In honor of the hard frost of 11 October 2012, the frost that killed pretty much everything in the garden that wasn't protected, I give you more ice - the longest glacier in the European Alps, The Great Aletsch Glacier. From Wikipedia:
"The Aletsch Glacier, or Great Aletsch Glacier, is the largest glacier in the Alps. It has a length of about 23km and covers more than 120 square kilometers in the eastern Bernese Alps in the Swiss canton of Valais"
The photograph the above poster is based off of was taken from the Jungfraujoch, a saddle between the 4,158 m (13,642 ft) Jungfrau and the 4,107 m (13,474 ft) Mönch, two prominent peaks stoutly standing next to their better-known cousin, the Eiger. The saddle is reached by a cog railway that climbs from the tiny hamlet of Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch Railway Station, the highest railway station in Europe at 3,454 meters (11,332 ft). After arriving at the station, one of the more popular destinations is the Sphinx viewing platform, which can be reached with a short walk and elevator ride up out of the railway tunnel. On a nice day, this is the view that greets you as you step outside on to the large platform:
The scale of the scenery in these Alps is absolutely massive, making the engineering accomplishments of the railway and the Sphinx station all the more impressive. To give a demonstration of the scale of this place, notice the two large 'holes' in the snow in the bottom and middle right of the above photo. Now, look at the bottom hole, taking notice of the small dot just to it's right and just to the right of the faint trail (click on above image to enlarge). That is a Snow Cat. Not exactly a small piece of equipment. The below image is a better view of it. This was taken with my 70-200 Canon telephoto lens at full zoom from the end of the Sphinx platform. The Snow Cat is still tiny.
The landscape that serves as the accumulation area for the mighty Aletsch Glacier is one of those places where it feels as if your head might explode from scenery overload. Where to point the camera first? How long can my bare hands last outside of my thick and warm mittens to take photos in these -35 C temperatures? Those are just a couple of the questions that come to mind when you first see the visual buffet laid out before you. At the opposite end of the railway station from the Sphinx platform, even the casual traveler can get their boots (or sneakers as we saw on a few people) on the snow, and get some varied scenic perspectives. Here's my wife posing with the Swiss flag at over 11,000 feet in -30F or so temperatures. The drop off behind her? Ehhh, few thousand feet or so straight down to Kleine Scheidegg. This is one way to beat the train down to K.S. with confidence - and save yourself the cost of the return ticket!
The gateway to recreation and sightseeing of this section of the Swiss Alps is the village of Interlaken, although there are less touristy and more quaint villages to stay in higher up the mountains, accessed in some cases only by train. Although I have only been to the area during the winter, I do own a copy of "The Eiger Sanction" and can attest to the beauty of the area during the Spring and Summer seasons - based solely on watching said movie once! It's kind of scary just how little Kleine Scheidegg has changed since 1975 when the movie was made.......... but that is also part of the charm of the region, making it a great place to visit in the Alps.
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