Archive for the ‘Alps Monte Rosa massif’ Category

Monte Rosa and onwards to Mont Blanc

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

After 5 nights in huts above 3000m the team had a welcome recovery night in the Monte Rosa Hut, before the leisurely walk out to the train at Rotenboden, via the ever moving dry glacier beneath the hut and the gentle traverse path to the station observing marmottes and wild Alpine flowers.

The forecast in Chamonix was going to deteriorate from Wednesday afternoon so the chances of reaching Mont Blanc summit were at their best on Tuesday. The clients were well acclimatised after their week and so we est to task from the first lift from Aiguille du Midi. The track over Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and onto the summit of Mont Blanc were in perfect condition and we all made the summit before the descent to the Gouter hut, where it snowed overnight. The summit of Mont Blanc was windless and clear in all directions, a real pleasure to be there and the decision to go for it straight from Zermatt justified.

The descent to the train from the Gouter hut after breakfast this morning allowed a quiet crossing of the Grand Couloir and an amazing sense of achievement for both clients and guides on a 9 day trip summiting over a dozen 4000m  peaks including the highest 2 in the Alps. Poorer weather forecast for the next few days, but staying cold high up so conditions should soon get back to those we have had until this afternoon.

Exiting onto Mont Maudit col

Exiting onto Mont Maudit col



Nearing the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul, Chamonix far below

John nearing the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul with Andrea and Gary, Chamonix far below

Mont Blanc summit, zero wind, perfect visibilityMont Blanc summit, zero wind, perfect visibility

Monte Rosa HutMonte Rosa Hut

Final peak of our Italian High Level

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

First away from the Margherita hut this morning and swiftly over the Zumsteinspitze to an exposed and technical descent leading to the south east ridge of the Dufourspitze. Solid rock,  sun, light winds and no one infront meant a fantastic abd enjoyable journey to the summit. After a long week we chose the fixed ropes to the col with Nordend for our descent before the long glacier trek to the Monte Rosa hut and beer and rosti.

Great achievement by all the clients, now transformed into Alpine Mountaineers and opening up a world of future possibilities in this context.

Conditions have been excellent and early starts and early finishes have led to quick  and safe snow travel. The abundance of this winter’s excessive snowfall is still evident.

Whilst our clients are well acclimatised we are off to Mont Blanc next week. Weather still looking settled.20130714_082303

Highest beds in Europe

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Stunning weather continues around probably the best continually High Level Traverse in the Alps, the Italian High Level Route. We are in our 5th hut out of 6 this week and the highest in the Alps at 4554m and opened amazingly in 1894.

Peaks visited so far have been the Breithorn,  Castor,  Punta di Naso, Pyramid Vincent,  Corna Nero,  Ludwigshohe,  Parrotspitze and Signalkuppe.  This has been allowed by some sustained cold clear nights giving firm morning snow, light winds and sunny days combined with some well prepared and determined clients. All being well, Dufourspitze tomorrow,  second highest peak in the Alps.  We will be aiming for the highest later this week.20130713_081954

Italian High Level Route

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

In recent weeks a course arranged through West Coast Mountain Guides has been run by Mark Seaton and James Thacker attempting to complete the Italian high Level Route on the south side of the Zermatt Breithorn, over Castor and on towards the Margharita Hut and hopefully finishing on Monte Rosa. Unfortunately the weather decided to intervene and an amended programme resulted. However, it just goes to show that with a little imagination on the part of the guides and the help of a Land Rover taxi on the Italian side of the range, success can be assured! Well done guys and thanks to Mark and James for persevering. Anyone reading this blog and wishing to have a go at this trip this summer, please get in touch. Thanks to Alan Irvine, Mark Seaton and James Thacker for the photos. A detailed account of the route eventually followed appears on Mark Seaton’s Blog

Matterhorn Blue

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Looking into the early afternoon  gloom in Fort William (it started nice!) my mood is lifted by this rather splendid photo from Mike Anderson, currently ski-ing above Zermatt. Watch out for those mega Rostis Mike and thanks for the photo. Was that taken with  your Blackberry? I’m considering upgrading to a Samsung Galaxy. Trying to avoid an iPhone as its owners come over all precious and protective and dewy eyed and short sighted about the other possibilities on the market! Have a nice day.

