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Ascent to Mönch-Southeast Ridge on 1985-08-09

Climber: Greg Slayden

Date:Friday, August 9, 1985
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Train
Point Reached:Mönch - Southeast Ridge
    Location:Switzerland
    Elevation:3940 m / 12927 ft
    Remaining Elevation:166 m / 547 ft (26% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

This climb was during a summer trip through Europe taken with my college friends Ravi and Gabe. We rode the Jungfraujoch train on a perfectly clear day. What follows is verbatim from my journal.

We finally pulled into the crowded underground Jungfraujoch station at 3454 m. I met back up with Ravi and Gabe, and we fought our way up outside to the snow surface, after I bought clip-on sunglasses at a souvenir stand. The joch, or col, was a snowy saddle between the Jungfrau and the Monch, and the three of use took pictures, admired expansive views (all the way to the Black Forest) , and froze amid many tourists in the slippery roped-off area of the col. We then went back underground and spent time going all through the ice palace, a huge tunnel/room system carved out the ice there. It was fun skating along the ice floor. Gabe borrowed a guy’s flash and had me take a picture, and Ravi was traumatized by a very thin, narrow ice tunnel. After seeing the whole place, including all the sculptures, we went to find place to eat.

Fighting crowds, we found a self-serve restaurant, and ate overlooking the entirely white landscape. We then walked down a tunnel to come out on the south side of the col , where an acre with rope-tow down one side had been set off as a ski slope. Ravi wanted to ski, but was being utterly blinded by the bright sun and snow without sunglasses. He went to the ski rental place anyway, and I found there was no ice-axe or crampons for rent. Determined to do some climbing anyway, I went off on a path worn down in the snow that led off under the Monch, and Gabe followed for a minute to see me “climb”, but couldn’t keep up, so he returned to watch Ravi ski.

I, following the path through the snow that led gradually uphill to the Monchjoch, on the other side of the 4099 m Monch from the Jungfraujoch, passed many other adventurous tourists, and made good time. Near the Monchjoch another path in the snow led a short way to the rock foot of the southeast ridge of the Monch, which looked climbable, so I took it and started the rocky scramble up this ridge, without pack , ice axe, or crampons.

The steep ridge alternated between jagged rocky crest, which was, for me, easy and fun to climb—I would pass the other equipment-laden alpinists easily, clambering along—and snowy crest, which was more dangerous to me. Sticking to the rocks, I quickly climbed up and up the ridge, exhilarated by the fresh mountain air, the incredible, far reaching vistas of nothing but jagged, snowy peaks, and the thoughts of attaining the summit of a real-live Alpine giant. Other climbers on the ridge were all taken aback by me, utterly equipment-less. Some just rolled their eyes and said, oh well, what a nut, while others told me I should turn back.

Finally the rocks stopped, a crest with steep snow on both sides plunging down looming ahead. A group of sluggish Spanish climbers I met here ( the guy answered my Spanish in English) told me it was still 45 minutes to the top ( it looked closer) and I was foolish to try the snowy crest without gear. Therefore, I went absolutely as far as I could on the rocks, attaining a new personal highest up, about 4000 meters, on this, the southeast ridge of the Mönch, and talking a self-timed picture of myself. I descended now, due to lack of equipment and time (I had to rejoin Ravi and Gabe).

The way down was more dangerous, but I, nimble on the rocks, still passed many of the same slow expeditions I had on the way up. I fell twice on the snowy parts, but not seriously—I never was in a point where a fall would have been fatal or even incapacitating. I half-skied down the final snowy hump, and was soon walking down the beaten-down path back to civilization at the Jungfraujoch. I arrived at about 3:45, with just enough time to check out a topo map on the wall of a meteorological museum and buy a postcard that showed the Monch before waiting for the 4:05 train down.

Luckily, Ravi and Gabe were waiting for this same train and we joined up and rode the same train down. This ride was utter hell, since the train was jam-packed (we had to stand up the whole way), hot, stuffy, and unbearably slow. Relieved, we finally got down to Grindelwald around 6 PM. Ravi had the good idea of calling up the Saanen Youth Hostel to confirm a second night there—they had room, so we made the 1 - 1/2 hour ride back there in our tired state and were given the same bunkroom as the last night.

Sunburned, sore, eyes hurting, and just plain tired, we went into the town of Saanen to find a restaurant, on foot. We choose one that the Hostel warden had told us was one the cheapest but we still felt very underdressed in the nice Swiss place. After dinner (again, Coke-less for me) we returned to the Hostel and went to sleep right away, at the early hour of 9:30 PM or so, exhausted.

The southeast ridge of the Monch is a relatively easy route to an Alpine summit (1985-08-09).
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:486 m / 1594 ft
    Route:SE Ridge
    Trailhead:Jungfraujoch  3454 m / 11333 ft
    Grade/Class:3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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