Last year, the Jungfrau Marathon sold out within four days. If it’s difficult to imagine why so many people would elect to suffer through 26.2 miles of mostly uphill running, consider the astounding course. Starting in the tidy resort town of Interlaken, the route winds by charming Swiss villages, pastures, a valley full of waterfalls, and a prototypical Alpine lake before ending with front-row views of Switzerland’s celebrity peaks: the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. (Think of it as the reward for more than 5,000 vertical feet of climbing in the last ten miles of the race.)
For the marathon’s 20th anniversary this year, race organizers are holding two events—one on Saturday and one on Sunday—to accommodate more runners, including about a hundred masochists who plan to run both. There are also shorter races for kids, an invitational mile race for elite athletes, wheelchair and hand-bike races, and, mercifully, a 2.6-mile mini-marathon for racing newbies. But arguably the best part of racing in Switzerland is the inevitable postrace gorging. Need we mention fondue?
Round-Trip: 10 miles if you ride up and walk down, 2 to 3 days
When to Go: High summer is the season here, but hikable weather often extends into September, when the Europeans are back at work. The Faulhorn closes in October.
Perhaps the biggest payoff for effort applied in the Alps, this ridiculously beautiful walk takes in the scenic highlights of the Bernese Oberland—including the notorious Eiger and its more impressive sister peak, the fearsome Shreckhorn—looming across Grindelwald’s fairy tale valley.
“Eiger” translates to “ogre” in German, which seems a fitting moniker for the 13,000-foot beast of limestone, gneiss, shale, and ice that towers over the resort town of Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps. Its unpredictable weather, loose rock, and steep slopes have claimed the lives of more than 60 climbers, and yet its iconic 5,905-foot north face still proves irresistible. Now a new set of adventurers, wingsuit fliers, are not only climbing it but launching off it. Dean Potter (pictured) clinched the most heralded descent in 2009: After free soloing up the north face, he stepped into thin air for a four-mile, 9,000-vertical-foot flight that took two minutes and 50 seconds. The extreme sport is unquestionably one of the most dangerous on Earth, but perhaps that’s the allure: It’s the closest humans can get to true unadulterated flight.
On April 17, 2011, Swiss climber Ueli Steck soloed the south face of Tibet’s 8,027-meter Shisha Pangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world, in a jaw-dropping ten-and-a-half hours. The news may have taken the adventure world by storm, but Shisha Pangma is, in fact, only one stage of a multi-mountain, six-month odyssey Steck has dubbed “Project: Himalaya.”