The Matterhorn

Monte Rosa

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Now the weather has improved (6th September) we left for Zermatt. I normally use a taxi into the village. The advantage being slightly cheaper and a place to leave your vehicle. Plenty of options on the left as Tasch is entered. Our plan was to try and climb Monte Rosa from the new Monte Rosa Hut which has recently been rebuilt uphill of the old hut. Just a shame it could not have been built a little higher, as the height gain on summit day is around 1800m! The new hut is however a wonder of modern design and boasts a 90% self-sufficient energy design, using solar power to good effect. The Swiss Alpine Club have removed the old hut with explosives I believe!!

Approaching the hut from Rotenboden on the Gornagrat railway has become increasing difficult since I first stayed on the site in 1975. Even in the last year, retreating glaciers have forced the authorities to place metal ladders in various places to help alpinistes and ‘hut trippers’ reach the hut with some degree of safety. Crampons will often be essential once the ladders have been negotiated to gain the Grenz glacier. The exit from the glacier on to the rocks below the hut is guarded by a very big and fearsome glacial tunnel that carries a huge amount of melt water.

Unfortunately our attempt on Monte Rosa was thwarted by bad weather and white-out only 150m below the summit. The normal route on the west ridge was cloaked in too much fresh snow and a large group in front had blazed a good trail to the col between Dofourspitze and Nordend. We followed this trail but it was filling in quite quickly and not easy going. The glacier below the col is not straight forward, especially in descent and in a white out. It’s certainly a good place to carry a GPS and plug in various waymarks in ascent, which can be followed in retreat if the trail becomes unclear.

The route from the col follows easy but steep fixed ropes at around Scottish grade II and is also used in descent. Thanks to the Verbier Guides for blazing a trail, both up and down the mountain. They deserved their success. Of interest here is the reason for the Verbier Guides being on the mountain. They were leading a group of young men on a drug rehabilitation programme over two weeks from the lowest point to the highest point in Switzerland and were …”as fit as butchers  dogs”…well done.


Italian High Level Route

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Just down from a successful Italian High Level Route via the Gandegg – Ayas – Sella – Gnifetti – Margherita Huts. We were fortunate to make headway in some unsettled and windy weather at times. It was however not bad enough to stop a number of parties. A cold northish wind accompanied us on most days and turned us back from Parrotspitze.

The base of the ascent route on Passo Naso is marked with red. Take the rocky rib above the red dot. In ascent it is certainly different from what I normally take and a helmet would be advised. In descent we took a rocky and loose option marked on the left, away from the normal steep and icy route which was causing folk some problems in descent.

Descending the Grenz Glacier was well trailed on the true right bank. The crevasses are opening and one local guide said …”The glacier is getting hungry”… The new Monte Rosa Hut is very different from the older version lower down. Whether you like it or not, there is no denying it makes the most of energy saving technology and materials and it is a touch higher up the mountain.

The approach from Gornograt is very serious once the dry glacier is gained and crampons are essential in parts. This glacier is suffering from a big retreat in recent years and creating problems in keeping it relatively safe for the large number of day trippers to the Monte Rosa Hut.

Today it has been raining heavily at times in Zermatt and the high rock routes such as the Matterhorn will be out of condition for a while unfortunately. Certainly the Guides bureau were not very optimistic,

Sunset from the Margherita Hut

Clear Sky and Strong Wind

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

On Sunday with Chris Ensoll, Jerry and Mike I climbed Tour Ronde, via the Gervesutti Route. This was in good shape, with plenty of good snow, very little icy sections and a few steps inserted by previous parties. All in all, very good conditions and we moved together up the whole climb.

We then moved on to the Gnifetti Hut, accessed from Stafel in the Gresonney Valley (Italy). From here we climbed Lyskamm via it’s south ridge. From the main East summit we traversed towards the West summit and down to the Quintinno Sella Hut and back to the valley. Check out Le Reve Bed and Breakfast for a good nights sleep and a very friendly helpful landlord,

This ridge is graded AD (A real AD!) and is fairly committing due to the nature of the descent ground. Once on the main summit, the routes off require some considerable concentration and continuing hard work.

The view towards the west summit. The cold north winds were very strong and searching all day and made life fairly unpleasant and challenging.

The last section towards the lower West Summit (don’t believe the Alpine Club guidebook) was the most exposed and airy part of the day out. Snow conditions were very good and not too icy.

Approaching the main Lyskamm summit (East).

Fine and Dry in Zermatt

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Today has been splendid in the high Alps. We started last Sunday in rain, thunder storms and high winds. The first night was spent at the comfortable Gandegg Hut, which is accessed from cable cars, departing from Zermatt.

