The Jungfrau (German: "maiden/virgin") is one of the main summits in the Bernese Alps, situated between the cantons of Valais and Bern in Switzerland. Together with the Eiger and Mönch, the Jungfrau forms a massive wall overlooking the Bernese Oberland and is considered one of the most emblematic sights of the Swiss Alps.
The summit was first reached on 3 August 3 1811 by the Meyer brothers of Aarau and two chamois hunters from Valais. The ascent followed a long expedition over the glaciers and high passes of the Bernese Alps. It was not until 1865 that a more direct route on the northern side was opened.
The construction of the Jungfraujoch railway east of the summit in the early 20th century made the area one of the most-visited places in the Alps. Along with the Aletsch Glacier to the south, the Jungfrau is part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2001.
Jungfraujoch and tourism :
Once difficult to access, the Jungfraubahn cog railway now goes to the Jungfraujoch railway station at 3,454 m (11,332 ft), the highest in Europe. The Jungfraujoch is the lowest pass between the Jungfrau and Mönch.
In 1893 Adolf Guyer-Zeller conceived of the idea for a railway tunnel to the Jungfraujoch to make the glaciated areas on the south more accessible. 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.
The train into the mountain leaves from Kleine Scheidegg, which can be reached by trains from Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen via Wengen. The train enters the tunnel running eastward through the Eiger shortly above 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 passengers can see through the holes excavated from the mountain. 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 Konkordiaplatz and the Aletsch Glacier, as well as the surrounding mountains.
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 start from the Mönchsjoch Hut. 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.