Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Toughest Climb – Ascent to the Männlichen Summit

At the end of my walk to the Männlichen cable-car station from Kleine Scheidegg the real challenge began, although I didn’t know it at the time! The ascent to the top of the Männlichen is only around 1.6km in length and you gain just over 100m in height. Looking up at it from the cable-car station it didn’t look too bad, so I nonchalantly set off to reach the summit.

I was at around 2200m which I did not think of as very high. I had just been to the Top of Europe at the Jungfraujoch reaching over 3400m. I laughed in the face of 2200m after being up there! Evidently I wasn’t laughing quite so hard as after less than 5 minutes I was absolutely exhausted. I looked up and could see that I still had a very long way to go, and it only got steeper. I could feel my heart beating in my head and I knew that was a sign of serious altitude sickness. My mood had changed from one of joyfully walking up the mountain to concerns that I would faint at any moment. I decided to take it a little slower from that point on, one step at a time and lots of stops to rest and catch my breath.

When I finally reached the summit I felt a great sense of relief and accomplishment. The views from the top were slightly disappointing but I felt like I had achieved something in getting there, even though it only took 25 minutes. It was a hard 25 minutes and I was right there at the peak taking in the view. I thought that my struggle in making it to the top was down to my complete lack of fitness, and whilst that’s probably true I was quite pleased to see other people huffing and puffing when they got there as well.

My legs were aching more than I could ever remember, but the way back down was much easier. I could spend a bit more time thinking about the beautiful area of the world I was in, taking photos and enjoying the view. If I was to return I don’t think I’d walk to the top of the Männlichen a second time. It was great to do it once, but the views were probably not worth the climb given that it left me completely exhausted for the rest of the day. I expect if the skies had been clearer the views would have been much more spectacular with the backdrop of the Jungfrau and Eiger mountains in full view. Unfortunately it was not to be while I was visiting. If you’re planning to reach the summit I would recommend leaving it for the end of the day, as if you’re anything like me you’ll need some time to recover afterward. It’s probably not the best way to start a trek in the mountains!

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A Word A Week Challenge – Castel Sant’Angelo

I was looking at my photos of Castel Sant’Angelo and just happened to come across this word a week challenge that seems to be popular in the blogosphere. I think it’s a great idea and since I was planning to post this photo anyway I thought I’d combine the two.

Castel Sant’Angelo is a castle in Rome, originally built for the Roman Emperor Hadrian to use as a mausoleum for himself and his family. It has a fascinating history and was used for some time as a papal fortress. The Passetto di Borgo is an elevated tunnel linking the castle directly to the Vatican City, and was actually used by Pope Alexander VI to escape the attack of Charles VIII in 1494. What an incredible story!

Unfortunately I did not have time to venture inside the castle where you can now find a museum. But I did wander around the outside to get a good look at it from a number of angles. This was the best shot I got. Again I’m using black and white to bring out the architectural detail, and hide how boring the sky was while I was there!

Torre del Mangia, Siena

Since my recent foray into black and white photography I’ve come to realise that I actually quite like it, especially for architecture shots. In most buildings there is not a great deal of colour, so even if they are architecturally interesting a photo can still end up looking bland. I’ve been experimenting quite a lot so here is my favourite so far. I was really pleased with the composition of this shot, it gives the impression of looking through a window up at the world. It was taken in Siena, Tuscany just before buying a ticket to go to the top of the Torre del Mangia.

A Mountain Stroll – Kleine Scheidegg to Männlichen

Having been to the Top of Europe on the Jungfraubahn the next item on my alpine itinerary was the panoramic walk between Kleine Scheidegg and the Männlichen. This is one of the most popular walks in the region due its relative ease and stunning views of the Grindelwald valley and the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains.

I found the whole experience very calming, it was so peaceful up there. Being in the mountains is just about as relaxing as it gets for me. Sometimes I like to close my eyes, breathe in the fresh mountain air and think about how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful and spectacular place. The walk takes about 90 minutes with some fantastic photo opportunities and the path is constantly winding around the mountains so you are always anticipating the next view that’s just out of reach. It makes the walk go quite quickly and keeps things interesting. Although for me it’s always interesting, especially if I have a camera!

Unfortunately the area was covered with cloud in the afternoon which meant that some of the most impressive mountains in Switzerland were obscured from view. This is quite common in the region – the mornings are sunny and clear with clouds rolling in for the afternoon and settling over the mountains. Having said that there were still some fantastic views, and it meant that toward the end of the walk the Tschuggen became the focus point of my photos.

I would suggest doing this walk as part of a day trip to the Jungfraujoch since it can be done on the same journey with a small detour. You can reach Männlichen from either Grindelwald or Wengen by cable-car, both of which are on the train route to the Jungfraujoch. It is best to walk from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg so that you have the incredible Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains as a backdrop for the whole journey. It’s also slightly downhill in that direction which is probably a good thing, depending on your preference! Having said that it’s not steep so either direction could be classed as easy, there were people with babies in push chairs on the walk! So that should give you some idea.

Up next on my journey was the ascent to the top of the Männlichen. I haven’t done much mountain walking in the past, but I have to say this was one of the toughest times I’ve had in the alps – stay tuned for that story next week!