Gandegg HutToday at the Gandegg Hut

This hut provides a good base for acclimatisation and snow skills revision at the start of the ‘Spaghetti’ Route. On Monday we spent a full day in ‘white-out’ conditions, along with thirty other optimistic alpinists, traversing to the Ayas Hut.

Fortunately Tuesday dawned clear and cold, if rather windy. This strong wind was to stay with us until today. Never powerful enough to be really dangerous, the conditions did combine to prevent some groups from traversing Lyskamm yesterday. Our route took us to the Quintino Sella Hut via the summit of Castor.

Ferrino Tents are tested here, out side of the hut and guests are offered the chance to spend a night outside in one of the tents.

Quintino Sella Hut with Lyskamm on the skyline

The older hut on the adjacent site with Castor beyond.

The Quintino Sella Hut is a very useful base if accessed from the south via Stafel above Gresonney off of the Aosta valley. Cable cars on either side of the head of the valley can be used to approach either Quintino Sella – Mantova – Gnifetti – Margherita Huts and plenty of 4000 metre summits. Many climbers from the Italian side do traverse over to the main summit of Monte Rosa and return from this side.

The south ridge towards the Quintino Sella Hut is well equipped.

Three hours from the top of the cable car should arrive at the hut.

The approach walk is very scenic and the lower slopes are cloaked in plenty of fine alpine flowers.
All of the splendid alpine flowers pictured below were found on a rocky, south facing section of ridge, at around 2500 metres. I don’t profess to be any sort of expert, so please let me know if my assessment of genus or species is incorrect.

Alpine Forget me Not

Looks like Glacier Crowfoot


Possibly Round-Leaved Pennycress

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Matterhorn, south side from Cervina on 10th July. With some of the party feeling the altitude, I descended into the Aosta valley and using bus, train and taxi accessed Cervina easily, by leaving the Quintino Sella Hut around 0830. The remainder of the party continued with Bruce Goodlad

Bruce and I were working together on this trip, and the next six images were taken by Bruce with his Canon Powershot G9 digital. Thanks Bruce.

Approaching the summit of Castor

Looking back towards the Breithorn and Pollux from the south-west slopes of Castor. A good route, as it stays in the shade for sometime. Fitter ropes will also ascend Pollux before going over Castor.

Looking back towards the East Ridge of Lyskamm.

Looking back towards the Passo Naso descent slopes. leading to the Gnifetti Hut.

Descending from Parrotspitze towards the final ascent to the Margherita Hut.

A view down the Grenz Glacier, towards Zermatt. A wonderful high alpine basin.

Weisshorn East Ridge on 11th July.

Ober Gabelhorn to Weisshorn on 11th July.

Taschhorn and Dom on 11th July.

Lots of snow on the Matterhorn on 11th July. Not many people on the mountain due to the amount of snow. During our stay in Zermatt we used the Hotel Tannenhof They have a very clean, tidy and friendly service. Alpinists can leave gear securely whilst away on multi-day trips. If you use Taxi Schaller for getting from Tasch to Zermatt, be sure to mention you will be staying at this hotel, as discounts and transfers in Zermatt are readily available.

Home for a Break

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

For a while now, away from the laptop and free wifi, especially in Grindelwald where I was reliably informed by the tourist office and various other short-sighted establishments that..”Nothing is free in Switzerland”…!!! Fortunately this is not true in most places, including City Hostel in Geneva
We did of course have a very good ‘pub-crawl’ through the main street in Grindelwald trying to logon!

Since the last upload the weather has been very mixed. The first of a few trips was to try and climb Liskamm via Kleine Matterhorn, Castor and the Sella Hut, then on to the highest hut in the Alps, the Margarita, with a view to traversing to the main summit of Monte Rosa (Dufourspitze), before descending back to Zermatt.

After this little expedition we were pretty tired of all the poor weather and fresh snow on the higher peaks, so we lowered our altitude plans away from the Jungfrau and Monch, to allow the snow to settle a wee bit. Central Switzerland turned up trumps (12/14th July) with dry granite at Grimsel and good climbing from the Sustli Hut, near the Susten Pass. Check out Schweizer Plaisir through Google and translate the pages through Google also. The guides to look for are west and east. A lifetime of bolt-clipping fun!

Azalea Beach is five minutes simple walk from the road. Here Julien is ‘padding’ one of the many good slab routes. Abseil descent is normal.

