Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Lagginhorn and Weissmeis

~ Saturday 29th August 2009

A 2 day trip staying at the Hohsaas "hut". This is a modern hut - really a ski restaurant with accommodation, so lacking any traditional appeal, but it does have hot water, showers, single beds and some very nice views.

Day 1 we climbed the South ridge of the Lagginhorn. Easy access from the hut, good climbing on an exposed ridge and an easy descent make a great day out but somehow I forgot to take any pictures.

Looking down Weissmeis north ridge to the Lagginhorn

Day 2 we went for a shorter option, climbing the Weissmeis normal route. Even easier access from the hut (or lift) leads straight into serious glacier travel under seracs! Great. This is classic "easy" alpine ground - dangerous hill walking - and not a place to dither.

After an hour or so the route climbs on to a ridge, great views and the top is in sight - an empty summit, reward for the early start.

The descent is fast, careful cramponning, and soon we were scampering back under the seracs.

Weissmeis top, Mischabel peaks behind

Weissmeis south top

Dent de Tsalion West Ridge

~ Friday 21st August 2009

 With a bad forecast for Friday we decided on an early start for more leg bashing, climbing the Dent de Tsalion west ridge from the valley. You can approach this route from the Tsa hut, but it's "only" 2.5 hours from the car park in Arolla, so feasible in a day. 

The climbing is on good solid rock, AD with some bits of IV, all easily protectable with I was amazed to find a brand new bolt...then another! About a dozen in all, new bolts, placed in the last year. This is outrageous, a real backwards step placing bolts on a route first climbed in 1897. Worse, most of the bolts are very near good wire placements. I'm trying to find out "whodunnit", but can only think it is a local guide - presumably one too lazy/fat to make grade IV moves and place his own runners. 

Anyway, ranting aside, this is still a great climb. A quick (but not uneventful) descent via the Col de la Tsa saw us back in the valley for tea and cakes. 

Excellent exposed climbing

Big holes!

Alphubel Rotgrat

~ Friday 21st August 2009

 Following on from the Dent Blanche, we went over to Tasch to climb  the West Ridge "Rotgrat" of the Alphubel. 

Legs were a bit tired after the 2400m downhill from the DB, so it was a relief have a gentle 1 hour 30 mins walk to the Tasch hut. This is a fantastic hut, recently modernised and extended, with single beds, running hot water and showers!

Alphubel is usually climbed from Saas Fee, where it's a short snow route from the lift. From the west, it's a different mountain with a steep rocky face towering above Taschalp. The Rotgrat is a 2.5km ridge rising 1600m from the hut. 

Rotgrat from the descent

A harsh 3am breakfast and a steep uphill walk lead to the start of the ridge (and a meeting with a  team who thought they were on the Taschhorn) Good rock, the sun comes up, only 1 other team on the route. We reached 3900m in quick time, but then struggled to find the right corner on the final bastion...described as "easier then it looks", our corner was still quite hard! 3 pitches later, we're back on route and soon on the summit, with a great view back down the route. 

The wrong corner!

Nearly there


Dent Blanche

~ Monday 17th August 2009

 Perfect conditions today on the Dent Blanche South Ridge. Well frozen snow and dry rock, and only 2 other teams on the route - ideal. 

We climbed the "direct route", going straight over the Grand Gendarme instead of up the couloir, then sticking to the ridge all the way. This is great climbing on solid steep rock in fantastic positions, and a very worthwhile variation on the usual route. 

Steep climbing up the front of the gendarme

In front of the gendarme

Bernese Oberland Week

~ Saturday 15th August 2009

5 days in the Bernese Oberland, 2 huts, 3 peaks and an adventure - the "Oberland Odyssey" lived up to expectations!

We walked up to the Konkordia hut from the Fiesch lifts. Impressive scenery on the Aletch glacier, and looming black clouds forcing the pace - we arrived just before the downpour.

Racing the clouds up the A;etsch glacier

Tuesday brought perfect weather for an ascent of the Grunegghorn. Stunning views and a wave to friends attempting the Eiger (they didn't see us)

Descending the Grunegghorn summit ridge

Wednesday we traversed the Wyssnollen to the Finsteraarhorn hut. This small peak has good climbing on the snow face and ridge above the Grunhornlucke, and an easy scenic descent to the Fiescher glacier

Dawn at Grunhornlucke

Thursday's plan was the Finsteraarhorn - the highest peak in the Bernese Oberland. It's a long climb on steep snow, follwed by a dramatic mixed ridge with stunning exposure above the 1000m east face - no pushover at PD.

