A high-altitude ski touring trip among the 4,000-metre peaks of the Bernese Alps proves a tough challenge and a valuable lesson in mountain skills
One Thursday last March I emerged from the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest train station, and crossed into another world. Inside the station, a guide with a novelty Swiss flag was marshalling a party of Asian visitors. Outside, we were soon on the Jungfraufirn, a small glacier that feeds the Aletsch, the largest glacier in the Alps. Sunlight shone through breaks in the cloud, and the ice, flanked by buttresses of dark rock, ran south for miles. The pitch was gentle and the ungroomed snow looked inviting.
I was on a training course in skihochtouren – high-altitude ski touring –organised by Bergpunkt, a Swiss-German mountaineering school for a book I’m working on about ski mountaineering. Bergpunkt’s guides were multilingual and a visitor without German could, with patience, manage.