|Type:||Military air power demonstration|
|Schedule:||Yearly, second week of October|
|Location:||Ebenfluh Shooting Range|
|Editions attended:||2005 2006 2007 2008 2009(*) 2010 2011 2012|
Axalp air power demonstration is one of the most famous aviation events in the world. Every year thousands of enthusiasts climb the Swiss Alps (~2000-2500m) to enjoy the roar of Hornets/Tigers and to admire the precision of the pilots shooting the targets located almost within reach of the public. And, of course, to take some photos of all this
NOTE: Since the first edition of this guide, satellite photo of the Axalp area in the Google Maps has been changed, from summer to a winter one (covered with snow). While looking nicer it's unfortunately now not as good for navigation as it used to be. Please be twice as careful when applying location details of any below hints.
Axalp is a small village, without good public transport connections. Outside of two main show days, the only way of getting there without a car is a Post Bus, running few times per day from Brienz - see the integrated Swiss transport timetable for schedule (you need to get to Axalp Sportbahnen stop). On Wednesday/Thursday, you have to use the shuttle bus mentioned below.
In contrast, Brienz has good train connections with rest of the Switzerland, you can expect at least a hourly express train to/from Bern through all the day.
Attention - no cars can get to Axalp on the show days! Since 2010, the organizers have changed rules of accessing the village during the show days. On Wednesday and Thursday the road between Brienz and Axalp is closed. Closure starts already on Tuesday late evening end ends on Thursday evening, once the traffic discharges (which may take up to 9PM or so).
If you want to arrive by car to the show day(s), you will have to park your car on the improvised parkings near Brienz highway exit and take a shuttle bus from there. The cost is 40CHF, including a return ticket for a skilift. The buses start at 6AM.
Note: the buses are well organized, but still quite packed. On the way back, you can expect to wait at least 1-2h in the village before you'll board one.
Outside two main days, one can get to the village using the public road from Brienz. Note that since the 2010 change, there are no more huge grass parkings at Axalp, so you may have a problem finding a spot to leave your car.
Few hints about driving in the mountains
For someone not used to it, driving on the mountain roads is not easy - and, on a densely packed one, it becomes even more tricky. Here are few rules to make your life easier:
- When going down, use lower gear and don't keep your brake on all the time - or you might at some point end up having no brakes at all
- In case of conflicting traffic on narrow roads, generally the ascending one has priority. As in: both parties go up until a convenient spot when they can pass by safely. If you happen to be going down - you have to drive backwards.
- The "convenient spot" is usually a local extension of the road, allowing 2-3 cars to move aside and leave space for incoming traffic to pass.
- In particular: do not park your car there!
- On the postal road (marked with yellow horn - entire way from Brienz to Axalp village qualifies as such), the PostBus - big yellow one - always has priority, even when it goes down.
- Stay calm, take it easy Locals are polite and used to the people not very fluent with mountain driving (perhaps apart from blocking the passages)
Can I use my car to drive up the valley?
Normally, any road above Alpengasthof is closed to the public - check out the big red sign close to the bus station. However, for 10CHF, in the local small shop you can buy an Axalp Nebenstrassen vignette that lets you drive further, all the way up to the entrance to the valley. This is a general thing, not related to the Axalp demonstration as such - it's valid for a calendar year. Few notes though:
Starting on Tuesday, at some point in the morning the road gets closed by the military. If you get up before, good, if you don't - tough.
But: as more and more people are taking the shortcut, the parking space up there gets really tight. Some people even get there previous day(s) and sleep in the wild - which actually is illegal in Switzerland. So, even if you pass before road gets closed, be prepared for a lack of parking space and, in a worst case, having to drive back and redo the way on your feet.
Note: in terms of timing, the whole event (including morning practice) is entirely doable with a skilift - you just need to get to the lower station before 6AM. Even going to Aebeflue is possible this way, you may just miss the first wave of Hornets.
Suggestion: if you absolutely have to drive up to the valley entrance, help the others, take some people with you. There's nothing more disturbing than a sight of a large 4x4 passing by in the morning with just the driver inside.
