Friday, 14 January 2011

Hohsaas and the Weissmies Hut

This route which visits the Weissmies Hut and the newly inaugurated high altitude hiking trail the Hohsaas Rundweg, begins at Kreuzboden which is reached by cable car from saas Grund in the Saastal. While the route could (theoretically but not by the author) be done from the valley without using the gondola it would be excessively long. As it is there are about 930m (3050ft) of ascent and the distance is not excessive. Paths are well marked, often steep, but never difficult and the gondola gives an easy way down if needed.

The views of the peaks of Saas Fee and the close up prospect of the Trift Glacier are the highlights of the walk with the high alpine zone being reached with surprising ease but don't try it straight from the valley on your first day in the Alps - the altitude of over 3300m is cosiderable. There are more walking routes on my homepage.

Kreuzboden is situated at 2400m in fantastic walkers' country in a hollow in the mountains high above the Saastal. This route sets off from here towards the peaks of the Fletschhorn and the Lagginhorn. The route is easy and well marked.

From above Kreuzboden the distant village of Saas Fee comes into view below the snowy Alphubel and the clouded Mishchabel peaks. The towers on the left hand slope are the line of the Hohsaas cableway which is useful in descent.

The Weissmies Hut at 2726m is reached by a final; steep section of path though there is no difficulty getting here. The rock peak is the Jagihorn (3206m) and is popular with climbers.

The path ascends the stony slopes behind the hut to reach a rocky cwm beneath the Lagginhorn and Fletschhorn where it turns steeply right to climb to a high bleak looking valley where the Hohsaas top station comes into view ahead. The path is easy to follow all the way and the first sign of civilisation reached above this valley is the Berghutte Hohsaas or Hohsaas Hut at 3101m with the gondola station just beyond. If the hut is closed refreshments are available by the station.

The Jagihorn and the sea of peaks to the North West from near Berghutte Hohsaas.

The Hohsaas Rundweg is a fairly new high altitude circular trail leading over the mountainside above the Hohsaas station which is here seen below. The path is again well marked and passes several carved stones which are each dedicated to the 4000m peaks visible from here (weather permitting). You will encounter more people on this short section as many walk the route from the cable car and if you have walked all the way - be smug.

The highest point of the trail at 3330m or almost 11000 feet is fittingly marked with the stone representing the Dom - at 4545m the highest Swiss peak not shared with the Italians. It is in the cloud opposite and I didn't actually see it despite this being one of the best days weather wise!

Just beyond the high point of the Rundweg the trail passes a small tarn in a rocky hollow and begins its descent back round to Hohsaas. The Weissmies (4023m) and the Triftgletscher or Trift Glacier are most impressive from here.

After a rough but easy descent the path joins a wide and level track back to Hohsaas. The views of the glacier are quite spectacular. You can return on the gondola or walk back down to Kreuzboden.
Pete Buckley Jan 2011

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Hohtalligrat from Zermatt

The Hohtalligrat is a short but exciting walkers' route from the Gornergrat station to the minor peak of the Hohtalli at 3286m or 10781 feet, which is crowned by a cable car station visible from below. This lift is to transport skiers and does not operate in the summer season so the way to it is along an airy ridge of about 2km in each direction.

The Gornergrat Mountain Railway is a popular excursion from Zermatt and journeys at a leisurely pace from the pinewoods of the Mattertal through the meadows of Riffelberg to the harsh high alpine world above 3000m. The views from the Hohtalli surpass even that World Renowned panorama from the Gornergrat itself and as most of the tourists do not stray far from the safety of the train station they are to be enjoyed in relative peace. The Matterhorn and the Dent Blanche across the valley are especially memorable while this must be the best vantage point from which to view the arctic landscape of Monte Rosa and Liskamm.

As for the route, it involves only a short ascent (little more than 200m) with about 4km of walking for the return journey from Gornergrat but bear in mind that it is a high altitude trail. My previous visit here - also in July - encountered deep snow which can turn the walk into a minor expedition! The way is rough and involves use of the hands in a few places but no hard scrambling is encountered and even the author did not require the services of a helicopter to get down.

