FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Gallery: Axalp

Posted in Axalp, Switzerland by folkestonejack on October 10, 2007

Although I didn’t really get much chance to master the tricky conditions of aviation photography at Axalp I did manage to get a few shots of helicopters that captured my (shortened) experience. Maybe someday I’ll try again… or more likely, I’ll settle for checking out the incredible shots on the web!

I must recommend the incredible images of Peter Steehouwer (if anything convinced me to go to Axalp it was his set of photographs from Axalp in 2006) and the great photos/helpful guide to photography at Target Aviation Photography.

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The madness, delight and frustration of Axalp!

Posted in Axalp, Switzerland by folkestonejack on October 10, 2007

I started my day way too early, setting out from the hotel with only a few hours sleep to catch the 6am train from Zürich Hauptbahnhof to Brienz (a journey of approximately two and a half hours). At Brienz I got straight onto one of the waiting Postbuses which finally got me to Axalp village for just after 9am. Already everyone could hear the practice runs taking place, building up anticipation for the full demonstration.

I queued up for the chairlift and then walked up the mountain, following a long line of spectators already making their ascent. I felt in good company for my lunacy! The climb had its moments of stunning beauty (particularly with a cloudline below us) and humour (the incongruous image of a lone port-a-loo half way up a mountain sticks in the mind!). It was a good energetic workout and I found it quite satisfying to make it to the Tschingel (one of three spectator areas).

Above the clouds

The climb

The loneliest portaloo?

The view from the Tschingel to the Ebenfluh control tower on Axalphorn

After the practice runs had finished there was time to chill, grab some food and watch the VIPs being ferried up by helicopter. Finally, after all the waiting the start time of 2pm arrived and a hush descended on the crowd which was broken only when a Super Puma Helicopter started the demonstration in stunning fashion with a delivery of flares.

It’s hard to adequately explain the experience of sitting on the Tschingel as a fighter jet flys directly over head firing at a target on the mountainside, but it is quite exhilerating. I have absolute admiration for the skill and bravery of the Swiss pilots who fly amongst the mountains, particularly in the tricky weather conditions of the day. Sadly, my skills with a camera were quite lacking and I didn’t really get any shots of note. It certainly makes me appreciate the craft of those photographers who come away with stunning shots!

The cloud was steadily creeping into the area throughout the display and flying was eventually suspended and then cancelled (at 2.45pm). It was disappointing but completely understandable – there are really are no margins for error amongst the mountaintops, particularly with all the spectators around! I was blown away by what I had seen and it had certainly lived up to expectations.

Before...

...after

I began my descent which was trickier as the crowds massed around some fairly narrow and slippery points on the path down. I managed to make it safely down and then promptly fell over on the flat ground at the bottom! Somewhat embarassed I got myself back on my feet and hobbled back to the chairlift in some pain.

The descent from the Tschingel

From Axalp village I caught a Postbus at 5pm which got me back to Brienz at 5.52pm and gave me ample time to get some food before taking the train to Meiringen (a 15 minute journey). Finally, at 6.45pm I was able to check in to my chosen hotel – the Sporthotel Sherlock Holmes for some much needed recovery time.

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The lure of Axalp

Posted in Axalp, Switzerland by folkestonejack on October 9, 2007

A while back I stumbled across a rather incredible video on youtube showing the Swiss Air Force in a demonstration at Axalp in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. I think it might have been a clip from one of the films produced by Lionel Charlet though I’m not sure, but whatever it was it got me completely hooked. It surely has to be the most amazing air show anywhere in the world, which quite incredibly takes place at the top of a mountain. In order to watch the show you have to get up there yourself…

I thought it would be easy to convince one of my friends to join me on a trip but it turned out to be quite a hard sell, so here I am on my lonesome taking an evening flight from London City to Zurich with Air France/Cityjet for possibly one of the maddest weekends of my life.

My flight is scheduled to arrive at Zurich at 22:25 and then I will have to dash to catch a train to Zurich Hardbrucke so that I can get to my hotel (the ETAP Zurich City West) for as much sleep as I can grab before a horribly early start. Hmmm, I think I can see why I failed to persuade any of my friends…

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