20 September 2019, Zinalrothorn, Breithorn, Gran Paradiso & Mont Blanc

Zinalrothorn Normal Route

Last weeks fresh snow and autumn feel in the mountains around Zermatt had been blown and baked away by this weeks warm winds, sunshine and late summer weather.  The mountains looked dry again and even icy in places with lots of dry rock and some good late summer conditions on the right routes.   Whilst Castor and the Breithorn looked much more icy than last week, there were teams doing both and we enjoyed the half traverse of the Breithorn from Kleinne Matterhorn.

Zermatt Mountain guide
Sustained rock pitch on the Breithorn Half Traverse, Sept 2019

The approach to the Col at 4022 was lean and required several pitches with ice screws before the dry and warm rock was reached and traversed via numerous short pitches, to the central summit and it’s narrow snow ridge.  We descended easily from here although the continuing ridge to the Breithorn west summit and normal ascent route looked a bit more icy.  Likewise Castor looked more icy than last week but the team who made a rapid round trip from Kl Matterhorn said it was fine.   Next morning we saw several teams head torches bobbling up the Matterhorn Hornli Ridge and there was a big track heading up to the West Ridge of Dufourspitze also.

Rothorn Hut Winter Room
Dusk at the Rothorn Hut winter room with the Liskamm, right, & Monte Rosa Massif beyond

We spent a good night at the Rothorn hut winter room before setting off on a cool pre-dawn start on the Zinalrothorn normal route.   Much snow has melted since our last ascent in early August and there is a lot of loose rock to get going up to the small glacier and loose rocky chimney which provides access to more loose rocky scrambling!   The upper snow patches have also seriously ablated although this meant they were relatively easily passed on rock before the main snow ice slopes could be accessed leading up to the pleasant snow ridge which provided solid enjoyable access to the upper rock bastion.

Above the Sneegrat, there is the rockgrat! Good solid scrambling before the loose traverse of the south face to access the Gabel Couloir

We took a better line along the loose rock terraces to access the fine rock rib next to the Gabel couloir and made good progress up this via several large bolts to the Gabel itself and more enjoyable solid scrambling to the base of the fine Biner Slab and crux of the route….

Biner Slab
Dry conditions for the crux traverse of the Biner Slab high on the Zinalrothorn normal route, Sept 19

This was all dry today and we carried our axes & crampons to the summit without using them after the snow ridge.  There was only one other team on the route and this consisted of 2 brilliant 4 legged climbers – Chamois!  This team of hairy alpinists came from the Zinal side and up the West Face and we watched their relaxed progress up the steep and loose slabs on the west face with awe!  Then one appeared on the ridge itself, just to show us how it’s done by the real locals…

Chamois Climbing
Chamois high on the Zinalrothorn summit ridge (centre) with the summit cross on upper left.  Dom, Tasch, Alphubel on the right.

There was not a breath of wind and the views were also breathless.  The local Chamois may have also wryly noted that the 2 climbers were also somewhat breathless!  We sat for a while on the summit enjoying the calm early autumn light and magnificent panorama before reversing the route only a little quicker than we had ascended it.  We saw a decent looking track accessing the north ridge on the mountain via Mountets Hut.

Zinalrothorn Matterhorn
High on the Zinalrothorn normal route with the Matterhorn beyond

We also saw a decent looking track on the descent to Rothorn Hut coming down from the Wellenkuppe and teams had noted in the hut book they had done Obergabelhorn recently.   Neil & Julian climbed Gran Paradiso earlier this week and they are trying to climb Mont Blanc tomorrow.   Update to follow shortly!  Simon and Dylan climbed the South Ridge of the Weissmies this week and descended the same way although many teams from Almageller continued down the north side to make the traverse.

Update 21 Sept: See Julian & Neil on the summit of Mont Blanc below.  “Still good conditions above the Gouter Hut“.

Climb Mont Blanc Course
Neil & Julian on the summit of Mont Blanc after climbing Gran Paradiso earlier in the course. Photo Neil Hitchings.

We only have 2 group mountaineering courses left for this ‘summer’ alpine season, Gran Paradiso & Mont Blanc, but already have some Weissmeiss & Mont Blanc courses booked in and running for summer 2020 as well as our series of inspiring and fun Matterhorn & Mont Blanc training weekends in Snowdonia & The Scottish Highlands, details here:

Summer 2020 courses….

Zermatt Skyline Panormama from Rothorn Hut
The early autumn descent to Trift and Zermatt from Rothorn &, for Paul, the last climb of the summer alpine season…