After leaving the station (3090m) and skirting the Gornergrat Kulm Hotel and the silver dome of the observatory on the left, the path leaves the buildings and heads towards the Hohtalli which is seen ahead. The high summit just to its left is the Rimpfischhorn (4199m).

hohtalligrat The route soon ascends to the right to easily gain the ridge of the Hohtalligrat and in a dip after this point a path leads off down to the right. This leads to the Monte Rosa Hut but our route is straight on along a track which gets fainter than this one here but is always easy to follow.

gornergrat Looking back to the Gornergrat from the early part of the route with the Matterhorn beyond.

hohtalligrat The trail crosses patches of snow as it leaves the ridge crest on its northern side. This one needed some care but there was a fixed rope up near the rocks to the right.

breithorn Looking back down the latter part of the ridge with the Breithorn and Klein Matterhorn visible on the left of the picture. After this point the path crosses again to the northern side and a rough stony ascent leads to the top.

hohtalli The cable car station on the Hohtalli at 3286m with the Dent Blanche and Obergabelhorn beyond. There were no tourists - the lift only operates in the ski season. The last part to it is again steep and rough but poses no difficulty.

hohtalli Further along the ridge is the Stockhorn but the way beyond here stops being just a walk! The snowy horizon is the Italian frontier with Monte Rosa on the right.

liskamm Liskamm (4479m) and the Grenz Glacier. The Monte rosa Hut is just above the small tarn at the bottom of the picture.

dent_blanche_matterhorn The Matterhorn (4478m) and the Dent Blanche (4357m) are viewed to perfection from here. The Gornergrat Observatory is visible on the left and the way back is to retrace one's steps.
Pete Buckley Jan 2010

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Schilthorn from Murren

At 2970m or 9745ft the Schilthorn is one of the highest walkers' peaks in the Jungfrau Region. The summit is attainable by cable car which gives an easy ride down if legs or the weather deem it necessary yet the walk from Murren or Almendhubel provides the walker with an introduction to the high mountains and a route which well shows the transition from lush forests to the harsh alpine world at nearly 10 000 feet. The route too is largely easy and safe. This photo account is from July 2007 when I experienced less than perfect weather with snow on the route yet nowhere did it seem dangerous. From Allmendhubel the route is just over 6km (4 miles) one way with 1060m (3480ft) of ascent. The full account of this trip is available on my walking in the alps archive.murren Allmendhubel at 1912m is a short ride on the funicular from Murren and a good start point for this walk. Add 270m of ascent if starting in Murren. The route is well waymarked for Schilthorn and/or Schilthorn Hut.

The first part of the route is a steep track which leaves the steep slopes vis this gully (not difficult) to emerge on more open and gently sloping pastures below the Schilthorn Hut (2432m) where refreshments are available. The path to the hut branches off to the left a little further on.

birg_schilthorn The route climbs steadily to where the main trail also branches left - as can be seen - to cross the mountainside leading to the cable car station of Birg at 2677m which is on the small peak where the towers are. We don't want to go that way though unless you've had enough or the weather is bad - instead there is a signpost at the top of a slope which directs towards the Schilthorn and the path carries on up the slope ahead.

mountain_tarn Soon the mountain tarn of Grauseeli appears in a fine setting in a hollow in the mountains down to the left as a wide track is followed towards the Schilthorn which rises ahead.

The trail becomes a rough path and climbs the stony slopes ahead generally bearing round to the left to ascend a steep ridge to a subsidiary top high above the valley. The way up involves short easy scrambles with a few chains for protection though even in the snow it was not difficult. The views are wonderful - when you can see them!

The exciting ridge crossing to the main peak with 2 walkers descending it. This was fun rather than scary as there are cables and metal posts for protection. It is fairly narrow but not long though the view of the valley 7000 feet down on the left adds drama. The summit is (sometimes) visible close by in front.

schilthorn A last steep ridge leads to the summit - again with chains and stone steps for part of the way - it's easier than it looks here though.

piz_gloria The summit at 2970m where you will enjoy a sense of great superiority over all those who have come up on the cable car. The view from here can extend from the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in Germany to the Mont Blanc Range - but not every day!

schilthorn_summit A fleeting glimpse of the peaks around the head of the Lauterbrunnen Valley -which is well over 2000m below - was all that was on offer today. The peak in the centre of the picture is the Lauterbrunnen Breithorn.
Pete Buckley January 2011