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View from the south side of the pass
Elevation 3,466 m (11,371 ft)[1]
Traversed by Leslie Stephen and party (1862)
Location Bern/Valais, Switzerland
Range Bernese Alps
Coordinates 46°32′51″N 7°58′45″E / 46.54750°N 7.97917°E / 46.54750; 7.97917Coordinates: 46°32′51″N 7°58′45″E / 46.54750°N 7.97917°E / 46.54750; 7.97917
Jungfraujoch is located in Switzerland
Location in Switzerland

Jungfraujoch is a col between the Jungfrau and the Mönch. It lies at a height of 3,466 meters (11,371 ft) above sea level in the Bernese Alps, on the boundary between the cantons of Bern and Valais, halfway between Interlaken and Fiesch. It is a glacier pass, on the upper snows of the Aletsch Glacier, and part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch area.

Since 1912, the Jungfraujoch is accessible to tourists by the Jungfrau line, a railway from Interlaken and Kleine Scheidegg, running partly underground through a tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch. The Jungfraujoch railway station, at an elevation of 3,454 meters (11,332 ft) is the highest in Europe. It lies east of the saddle, below the Sphinx summit, and is connected to the Top of Europe building, which includes several panoramic restaurants and a post office. Several tunnels lead outside, where secured hiking trails on the crevassed glacier can be followed, in particular to the Mönchsjoch Hut.

The Sphinx Observatory, one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world, provides an additional viewing platform at a height of 3,571 meters or 11,716 feet. It can be reached by an elevator from the Jungfraujoch. The observatory houses one of the Global Atmosphere Watch's atmospheric research stations. The Jungfraujoch radio relay station, which is not accessible to the public, is installed west of the Jungfraujoch, on the Jungfrau ridge. It is Europe's highest radio relay station.

First crossing[edit]

From left to right, the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfraujoch (centre-right) and Jungfrau (summit amid the clouds).

There is a tradition in the Bernese Oberland, supported by some documentary evidence, that a pass existed between Grindelwald and Fiesch in Valais, four or five centuries ago, before the increase of the glaciers blocked it. In modern times the old pass's precise location is a matter of uncertainty. Since a hotel on the Eggishorn has been frequented by English mountaineers, the possibility of traversing the great ridge that encloses the head of the Aletsch Glacier, and connecting the Eggishorn with Grindelwald and Wengern Alp, has gained interest, and a topographical problem which has excited adventurous mountaineers. The result has been, that no less than four such passes have been effected. Two of the number, the Jungfraujoch and the Eigerjoch, are among the most difficult passes in the Alps.[2]

The north side of the pass

Two separate climbing parties met by coincidence in Grindelwald in July 1862, and decided to join forces for the climb. The party consisted of Leslie Stephen, F. J. Hardy, H. B. George, Living, Moore, and Morgan, with Christian Almer, Christian and Peter Michel, Ulrich Kauffmann, P. Baumann, and C. Bohren, as guides. The party turned back on the first day at a bergschrund, returning on the following day with a ladder 25 ft (7.6 m) in length, carried by Peter Rubi, a porter from Grindelwald. The way lay at first by the rocky buttress of the Mönch, separating the Eiger and Guggi glaciers. From the buttress the route descended a short distance in order to reach the Guggi Glacier, which could be ascended to a plateau. This halting place was reached in about 3 hours. In front a pile of ice debris, lying along the base of a high ledge of rocks, seemed to offer a possible route; but the débris was produced by the fall of masses of ice from an upper shelf of glacier, and an attempt to ascend in that direction was considered too dangerous. To the right the glacier descended in shattered masses, divided by crevasses. Towards the summit was a bergschrund, in most places 30 ft (9.1 m) wide, traversing the width of the glacier, and impassable without a long ladder.

