage to the small village of Interlaken in the Bernase Alps in Switzerland. As I was getting out of my cab, who do I run into but Jonathon. This was not unplanned but it was ironic to have shown up from different destinations at the same time. I was so psyched to see him after four long weeks apart!
The next day we woke and met up with our friend Lee and then proceeded to get on a series of different trains to take us to the start of the Mittellegi Route.
Eventually we rode through a tunnel that goes through the Eiger and exited the train and proceeded to walk through another tunnel.
After walking downhill for a ways while using our cell phones to see, we exited onto a small platform that lead to a glacier. The infrastructure within the mountains in Western Europe is truly impressive! We proceeded to get our crampons and harnesses on and roped up for a walk across the glacier.
After a short glacier walk, Lee led us up the actual crux of the route. We then traveresed and scrambled across loose limestone ledges that eventually brought us to the Hornli Hut.
The next morning, we woke early and began our climb around 4 am. I had actually been awake most of the night since I was still jet-lagged from all the travel the previous day. In true European style, we began the climb with about 40 of our new friends. Even though the mountains are big, with their incredible access they are accessible to anyone who can fork over the funds to climb them. Side note, it is incredibly expensive to climb the Eiger due to the costs of the trains and it is unfortunate that this weeds out a fair bit of the climbing population. The only reason we were able to climb it was related to Jonathon’s work.
Essentially, we traversed a huge ridge to the summit. It was a mix of easy scrambling, some low 5th class climbing, exposed walking, a little snow climbing, a couple rappels and hand-over-hand climbing up steeper rock with huge fixed ropes. Its pretty impressive that this route was climbed in 1921 considering that their gear at the time would likely feel inadequate for the average modern climber. It was an absolutely stunning day with warm temperatures and little wind. The views from the exposed ridge line were inspring and the amount of big mountains in this little country are impressive.
We made it to the summit in good time and without any major events. The clouds had engulfed us but we were still stoked to ascend such an iconic peak.
In climbing, we often say the ascent is only half the battle and this statement really rang true on this peak. The descent off the Eiger literally involved climbing another mountain in addition to much more ridge traversing and some rappelling. Eventually we ended up on the glacier that would take us to the Jungfrau train. Our arrival to the Jungfrau train station was a rather overwhelming experience given that it is almost like Switzerland’s version of Disney World on the side of the mountain complete with a zip line, tubing parks, museums and an excessive amount of tourists. It was quite the contrast to go from this beautiful mountain to a very busy tourist attraction. On the plus side, it is nice that everyone gets to experience these mountains.
All told, it was a great albeit tiring way to start off my two month trip. More importantly, it was special to share this experience with Jonathon as the Eiger has been on his tick list for seveal years now. Even better was the fact that I literally just showed up and the boys had figured out all the logistics concerning climbing the peak. After doing so much planning over the last year for my trip to India it was super nice to not have to think about logistics and whatnot. Thanks guys!