Swhisskey on the rocks

When you’ve just climbed two miles to the top of Europe you need a reviver.

Just as well then that there’s a bar at the summit of Jungfraujoch in the Swiss Alps and mine host is there with a ball of Swiss whiskey, or Swhisskey if you will.

You want ice?

There’s plenty of it, in fact the whole place is made of it, although none of it in a bucket.

Well, at 2 degrees we probably don’t need any more cooling down… rather than try and chip if off the wall.

I take mine the way it should be drunk with a drop of water, but with a Swiss twist.

Prost: Whiskey in the Alps

We clink glasses, greet each other with a Prost, I throw in a Slainte, and we look each other straight in the eye – it’s the Swiss way.

And then a spot of curling, a strange Scottish game of ice bowls which the Swiss have taken to.

I rather suspect those proper mountaineers who shinnied it up here rather than took the train would have been too tired to play anything though I do hope they had a flask of whiskey with them.

We are between three towering peaks, the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau.

Your ears will pop: Going through this tunnel up to the mountain

The Eiger is the most famous on account of its notorious North Face which has claimed the lives of many a brave climber and spawned a Hollywood film or two.

The Eiger was first conquered in 1858 by a trio of intrepid explorers including mountaineering beginner and Bray, Co. Wicklow native Charles Barrington who having stood on top of Europe returned home and never climbed again. Instead he took up horse training and peaked at that too.

Not so fortunate was Austrian Toni Kurst who took on the almost vertical North Face.

There is a small window hewn into the rockfce on the train ride up here near the point where rescuers watched helplessly as he died hanging from a rope 80 years ago.

Curl power: Curling in the Alps

There is always an anniversary to mark here, a commemoration, and this year it is almost 200 years since the great Romantic poet Lord Byron, ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know, was exiled from England and took refuge in the Swiss Alp where he wrote a travel journal popularising the region.

Fair play to him, he took on many a peak, all with a club foot.

He is celebrated in these parts and we even dined the previous night in the 14th century hotel where he stayed in Interlaken down there in the foothills – channeling our inner Byron with a meaty pork meal (it is a local speciality) and delightful Swiss wine and rich chocolate mousse with the locals.

Healthy living: In Switzerland

But without any of the table thumping and carousing that the hell raiser was known for (honest!)

It’s easy to understand how these mountains stirred Byron’s creative juices.., he saw in them endless possibilities and I am reminded how he theorised on a Superman model in his work Mannfred.

Like modern-day Superman ‘Flying’ is on our itinerary too but I’m in no rush to get off the mountains, not when there are snow angels to make, snowballs to throw and selfies to take.

Did I mention the view?

Well, we are truly blessed today. It’s a crystal-clear invigorating day high up above the clouds and I can see into France and Germany (heck, what can I tell you?). Like Byron you’ll just have to experience it yourself.

While Superman can defy gravity, for the rest of us what goes up must come down and after refuelling with some hearty Alpine fare (this is one restaurant where you must get a window seat) and Swiss chocolate at Lindt’s Chocolate Heaven, it’s back down on the train.

Swiss clockwork: The Junfraujoch

By the end of my three-day excursion I will have taken more than a dozen trains, they all run like… well, like clockwork.

But none quite requires the precision or is on the scale of the Jungfrau, Adolf Guyer-Zeller’s feat of engineering mastery took 16 years and cost 16 million Sw Francs before it took its inaugural journey in 1912 though the biggest cost was in lives with six Italian workers losing theirs.

All so that I can get to sit in Simon, our driver’s cabin as we shoot through the tunnel, my ears (and eyes) popping.

Eyes popping at what is above me and around me… the mountains frame everything here, in my picturesque base of Wengen, on the balcony of my ever-so Swiss chalet hotel Belvedere and in my dreams that night.

‘Are you still alive?’ enquires Rosie, my guide/babysitter the next morning.

I actually need two and the saintly Rosie and Pippa share shifts.

I had been on the lager Hell the previous night watching the soccer (Hell is Swiss-German for light but the locals have stronger constitutions). I must fly.

Today I will zipline down 800m at 80kms from the First vantage point near the Tiger. But first a bracing 45-minute walk among the the hills to take my mind off my coming feat of derring-do.

Foolishly in my rush out the door I packed my bulky skyjacker in my rucksack which was sensible for the chilly Jungfraujoch but a sweaty incumbrance further down.

