The Top of Europe

THE DAY STARTS as our clearest yet, so we head up the hill towards Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. After we change trains at Kleine Scheidegg the railway ascends via a tunnel through the Eiger, with two brief stops to take in the view. At the first stop you look through the most unlikely of picture windows, cut in the North Wall of the Eiger, down on Männlichen and Grindelwald while at the next you feel you’ve entered the mountain world as you look out over the Eiger Glacier.

Unfortunately by the time we arrive at the terminus station in the mountain at Jungfraujoch, cloud has shrouded the summits. It soon fills the valley below too, erasing the view even of these nearby pinnacles of the Jungfrau (above). The terrace by the restaurant is closed because of the danger of falling ice.

After a break for hot chocolate, I resign myself to drawing the icicles hanging from the roof – which is as far as I can see in the cloud – but I’m delighted when the cloud clears sufficiently for me to make my drawing of the glacier.

The Aletsch Glacier

At 23 kilometres (17 miles) long, the Aletsch Glacier is the longest – and also the widest – in Europe. There are no trees or buildings to give an idea of scale in this mountain landscape. It’s not until later, when I see figures far below walking on the glacier and tobogganing in the Snow Fun area, that I realise that those crevases on the left would be large enough to swallow up our house.

Ascending from Wengen (1274 m, 4180 ft) to Jungfraujoch (3454 m, 11333 ft) involves a large drop in air pressure so when I attempt to start drawing with my ArtPen, a fountain pen, I find that the ink leeks out uncontrollably. Luckily this doesn’t affect my Pilot Drawing Pens which are fibre tips.

For the view of the Aletsch Glacier I switch to pencil for the drawing before adding watercolour. In the original of this drawing the watercolour washes fade imperceptably into the white of the paper, something that seems to be impossible to reproduce in a low res scan.

As I sit on the floor by a full-length window in the coffee shop I’m just on level with a small Japanese boy who ask me repeatedly (as his father eventually translates) why don’t I use brighter colours, such as red.

Two South Korean women ask if they can photograph my drawing then photograph me with my sketchbook. I’m touched by the way they thank me; standing, side by side and bowing in unison.

Jungfrau from the Sphinx (left), which is the highest point you can visit at Jungfraujoch .

Pressure change also affects the journey down; I drink the last of my water as we wait for the train to set off, then screw the cap back onto the bottle. When I take the bottle out of my bag in the hotel, I discover that it has collapsed under the increased pressure.