Jungfrau, well-known Swiss peak (13,642 feet [4,158 m]) dominating the Lauterbrunnen valley and lying 11 miles (18 km) south-southeast of the resort of Interlaken. The scenic mountain separates the cantons of Bern and Valais and is in the Bernese Alps, two other peaks of which (the Finsteraarhorn [14,022 feet] and the Aletschhorn [13,763 feet]) surpass it in height. The first ascent was made in 1811 on the eastern or Valais side by two Swiss brothers, Rudolf and Hieronymus Meyer. It was not until 1865 that two Englishmen made the first ascent from the difficult western, or Interlaken, side, and in 1927 two guides climbed the south side. One of Europe’s highest railways (constructed 1896–1912) cuts a 4.4-mi-long tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch peaks to the Jungfraujoch, a pass (11,335 ft) between the Mönch and Jungfrau peaks.
The Jungfrau (German: “maiden/virgin”) is the highest peak of a mountain massif of the same name, located in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps, overlooking Wengen. The other two peaks are the Eiger (3,970 m) with its famous north face, and the Mönch (4,099 m).
The summit of the mountain was first reached in 1811 by the Meyer brothers of Aarau. Once difficult to access, the Jungfraubahn cog railway now runs inside the mountain, up to the Jungfraujoch railway station at 3,454 m (11,332 ft), the highest in Europe.
The train into the mountain leaves from Kleine Scheidegg, which can be reached by trains from Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen. The train enters the tunnel running eastward through the Eiger shortly after leaving Kleine Scheidegg.
It runs close behind the Eiger’s north face, stopping at Eigerwand, where there is a window about 8 m long and a metre high, halfway up the face. The windows have been placed in holes used to remove excavated rock from the tunnel during construction, and are also occasionally used as access points to rescue climbers. This window was used for one of the final scenes of a Clint Eastwood spy movie the The Eiger Sanction. There one can get off the train to admire the view before the train continues five minutes later. The tunnel then turns west, heading towards the Jungfrau. There is a second stop at a window looking out on the Eismeer (“Sea of Ice”) before the train continues to the Jungfraujoch. The tunnel was constructed between 1898 and 1912; it is about 7 km (4 mi) long, with gradients of up to 25%. The journey from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch takes approximately 50 minutes including the stops at Eigerwand and Eismeer; the downhill return journey taking only 35 minutes.
A large complex of tunnels and buildings has been constructed at the Jungfraujoch, mostly into the south side of the Mönch. There is a hotel, two restaurants, an observatory, a research station, a small cinema, a ski school, and the “Ice Palace”, a collection of elaborate ice sculptures. Another tunnel leads outside to a flat, snow-covered area, where one can walk around and look down to the Konkordiaplatz and the Aletsch Glacier, as well as the surrounding mountains.