Axalp je majhna vasica, ki leži nad Brienzom v osrednji Švici na nadmorski višini 1535m. Če pa omenite besedo Axalp letalskim navdušencem, pa se le-tem zasvetijo oči. V neposredni bližini te idlične vasice namreč leži vojaški poligon, kjer vsako leto prva dva tedna v oktobru potekajo vaje njihovega letalstva, kjer piloti z letali F-5E Tiger II in F-18C Hornet napadajo tarče s topovi. Vsa stvar ne bi bila nič posebnega, če se cela zadeva ne bi dogajala na nadmorski višini približno 2.200m, cel poligon pa obdajajo vrhovi, ki krepko presegajo višino 3.000m. V drugem tednu vaj, pa v sredo in četrtek pripravijo celo čisto pravi visokogorski letalski miting.

Axalp is a little village, lying in the hills South of Brienz in Switzerland at 1.535 of altitude. If you mention the word “Axalp” to any aviation fan, you’ll see their eyes widen and they’ll heart beat will rise. In the proximity of this little idilic mountain village lies a military range, where in first two weeks of October each year, Swiss Air Force trains and uses targets on the ground for gun attack practices with F-5 Tiger II and F-18 Hornet jet fighters. The training wouldn’t be anything special if the whole thing wouldn’t be happening high in the Alps with targets at 2.200m and surrounded by much highter 3.000m+ mountains. And they even prepare an afternoon airshow on Wednesday and Thursday on the second week of the exercises.

Zemljevid območja, na katerem potekajo vaje.
Map of the training area.

To leto sem se odpravil proti Axalpu v ponedeljek 8.10. in užival v prelepih razgledih in sončnem vremenu na poti mimo Salzburga, Rosenheima, Innsbrucka in Liechtensteina. Švica se je tokrat pokazala oblačna in v zadnjih kilometrih celo deževna. Vzpon iz doline od Brienza iz približno 500m nadmorske višine, na dobrih 1500 v Axalpu je večji del potekal v oblaku. Okoli 18ih sem prispel v vas, kjer me je nasproti hotela Bellueve čakala postelja v leseni koči. Poleg mojega švicarskega prijatelja Svena, sta mi družbo delala še dva nemca – Andy in Peter. Dobrih 800km poti sem premagal v okoli devetih urah, predvsem zaradi številnih del na avtocestah in večjih zastojev v bližini Salzburga in pred Chiemseejom, 140 konjičev, ki me je pognalo do tja, pa je tudi popilo le ekonomičnih 6.8L neosvinčenega dinozavrovega soka na 100km.

This year I went on a trip on Monday, 8th October and was enjoying the beautiful scenery and sunny weather travelling by Salzburg, Rosenheim, Innsbruck and Liechtenstein. Switzerland greeted me with cloudy weather this time and the last few kilometers were rainy as well. Most of the ascent from the valley at 500m to the 1500m of Axalp was done in cloud. I arrived to the old wooden cabin across the road from Bellueve hotel at 1800hrs and was greeted by my good friend Sven. There were also two German guys sharing the cabin – Peter and Andy. I travelled a bit more than 800km in 9 hours, manily due to many highway road works and large traffic jams ar Salzburg and before the Chiemsee. 140 little horses that drove me were very economic and drank only 6.8L of unleaded dinosaur juice per 100km.

Lesena koča v kateri smo prebivali, zgrajena leta 1900.
Our wooden cabin built in 1900.

Vremenska napoved za naslednje dni ni bila najboljša – torek 90% možnost dežja, sreda 70% in šele v četrtek le 15%. Izkazalo pa se je, da smo v torek imeli krajše prekinitve deževnega vremena z kratkimi sončnimi obdobji, ki so nam vsaj omogočili nekaj časa za obisk letalske baze Meiringen v dolini in delavnice za parne lokomotive v Interlaknu – zahvala za slednje gre domačinu Adrianu, ki tam opravlja prostovoljno delo. Sreda se je izkazala za popolnoma deževno in ko se je popoldne le prikazalo sonce za trenutek in smo na hitro odšli na spredhod v bližnji gozd, je le-to hitro izginilo in dalo pot še več dežju, ki nas je pošteno namočil. Šele ponoči pa so se oblaki končno nekoliko razmaknili in pokazalo se je nekaj zvezd, kar je vlilo upanje in dvignilo moralo za četrtkov dan.

Weather forecast was not very good – Tuesday 90% chance of rain, Wednesday 70% chance of rain and only on Thursday just 15%. Truth was that Tuesday had brief sunny moments which enabled us visiting the Meiringen air base in the valley and Interlaken steam locomotive workshop in the afternoon – thanks for the latter visit gives to the Brienz local Adrian, who is doing volunteer work at the workshop. Wednesdays forecast was totally wrong and it rained whole day long – sun showed through the clouds in the afternoon, abd we decided for a quick walk in the woods around the village but rain reappeared soon after we left and returned back home in an hour soaking wet. Only when it got dark, the weather improved and we could see some starts which boosted morale and gave us some hope for the next day.

Pogledi, ki niso bili prav obetajoči.
Views that were not so promising.

