Backcountry Spotlight | Ski Touring Among Giants On The Aletsch Glacier

Take a tour amongst 4,000 metre giants with this easy ski tour beginning from the ‘roof of Europe’

Adolf Guyer-Zeller, a Swiss entrepreneur, was the first person to dream up the idea of a railway that tunnelled its way up and through the formidable north face of the Eiger. Called ‘Jungfraujoch’ (German for ‘maiden saddle’), this rail line was stated to reach the saddle between the two alpine giants of the Jungfrau and the Mönch.

Little did the early builders of this stunning railway know that it would become such a hive of activity for backcountry skiing and ski touring. Leaving from the mid station of the Kleine Scheidegg, which can be accessed via train from either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen, the train winds it way east. It includes a stop at the Eigerwand (with views down the north face of the Eiger) and the Eismeer (a look over the seracs of the Fiescherfirn glacier) before it spits you out at the airy 3,463 metre top (the highest railway station in Europe).

Image: Giles Dean

Sitting at the top of the Aletsch Glacier (the longest glacier in the Alps) you’re treated to a snow-sure paradise that winds its way down 20 kilometres to the Katzenlöcher. The glacier provides the ideal launchpad for some truly epic backcountry skiing and snowboarding missions. On top of some of the finest views to be had anywhere, as you link turns amongst giant 4,000 metre peaks you’re also treated to one of the best alpine hut networks in the world. The Aletsch Glacier features four huts that are ready to welcome you. Hang your boots up for the evening while you tuck into some local cuisine high in the alpine, ready for another day shredding the finest snowflakes in Europe.

Thanks to its ability to cling onto snow throughout the entire season, the glacier is a great option to snag some stellar snow conditions even when the rest of the Alps have become a tracked out mogul field. With that being said, due to the crevasse danger, the Aletsch Glacier can only be skied on from mid to late winter when many of the snow bridges have sufficient snow coverage to support a skier’s weight (all with the aid of a qualified mountain guide, of course).

Image: Giles Dean

Here’s a great three-day option to get stuck into your first tour from Jungfraujoch. We’ve picked this tour from local mountain guide school, Grindelwald Sports, check out the full itinerary here

Disclaimer: If you’re planning to ski any of these descents, then please ensure you do so in the stable conditions, with the correct avalanche safety equipment (transceiver shovel, probe and crevasse rescue equipment), partners and correct training to perform avalanche rescue. If you’re unsure of what stable conditions are then a mountain guide will happily show you.

*Although we list some of these descents as ‘beginner’ difficulty, we mean beginner for backcountry skiers. In our opinion, a beginner backcountry skier should be capable of taking on black graded slopes (in a range of conditions).

This guide has also been written assuming good snow conditions on the descents – they’re obviously going to increase in difficulty if you find them in icy conditions.

Image: Giles Dean

Day 1: Ski tour Up To The Walcherhorn (3,693m)

This multi day trip begins at the Grindelwald Terminal where you’ll meet you guide and make your way up to the Jungfraujoch. Once at the top station you’ll begin your climb up to the Mönchsjoch Hut, before descending via the Ewig Schneefeld (“eternal snowfield”). Once you’ve completed your descent, you’ll find yourself at the base of the Walcherhorn where the ascent up to the summit begins.

At the summit, you’ll have some epic views across to the south face of the Eiger and Eismeer, before starting the long descent down to the Konkordiaplatz. It is here where you will reach the Konkordia Hut.

Day 2: Ascent to Kranzberg 3,666m

The Kranzberg sits perfectly between the Gletscherhorn and the Jungfrau which gives it unbeatable views of these alpine giants. It is reached from the Konkordia Hut via a glacier on the south face which leads to a summit that is framed by towering alpine peaks. A descent down the Kranzbergfirn leads you past the Lötschenlücke to the Hollandia Hut at 3,240m where you’ll find your bed for the night.

Image: Giles Dean

Day 3: Ascent of the Ebenfluh 3,962m

The final day of the tour begins by ascending towards the summit of the Ebenfluh which begins steep and continues to remain so until you reach the summit. The panoramic views more than make up for this gruelling ascent, where you’ll be rewarded with views of the surrounding UNESCO World Heritage site. As you descend from the Ebenfluh, you’ll make one of the longest descents of the Alps, passing down the Lang Glacier to Blatten in Lötschental.

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