Note: your way back might be extremely slow. If you are coming down from the valley, you end up at the very end of a huge traffic jam, with all the cars, exiting all the parkings etc. And, guess what - unprivileged (non-military) traffic from the closed road is not quite given a priority In 2009 it could be easily 2h of waiting - before even entering the village!
By the way: don't be surprised that most of the people that drive up there don't quite give a damn about the vignettes, they just pass the blocking sign as if it didn't exist.
In general, the whole "parking above the village" business is quite messy and there is a lack of clear rules, sometimes leading to dangerous situations. Suggestion to the organizers if they read it by chance: just close the whole area above skilift for entire week.
Not really relevant to most of you, but just for completeness: around few hundred people are brought up to KP every year onboard the helicopters. These are:
- VIPs: usually few members of Swiss government and some invited high-profile guests from abroad - often related to the Ministry of Defense, or high-rank army officers
- Accredited journalists
- (not sure if still) Group of Swiss youngsters involved in the SPHAIR programme (Swiss Air Force recruitment)
- On Tuesday, groups of kids from the local schools, as a thank you for bearing with the jet noise through the year
- ... and of course most are just families/friends/kids, just whoever is lazy and has connections good enough to "arrange" himself a helicopter ticket As I don't belong, I can't provide more details
Yet again, Axalp is small and so are the possibilities of accommodation there. The choices are:
Very conveniently located in the upper part of the village, just aside the ski lift, offers single- and double rooms, as well as bigger hostel-style rooms with shared occupancy. Prices range from 20CHF to 60CHF per night (incl. breakfast). Hotel has a semi-open restaurant, welcoming non-guests too. Wireless Internet access is available.
- Hotel Bellevue
Located in the bottom part of the village, opposite to the small shop. No information about the rooms/prices. It has an open restaurant too.
NEW: According to the above page, Bellevue is closed! My wife says that they have transformed the whole establishment into private apartments
- Hotel Chemihüttli
Situated very close to Bellevue and small shop. Rather small, just 16 rooms, with a small restaurant. Contrary to the two above ones, it's quite new, built in 2006. Prices start at 70CHF per person per night (breakfast only).
- Numerous small holiday houses ("chalets") in the village. Full list can be found on the
website (go to "Insider / Mietwohnungen").
Few general notes about them:
- The price range is 70-200CHF/house/night
- Usually you have to book a whole week, no matter how long you stay. Sometimes, you have to book particular periods (like Sunday-Saturday).
- If it's possible to book a shorter period, it's usually more expensive per night then.
- Ensure that you are clear about the cost of the final cleaning ("Endreinigung") and the linen ("Bettwäsche).
- In >90% of the cases there is no possibility of online reservation. Sometimes there is a contact email, but most of the time you end up having to call - and you better speak German!
General note about accommodation for the Axalp demonstration: BOOK EARLY!. You can't be too quick. Keep in mind: there are about hundred places in Alpengasthof, perhaps fifty in Bellevue, then some 30-40 chalets - and there are up to 1-2 thousands of people that want to go there. Plus, some of the places are permanently booked by the people that come every year. Be quick and plan months in advance.
Time-wise, Axalp demonstration looks more or less the same every year:
Monday and Tuesday: training days. With good weather you can expect few rounds of shooting from Hornets and Tigers, both in the morning (starting around 9am) and in the afternoon (~1pm+).
On Tuesday you can additionally hope for a full rehearsal of entire demonstration - not guaranteed (subject to weather) but typically carried over.
These two training days are good to shoot some helicopters bringing up the supplies. The Brau photospot is best for that.
Wednesday and Thursday: in the morning, there is a training, as above. The main demonstration starts precisely at 2pm, with pair of Hornets coming out of the valley, shooting flares (before 2010, it used to be a Cougar). Then, the attractions are mostly the same every year: F/A-18 solo display, SAR demo, Patrouille Suisse, usually one or two special guests - and of course, Tigers and Hornets shooting the targets again.
