After Jules excellent blog about her Mont Blanc ascent, I’d also like to write about my passion for mountains.
What does mountaineering represent to me? It means freedom, adrenaline, pure happiness, silence, nature, the top of the world, friendship, feeling 200% alive … to me.
This summer I’ve decided to stay in Switzerland because I had many projects of summiting different mountains in the Swiss Alps,
which means around my home. I won’t give you the details of every mountain I climbed; otherwise I’d have to write tons of pages. In total I climbed around 15 4000m high peaks. If you’re interested in knowing what I’ve done, I can give you the names of the different mountains: North face of Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn, Nadelgrat, Täschhorn – Dom, Obergabelhorn (Arbengrat), Zinalrothorn, Piz Bernina, Weisshorn (North ridge)… I climbed my first North Face which was incredible, but I’ve also done some quite difficult routes. I have to admit that I don’t like taking the normal routes. It’s incredible when you can climb technical routes in an environment where you barely see someone!
Well, I’d like to share one of the most beautiful ridges I’ve ever climbed, which was my last one two weeks ago: the North ridge of the Weisshorn (most beautiful mountain of Switzerland!). It’s been a dream since I’m a child and it even was the dream mountain of my father. I didn’t want to climb the normal route but the North ridge which is quite long and strenuous.
So we traversed the Weisshorn, ascending on the North ridge and descending on the east one (the normal route). This route is quite difficult because of its length (it’s given 8hours only to get to the top, and about 7 hours to go all the way down to the valley) but also because of the altitude. It’s not just walking on snow, you’ve got some nice climbing passages and you’ve got to be 100% concentrated the whole time because it’s an EXTREMELY exposed ridge: it’s about 30cm large (you cannot stand with your two feet next to each other) and on both sides you’ve got 1500m straight face… But that’s what makes it the purest ridge ever! As I said before, this summer I’ve spent some time at high altitude.
The first few peaks of 4000m I climbed this summer, I could feel the height. Therefore you breathe more heavily when you climb. However after a while I got used to it and I felt very comfortable with the altitude which wasn’t a problem anymore. I wanted to feel fit physically and mentally for this tour and after doing between 40’000-50’000m + in the mountains (running and mountaineering, nothing compared to Kilian!!) this summer, I didn’t have to worry for my endurance. However, a few days earlier, a 22 year old Swiss boy (who was a member of the Swiss ski mountaineering team) fell from the North ridge and passed away. Even though I didn’t know him personally, it was a huge mental challenge getting up there when you know that he had climbed that mountain a few times and that this kind of accident can happen to anyone.
Summit of the Obergabelhorn
Let’s get to the interesting part. The first day I walked up to the hut carrying all my equipment (ice ax e, ice screws, harness, helmet, carabiners, crampons…), the rope as well as part of the equipment of my friend (he walked up at night because he had school until 4pm and on the next day he just waged school :P). I always try to walk as fast as possible to the hut because it’s always an excellent training even if I can’t run. But on that day I admit that my backpack was veeeeery heavy! After I arrived, I had a drink, enjoyed the sun and the beautiful view from the “cabane Tracuit” (3256m) and had a little nap. Dinner was served at 6.30 pm like in most huts. I waited until my friend arrived and then we went to be around 10pm. My alarm clock rang at 1.50am. It sounds early but when you often wake up that early during the whole summer, you start getting used to it. It’s not always easy getting up but you just gotta think about what’s awaiting you and you’ll quickly jump out of the bed.
Sunrise while climbing the Täschhorn (4491m) Top of Obergabelhorn
At the morning table there was just one mountain guide with a client who were also going to climb the Weisshorn, and my friend and I. Usually when you climb normal routes etc. you’re rarely alone climbing it but when there are only four people having breakfast at 2am it means it’s not a “highway”, if you understand what I mean. We left the hut at 2.20am, walked for about 5 min and put our crampons on. The first 2 hours weren’t very interesting since it was walking at night on the glacier to the top of the Bishorn (4153m), that’s only the approach to the ridge. From the top we had to walk 100m- down to the beginning of the ridge. First it was on snow and then the rock part began and that’s where it gets interesting! At that time we could catch a glimpse of the first light of the day on the horizon. The colors started to become incredible!!!! Photos just can’t translate the feelings, what a shame! Well the rock part was simply beautiful and quite technical. Sometimes you climb overhanging and you’ve got 1000m beneath you and you know that you just CANNOT fall but that’s what makes it so special being up there, free climbing. And at the same time the sun made its appearance.
traversing the endless and difficult ridge of the Täschhorn, such a beautiful ridge!
During those moments, when you’re on “top” of the world, climbing one of the most beautiful mountains, alone with a friend, that’s when you feel you’re living to 200%, you feel important and at the same time so small compared to the danger of the mountain. You know you’re not allowed to make mistakes because they can only be fatal. It was only pleasure climbing in these excellent rocks. We were extremely lucky to have NO wind (this ridge is famous for its strong and icy!!! wind) and the temperature was very warm: I climbed all the way to the summit with a t-shirt! After the rock part, most parts of the ridge was just snow and believe me, it’s such a PURE ridge, very very narrow and soooo exposed, you feel like you’re walking in heaven. And then, suddenly the cross is only a few meters away. You arrive at the summit and you feel overwhelmed. No words can describe those feelings. I could feel such a strong presence of my father, you have the most incredible view from up there, the weather was perfect, everything went smooth and well. We were quite happy about our time, because it didn’t take us 8 hours (however we can be much faster the next time, since we didn’t know the route).
Enjoying every second of these moments!
BUT, in the mountains the ascent is only half way down. Most accidents happen during the descent. So we still had about 7 hours to go. I won’t describe the other route into details. It was nice, not as nice as the north ridge and we started to get a bit tired when we arrived at the other hut, the “Weisshornhütte”. From there we only had another 1600m descent to the valley where we caught the train. We did 3000m descent in total and I can assure you that you feel it in your knees! What a relief taking off your shoes after 16 hours, but what a smell…
This description might sound interesting but I struggle so much describing every feeling in details. It is so difficult to describe what makes me want more to go up there: it’s such a huge feeling of freedom and lightness (I don’t know if in English you can use that word in this context) that I always want to go back, to do more, to go further, higher (even though it doesn’t mean it’s more difficult) in order to find supreme happiness.
Where: Alps, Switzerland
When: Summer 2013