Friday, 25 February 2011

The Oberrothorn - Switzerland's Highest Walkers' Peak

At an impressive 3415m or 11204ft the Oberrothorn is the highest peak in the Swiss Alps with a marked hiking trail to its summit. Apart from altitude there is no difficulty in the ascent - the slightly lower Mettelhorn across the valley being the more challenging - and it may be climbed from any of the gondola stations on the lift system known as the Rothorn Paradise which leaves Sunegga. You could even make the ascent from Zermatt but it's a long way up from there - over 6000 feet or 1800m.

Do not do as the author did and do this on the first day in Zermatt - much dizziness above 3000m - a couple of days in these high hills is a good idea before venturing to this height. The route between the two "Rothorns" is known locally as the Weg zur Freiheit or Freedom Path but don't take my word on that as I can't speak German. The pictures are from early July 2006

Looking down to Zermatt from the Rothorn gondola station which is on the Unterrothorn peak at 3101m. Starting from here is the easiest way to the top of the Oberrothorn but for a longer walk set out from Blauherd (middle station on gondola) or Sunnegga (funicular from Zermatt) where easy and well signed paths lead up to the col between the 2 peaks.

The Oberrothorn from the Unterrothorn. The way leads down to the col at the bottom of the picture and follows the path visible around the lower right side of the peak.

Rimpfischhorn and Strahlhorn The path ascends without difficulty from the col around to the far side of the peak where it zig zags up a steep shale slope. The view from here is of the Rimpfischhorn (the sharp central peak) and the Strahlhorn on the right. Both are Alpine 4000 Metre Peaks and the upper part of the Saastal lies beyond them.

Mischabel from Oberrothorn The far side of the Oberrothorn is not so easy and drops away precipitously. Care is needed if there are cornices but the way here is easy over snow and shale. Those who are not acclimatized you will notice the lack of air on the ascent!

Oberrothorn summit The curious monument on the Oberrothorn summit at 3415m. The Matterhorn is supposed to be in view straight ahead here but the weather was not co-operating while the "eye" monument marks the end of the Weg Zur Freiheit. The way down is a simple retracing of one's steps back to the col between the 2 peaks. From there take the path that heads left down the slope instead of returning to the Unterrothorn. It soon widens and follows a high valley downwards through alpine meadows to Blauherd at about 2500m. Many marmots inhabit this section of the route.

Pete Buckley Feb 2011
For the full account of this trip please see my Oberrothorn page on Travellerspoint

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Faulhorn from Grindelwald

Easily reached from the First gondola, the Faulhorn is quite deservedly a popular ascent from Grindelwald with the route passing the beautiful Bachsee en route to the summit where the walker will be rewarded by breathtaking views of the snowy Oberland peaks across the valley.

This route involves a little over 500m of ascent with 900m of descent and is about 8km in distance. To make it easier, return to First instead of descending to Bussalp or for a longer walk leave the gondola earlier and walk to First. Walking from Grindelwald would involve over 1600m (5250ft) of ascent - something I would not recommend on a warm summer's day! For the full account of this walk please see my Faulhorn entry on travellerspoint.faulhorn_ascent_route
An easy path leads from the First Gondola station towards Bachsee which is in the hollow ahead. The Faulhorn (2681m) is identifiable at the head of the valley by the building on the summit which is the Berghotel Faulhorn.

fiescherhorn_eiger The Fiescherhorn (4049m) and the Eiger (3970m) seen from the early part of the route.

hikers_on_the_faulhorn Hikers approach the Gassenboden col (2553m) with the Bachsee visible down to the right. For some bizarre reason my camera did not take the photo I took of the Schreckhorn reflected in the Bachsee which is a classic view so it's not on here. It is however on plenty of other sites - or you can go there to see it - which is much better. The peak beyond in this photo is the Schwarzhorn (2927m).

eiger_monch_jungfrau As the path reaches the Gassenboden col you are rewarded for your efforts with this wonderful view of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

berghotel_faulhorn Then you are reminded that there's still a little way to go. A wide easy path makes its way up to the summit of the Faulhorn.

faulhorn_summit The Faulhorn summit at 2681m (8796ft) and a typically Swiss scene with the flag flying. The views over the other side are not bad either!

brienzersee To the North lies the Brienzersee which is over 2200m (7200ft) below and is backed by the Alpine foothills.

Back at Gassenboden a path turns off steeply down over the far side of the col. It is still easy but rather rougher than the way we came up.

faulhorn The way leads down through a pleasant backcountry that seems wild compared to the busier path from First. In this view we're looking back up towards the Faulhorn with the Berghotel just visible on the summit.

bussalp Looking down to Bussalp from the lower part of the path. The first buildings are known as Oberlager and the mountain path here becomes a wide farm track that leads to Mittellager.

postbus All these references to lager were making me thirsty so I opted to catch the bus down from Bussalp to Grindelwald where I could partake without facing a long walk afterwards. The Eiger is the mountainin the background.

Pete Buckley Feb 2011