While we are at it... note: despite the title of this page Axalp is not an airshow. Again, it's October in high Alps with military jets shooting bullets around the people. In case of a slightest doubt about the weather, the show can be canceled within few minutes. It can happen that all you get through all the week would be some morning shooting on the training days. Don't take it for granted
As a guideline to what will happen, look at it from the VIP perspective Organizers need to ensure that they will be able to get them down securely - and quickly! - onboard the Cougars. Therefore, if it just looks like there might be some serious fog or clouds within an hour, show gets simply canceled and the airlift down begins. It happened (2008) that shortly after cancellation, weather became nice again - but well, no VIPs, no show just one more shooting practice a while later.
On the other hand, it may happen (twice in 2010) that the weather is not good enough to bring the VIPs up, but good enough to carry the show neverthless. And, this is the best combination as then, the pilots are able to fly a bit lower and more aggressive.
Another note: the passage between Tschingel and KP (and, of course, the valley too) is closed 1h before the training/demo starts. Take it into account when planning your day.
In particular: if you plan to see the morning practice, you have to start very early. Depending on your shape and how determined you are to get a good spot on the top, it might mean starting anytime between 4 and 6am. As it's October, you'll need some kind of lamp (and extra care). Unless... you're lucky to get the full moon Then the climbing itself becomes almost as amazing as the demo!
First, a general note: in order to get to the public spots, you need to hike a little. It's nothing terribly difficult (unless the weather plays bad), but still, we're talking >2000m here and few hundred meters of height difference. You need some essential equipment:
- Good mountain shoes. Forget any kind of sandals (even if it's hot), just some good hiking stuff.
- Walking sticks - not strictly necessary, but highly recommended. If you never tried them, perhaps this is a good opportunity.
- Clothes, depending on the weather, but I'd take at least some warm polar blouse and something waterproof to put onto it. Weather in the Alps - in particular: this high and at this time of the year - can change very quickly.
- An extra T-shirt. Once you get to the top, you're likely to be a bit sweating, you'll love to change for a fresh one.
- If you go up very early, consider an extra pull-over or just about anything to keep you warm - and dry! - at 7AM on 2200m over the sea.
- Sunscreen - on a clear day, even if it's not particularly warm, sun up there might be really deadly.
- Enough to drink - especially (if you're climbing early), some hot tea to warm yourself up in the morning.
- However, think about your load vs your physical capabilities, especially if going to the "other side" (see below).
- In particular, consider leaving your heavy Lowepro backpack at home - get yourself a light trekking pack, which usually weighs next to nothing. Then, wrap your gear with extra clothes that you have to take anyway. While it won't provide equally good protection, it will take some extra weight off your shoulders.
Photographically, you need:
- Obligatorily, a telephoto lens - at least 300-400mm to get some reasonable shots of flying aircrafts, 500mm being a top pick. Can be also nicely substituted by 300/2.8 coupled with a TCx2 (additionally reducing your load)
- Optionally, a short telephoto (if the above one doesn't cover this range already). I tend to borrow a 70-200/4 just for this event (to avoid lugging up my heavy /2.8 version).
- Obligatory, a wide-angle! If you are not about absolute quality, consider taking a light point&shoot for this.
- Additional set of batteries. Remember, in October, at 2000m, you can expect them to discharge faster than you're used to!
- Really good AF in your camera. And good reflex too
Hint for the drinks
If you choose to go all the way through the valley to the KP, here is a small tip to make your backpack a bit lighter: don't take lots of fresh water. Instead, get some empty plastic bottles. Just before you start the final hike towards KP, there will be a small creek, where you can fill them with fresh, cold water At least I do it myself - if you don't feel like drinking from a creek with cows living nearby and Hornets flying just above, you're free to ignore this.
"Will I make it?"
This is one of the most frequently asked questions. In vast majority of the cases the answer is: yes, you will (but you'll sweat a little ).
