Heading south into the Bernese Oberland from the picturesque, lakeside town of Interlaken one is confronted by the great alpine wall of rock and ice extending from the infamous North Face of the Eiger through the pointed, conical summit of the Monch to culminate in the elegant lines of the Jungfrau.
It had been a wet week spent encamped in a damp hayfield at the roadhead at Stechelberg before we set off up the scenic valley on the steep grind to the Rottal Hut perched on a rocky platform beneath the SW ridge of the Jungfrau - the original route of ascent. Leading the way along the narrow path, I was challenged by the long, sharp horns of an apparently resolute ibex but after a tense stand-off it ceded passage and skipped nimbly off up an impossibly sheer rock-face. Around us the summits of the Bernese Oberland protruded like islands above a vast sea of clouds.
Opposite to the hut, across the deep trench of the Rottal Glacier, the beautiful ice-fluted Nord Wand of the Ebnefluss sparkled, dazzling-white in the evening sun. Inside we were surprised to find the hut deserted - no resident warden, no other climbing parties - we were the sole occupiers. It made for a late start next morning when we had to light the fire and make our own breakfast.
Mixed climbing on rock and snow led inexorably upwards with spectacular views back down the ridge to the hut and the glacier even further below. A vertical rock wall barred progress. There was a fixed rope but it was embedded deep beneath a sheath of ice. In anger and frustration I lashed out with my ice-axe. Astonishingly the entire column shattered and collapsed around my feet releasing the rope. Above, easy ground led onto the summit but clouds and mist had swirled up from the valley to deny us any view.
On the far side a well-trodden trail dropped down a broad ridge to a level col seamed with a maze of crevasses. Late in the afternoon with the remaining visibility fast disappearing we found ourselves trapped above sheer drops. Retracing our steps we failed to find any way down and ensconced ourselves in a snow-hole to await the dawn.
A miserable, cold, uncomfortable night ensued but at a sudden brightening next morning we emerged to find all revealed. We were stranded on a steep-sided spur with the top terminus of the rack-and-pinion railway on the Jungfraujoch visible only a short distance away at the head of the Jungfrau Glacier.
Running jumps, still roped together, cleared the 10 foot-wide bergschrund surrounding the spur to complete our escape from the Jungfrau.
Reference: "High Adventure around the World