The foehn

The Jungfau region and Wengen in particular are pretty close to being a paradise, but even such places have a dark side. The Garden of Eden had a snake, an apple and temptation. Wengen has the foehn wind.

The foehn blows elsewhere of course, but those of us who spend a little time in Wengen would be forgiven for thinking the foehn has a particular fondness for the area. It is fickle though; some winters, it blows only once or twice in the entire season. Other seasons are marked by a weekly visit; sometimes twice a week.

This winter, just when the village was at its busiest, the foehn arrived and put its feet under the table for an extended stay. We had endured a couple of wet, warm days but the skiing was holding up well; then on 3 January, the foehn announced itself properly. The mountain was pretty much closed. I took the train to Wengenalp, went down to Bumps T bar, arriving just as the cable came off the rollers, closing the lift and then skied on to Inner Wengen. A branch fell on that lift and that was that.

Statistics for the day: 2,212 vertical metres; 7 kilometres travelled; 9 lifts taken and 67 minutes of “fun”, or so states Skiline.cc. I was home at mid-day. Mrs IS hadn’t moved and did not do so until we went for a beer in the late afternoon.

The next day wasn’t much better. In truth it was worse as it was also raining. Freezing level seemed to be somewhere around Jupiter. I managed 2,911 vertical metres and 10 lifts before a rare outbreak of sanity had me home by 13.00. Mrs. IS hadn’t moved again, though she did participate in the ritual wringing out of my ski gear. The gloves I was wearing took four days to dry.

The photograph shows the Eiger at the weekend, brooding under the foehn cloud.

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For the next few days, the wind remained ever present. Skiing was okay – the foehn can hit quite small areas of the mountain, leaving the rest unaffected – but on my last day, Sunday 7 January, the wind bit in several different places before closing the mountain entirely. I was lucky not to have the long trip round the base of the mountain from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen. I think I caught one of the last cable cars back to Wengen before the lift system closed completely.

The next day, I would be on my way to London. I had skiied 212,811 vertical metres during the season to date, taken 495 lifts and travelled a distance of 1,150 kilometres. Crucially, I had spent another two days, three hours and thirty-eight minutes on lifts. So quite a few idle thoughts lost by the late arrival of this blog.

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