I am personally a 100% office geek, with Axalp being probably the only major physical activity round the year - and still, I manage to bring some heavy metal up there. Unless you have some serious health issues - heart incapabilities etc. - you will get there and won't regret it. You might just use the skilift and get only to Brau, as a good starter (but then, be prepared for a very long wait in order to get there).
And these two guys made it as well, shortly before their 3rd birthday Me with the kids - first time up there! Axalp 2009
On the top
Well, it's just few hills in the middle of Alps, so don't expect a Ritz-class service For the Axalp week, Swiss army provides some essential facilities like toilets (moderately crowded) and mini-shops where you can buy soft drinks and something hot to eat.
Hint: buy your drinks in advance. At the very end of the show, there is usually not much left (especially on a sunny day)
On your way down/up, near the Chüemad chalets, you may get a stand with Swiss fondue and wine. Same thing at both skilift stations.
Down in the village
Both Alpenhasthof and Chemihüttli hotels have open restaurants, welcoming non-guests as well. Alternatively, near Chemihüttli there is a small, surprisingly (for its size) well supplied shop. In 2010, it was open even on Sunday, until 6PM or so.
In case it's not clear so far: all these goodies, apart from the accommodation and food, are absolutely free, courtesy of the Swiss taxpayer
Way to the top
There are few ways you can get to the public photo points. All of them start somewhere near the Alpengasthof
Follow the curvy, climbing road. At some point you will enter the forest and arrive at the crossroad. Follow the road right. Once you pass by the big hut, start looking for the small "Schweizer Luftwaffe" flags that will tell you where to turn left. Follow the flags - first, they will lead you a bit out of the way, but then you'll turn right and finally arrive at the slope here. Start climbing the slope (still following the flags), be careful when going through the rocky passage (in 2009 the army has built a very nice staircase there, that makes the passage much more secure). Once you do, you are at the first public point, called Brau.
Using the skilift
Some of the above way can be shortened using the skilift. It starts near Alpengasthof and brings you straight here, so you can continue via the main way, as described above. Skilift costs 12CHF for a one-way ticket. During the two official show days the skilift launches at 6:00am.
Through the valley
The problem about using the above ways is that... well, most of people do it. There are few narrow passages, some of them get quickly covered with mud, become slippery and, in turn, dangerous. Every year you can see REGA (Swiss ambulance helicopter) picking up some unfortunate spectators from there.
The solution is: don't use the shortest, but the easiest way which means go through the valley.
You start as above, but once you get to the big hut, do not turn left as directed by the flags, but rather follow the road further. After some, mostly flat, walk, you will arrive at the small parking. Turn left and pass by the huts. Note: even though you are entering the display area, it is still entirely legal - actually, recently the organizers have started to put the "Schweizer Luftwaffe" flags here as well
You don't need to follow the path precisely - after all, you're in the valley and going towards the end of it Just try to follow the creek, using some common sense to choose your way.
After some time, you should arrive here and you should be able to see the KP tower and shooting targets. Now, you have two choices:
- either turn left and follow a path which will lead you to the mountain edge, where you can continue using the above "public" route. Recommended if your destination is Tschingel.
- or follow the valley until the very end and... climb up the steep hill, directly to the KP! It's a bit of an effort - but as the way through the valley was mostly flat so far, you should be able to make it.
Note: this way is probably a bit of an overkill if you just want to get to Brau. Use the official one then - but be careful!
Leave the flags alone!
You might be tempted to grab yourself one of these Schweizer Luftwaffe flags... don't! Tomorrow morning they will serve another generation of first-time Axalp visitors who will be trying to find their way in the night. Well, OK, on Thursday feel free
Photo opportunities (public)
There are three main public viewing points:
- KP (shooting range control center).
This place is closest to the action, the shooting targets are within reach and you clearly see the aircrafts incoming from all the directions.
During the training days and in the morning of the airshow days, it's possible to hang around freely, including going up to the tower (but expect crowds there). For the actual demonstration, the tower, as well as the most surrounding area of the hill, is reserved for the VIPs.
- Tschingel (large hill next to KP).
