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Oberland Odyssey

~ Saturday, 19th July 2014

 The Bernese Oberland is one of the most wonderful parts of the Western Alps. There are many 4000 metre mountains there, the glaciers are enormous and distances between huts and objectives mean that many summits are well deserved.

Last week following a period of very heavy snowfall throughout the alps I lead a trip for Martin Moran to the Oberland. I considered snow shoes, but the Guardienne of the Hollandia hut advised me that the snow was transforming well, so I gambled on a weight bearing crust forming!!

Malcolm Pounder and Julie Bernasconi joined me for the week. We had a glacier travel training day on the Ferpecle glacier to start with, which got the rusty old hoisting  and rope management systems refreshed before heading out for the five day trip.

Our first hut, the Hollandia lies just above the Lotschenlucke at the head of the Lotschental. It is beautifully located and well run. A 4.30 breakfast prepared us for what might be a trail breaking marathon up the Abeni Flue. The weather was perfect, clear, cold and still. The crust was even better!! Crampons bit well, but if you stamped, the snow broke. Lightly and gently we made our way quite quickly to the top of this wonderful view point. It was amazing and we felt blessed to have such good conditions. The walk later to the Konkordia hut was a little softer, but none of us minded.

The Grunegghorn was our next objective. A slightly earlier start meant that a steep south facing slope would be negotiated on our return before it got to soft. This is another beautiful peak with fantastic views over to the Aletschhorn, Finsteraarhorn and up the Ewigschneefeld to the south face of the Eiger and Monch. Another early start saw us negotiate the interesting icefall area at the bottom of the Ewigschneefeld before the long walk up to the col just north of the Gross Fiescherhorn. Stunning is the only description for this journey!! The Walchergrat runs north from this col and provides a lovely mix of delicate cornices, interesting rocky scrambling and great views. It terminates at the Walcherhorn, another good place to check out the south side of the Eiger. The mighty Mittelegi ridge was very snowy.

Our final night at the Monchsjoch hut was very social, followed by the earliest start of the week for the Jungfrau. In some of the best conditions I have ever seen on the Jungfrau, we cruised to the top, seeing possibly the finest sunrise of the week en route. The train took us from the Jungfraujoch down to Grindelwald, then a sneaky pre-arranged lift from Martin got us back to my car in the Lotschental. A logistical piece of magic!!

Many thanks to Mal and Julie for their hard work and enthusiasm during the week. Happy memories.