Berner Oberland Ski Tour, Switzerland • May 4 – 9, 2008

Our Berner Oberland trip this year benefitted tremendously from the heavy snowfalls and quick succession of storms of this Spring season. The sun at last came out, the snow quickly transformed into lovely corn conditions, and the stars aligned for a particularly fun tour.

Other Recent Trips

We were joined by "repeat offenders" (from left to right) Gary Rowles (Ortler '07), Jay Coburn (Haute Route '07), Terry Fisher and his daughter Cricket (Haute Route '07, Cricket absent from this photo), and, continuing in the theme of overlapping trips this year, John Lashbrook stayed on after his "Haute Route Ultra" to join us for this trip. New to our acquaintance were Anton and Malcolm Vetterlein (excuse our backs!), brothers from Portland, OR and Seattle, WA., and Russ Lee (not in photo), and old friend from Bellingham days.


Chugging up the cog railway to Wengen, we take in views of the lovely Lauterbrunnen valley.


Heading out from the Hollandia hut on day 2, we hope the clouds will clear soon.


The morning couldn't be more beautiful.


Nearing the summit of the Abeni Flue. Snow conditions were mediocre on the descent, though we did find some good stuff. The afternoon skin up the Kranzberg en route to the Konkordia hut rendered a more satisfying descent, though it made for a long hot afternoon!


On day 3, descending the infamous ladders below the Konkordia hut is not for the faint of heart! Just which way is down in this Escher-esque shot?


Caching our 'jammies and toothbrushes at the base of the slope, we skin up to the Wyssnolen en route to the Finsteraarhorn hut. A hard frozen surface and rapidly warming sun spell "corn" in a couple of hours!


Cricket and Terry arriving on the summit of the Wyssnolen.


And corn it is! Russ leaps into action....


And we all leave our ephemeral signatures in the snow.


At the Finsteraarhorn hut, it's Spring Ski Touring at its finest. At long last, a sunny terrace, baking sunshine, bare legs, cool drinks, the whole sheebang.


And dinner!!!!


The next day we head up to the Hinter Fiescherhorn, in a cold wind. The fat snowpack this year encourages us to take an unusual line up the middle of the glacier, avoiding exposure to hanging seracs above the "normal" ascent route on the true left bank (out of the photo on the right).


The snow is firm and steep however, so we shoulder the skis and crampon up through the séracs and the maze of little crevasses to the gentler upper slopes of the glacier.


Near the summit, we celebrate our mountaineering feat!


Lovely steep corn on the descent, and another great meal to top off another great day.


Getting a twi-light start in the morning of day 5, we head over to the Oberaarjoch hut, taking time to climb the Gross Wannenhorn on the way.


Skinning up the Gross Wannenhorn.


From the summit, the views are truly amazing. Here we look Eastward along the Alps of Switzerland and Austria in the distance.


After a descent varying between breakable crust and lovely corn snow, we continue our journey to the Oberaarjoch hut. In the background of this shot is the Vorder Galmihorn, our next day's climb.


The following morning is another early start, as we descend the ladder out of the Oberaarjoch hut.


A stunning morning greets us as we climb the Vorder Galmihorn; the Gross Wannenhorn in the background.


After summitting, we stall a bit to let the snow "cook" to perfection, enjoying a little picnic brunch while we wait. Our descent is to the south, about 6000 feet into the "Rotten Rhone", a tributary of the upper Rhone.


Not a bad place to spend a few minutes.


At last a fork comes out clean, and the timer "dings". It's done! Malcolm dives into the steep corn as we start our long descent.


We like it! Hey Mikey! The perfect, smooth corn snow just goes on... and on... and on...


... and we even had smooth corn corridors weaving in the midst of gigantic debris piles left by massive slab avalanches that had come from the sides of this valley in previous days. It was good to be here in the relative cold of the morning! But at last we could avoid the debris no longer and were forced to make our way through the piles of frozen basketballs.


Uncle! Mercifully brief boot sections.


The road exiting the valley gave us another mile or so of skiing into the woods before at last the snow ran out. We walked for about the last hour, through the growing warmth and scents of Spring, into the village of Reckingen (seen below).


Just enough time for a good rinse in real tap water, we have a short wait for the train that begins our return trip to Interlaken. Later, on the warm terrace of our hotel, scented with lilacs and green things growing, we celebrated the end of this trip, and of our ski season 2008. A wonderful end to a long and satisfying ski season.