Summer Alps 2010

A glacier trek of a complete tour of the Breithorn and Lyskamm     3rd September 2010

Starting and finishing in Zermatt, a team of 10, with 2 guides set out on a high level glacier trek that travelled between the Swiss and Italian sides of the great 4000m peaks of the Breithorn and Lyskamm.

Monte Rosa on the left, Lyskamm on the right. Our return journey travelled down the glacier valley between the two.

The glacier preparation day beneath the Breithorn

After a first day acclimatising and practicing crampons skills on the glacier beneath the Gandegg Hut, the weather the following day proved to be quite different. High winds closed the top Klein Matterhorn lift so the team were left with a wintery hike up the Zermatt ski pistes to reach the Breithorn Pass and the wilder glacier beyond.

Heading across into the great white, happily roped up…

…ready for anything; some big crevasses below the Breithorn

This high altitude trek was certainly now pushing the boundaries of expectation of the group, yet the weather down from the pass, though windy, was sunny and clearer. The environment was truely spectaculr and we had the place virtually to ourselves.

Pollux is smoking in the wind

The following day stayed clear as we headed down into Italy. Descending into one valley to the hike up a rough path over a high col, before a short descent took us to some welcome ski lifts! That afternoon we arrived at the Rifugio Gugliemina, a mountain hotel, with welcome showers and a little more comfort than the average mountain hut.

Descending the next day into the Val Ayas, the Breithorn and Castor are behind

A shorter day followed taking us higher up to the Mantova Hut, allowing the team to have either a restful afternoon or an introduction to crevasse rescue. It was to be an early start the next day for the long hike up to the Lys Col, where the team opted to climb the Ludwigspitze as their high point of the trek. Not quite as high as the other satellite peaks of Monte Rosa in the vicinity, yet all the team agreed it was a finer shaped peak and that the subsequent climb was far more asthetically pleasing than slogging up the Signalkuppe!

The final snow crest to the summit of the Ludwigspitze. The background is dominated by Lyskamm and below is the Lys col

The Grenzglacier starts to become a little more interesting…

After the ascent of our high point on Monte Rosa the journey continued back into Switzerland down the Grenzgletcher, a long glacier valley descending beneath the massive north face of Lyskamm on one side and the Dufourspitze on the other.

The glacier started off being easy enough but after half way it became quite a wiggley journey, as we sought to find the best way through the holes in the ice. A long day; it was good to have saved a little extra energy for this last section. The Monte Rosa Hut was our destination for the night; this recently rebuilt and modern hut was another welcome nights stay before the final walk out to the Gornergrat railway and Zermatt the following morning.

…there is a way through this complicated world, but it’s never straight forward!

Very snowy in the Bernese Oberland  20th August 2010

The Konkordia hut is just about visible…

August has been an unusually unsettled month for weather so far, yet the snow this week took things a stage further. Fresh snow on the glacier just as we stepped onto it, approaching via the lift access from Fiesch to the south of the region. Sleet steadily falling, the slopes at the sides of the glacier initially barely visible, it didn’t seem an inspiring start to a week in the Bernese Oberland! Yet the forecast suggested some good weather days and being in such a place in these conditions was fairly surreal, like no where else, it was quite appealing!

On the North ridge of the Wyssnollen, the Konkordiaplatze is behind to the left

The main focus for the 5 day trip was to prepare for and climb the Finsteraarhorn. The team of Mike, Aidan and Des needed to acclimatise and get used to working together on the rope. The short ridge up from the Grunhornlucke to the summit of the Wyssnollen was great fun in all the snow and the white. Descending the other side down the glacier was equally sporting as the odd crevasse was discovered by a stray foot, or feet…

The good weather day that was on the cards for the Finsteraarhorn the next day didn’t really happen, or as we could just see in the morning, the sunshine happened further off to the south… A fair bit of trail-breaking required up the 2 glaciers, shared amongst the handful of teams, eventually our team of 3 today reached the Hugisattel and the start of the NW ridge. It was pretty grim up here, strong winds and poor visabilty, we got a short way along the ridge before the guys were keen to escape the weather.

Returning down from the Grunegghorn

The following day, however, was more promising, the sun finally appeared and the trails across the glacier were still clear, easier walking! We were set to do the Grunegghorn en route to returning to the Konkordia hut. A peak set right in the middle of this part of the Bernese Oberland, surrounded by all the giants of the Aletschhorn, Jungfrau, Eiger, Fiescherhorn peaks and the Finsteraarhorn. It was great to at last see everything!

