I mentioned in my last archive post that my wife used to work for a mountaineering company during the summer. Having helped out at weekends* and seen many mountaineers come and go on the various courses, in August 2010, I went on one of them myself.
(*I was still working then and it was before we moved to Evolène).
As a complete novice, I chose to do the “Oberland Odyssey”, which required little if any previous high mountaineering experience. After a day of training on the local Ferpècle glacier, the plan was to trek, from mountain hut to mountain hut, in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland – with a qualified mountain guide of course.
I was teamed up with Aiden, who had been on one of the other courses before and Des, an experienced mountaineer, who had not been feeling on top form the previous week, so he decided to join our ‘easy’ group for his second week. Hannah would be our guide.
After a brief discussion at the base chalet in Evolène, we agreed that the Finsteraarhorn, the highest peak in the Bernese Oberland, at 4,274m or 14,022ft, would be our main objective for the week ahead. However, the weather forecast was not great.
Day 1 – Glacier Training:
After a short drive and about an hours walk, we arrived at the foot of the Ferpècle glacier. It’s a strange feeling strapping on crampons and walking across a glacier for the first time, but it was good to get at least little experience before setting off on our trek. A bit of ice climbing added to the enjoyment too. There’s something deeply satisfying when you hear that ‘kerchunk’ as the ice-axe grips into a wall of ice. 😊
Regular readers may note that this is the glacier which had the ‘hole’. And, due to the receding ice and the difficulty of access, it’s no longer using for these training days. (The Moiry hut and glacier iin the Val d’Anniviers, are now used instead).
Day 2 – Along the Aletsch glacier to the Konkordia Hut:
It was about an hours drive to Fiesch, where we took the gondola lift up to Fiescheralp and, from there, we set off towards the Aletsch glacier, carrying all our gear for the next 5 days (4 nights) in the mountains. It has to be said that nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the sight and size of what is the longest and possibly largest glacier in the Alps (unless you are an experienced mountaineer of course!) Not convinced? Check out the first picture below, then look at the following image. There are at least 14 people, almost invisible on the first photo, who were making their way off the glacier. An even larger number are ahead of us, just below the glacier.
As you will see from the pictures below, the weather wasn’t kind and the rain soon turned to snow as we walked up the glacier to ascend to the Konkordia hut. I think I was lucky to get these few pictures. Remember, this was in August! Thankfully, the weather did improve…