This week and next we have two guest posts from Jo Mclaren who works in operations and recently tackled the Swiss Alps with member of Go Ape from up and down the country, heres their adventure in their words:
“After several months of built up anticipation, it was time to embark on Go Apes first expedition to the Swiss Alps.
The team was made up of 10 staff; Jo Mclaren (Operations), Dan James (Thetford), Tom Matthews (Forest of Dean), Martha Cross (Trent park), Matt Debenham (Alice Holt), Phil Mcfarlane (Cannock), Chris Bills (Sherwood), Natasha Wolley (Whinlatter), Rebecca Devlin (Crawley) and Nick Mallett
The plan of the expedition was to bring staff working from all over the country together. To unite as one team, and fit as many challenges and experiences that were possible into 6 days.
After arriving in Geneva airport, we hired 2 cars, loaded up the expedition bags and drove 3 hours winding our way up the valley to our basecamp in Kandersteg. We pitched the tents and cooked some wholesome food in preparation for the following days activities.
Day 2 – Gemmi Pass Trek, 2346m
After breakfast, we walked to the bottom of the Sunnelbul cable car station. The first day involved an acclimatisation trek up the Gemmi pass, we ascended around 700m and walked around 13.5 miles. The scenery was awe inspiring and breath taking, the winding trail went through the alpine meadows, past the Spittelmatte plateau working its way past the Daubensee lake to the Gemmi pass. Halfway up the pass we encountered our first patch of snow. This was swiftly followed with people diving in the snow, bare chested for some!), creating snow angels and bum sliding down the slope! Once we reached the top of the pass, the team were all blown away with the views of the Matterhorn in the distance and it made way for a picture postcard picnic stop – wraps and tuna were to become one of our steady diets for lunch each day! Once we descended back down the valley we arrived back at camp around the sociable time of 5.30pm. We then split into smaller groups, to decide who was buying some food in town, preparing food, cooking and washing up. After a great first day, we all enjoyed a tasty curry and went through preparations for the next challenges ahead the following day.
Day 3 – Allenalp Via Ferrata and Bunderspitz Summit, 2,546m
After a hearty breakfast, we set off for an early start. We left the campsite at 7.30am and arrived at the bottom of the Allenalp cable car station before walking up past the bottom of an amazing waterfall. The temperature was increasing and the towering rock face above was in the sun. An early start was needed on the Via Ferrata before it became too hot. We had all doused ourselves in sun tan cream, however, as we climbed the imposing walls the sweat from the temperatures meant the cream was dripping into our eyes – which certainly added to the experience! The next 3 hours were spent climbing 500m up an exposed rock face next to a waterfall.
After topping out, we enjoyed some lunch in the shade. Once everyone had refueled, I pointed to the top of the Bunderspitz behind us, we had around 1000m ascent. The sun continued to shine so we walked slowly, slowly up through the alpine meadows which then increased in gradient and steepness. To gain the ridge we used a chain around a rocky slope, past a snow patch to lead up to the summit. The vista at the top of the mountain was amazing, we could even see the mountain hut we would be sleeping in on the following night, looking like it was ‘on a knife edge ridge just above a glacier’. We returned down the valley in time to make the last cable car down. After such a successful day and arriving back to camp around 6.30pm, we had a lovely meal, followed by an early night in preparation for an ascent up to the mountain hut the next day.
Day 4 – 2-day trek, Oeschinensee lake and Blumlisalpe hut, 2,840m
An early morning breakfast was enjoyed by all, followed by taking a local bus to the middle of town. We walked up to the bottom of the cable car and ascended a less steep valley. The walk contained some of the richest of scenery so far, a beautiful climb past a gorgeous green lake with cows pasturing in the meadows below. We snaked up and under the cliffs, traversing on a near-knife edge whilst, scrambling to follow a narrow path. The mountain hut was a beautiful yet quite surreal site. We ate a meal in the hut, watched the sunset over the mountains and neighboring glaciers then settled down for the night in a large team bunk bed – very cozy!
Day 5 – Glacial journey
After a hearty breakfast – (we certainly didn’t starve on this trip), an early start was had. We met up with Manfred, our mountain guide and kitted up with harness, helmet, crampons and ice axes. We walked down to the glacier edge and then roped up. It didn’t take too long before we found out why it was important to be roped up, Natasha’s left leg went down a hole first, followed by birthday girl – Martha, she went down a bigger crevasse, down to her shoulders. It took a team effort to drag her out, however we all felt in safe hands with Manfred. Once we arrived at some more solid ice, Manfred asked for 2 volunteers – Tom and Dan. With the help of some ice screws he showed us how to set up to do a crevasse rescue with Tom dangling on the end of the rope, the rest of the team helped to drag him back up to the belay. We continued to traverse uphill from one glacier dropping back down to another glacier, this allowed us to get real close to looking down some big crevasses that disappeared into the abyss.
In the early afternoon, we made our way back to the hut, a couple of the team members borrowed some kit and climbed a few routes on a crag next door to the glacier. We finished off with a late lunch of tuna wraps for a change and said our goodbyes to ManFred. We headed back down the valley, to try and fit a swim in the lake before the last lift down. Time was a little
short so a couple of the team – Dan, Tom and Matt managed to take a quick dip, we carried on and they sprinted to make the last lift down. A few of the team prepared and cooked an amazing evening meal back at the campsite and we shared all our new experiences over a campfire.
Day 6 – Interlaken, White water rafting on the Lutschine river/ropes course
After conquering many fears in the mountains, we got up at 6am, de-camped and had breakfast. We left the kandersteg valley for the last time and drove for an hour over to Interlaken. Now was time for a taste of some white-water fun – we were kitted out in rafting kit then headed up the valley with an arranged mix of nationalities. After some safety training, we entered the glaciated melt water with the Eiger towering in the background. We went straight into the big white water – there was no warm up. We were split over two boats, everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and during the grade 1 sections, we could get out the boat and just float down the river.
Once all the adrenalin came to an end we popped out into a large lake, the temperature went from icy water to warm turquoise water, this was a very tranquil way to finish. Once back in Interlaken we popped to the shops to grab some food, then we jumped in the cars and drove to the local ropes course – we had a lovely picnic together in the sunshine, which didn’t involve tuna wraps! Then we spent the next 3 hours in familiar surroundings, using the magnetic clip it system. Although in the trees, it was still hot and the harder routes were quite exhausting and hard which provided many laughs amongst the team.
After another superb day, we headed into Interlaken to the hostel we were booked into for the last night. We walked around the town for a little while then settled on eating food in the bar underneath our hostel. We enjoyed a lovely evening meal, followed by great company for our last evening meal together.
Day 7 – Flew back to blighty!”
So there you have it, what an amazing feat by all involved – we salute you!