The route up this peak is predominantly on a steepish glacier, but it culminates in a rocky and exposed ridge leading to the summit, today covered in snow. The trail ended at this ridge as the other teams had opted to return back down.

A fine mountaineering section for our team, lots of snow and exposure in the sunshine, and a welcome summit to finish on for our expedition into the Bernese Oberland.

First time mountaineering in the Alps 24th August 2010

The Pointes des Mourti, viewed from the Moiry hut

A week of getting used to alpinism for Lee and Rachel, and Eike, which started with 3 days based around the Moiry Hut and the peaks surrounding the Moiry glacier. A dry glacier approach to the hut was a perfect location for the ecole de glace on the first day, which was then followed by climbing a couple of peaks above the hut.

The glacier approach to the Pointes des Mourti

On the NE ridge of the east summit

The Pigne de la Lé and the Pointes des Mourti provided great terrain and increasing exposure. With glacier approaches and climbing on rocky and snow covered ridges, the team had fun dealing with being 4 people on one rope…

The Dent Blanche dominates the view to the north

Making the most of the good weather, following the trip to the Moiry we headed straight over early the next day to grab the Hohe Saas lift to do an ascent of the NW flank of the Weissmies. Hoping to traverse the peak and descend by the SE ridge to the Almageller hut, we would do the best of the peak before the rain that was forcasted for the next day.

Winding our way through the crevasses on the Weissmies

A small surprise for all but one of us at the summit; Lee, out of breath a bit from the climb, stammered out a proposal of marriage to his partner Rachel, and she said yes!

Plenty to keep us smiling about as we descended the rocky SE ridge which continued down into the cloud, good straight forward scrambling for the first section. The snow that followed was a little short-lived unfortunately with a long section picking over boulders where the snow had receded. Eventually, we all emerged from the cloud at the Zwischenbergen pass to be greeted by a sunny view of the Almageller valley and the hut, which was pleasantly within easy reach.

‘Grandes Courses’ week 2   7th August 2010

Another week, with different clients, of grabbing pockets of good weather amongst much rain and snow high up. We seemed to keep arriving at mountain huts, in the cloud and wind (although fortunately no rain for the walk-ins), with a usual amount of doubt that the good weather forecast for the following day would not materialise.

Yet each morning, after the 4am breakfast, there were the stars, and the snow cover highlighted the peaks looming above the hut. As the days progressed, there was plentiful sunshine and calm to really enjoy some great wintry alpine adventures with amazing views and ambience.

Carla and Raija were in their second week of their ‘Grandes Courses’ fortnight. Between them they had a mixture of rock and ice climbing experience and they were keen to really tackle some good alpine mountaineering routes.

The highlight of our week was climbing the Dent Blanche (for the 2nd time in 2 weeks for me!)

After a 4am breakfast we set off by 4.30am, the short climb up behind the hut soon brought us to the start of the ridge. The gradual arrival of dawn and the sunshine on the firmed-up snow made for very striking views of across the Alps. Steady scrambling and climbing with impressive situations and exposure brought our team to summit.

Driving the next day through the rain to Chamonix then on to the Helbronner lift via the Mont Blanc tunnel. No dry weather this time for a pleasant walk-in! So we decided on doing a climb from the lift-accessed Torino hut to make the most of the proposed good weather the following day.

The rain had really resulted in a good cover of snow above 2800m, so we had a grand time stomping through the snow up the mountaineering section heading up to the Salle à Manger. Our journey continued a fair way along the Rochefort Arete where the route is an exposed snow crest that climbs and drops over a number of small peaks, before climbing the final wall to the summit of the Aiguille de Rochefort itself. However, for us time dictated we needed to turn back before the final wall and return to the hut.

Amazing views from this snowy world in August!

Dent Blanche – South Ridge 28th July 2010

A week of weather windows. A handful of mornings of fine weather made this week work, with some great climbing on good rock, with fine situations and views. Teamed with Andy and John, we’d already done the half traverse of the Breithorn.

A stunning day for the walk-in, the Dent Blanche appeared to be smoking!

Dawn arrives in the east over the Michabel range.

First views of the sunshine on the ridge, and looking ahead to the Grand Gendarme

And, looking down the Grand Gendarme, in excellent condition!

Arolla mountaineering   July 2nd 2010

Mont Blanc    July 6th 2010