Large, open space, with a clear view into the middle part of the valley. Additionally, if one stays at the very top, there is a nice view to the Brienzersee, with aircrafts flying over it (but very long lens needed, 500mm+). Not as exciting as KP, but still worth spending half a day.
- Brau (small, lower hill)
Smaller space, with a clear view into the entrance to the valley. Good opportunities for shooting the helicopters in the morning (carrying the supplies), some pilots even manoeuvre purposely to please the photographers!
Few general tips for the public spots
- Watch out for the speaker mentioning shadow of the Patrouille Suisse. They will come out of the valley on your left and, unless you are at the KP, you'll get very little notice for a really nice shot.
- Last solo passage of the PS is an absolutely crazy fly-by just over the heads of people gathered on Brau. Don't miss it if you're there
- Before leaving the area, Patrouille Suisse often does a nearby passage over the Brienz lake. After the above fly-by, rush to the northern edge of the hill, just in case.
- The initial Hornet flare show is terribly difficult to catch from Brau, they come literally in front of your nose. In 2010, I managed to miss them with a 17mm lens Best photos of that come from the KP, simply because of more notice that you get.
Photo opportunities (other)
- Meiringen airbase
It's described in details in the separate article, but during Axalp it's even more the place to be.
- Valley entrance
While, obviously, during the flights one can't just walk down the valley, even being at the very beginning of it gives some nice views. In particular in the afternoon, when the sun is partially behind, you can see the demos from a completely different, almost frontal, perspective. Just walk up the valley until you meet some friendly soldiers that will tell you where's the limit.
- Bielen area
If you drive down to Meiringen, you can access the small Bielen village in the eastern part of the valley (the one that is normally hidden behind main shooting targets). While you can't go very far there and photo opportunities are rather limited, you can still get some special shots of the aircrafts/helicopters coming from the east. Besides, it's the only viewing point accessible with a car without restrictions (hint for disabled spectators).
NOTE: keep within the non-restricted area. There will be some panels indicating boundaries of the danger zone of the shooting range.
While staying on the official places, you might have spotted a distant high mountain, with some buildings on the top - and the people apparently watching the demonstration as well. It's rather far, around 5km from the KP - but the aircrafts are operating quite near and it can certainly give some interesting "other" possibilities too.
In order to get to Faulhorn, you must first take the cable car from Grindenwald to First (53CHF for return ticket). Then, it's about 5km walk (500m of height difference) to the Faulhorn mountain, along a rather good footpath.
On the top of the mountain you will find Berghotel Faulhorn. It costs ~80CHF/room/night. Considering that the last cable car from First leaves already around 5pm, it's probably a good idea to book a room for one night there. This will let you watch both afternoon demo and morning practice - and, as a bonus, you will experience sunset/sunrise in the high Alps
"The other side"
If you have been at Axalp at least once, you have probably see these few silhouettes on the high mountains on the other side of the valley - being way above the aircrafts, having sun behind their backs, in the absolutely perfect photo spots. Ever wanted to get there?
It's not something for the faint-hearted. It requires mountaineering skills. If you have to ask whether this is a trip for you, the answer is: Yes, but only in a perfect, summer-like weather that's not likely to change (you have still to be in a very good shape). What's more, Axalp demonstration is probably a worst period weather-wise - transition from summer to winter, with the slopes already often slippery, but not enough snow yet to just walk over it using the snow-shoes etc.
Interestingly, it's the bottom part of the way that is most dangerous, with more steep slippery passages and more difficult to find the way around. Once you're above 2500m, it becomes more straightforward.
Another thing: at all costs avoid going alone. Unlike the official area, where thousands of people are passing by every day, there, you can see nobody for hours (if anyone at all). In such conditions, with lack of mobile telephone coverage, even a small injury can end up in a fatal way. Find yourself some company.
Is it permitted?
Short answer: YES, as long as you don't cross the official boundaries of the shooting range. Southern ones are defined as:
- Mountain tops from Gärstenhorn to the west
- the 2386m hill at the western end of Äbeflüe.
