Category Archives: Alpine Climbing

Summer has arrived in the Alps

After an incredibly cool and wet spring, summer has arrived to these Alps. For the first time this year, steady daytime temperatures at 1500 meters are above 20 degrees. It warms the soul to see the look on everyone’s face and feel the relaxed attitude as people sit outside socializing in the evening. Verbier is filling again with people as the Music Festival gets into full swing.

After a 2 week rock climbing trip to the sea, I’ve had the opportunity to do some guiding on a few alpine routes and hikes. Vadim and I climbed the north face of the Tour Ronde between Chamonix and Courmeyeur before spending some time in Zermatt and Grindelwald. Then I did a mini Haute Route with the Summers over 3 days, alpine trecking from Mauvoisin to Chanrion, over the Pigne d’Arolla and down to Arolla. The conditions on the high glaciers are better then I have ever seen them in the 30+ years I have been here. Snow remains low on the glaciers and above 3000 meters, the skiing is still excellent!

I will be in Verbier all summer offering introductory climbing camps to people of all ages, leading people on a number of Alpine Hikes around this and neighboring valleys, and of course guiding on the 4000ers. Please contact me for detailed information.

Grindelwald Days- Eiger Monch Engelhorner

Vadim was back again to climb in these Alps and we decided to base ourselves in Grindelwald. What an exceptional valley for climbers! From the magically silent cliffs of Hintisberg and the Engelhorner, to the ice palace at the Jungfraujoch, and the wild jaunt ascending to the Mittellegi Hut, this valley has everything for the ambitious mountaineer (and hill walker and tourist!). We were hoping to climb the Schreckhorn, Monch, and Eiger, but of course the weather determined our program.

We started with a few climbs in the surrounding valleys, then worked our way up to the heights. Cow bells echoing off the high walls surrounding Hintisberg sounded the way towards the Eiger. The changeable weather then chased us to the Mediterranean Sea and a couple more limestone cliffs.

Have a look at the photos and let me know when you are coming! Autumn air is creeping into the weather, and it looks like climbing possibilities shall be with us for a good number of weeks still.

Climbing the Matterhorn via the Lion’s Ridge

Fiona and I climbed the Matterhorn this early October, just hours before the first winter storm moved in. All lifts in Cervinia were closed, which meant an 1’800 meter climb, just to the Carrel Hut! It was the next day that had me thinking: 8 hours round trip to the summit from the hut, then 1’800 meters back to the car. Ouch!

We left the hut at a leisurely 7:30AM, just as the sun was rising. We immediately reached the first fixed ropes, The Awakening Ropes. I was fully awake after getting over the final vertical section. (Hmmm, not quite like the Hornli ridge…) Though it was quite cold, the weather was perfect as we climbed. The winds from the west were picking up as the impending storm approached. The route stays on the south face, clear of the ridge for the first few hundred meters, which meant we were out of the wind, but once up on the ridge I was happy to have my down jacket on under my gore-tex shell.

We then progressed across the south face, zigzagging towards, then away from the ridge, never too far from it. A metal cable appeared, which added security as we continued right and up on the south face. After some guess work, we reached the Tyndall rope that takes you to the ridge at approximately 4070m. We then climbed on the windy ridge to the top of  Tyndall peak (4241m). The climbing was easy and fun, but challenging with the wind. Though there was ice in places, the whole route was doable without crampons or ice axes. From Tyndall peak,  the hike is horizontal going NE, then some down climbing and the not to be missed, “enjambée”. The guide book says to step across or jump. Reading that, I’d gotten quite psyched to jump it, until I had a look at it. Forget that! Stepping across worked quite well thank you…

Once across the Col Félicité, the climbing is straight forward until the steep Jordan Ladder. Climbing this wooden rope ladder was a lot easier than it looked from below. After the Piravano fixed ropes, we were quickly on the Italian summit. And from there, a short down climb then up to the one meter higher Swiss summit.

Equipment: There’s lots of fixed pro, so bring 3-6 quickdraws and a few large locking carabiners. I used a 37 meter single rope. Crampons and axe may be necessary, plus all the other obvious mountain gear and clothing. The hut is unguarded, so bring food. There are a couple of good gas stoves and (dirty) pots and pans and dishes, but no water. We filled up with water at 3300 meters, below the small glacier, west of the path to the hut. One can find snow to melt near the hut, but may be difficult to mine (ice).