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 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.


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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