Axalp shooting range lies also within the limits of the nature reserve of canton Bern
(Hinterburg-Oltscheren) - which however is located north to the above line and doesn't apply
to the Wildgärst area. You can check it out on the interactive map at
the site of canton Bern.
Please don't try your chances in any places within the above boundaries, even if you think Ah, but it looks safe, should be OK. The range operators and pilots are quite good at spotting careless offenders - the best you can get is some shots of first few waves, then you'll soon see the EC635 dropping some people, who will guide you down. No, you won't get a free ride to Brienz People being escorted out of the danger zone, Axalp 2010.
By violating these rules, you are putting the whole photographer community at risk. If the
army gets once pissed off... well, it takes just 4-5 well-placed soldiers and the whole "other side"
adventure is over
Long answer: "Yes, but". If you are at Wildgärst, you are almost inline with the northern shooting target Sure, it is some 200-300m below and normally the pilots don't miss it by more than few meters. But things can happen - it doesn't take much for the aircraft to take few extra degrees of pitch, especially with such demanding exercise as Axalp.
In particular, if the Range Commander gets uneasy with the crowd up there (for whatever reason: visibility, pilot's performance, amount/behavior of people at the top etc), he can simply cancel the shooting, for everyone's safety.
Being there is a bit on the edge. On the safer side of it but still. Personally, if I would be responsible for the security of the show, I would close this area. But as I am not... I will probably try again soon
Contrary to Wildgärst, the Äbeflüe area looks relatively safe - it's a bit like just watching the spectacle from a side (but the right one). The only sticky bit about it is that it is a safety area in case something bad happens. I.e., if the pilot has to eject, expect his Hornet to crash somewhere next to you
The most famous point for "other side" photography is Wildgärst mountain (2890m). You can get there either from Axalp village, or going around the whole area and starting in Schwarzwaldalp.
NOTE While being the most extreme one, Wildgärst is not necessarily the best photo point. First, you are rather far from the action - long telephoto lens (500mm+) is needed in order to get some reasonable quality action pictures. Besides, you can realistically take 2-3 different kind of shots from there. But well... this will include the Hornets/Tigers turning around just above your head and some definitely great ambiance shots, as the aircraft turn into the other valley
Besides, going there is a real adventure compared to the regular places. Landscape above 2500m becomes simply breathtaking and on the top, one feels like on a roof of the world, with clear view tens of kilometers away in every direction.
First, just get to the regular place at the valley entrance.
Instead of going up the valley, take the upper one of the two paths. Hint: not the wider dirt road, but the small, pedestrian one.
Follow that path until you get a clear overview of the other valley. Then, carry on even further, until you eventually get to this chalet. Have a good rest on the bench there, as it's now for the difficult part
You need to find the marked path that goes up all these nasty-looking hills in front of you. It's really not obvious, I managed to miss it first time (and went all around). Perhaps this photo can help: Beginning of the Wildgärst climb Once you are on the way up, finding your way around gets easier. Just stick to the left side of the big creek
Around 2300m of altitude the landscape will change from grass/mud, into stones. It gets tricky at times, as with typical October weather, it's quite likely for them to be slippery. Be particularly careful on your way down.
Once you get past ~2500m, the climb will become more flat. At some point you will get to a plateau surrounded by high rocks. You can't carry on straight now, they're too steep to climb. in order to get one step higher, you have to back off a bit, turning right (still following the path) and entering the glacier (or whatever is left of it)
Carry on going east, until you reach the end of glacier and the signs on top of it. Wildgärst is on your left
Turn left and go up through the stones. This is again a bit tricky, climbing fast and walking on top of loose stones. But on the top, there's your reward
I haven't tried this way yet, but I've been told that it's "longer but easier". It starts in the village parking, where you will find a nice map describing all the regular paths. You can go either through this and that place, or a bit more around, through Bidem, Scheidegg and the Wischbaach valley.
In any case, you should get somewhere east from the small glacier. Then, see above description of the final climb.
