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The Jungfrau (German: "maiden/virgin") is one of the main summits in the Bernese Alpsmarker, situated between the cantons of Valaismarker and Bernmarker in Switzerlandmarker. Together with the Eigermarker and Mönchmarker, the Jungfrau forms a massive wall overlooking the Bernese Oberlandmarker and considered one of the most emblematic sights of the Swiss Alpsmarker.

The construction of the Jungfraujochmarker railway east to the summit in the early 20th century made the area one of the most frequented places in the Alps. Along with the Aletsch Glaciermarker lying on the south, the Jungfrau is part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area which was declared a World Heritage site in 2001.

Geographic setting

The Jungfrau is the westernmost and highest point of a gigantic 10 km wall dominating the valleys of Lauterbrunnenmarker and Grindelwaldmarker. The wall is formed by the alignment of some of the most distinctive north faces in the Alps, with the Mönchmarker (4,107 m) and Eigermarker (3,970 m) alongside the Jungfrau, and overlooks the valleys to its north by a height of up to 3 km. Jungfrau is approximately 6 km from the Eiger; with the summit of the Mönch lying roughly in the middle, 3.5 km from the Jungfrau. The wall is extended to the east by the Fiescherwandmarker and to the west by the Lauterbrunnen Wall.

The difference of altitude between the deep valley of Lauterbrunnen (800 m) and the summit is particularly visible from the area of Mürrenmarker. From the valley floor, west of the massif, the altitude gain is more than 3 km for an horizontal distance of 4 km.

The landscapes around the Jungfrau are extremely contrasted. Instead of the vertiginous precipices of the north-west, the south-east side emerges from the upper snows of the Aletsch Glaciermarker at around 3,500 metres. The 20 km long valley of Aletsch on the south-east is completely uninhabited and also surrounded by other similar glacier valleys. The whole area constitutes the largest glaciated area in the Alps as well as in Europe.

The Jungfrau is the third highest mountain of the Bernese Alpsmarker after the nearby Finsteraarhornmarker and Aletschhornmarker, respectively 12 and 8 km away.

Climbing history

The summit of the mountain was first reached on August 3, 1811 by the Meyer brothers of Aaraumarker, sons of the topograph J. R. Meyer. They were accompanied by two chamois hunters from the Valaismarker, who were probably A. Volker and J. Bortis.They first had to reach the Aletschfirn (the west branch of the Aletsch Glaciermarker), where they established a base camp, north of the Aletschhornmarker. After 3 days of ascent they successfully reached the top.

Their ascent was disputed and they decided to repeat it the following September. They used the normal route and, to demonstrate their successful ascent, they carried a flag with them.

Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau

Before the construction of the Jungfraujoch railway tunnel, the approach from the glaciers on the south side was very long. The first direct route from the valley of Lauterbrunnen was opened in 1865 by Geoffrey Winthrop Young, H. Brooke George with the guide Christian Almer. They had to carry ladders with them in order to cross the many crevasses on the north flank. This route became a usual until the opening of the Jungfraujoch.

The first winter ascent was made on 22 January, 1872, by Meta Brevoort and W. A. B. Coolidge. They used a sled to reach the upper Aletsch Glacier. Miss Brevoort's favorite dog, Tschingel, accompanied them to the top.

In July 2007 six Swiss Army recruits, part of the Mountain Specialists Division 1, died in an accident on the normal route. Although the causes of the deaths was not immediately clear, a report by the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research concluded that the avalanche risk was unusually high due to recent snowfall, and that there was "no other reasonable explanation" other than an avalanche for the incident.

Jungfraujoch and tourism

Once difficult to access, the Jungfraubahn cog railway now runs inside the mountain, up to the Jungfraujoch railway station at , the highest in Europe. The Jungfraujoch is the lowest pass between the Jungfrau and Mönch.

The idea of a railway tunnel to the Jungfraujoch to make the glaciated areas on the south more accessible came into the mind of Adolf Guyer-Zeller in 1893. But the building of the tunnel took 16 years and the summit station was not opened before 1912. The goal was in fact to reach the summit of the Jungfrau with an elevator from the highest railway station inside the mountain. The complete project was not realized because of the outbreak of the World War I.

Jungfrau east wall from the Jungfraujoch

The train into the mountain leaves from Kleine Scheideggmarker, which can be reached by trains from Grindelwaldmarker and Lauterbrunnenmarker. The train enters the tunnel running eastward through the Eiger shortly after leaving Kleine Scheidegg. Before arriving at the Jungfraujoch, it stops for a few minutes at two other stations, Eigerwand (on the north face of the Eiger) and Eismeer (on the south side), where the traveller can have a look through the excavated holes. The journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch takes approximately 50 minutes including the stops; the downhill return journey taking only 35 minutes.

A large complex of tunnels and buildings has been constructed at the Jungfraujoch, mostly into the south side of the Mönch. There is a hotel, two restaurants, an observatory, a research station, a small cinema, a ski school, and the "Ice Palace", a collection of elaborate ice sculptures. Another tunnel leads outside to a flat, snow-covered area, where one can walk around and look down to the Konkordiaplatzmarker and the Aletsch Glaciermarker, as well as the surrounding mountains.

Apart from the Jungfraujoch, many facilities have been built in the two valleys north of the Jungfrau (the commonly named Jungfrau Region). In 1908, the first public cable car opened at the foot of the Wetterhornmarker, but was closed 7 years later. The Schilthornmarker above Mürrenmarker or the Männlichenmarker above Wengenmarker offer good views of the Jungfrau and other summits.

Climbing routes

The normal route follows the traces of the first climbers, but the long approach on the Aletsch Glacier is no longer necessary. From the area of the Jungfraujoch the route to the summit takes only a few hours. Most climbers starts from the Mönchsjoch Hutmarker. After a traverse of the Jungfraufirn the route heads to the Rottalsattel (3,885 m), from where the southern ridge leads to the Jungfrau. It is not considered a very difficult climb but it can be dangerous on the upper section above the Rottalsattel, where most of the accidents happen. The use of the Jungfrau railway can cause some acclimatization troubles as the difference of altitude between the railway stations of Interlaken and Jungfraujoch is almost 3 km.


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