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Running and Pirouetting through Switzerland’s Jungfrau region

Giles Ruck
Guided by Giles Ruck
Becki Penrose
Guided by Becki Penrose
Running through Switzerland's Jungfrau region, we encountered stunning views of the Eiger, flower-filled meadows, gorgeous flowing trails, glacial lakes in which to cool off… and even a life-size cut-out of James Bond!

Our Run the Alps group was made up of Eleanor, Janelle, Paul, Staci, Janet, Peter, Teresa and Kevin, who had travelled from the US and Canada to come and run in this beautiful landscape.

Our trip was a hot one, with temperatures in the 80’s, blue skies, fluffy cloudscapes and stunning views each day. We managed to stay cool, dipping our caps in streams, and occasionally taking a full-body dip in a mountain stream or lake.

We took advantage of the amazing backdrops to catch some of the running action on camera, such as the pretty alpine lake of Bachalpsee, high above Grindelwald, and the high grassy ridgeline above Schiltalp leading down to Murren. These trails gave each of us a chance to hone our technical downhill skills. Everyone took the opportunity to step outside (and sometimes way outside!) his or her comfort zone. Janet and Teresa kept winning our trip’s daily “Badass Award,” by taking on a bit more exposure than they were used to. Teresa even made snow angels on the occasional late-season snow patches, as a means to face her fear of running on snow. Both came out the other side with increased confidence and, usually, a smile. Well done, you two!

Janelle’s quest for the flakiest croissant knew no bounds, and we can report all cafés were thoroughly checked in the process. She also impressed us with reaching her 100km goal for the tour… even if it did mean that Guides Becki and Giles took a small party on an extra off-trail lap amid the hills above Murren.

Our trails took us through some “alpages,” or alpine pastures, where it’s common to find cow herds in the summer. The cows are always docile, so we easily followed the trails through them, only to discover quiet talents in the group. Peter, a/k/a “the cow whisperer,” runs a dairy herd back in BC, and talked us through which cows were doing well and which needed more attention. So impressed with his knowledge, within a day, other members of the group had devised a podcast format for him, “Cow Talk,” and were wondering which San Francisco Bay Area investors to call!

Other talents emerged in the evening, with an international pool tournament. (The billiards table version, not the swimming variety.) This exposed Paul’s natural abilities; especially when teamed with Becki “Pool Shark” Penrose, they wiped out all-comers. Clearly a sign of misspent youths!

When encountering waist-high meadow flowers, none can forget musical renditions of favorites from “The Sound of Music”, made more spectacular by most of the group pirouetting along the trail!

Completing the “Chamois Trophy” was a bonus challenge for Eleanor, Kevin and Giles. This is a VK, or Vertical Kilometer, from our base in Wengen, up to the top cablecar station at Mannlichen. The challenge is to run, hike or crawl up the trail, 1,000 meters uphill to Mannlichen. Should you complete the challenge in under 75 minutes, your prize is … a free lift down! Our team of three made steady progress, spurred on by Becki’s whoops of support near the top, and with the knowledge that she had a liter of cold drinks at the ready. And our time? 70 minutes, placing us tied at 33rd on the summer’s leaderboard – good (sweaty) work, team!

We enjoyed the benefit of running with two guides, allowing some to ascend further and higher, such as on the stunning Eiger Trail, tucked under the Eiger North Face and scene of the annual Eiger Ultra trail race. Staci’s natural style on the trails came to the fore, flowing easily and achieving her goal of taking on more technical terrain. That same morning, others could take in equally jaw-dropping views, yet on more mellow trails. We regrouped at the Grosse Scheidegg mountain pass for cold drinks, and then ran on as one team along the mellow traverse, with the scent of hot pine leading us into town to our next overnight stay.

The tour’s closing highlights included yet more meadow trails leading to the quaint Rotstockhütte. Some claim they come here for the mountain vantage point, but we know better … it’s the fruit tarts and apple strudel coupled with mellow and pretty running along the Alta Via 1 from Murren that make it a Berner Oberland favorite.

For our trip finale we joined none other than 007, James Bond. This crossing of paths with the world’s most famous secret agent occurred during our visit to the Schilthorn, a peak high above Murren and home to Piz Gloria, a restaurant and movie set for the 60’s Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. How often do you get to act like you’re evading evildoers by running to the top of a mountain in the Alps, into the arms of James Bond? OK, so the life-size cut-outs were wooden, but no more so than the acting!

Once we’d posed for photos with various Bond characters, and finished another round of coffees, we enjoyed the fun single-track trails leading down to Murren, with another chance for a quick cooling dip in an alpine lake. Our trip was over all too soon, but fun times were had and memories made – I can still hear The Sound of Music soundtrack each time I look at the photos. Thanks team!

— Tour Story by Giles Ruck