The Mönchsjoch Hut trail

Above the bergschrund was a second and smaller plateau which was situated immediately under the long slopes of broken neve that lay below the col. Fully 2 hours were needed to reach this from the lower plateau. Here there was a clear view of the last very arduous stage in the ascent, a single patch of dark rocks jutted out from the snow in the ridge connecting the Jungfrau with the Mönch. To the left of this the névé, broken in huge seracs, whose interstices were filled with snow, lay at an angle of between 50° and 60°, the whole being irregularly cut through by crevasses. To the right of the rocks the névé lay in a more even, but still steeper slope; and after an attempt made by C. Almer and C. Michel to cut their way up it, the hardness of the snow and the perilous steepness of the wall induced them to return in order to try the alternative course by the seracs. This lay to the left of the last rocks, and though excessively steep, involved less of real risk than the lower portion of the ascent. After more than an hour of climb, direct progress was arrested by a great wall of ice, whose projecting cornice of snow was fringed by long icicles. It was necessary to bear to the left in the direction of the Mönch, along the base of the wall by a slippery pathway of ice formed from the dripping from the icicles above. At a point where the pathway thinned out nearly to a point, and was cut across by a transverse crevasse, the wall became low enough to be scaled by the ladder. This was the last serious obstacle: a moderate slope of névé, unbroken by crevasses, then led up to the summit of the pass, which was attained in 9 hours from the Wengern Alp. After reaching the first patch of rocks, a short way below the col on the south side, the party divided: George and Moore, with C. Almer and U. Kaufmann went down to the Eggishorn, while the remainder of the party returned to Grindelwald by the Mönchsjoch.[2]

View from the pass

Jungfraujoch railway[edit]

Main article: Jungfraubahn


Adolf Guyer-Zeller First thought of the idea of a tunnel in 1893, and at that point, he had planned to have 7 stations inside the tunnel before reaching the peak of the Sphinx. The building of the tunnel started on July 27, 1896 and took 16 years to complete.[3] The construction phase was troubled by many problems including monetary shortages, inclement weather and mounting deaths due to construction accidents. The worst accident occurred in 1908, when 30 tons of dynamite accidentally exploded.

When construction finally finished, the railway reached only to the height of the Jungfraujoch col, rather than the summit of the Sphinx, and had only two intermediate stations. However, even in its current state, the Jungfraubahn is a significant achievement in engineering and construction, still holding the title for highest railway in Europe.


The Jungfraujoch railway station at 3,450 meters (11,320 ft) above sea level

The train into the mountain leaves from Kleine Scheidegg, which can be reached by trains from Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The train enters the tunnel running eastward through the Eiger shortly after leaving Kleine Scheidegg.

It runs close behind the Eiger's north face, stopping at Eigerwand, where there is a window about 8 m long and a metre high, halfway up the face. The windows have been placed in holes used to remove excavated rock from the tunnel during construction, and are also occasionally used as access points, by climbers, and also rescue parties. This window was used for one of the final scenes of a Clint Eastwood spy movie the The Eiger Sanction. There one can get off the train to admire the view before the train continues five minutes later. The tunnel then turns west, heading towards the Jungfrau. There is a second stop at a window looking out on the Eismeer ("Sea of Ice") before the train continues to the Jungfraujoch. The tunnel was constructed between 1898 and 1912; it is about 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) long, with gradients of up to 25%. The journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch takes approximately 50 minutes including the stops at Eigerwand and Eismeer; the downhill return journey taking only 35 minutes.

The Jungfraujoch complex plays an important role in John Christopher's The Tripods novels.


Climate data for Jungfraujoch 3580m (1981-2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −9.7
Daily mean °C (°F) −12.8
Average low °C (°F) −15.7
Average relative humidity (%) 69.7 69.2 72.0 74.6 77.9 76.7 72.5 72.2 67.4 63.4 68.0 66.6 70.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 124 125 151 156 161 175 197 196 176 147 116 109 1,832
Source: MeteoSwiss [4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Retrieved from the Swisstopo topographic maps
  2. ^ a b John Ball, The Alpine guide, Central Alps, p. 106, 1866, London
  3. ^ Jungfraubahn - History of the Jungfrau Railway
  4. ^ "Climate Norm Value Tables". Climate diagrams and normals from Swiss measuring stations. Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss). Retrieved 31 January 2013.  The weather station elevation is 3,580 meters above sea level.

External links[edit]