Disclaimer: I probably shouldn’t have done this walk – it is closed above the tree line but in a moment of weakness I followed the crowds (which were significant) and finished the walk. Check with the landowners before completing this walk!
The walk up to the summit of Mt Alfred is somewhat arduous but well and truly worth it. The walk begins with a long and steep climb up from a very small car park up through beech forest. For several kilometres you walk upwards on a slightly eroded and warn track that when I was there a lot of fallen trees. It takes a fair chunk of time to get up there because it is a continuous incline without any level ground.
Anyway, you eventually break through to the tree line and after a slightly scrambly section you are up on the ridge and the views are simply stunning. I had a perfectly clear skies with views in all directions – basically it was amazing.
(Note: This is a continuation from day 1, not that you’ll notice any continuity)
Day two woke with rustles and shouts from the hut next door about missing breakfast! After a super chilled night in the hut with a group of exchange students playing “the verevolf game” and drinking beers 7:30am really didn’t seem reasonable for a last call for breakfast, but it did mean we could all be up and have eaten before the sun rose about the Jungfrau. In the end there was even enough time for three coffees to find off the cold!
I am without word as to how cool the sunrise was, but to compensate here are some of the 60 photos I took!
After sunrise I packed and departed for what would turn out to be an epically long day. I am yet to check my gps but I am pretty certain that over 24km I did about 600vm ascent and 2000vm descent which was ludicrously hard on my legs compared to the ascent.
Anyway from the hut it was down into the clouds for an hour or two before the sun burnt them away. My route took me down to the Sous river and then back up to a track below the Soushorn and Chometboden on the way to Murren.
From here it was properly down, way more than my legs could handle with a 17kg pack as cycling really doesn’t help with down hill fitness! Eventually after lots of breaks and futile stretching I made it Stechelberg and I was in the famous Jungfrau valley full of paragliders and base jumpers as well as more spectacular views.
I camped here overnight and discovered that using my tent without the inner in high condensation conditions is a recipe for being dripped on all night, but thank god for water resistant fabrics on sleeping bags! Pulling the sleeping back out in the morning all of the water immediately turned to ice so i guess it had been cold….
The highlight of my very short day 3 would have to be watching four base jumpers do there thing and then walking past them five minutes later to hear them discussing how they needed to do their tax. Turns out any crazy adventure can become vaguely normal doesn’t it!
Ah the mountains. I thought I liked mountains based on my very limited experience from Tasmania, Scotland and Iceland; but after a few days in the Swiss Alps I think I have fallen in love with them.
From my base here in Basel my hosts Toby and Lucienne gave me a travel pack in which I stuffed a whole lot of gear into and so off I set with no real clue. Luckily my hosts had told me to head towards Interlaken, and the visitors centre had a topo map for sale with a few basic comments like “those are the mountains” and “the clouds are up to 1800”. So I was on my way!
My initial route was thoroughly unthought out as I took the “which path is closest to me” option and found myself climbing what I thought was a steep hill at the town. Now at this stage I was still below the cloud level but I could see the dense fog like clouds not far above my head. After a brief stroll the hills started in earnest. My lack of planning meant that I had found myself on a track that would take me from the lake at 570m towards a lake at 2000m. To add to the fun the map was at a scale of 1:60000 which I am not particularly good with so as I climbed and the route got steeper and steeper, and I climbed into the clouds, I began to realise this might not be a leisurely stroll I was getting into.
Up and up I sweated my way through the clouds which were thick and wet such that I could often only see 50m and at one point through a large grass area was a little concerning when my track disappeared. However finding the track again and ditching my shirt because it was just too hot I kept climbing and slowly the clouds started to break and the promise of blue skies became a real prospect.
Eventually I broke through into the sunshine and was rewarded with bright clear skies as I found myself above the tree line.
Realising my route was to take me across a scree slope on the cold northern side of the mountain I decided to push on and cross the route in case the path iced up at all overnight (the forecast was for -2). The views crossing this path were spectacular, and the reward on getting to the other end was my first view of the Eiger, the Matterhorn and the Swiss Alps proper.
Having crossed the shale slopes also meant I had the option of staying in the Lobhornhutte west of Sulwald.
Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, everything in between – it is all hills! Big hills, long hills, steep hills, country hill, urban hills and then you get to the mountains.
For the past week I’ve been riding with Will and Ollie from Gloucester in England, down to the bridge over the Severn and up through every single hill to Bangor (next to Menai) (but not in the shire). To say it has been hilly would be an understatement, to say it has been amazing would be a downright crime against how beautiful this place is. Wales has been the first place in the UK where it has felt remote or like you aren’t just riding between villages. The mountain passes have been high and covered with flowering heather while in the cold valleys on the northern sides of the mountains the trees are showing their autumn leaves.
It has been such a great week I can only relate a few highlights and challenges, so here is an attempt at daily highlights.
Friday – riding along a rough canal path, getting my second puncture of the trip while with two mechanics and then discovering the puncture occured 500m from a pub with a beer deck where there was sunshine!
Saturday – getting to the top of a very large hill and finding ourselves dragged into a local’s birthday party, being fed and watered. Oh and my only 100km day of the trip.
Sunday – group photos in an abandoned priory and cresting our first major pass
Monday – dropping in on a local agricultural show to see golden sheep, eat local beef and lamb burgers, watch a demonstration of wood chopping and then watch dogs herd ducks.
Tuesday – finding a spare £4 pedal in a junk shop after mine seized, climbing the steepest pass I’ve seen and then riding at sunset down the rail trail beside the tidal estuary to Aberdovey Bar (location not venue)
Wednesday – another long day topped off with 20 odd kilometers of rail trail after some massive and brutal climbs that had me wondering if we could make it.
Just a quick one. I managed to fit in a hike before I leave Iceland to get my bike fixed. Twas lovely, glacier filled, lava flow crossing and ended with fording a nice river which left me with very wet feet for the trip home despite waterproof socks.
Well it is ten days since I put up my post explaining how all plans had fallen to pieces and my bike was not far from doing so either.
In that time things have happened. Lots of things. Amazing things. Amazing things facilitated by amazingly
friendly people who really had no reason to help me so much. Most of what has happened hasn’t even involved me in the planning process which has certainly been an experience in itself.
Firstly there is that minor point that I somehow ended up in Greenland. Not quite sure how that happened but I will be honest and say a confident and pretty smile was possibly involved, as was an not insignificant amount of money and one and a galf business hours between descision and a flight. As part of this I ended up landing in Greenland with my stuff packed into a borrowed hiking pack and the name of a town written on a piece of paper and instructions to negotiate with the locals at the wharf.
What transpired was one of the most beautiful hikes of my life.
After all this excitement I some how ended up in central iceland (again coordinated by lovely strangers) for another spectacular hiking adventure.