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My First Black & White Landscape

DSC02416.jpg

This is the first black and white photograph I’ve published online! The photo was taken in the Bernese Alps whilst walking between Kleine Scheidegg and the Mannlichen. I knew that I loved the composition of this shot but it wasn’t working for me in colour. It was a bit bland as 2/3 of the picture was a boring shade of green. Turns out B&W was a perfect fit for the strong contrast between the grassy hills and the path I was following!

I’m not sure why but I never think B&W makes anything I photograph look better. Because I rarely use it in post-processing, I never ‘think’ in B&W when looking for the best shot. Maybe if I did that a bit more I might end up with more shots that look great in B&W. It’s hard to say! It would be an interesting experiment though so maybe I’ll try it one day.

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Top of Europe – Jungfraujoch, Switzerland

Jungfraujoch - Great Aletsch Glacier

Last weekend I finally went to the ‘Top of Europe’ – the Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Alps. I had been waiting a while to make this trip, and having bought a half fare card for Swiss public transport earlier in the year the cost of the trip was no longer in my way. Initially I was incredibly excited, but in the days leading up to the weekend I started to doubt myself. Maybe it wasn’t worth the trip, I had been up lots of mountains in the last few years – what was different about this one?! How wrong I was! I had forgotten how much I loved being in the mountains, and as soon as I stepped off the train in Interlaken and saw the Bernese Alps in every direction I was no longer questioning being there at all. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore!

Jungfraujoch - Viewfinder

It’s a long train ride from Interlaken to the Jungfraujoch, about 2 hours 30 minutes. There are a number of stops along the way though so you can shorten this journey by staying in a town further along the train line such as Grindelwald or Wengen. The weather forecast was for clear skies in the morning followed by cloud in the afternoon. If you’ve ever been at the top of a mountain when the clouds are five feet from your face you’ll know it’s not a very satisfying experience, so I got up early and made it to the peak by 10:30am. I was certainly not disappointed!

Jungfraujoch - Aletsch Glacier (Plateau View)

I’ve been up a fair few mountains since moving to Switzerland and I think this one has the best glacier view of any I’ve seen with the monumental Great Aletsch Glacier sprawling away from it. I really love going up to the top of mountains and looking out at the world around them. For me it’s one of the greatest feelings you can have while travelling. It makes you realise how small you are and gives some perspective on just how awesome the natural world is, absolutely incredible. I am quite happy just standing and looking out at the world for a while.

Jungfraujoch - Mountain Spotting

Despite being named ‘Top of Europe’ this is not the highest point in Europe you can reach using publicly available transport. At 3883m the Klein Matterhorn near Zermatt is higher, as is the Aiguille du Midi next to the Mont Blanc in France. However it is the highest you can reach by train, with the others requiring a ride in at least one cable-car. So if you’re scared of heights (going up a mountain?!) then the Jungfraujoch is probably your best bet. In fact it’s the highest railway in Europe! And if the woman I overhead on the train is correct (and the Swiss usually are) once at the top you can also visit the highest watch shop in Europe. Now there’s a title to be proud of – only in Switzerland!

Jungfraubahn Train

I still think it’s a rather sneaky marketing ploy to call this experience ‘Top of Europe’. Having said that it certainly felt like it when I was up there, and the work put into building the 7.3km tunnel that makes the final part of the journey possible made it feel even more special. The tunnel was built between 1893 and 1912 and it is a real triumph of engineering. Unfortunately a number of people died in the process and they are honoured in one of the many tunnels connecting the viewing stations at the top.

Jungfraujoch - Tunnel Workers

I would recommend a trip to the Jungfraujoch with no hesitation, although it is quite pricey. There is enough to keep you busy at the top for a couple of hours (or longer if you enjoy the mountains as much as me) with two viewing stations and something they like to call ‘Snow Fun’ if you’ve got the clothes for it. If you’re in Switzerland for any more than a day and planning to do this trip it’s probably worth getting a half fare card for the public transport, you will almost get your money back on this journey alone! The surrounding area is absolutely beautiful with countless peaks and hiking routes to explore. I think you could easily spend two weeks here and be completely satisfied – I know I could! I’ll have some more pictures up soon showing some of the other fantastic views you can find in the wonderful Bernese Oberland, but for now here are a few more from my trip to the Jungfraujoch – ‘Top of Europe’.

Jungfraujoch - Lone Outpost

Jungfraujoch - Aletsch Glacier (Plateau View II)

Kleine Scheidegg Station

Have you been to the Jungfraujoch? Love the mountains as much as I do? Interested by the highest watch shop in Europe?! Feel free to comment below!

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Silverstone Grand Prix In Motion

Silverstone - Vettel FP2

I don’t go very often, but I love taking photographs at Formula 1 events. You just can’t beat the colour and shiny-ness of the cars! When stationary they are at worst beautiful machines, and at best mesmerising beasts pounding round the circuit. There really is nothing quite like it!

I was lucky enough to be at the Silverstone Grand Prix a few weeks ago trying to get some good motion shots of the cars. I have to say it was very difficult! It was not something I could really attempt with my old compact camera so I had no prior experience of shooting moving objects in this manner. When I bought the NEX 6 this was one of the things I was most excited about – being able to take better pictures of Formula 1 cars at speed. I ended up with a lot of bad, blurry pictures but I also managed to get a few good ones!

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