One of the many hydro dams in the area, used as a concrete canvas.

More dry, warm granite at around 4c ish on this occasion.
Mike unleashed and a bolt every two or three metres!
Another couple of hours drive from Grimsel and slightly higher, simple snowy peaks around the Susten Pass. This area also has loads of good rock climbing and all is revealed in the guide books mentioned earlier.
The Sustli Hut is only a simple hours walk away from the road.
Plenty for the botanists amongst us all around the hut.
Simple glaciers and easy peaks, Great places for novices or tired old alpinists!
We spent one night at the Grimsel Hospice. They offer anything from single rooms to dormitories and the food, location and service is very good indeed.
East Face of the Finsteraarhorn from the Grimsel Hospice balcony. This is the highest peak in the area. It is possible to trek into the Bernese Oberland from this direction, via a series of very good high huts.

Earlier we had spent one night at the Gandegg Hut, which provides good acclimatising and easy access to the Kleine Matterhorn uplift from Zermatt. The hut is also a good kicking off point for the routes on the north side of the Zermatt Breithorn. These were in good shape around 7th July with the comprehensive cover of new snow. This snow has enhanced the build up on the glaciers and is beneficial to the continued short-term state of the glaciers. The photo shows the view from the hut towards Breithorn and the Monte Rosa massif

Anyone thinking of climbing the Matterhorn, might like to re-consider. It is very snowy (7/10th July).

Evidence of recent avalanche activity on the trek towards Castor and Sella (Felik) hut.

Then another blizzard blows through and John and Julien study the scene from the first floor dormitory windows!

A day in the Sella (Felik) hut sitting out the storm. Unfortunately for John a group had walked off with his rope, so he had to descend into Val Gressoney and pick it up. Thank you very much to the hut warden and his team for tracking down the travel company, who in turn contacted the leader of the group to let them know of their mistake. Well done John Lyall for going back down to pick up your rope. Such a bloody nuisance!

Unfortunately the toilet block is detached from the hut at left and in these conditions a rather chilly and slippery walk. Not much use for the cement mixer in these conditions either.

Fortunately the clouds cleared, but our plan to traverse Liskamm was put on hold for another year as it is well known for big cornice formations and it’s slopes were loaded with windslab avalanche hazard potential.
Sella Hut in better conditions. It is possible to use a tent for free here and thus save on your hut night fee. It is part of a testing programme Ferrino Tent Test
The solo Dutch guy who tried out the cold ‘kip’ was not impressed and found his way back inside the hut by the end of the night! The tents look fine, but in the cold conditions experienced a good sleeping bag was required.
We opted to traverse the Passo Naso, which had been scoured by the north-west winds. On it’s east side there was a safe and sure way down through rocks and these were well marked by wooden posts. Make sure you find the edge carefully in a white-out and descend a good distance to the south before finding the rocks. The slopes on both sides of this shoulder could prove a problem in heavy snow. The west side on this occasion had a good, but exposed ice/snow track.

Approaching Passo Naso. It is the slope over the heads of John and Julien

We finally found the Margarita Hut on the same day as leaving the Sella hut, after a long spell of very tiring trail-blazing, often in a whiteout, but fortunately with tracks to follow at all the right places. At least the tracks agreed with our compass bearings!

The photo above shows the technique for escaping the Margarita Hut in case of fire. What it does not inform you, is that you should dress up before escaping down the rope. A case of out of the frying pan into the fridge.

Mike coming to terms with hydration tabs in gassy mineral water at 4,500 metres. He was not the first, enough said:)
Classic rock table formations at the bottom of the Grenz Glacier

We threw out the idea of traversing Dufourspitze in the face of more high winds and new snow. Descent of the Grenz Glacier was fairly straightforward, as it had a good covering of new snow and a good trail.

A group of photos below showing why the Matterhorn is not a good bet just now. These images were shot around 11/12th July

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Hi Alan, just missed you at the airport… got home in the end hey!!…how unlucky can you get..probably the first delay in the history of the Swiss Railways….. what a trip…just been looking at the photos…a great trek together with two great peaks..Goedeke says of the Gross Grunhorn… ‘the peak offers everything that an alpinist treasures…remoteness, history, excellent views and good climbing’…cant disagree with that only to say…we were in great company as well. Thanks for getting us so far as alpinists.

I will send your glove up in the post …. cant wait to see the photos and read the blog

Look forward to catching up again this winter