Tokrat je bila noč zelo kratka, saj smo imeli odhod iz koče že ob štirih zjutraj, saj nas je čakal naskok na goro Wildgärst na 2.890m. Uradni del za obiskovalce je sicer na drugi strani doline na že zgoraj omenjenih 2.200m, vendar za najboljše doživetje, se je vedno treba potruditi in ta gora je najboljša lokacija. Letala namreč napadajo tarče iz različnih smeri, in po enem od preletov se usmerijo tudi direktno proti Wildgärstu, kjer greben preletijo na višini le nekaj 10 metrov obrnjeni na glavo. Z posebno dovolilnico smo avto lahko parkirali na Lütschentältiju, ki se nahaja na približno 1.800m, potem pa se pot najprej spusti ob zahodnem delu pobočja, nato pa se začne dvigati do planote na južni strani, kjer se nahajajo tudi pastirske koče. Pot se za tem prične strmo dvigati. Zaradi obilnega dežja v preteklih dneh, so bili tokrat aktivni prav vsi potočki in hudourniki, katere je bilo potrebno večkrat prečiti, sam vzpon pa je na začetku poleg trde teme, ovirala še mokra spolzka trava. Po prehodu 2.400m se je počasi začelo jasniti in odprli so se prav neverjetni razgledi po švicarskih Alpah. Kakih sto metrov višje se je tudi pričela snežna meja in temperature pod lediščem.

That night was very short as we were leaving the village at 4am for the ascent on Wildgärst mountain at 2.890m. Official airshow public place is located on the other side of the valley at before mentioned 2.200m, but to get the best experience, you have to put some effort and this mountain is the best spot. Fighters attack the ground targets in different patterns and at some times, they fly over the mountain inverted at just some tens of meters. With a special parking pass we could drive to our starting point at Lütschentälti at approx. 1.800m. After that the path first descends and soon starts climbing until you reach a plateau on the South side with some shepperd cabins. After that, there’s a steep path up to the mountain. Because of generous amounts of rain on previous days, every possible stream and torrent was flowing down the mountain, making ascent quite difficult. The dark of the night and slippery grass at first weren’t helping either. After passing 2.400m the dawn started to break and amazing views of the Swiss Alps reached our sight. Some 100m higher we also reached the snow layer and below 0 temperatures.

Pogled proti Schwarzhornu na desni in Wildgärstu na levi.
A view towards Schwarzhorn on the right and Wildgärst on the left.
Nekaj pogled proti jugu.
Some of the views towards South.
Pogled proti ledeniku in Wildgärstu v ozadju.
A view towards the glacier and Wildgärst in the background.
Sončni vzhod na Wartu (2.704m).
Sunrise at Wart (2.704m).
Še zadnji pogled proti vrhu iz Warta.
A final view towards the peak of the mountain from Wart.

Po prečkanju ledenika in grebena Warta nas je pričakalo še slabih 180m vzpona do samega vrha Wildgärsta, ki je v normalnih okoliščinah zaradi nestabilne podlage precej mučen, tokrat pa so se kamni primrznili na podlago. Fotografske pozicije smo si izbrali nekoliko vzhodno pod samim vrhom in na žalost nam je v dopoldanskem treningu za kuliso namesto modrozelenga brienškega jezera delala družbo bela megla. K sreči je le-ta do popoldneva izginila. Zanimivo je tudi, da obstaja civilna inicijativa, ki že več let skuša doseči prenehanje teh letalskih vaj, češ da hrup reaktivnih letal moti živali; tokrat smo dobili dokaz v nasprotno. Na sosednjem hribu se je namreč dopoldne, kmalu po pričetku vaj, prikazal gams. In glej ga zlomka – letala ga niso niti malo motila in ostal je tam na svojem hribčku cel dan dogajanja, navkljub reaktivnim lovcem, ki so ga s polno močjo motorjev nizko preletavala cel dan. Svojo muhavost je narava pokazala še enkrat in za čas mitinga, spustila oblak direktno na vrh Wildgärsta, kar nam je onemogočilo nadaljne fotografiranje zadnjih dveh nastopov in nas prisilila v predčasen spust z gore. Če sem omenil, da je bil jutranji vzpon na vrh zaradi zmrzali lažji, pa je bil spust zaradi talečega-se ledu in snega toliko težji.

After crossing the glacier and Wart ridge at 2.700m we had around 180m to the top, which is quite hard in normal circumstances but as all the stones got frozen to the ground and covered in snow, it was not that hard as normally. We set our photo positions a bit lower and east of the mountain top, but unfortunately had fog instead of blue-green Brienz see for background in the morning. Luckily it disappeared after a few hours. There is a civil inciative to stop this military exercises at Axalp range because the noise from jet fighters frightens the animals. On the next hill of the ridge, sometime soon after the start of operations a chamois appeared, making their proofs wrong and stayed there for the rest of the day, not bothered by the thunder of the afterburning jet fighters at all. Nature showed its unpredictability that day again and a cloud appeared over the mountain top, negating the possibility of any more photography and forced us to leave early and miss the last two displays of the day. I mentioned the ascent was easier than usual because of the frost but it was quite the opposite on descent due to the melting ice and snow.

Pogled proti Axalphornu in megleni dolini v ozadju.
A view towards Axalphorn and foggy valley in the background.
Zanimive skalne formacije na vrhu gore.
Interesting rock formations at the top of the mountain.
Lungerersee & Sarnersee
Gamsa ni motilo rohnenje reaktivnih lovcev.
Chamois wasn’t bothered by the thunder of jet engines.
Motilo pa ni niti planinskih kavk.
Even these black birds weren’t bothered.
Pogled iz planote proti hribom po spustu – pot se vije po levi strani velikega hudournika.
A view from the plateau towards the hill after descent – path goes on the left side of the big torrent.

Se je splačalo vse to popotovanje in trud za nekaj ur fotografiranja? Definitivno! Lahko trdim, da nikjer na svetu ne obstaja takšen kraj za to vrsto fotografije. Več pa naslednjič s slikami letal!

Was it worth it to travel that far and putting all this effort for just a few hours of photography? Definite! I can claim there is no such place for aviation photography as Axalp in the world! Until the next time with aircraft photos!

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