Aug 5, 2012

Climbing the Weissmies... Snow, Seracs and Summit(s)

If you’ve ever thought about going wild and crazy, and trying something a bit ‘different’ for a weekend then let me tempt you with a little 4000m gem of an experience. The Weissmies in Switzerland. A very straight-forward snowy mountain which can be climbed in a day – either from the quaint Swiss village of Sass Grund (complete with garden gnomes, cow-bells, chocolate and a fabulous espresso) or from the alpine hut called the Hohsaas (accessible by a luxurious high-speed gondola with mountain-views on which you can eat said chocolate!).

If you’ve ever thought about tossing aside your Jimmy Choos and replacing them with some more (dare I say) ‘comfortable’ footwear (aka. crampons) or escaping from Saturday-evening couch-syndrome  (aka X-Factor) then this might very well be a perfect opportunity… and I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone and give the 'one foot in front of the other' passtime a healthy shot.

Like the other ‘Swiss giants’ which include the Breithorn, Allalinhorn, and Mont Blanc du Tacul, the Weissmies is one of the big, 4000 meter summits that can usually be ascended without encountering difficult technical climbing – it’s a perfect acclimatisation peak providing the opportunity to get to 4000m in just under 3 hours from the nearest 'hut'. Don't let the label 'hut' deceive you - I think that it was a term applied to these mountain 'resorts' by mountaineers keen to keep the Hilton's of the Alps an inside secret. The Hohsaas in particular is excellent - fabulous thick duvets, comfy mattresses, clean rooms.. bliss!

Under first light of dawn Isabelle and I strapped on our crampons and roped up to cross a fun section of snow covered and exposed crevasses. It was a good opportunity for the coffee buzz to set in - to be honest, I initially felt like I should have had a Red-Bull chaser with my coffee.

After a short section of gentle snow covered slope we reached the steeper middle section of the glacier.

I would be a terrible alpine-version of Usain Bolt. It always takes about 15-20 minutes to find the 'zone' with my high-altitude plodding but once I find a steady pace and clear my mind I find the plodding a tremendously therapeutic experience. Roped together by a flourescent green climbing rope for safety, I followed in Isabelle's footsteps. We both plodded on in silence enjoying the stillness of the mountain air and the gorgeous views as the morning sun began to crest over the mountains.

Eventually the angle eased and we arrive on the crest of the west ridge of the peak. This was followed fairly easily to the 13,176 foot high summit. We did it in 2.45h - including a few rehydration and food refueling stops. An excellent time and we were rewarded for our efforts with the most spectacular view of the Alps.

I thoroughly enjoyed the climb – we really pushed ourselves trying to max our already acclimatised bodies thanks to the ascent of the Lagginhorn the previous day.

The final ridge up to the summit as the sun rises
Isabelle and Heather on the summit

Ridge leading up to the summit (taken from summit on descent)

Summit shot


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