Finsteraarhorn summit, Eiger behind

After a second night in the excellent Finsteraarhorn hut, all that remained was to walk back out to civilisation and a well earned bath. Instead of retracing our steps, we boldly chose to go the direct route down the Fiescher glacier. Descibed in the Martin Moran 4000m guidebook as "a fine way to complete an expedition in the Oberland", we were prepared for a "full day" - and we got one!

At first everything went very well, with fast progress down the dry Fiescher glacier. Some tricky ground leaving the ice took us to a waymarked path.

Climbing off the glacier

More fast progress, following new paint marks, new ladders, new cables - had the route been completely re-equiped?

No! Despite careful searching for the Via ferrata ladders, we found ourselves stuck in the "crevassed bend" Retracing steps up the glacier, we finally spotted the cables...and the place where the ladders used to be...oh dear. 40m of loose UK Severe climbing lead up to new equipment on the via ferrata. New, cemented bolts, steps and pig tails.

Via ferrata above the glacier

Then came 500m of alarmingly steep grass, and a chain leading down to where the glacier used to be. Now, there's 50m of unstable moraine. We lowered and abseiled down. Climbing up would be unpleasant and dangerous.

We came down there! Nice.

Surely we were nearly there? More rubble glacier took us to the foot of the climb up to the path - a tottering pile of unstable blocks, which looked too dangerous to attempt. We battled on down the glacier looking for an escape until a chance meeting with an odd man, the first person we had met all day. He told us about a bridge and a path just a little further on. Phew! Soon, we were walking through the hamlet of Titter (which raised barely a smile from a tired team)

So, all's well that ends well. However, this route must have changed significantly since guidebook publication. In current state, it can't be recommended as a descent, even less as an approach to the hut.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon

~ Saturday 8th August 2009

 We made a very enjoyable ascent of the Mont Blanc de Cheilon normal route yesterday. This has to be one of the best PD climbs in the alps - long, varied climbing on rock and snow, an easy approach and a great finale up the summit ridge. It's in good condition, although the slopes above the first rock section are hard snow-ice and need careful cramponing. We then traversed the "winter" top and descended the winter route under the Ruinette which is still good - easy snow through impressive scenery. 

on the summit ridge


Dent Blanche South ridge

~ Wednesday 5th August 2009

 We're just back from a record breaking ascent of the South ridge of the Dent Blanche - the longest any of us could remember!

The reason was the weather on Monday. Walking up in rain which turned to snow, we were expecting some tricky conditions. Tuesday morning dawned clear and cold, but with 30cm of fresh windblown snow at the hut. 

Dawn onver the Matterhorn




                                   On the climb, wind had plastered the rock with snow and ice, meaning slow going and careful movement on corniced ridges. 

Looking up the South Ridge to the Grand Gendarme




                        The bonus was that only 4 teams were on the route. The South ridge is a reasonable choice when snowy, but it still took 12 hours round trip - and a second night in the hut.

Descending, just above the Grand Gendarme

Rock Climbing - Aiguilles Rouges

~ Saturday 1st August 2009

Rock climbing in the Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla today on a brilliant new route recently bolted by the incredibly active Jean-Marie Moos.

In an area not known for solid rock, this is an impressive find - 9 pitches of steep climbing up to 6b, well bolted (13 quickdraws) abseil off - easy with 60m ropes...but we had 50m so there's now an extra belay at the end of the second abseil.

Approach from Arolla via Pra Gra (we drove up the track) from where it's a 2 hour walk, or from the Aiguilles Rouges hut. The route is above the Glacier Inférieure Des Aiguilles Rouges (find a quartz vein near the lowest point of the face, and look for bolts) There is a topo in the hut and also in Follomi Sports, Sion.

Moiry hut

~ Saturday 1st August 2009

 Finished off the week at the Moiry hut - there's still lots of work going on on the extension, but it's service as usual in the hut. The new part is a futuristic all copper box, with a wall of windows overlooking the glacier. It should be finished next year...

After a hot walk up in the morning, we climbed a great rocky ridge above the hut - up to the Col du Pigne and turn left. Ideal ground for practising moving together. 

The next day we set off for the Pointes du Mourti - again, a great mix of snow, glacier and rock so ideal for putting into practice everything learned in the week. 

The start of the rock

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