It can be early 20s in the Alps in the summer and late teens in the autumn.

Pack a fleece instead and a hat and sunblock and water; walking shoes are best, though comfy trainers will also do – you can thank me later.

Even if you’re not dressed like Michelin Man, walking through the foothills should not be rushed, the cows jangling their bells in a glade of edelweiss don’t seem to be in any hurry, nor our evergreen guide, Brigitte 75 years young.

Yodel-ay-hee-ho: With Brigitte

She advises us to pace ourselves on our trek up to Lake Bachalpsee.

There will be plenty of time for rushes.

Or not!

We are only stuck in a two-hour queue for the zipline and deciding to skip it and walk down.

I’m secretly relieved, my little tum’s been doing cartwheels. It started talking to me on the First Cliff Walk, a summit trail with a 40m-long on-rope suspension bridge – I was gladdest to have safety in numbers on the platform.

So, I’m glad to be descending of my own accord, with my feet on the ground.

And besides, we’re on a three-day whistlestop fact-finding tour of the Jungfrau, so there’s much more still to do.

You though will have longer, and may have secretly always longed to be zipped down a mountain in a harness, so if so, a word to the wise, get to your zipline early.

I wonder if the cheese is this colour: Fooling around in the Alps

And guess what, I WILL get to have my adrenaline fix and on my own terms, with my hands on the wheel.

It will come in the shape of a go-kart where I will unleash my inner Denis The Menace, and a Trotti bike, a scooter basically which he zip down the Swiss roads.

This is too much fun, particularly when the tracks join up with the main road and you have to avoid onrushing traffic… remember they drive on the other side of the road.

Prost again: After a Trotti ride

At the foot we park up and refresh with Aperol Spritz (Prosecco, Aperol, Soda Water, orange and ice) and toast the mountains.

We will return the next day on our final day to enjoy a last trek alongside the Royal Walk, a game of skittles (boys and their games) and fill up our bottles with water from the stunning Staubbach fall.

But this assault on the Jungfraujoch, the treks around the Berne Alps and our mastery of these summer adrenaline sports, seemed worth toasting.

Bowling along: Skittles in the Alps

It is time to say auf Wiedersehen to Brigitte – remembering, of course, to fix each others’ eyes.

There might have been a Swisskey or two later that night after she had gone and the following day but these mountains guard their secrets jealously. And that’s the way it’s staying.

TRAVEL FACTS

Mine hosts: Rosie and Pippa

The trains: The new Jungfrau Travel pass allows travel for three, four, five or six consecutive days. The pass for five and six days includes a boat trip on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. All Jungfrau Travel pass holders also get a 50% discount to visit Jungfraujoch. The Travel pass costs from 180CHF (€233) per adult for a three-day second class pass. Visit www.junfrau.ch/en.

Flights: Dublin-Zurich with SWISS from €257 with hold luggage. Visit www.swiss.com.

Accommodation: Packages from Hotel Bellevue from 215.60 CHF
(€280 ) for overnight stay in a standard single room., one train ticket from Lauterbrunnen-Wengen (arriving at hotel), one return Wengen-Junfraujoch, one train ticket Wengen-Lauterbrunnen (on departures), handling fee, etc. Visit www.jungfrau.ch/en.

It’s the thrill of a lifetime

The Staubbach fall: Fresh Swiss water

New First Mountain Cart Adventures: A cross between a go-kart and a sledge. Carters thunder down a 3km rough track from Schrekfeld to Bort in Grindelwald. First: Suitable for ten years and older. Minimum height 125cm. From 19CHF (€17) for adults and 14CHF (€12) for children aged 10-15. Helmets free of charge. Jungfrau (www.junfrau.ch).

New Adventure card: This includes the gondola journey. First Mountain Cart experience, First Cliff Walk, First Flyer and Trottibike scooter ride art Grindelwald First – Top fo Adventure. The First Flyer is a 800m zip line. Sit in a harness and speed up to 841kmp for the descent from Grindelwald First to Schreckfield. Hop on the new First Mountain Cart and hurtle along the track to Bort where the Trottibike scooters will await for racing from Bort to Grindelwald. Adults 91CHF (€63) for adults and 60CHF (€42) for 10-15 years. Available July to 23 October 2016. Subject to weather.

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