October 4, 2012
Every year in October, the Swiss Airforce demonstrates its capabilities in an outstanding air show in the mountains, the Axalp Live Fire Event. The event takes place during two days at the Axalp-Ebenfluh firing range at an elevation of 2’250 m a.s.l., above Lake Brienz in the Canton of Bern.
F-5E Tiger and F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets are performing formation flying and low passes over the “Grätli”. Below this small saddle between Axalphorn and the peaks of Wildgärst, firing targets are prepared. The jets are firing several rounds from their cannons (see image below), which is extremely impressive for the public.
Besides these fighter jets, many other aircraft display their capabilities. There are displays of the Super Puma dropping flares, EC635 Helicopter, the PC-21 turboprop training plane, and the Patrouille Suisse.
The regular visitor’s areas are located on the grass flanks of Tschingelhorn and Axalphorn. The access to these areas is only possible by hiking and takes more than one hour. Shortly before the display starts, the visitor’s sectors are closed for security reasons. From these sectors, visitors can enjoy a very close view of the low-passing jets. In 2012, approx. 7’000 visitors came to see the event.
In the south of these visitor’s areas there is a moutain chain, including Mt. Wildgärst, 2’830 m a.s.l. In some maneuvers, F-5E Tigers and F/A-18 Hornets are heading directly towards the north face of Mt. Wildgärst, climb up and perform a roll. The pass canopy down only a few meters above the summit and dive down to the valley behind Wildgärst.
This location is extremely interesting for photographers; the perspective is pretty outstanding. But getting there means to take a 3 – 4 hours hike in snowy conditions, carrying all your heavy photo gear. In 2012, about 20 -30 people made the effort to go there.
How to access the top of Mt. Wildgärst?
Alternative 1 is to access the Reichenbach valley from Meiringen and leave the car at Schwarzwaldalp. From there, you can follow the road, following direction Grosse Scheidegg. Reaching an elevation of 1’522m, you leave the road and follow the white-red-white marked path up to Mt. Wildgärst. Alternative 2 is to start in Grindelwald, taking the bus to Grosse Scheidegg and start the hike there. If you want to be in time, consider a walk over taking the bus as the first ride might be too late.
In 2011, the whole Axalp Live Fire Event was canceled out of consideration for the cleanup efforts which were necessary after the landslips caused by the melting snow of early October. See this article of Tagesanzeiger newspaper. The Swiss Army helped to clear the damages.
The shown photo of this climbing F-5E Tiger fighter with the Tschingelhorn visitor areas and Lake Brienz in the background was made from the top of Mt. Wildgärst, using a Nikon D4 body and a Nikon AF-S 200-400mm F/4.0G ED VR II lens. The show on the first day of the Axalp Live Fire Event was canceled due to bad weather conditions, and the second day was a bit cloudy. So the photographer was lucky because of the weather in 2012!