Second good place is the most western part of Äbeflüe plateau (mentioned above). It is not as extreme as Wildgärst, but provides better overall photo opportunities through the show. On a good day, the shooting aircraft will be passing just slightly higher than you and you'll see them passing with the public places in the background. Most of the "sunny" shots you see on the right have been taken from there.
You can get there in two ways:
- First, recommended (albeit longer) one: follow the above described road to Wildgärst until you arrive on top of a small hill with some farming equipment. Then, go up just a bit further (50m or so) until you'll see a horizontal path splitting to your left. Just go around the Gärsterhorn mountain using that path, you should be around 2200-2300m above the sea most of the time. Once you see the Äbeflüe valley on your right, just turn left and reach the edge of the cliff.
- Another way is to climb directly north from the valley entrance. There is no real footpath anywhere there and it is more dangerous - sometimes you climb the raw grass hill going up at 45 degrees. But you won't get lost there easily - just find a way around and go up, and up and up and up You may end up on a lower part of the cliff edge - in this case back off and try higher. Your ultimate goal is the most western hill of the plateau.
- Important! Your way back has to go around, through the above (first) Wildgärst route. Don't try to just go down the hills there, it's too dangerous that way.
From the last parking, it takes ~2-4h to get to the top. As mentioned above: don't penetrate that plateau any further east. Last officially allowed point is the 2386m peak. It's easy to recognize by the blue cross painted on top of it: Photo spot on top of the 2386m Äbeflüe hill, Axalp 2010
Anything further right towards the KP is forbidden - this information comes straight from a friendly Eurocopter pilot who visites us there once
In terms of equipment: you can cover most of the things with a 300mm lens with TCx2, missing just some wider passages of the Patrouille Suisse. Of course, 500mm is better, but then you'll need a medium telephoto (70-200) to shoot anything but single-ship action.
The Äbeflüe hill is the only place at Axalp where taking a tripod actually makes some sense. While it's not very close to the action, it's still possible to take some shots of the helicopters even in more distant parts of the valley with a 500mm+ lens and then, you'll need some extra stability.
I heard that some people flew up there with a helicopter?!
Yes. I heard about it too. In 2008 there was a bunch of guys who contacted Swiss Air Force and managed to arrange themselves a lift to the western end of Äbeflüe. Some photos can be seen here.
In 2009, yet another group hired a private helicopter to Wildgärst, lifting tons of photo/video gear up there, sleeping in a tent etc. This has been somewhat discussed on the local aviation forum - while this stunt was coordinated with the Air Force, it's not clear whether this was entirely legal or not (I am not qualified to judge). But in any case, it's the pilot who takes the responsibility.
Earlier, in 2006 there was also some semi-official team up there, but I don't know the details about transportation. Probably similar to the first ones.
Tips and warnings(specific for the "other side" hikes)
If the weather is anything less from perfect - you have to be prepared for everything, in particular for a sudden breakdown that will get you stuck up there. Yes, overnight.
If you plan to go up there for the first time, you should ideally come in late summer first and do some reconnaissance - both in terms of terrain and your physical capabilities.
If you don't have regular Swiss health/accident insurance, get yourself extra coverage with REGA (Swiss mountain rescue service). It costs just 30CHF per year and might save you huge costs in case something goes bad.
Don't expect your mobile phone to work there all the time (but tops of the mountains should be fine)
Get yourself a good map - Swiss standard is SwissGeo (TOPO25 range). You can buy it online (also the electronic version) - what you want is CN 1209 Brienz (1:25000). You can even browse the maps for free on the site!
And, if you are not carrying long telephoto lenses, take binoculars at least you will see some close-up action.
Surely there are hundreds of Axalp pages all over the Web I find the following few worth mentioning:
- Gary Parsons excellent report from the 2007 event - check it out if you want to feel a bit of the "Axalp spirit"
- Andreas Zeitler's page, with some stunning photos of the Mirage farewell event in 2003 (be sure to click on the XXL photos link!)
- Gallery of Peter Steehouwer - Axalp veteran, who visited all the shows since 1999.
- Yet another practical guide to Axalp demonstration
Last updated: 21-10-2012, 17:05