The intention was to climb six 4,000 metre peaks in the Saas Fee area of southern Switzerland. The reality of the plan was like me trying to play the piano, all the right notes but in the wrong order.
6 of us were in the apartment and another 2 members camping down the road, plus another 2 had a different apartment for the first week only.
The weather forecast said that it would be good for the first 2 days followed by poor weather, this meant that the original plan of doing acclimatisation walks for the first 2 days, followed by mountaineering, had to be revised.
We caught the local bus from Saas Grund up to Sass Fee. At this stage we realised how Swiss buses managed to run on time, as the bus pulled away before we all managed to get on board.
We then took the ski train up to MittelAllain (3,500mts.). From here we roped and cramponed up to the top of the Allainhorn (4,027mts). This is the normal “tourist” route up, with a good track, but with plenty of crevasses about.
We retuned the same way, and took the train lower down the mountain to the Felskinn stop (3,000mts).
From here we traversed to the Britannia hut (3,030mts) arriving there at 4.30, an excellent first day.
After breakfast at 3.30 we left in the dark at 4.15, following what seemed like an army of Germans.
As dawn broke the crowds eased and we could see where we going rather than following bobbing head torches. By 9.00 we had arrived at the coll and the long trudge was over. We turned westwards to climb the ridge to the summit of the Strahlhorn (4,190mts). It can’t be often that a ridge has so many crevasses crossing it. We got to the top by 10.30 and were rewarded with fantastic views from the top, from the Monta Rossa massif to the Materhorn & then all the way to Mont Blanc.
Above: The ridge that leads to the Strahlhorn Summit
We returned the same way, picking our way through dodgy crevasses and finally getting to the hut at 3.00.
After being out for 11 hours and with a poor weather forecast for the next few days we were reluctant to do another 4,000 metre peak the next day. We were too late to get the last lift down so had to spend a second night in the Britannia hut.
After a leisurely breakfast we left the hut in sleet at 7.45. Traversing round to get the lift down to Saas Fee.
Back to the apartment for food and showers.
The weather was still unsettled, so we took the bus & lift up to Morenia. From here we traversed around to pick up the start of the via ferrata, arriving at the top of the Mittaghorn at 12.30 we then walked down to the Plattjen lift & down to Saas Fee. Walking through the village we saw the kids toboggan run, and as we had a “guest card” this gave us a free ride, say no more. We then walked down the Kappelweg (passing a short sport crag) to our apartment.
Today we tackled the other side of the valley. We took the Hohaas lift up to the Hohaas hut (3,200mts), leaving gear there, we then descended down to pick up the Jagihorn via ferrata. This proved to be a lot more adventurous than the previous day. 5 of us crossing a single cable strand across a chasm & then scrambling up a net. The rest of the party skirting around to reunite at the top. The walk down to the Kreuzboden was hard going on the knees. We then took the cable car back up to the Hohaas hut where we spent the night.
Leaving at 5.45 we had to descend and traverse before we started the climb up a snow slope. This lead on to a broad broken ridge. The route was free of snow all the way to the top, which was unusual, & it also made it harder as there were some ice patches on the way. At the top of the Lagginghorn (4,010mts) by 9.30. On the descent the rocks were no longer ice bound & they bounced down, trying to overtake us.
Back at the hut in time for lunch & then back to the apartment.
Back up to Saas Fee, most of us taking the Hannig lift, which took us part of the way. We then had a long walk and scramble (with cables) up to the Mischabel hut (3,329mts). As it was the weekend the hut was full, and we were in the winter quarters, and it felt like winter as there was no heating there.
Leaving at 5.30 the next morning, we climbed higher up the ridge above the hut before cutting across the Hohbalm glacier to pick up a narrow snow ridge which led up to the Nadelhorn (4,327mts) We had to wait a good half hour to actually get on to top as it was so busy. On the top at 9.30 for our second breakfast. Return the same way, arriving at the hut at 2.00 and at the apartment at 5.00.
Above: Traversing the Hohbalm Glacier
Taking the bus down to Saas Almagel, we had a pleasant walk up to the Almageller hut (2,894mts), there for a late lunch.
Leaving at 5.30 we arrived after a good scramble at the top of the Weissmies(4,027mts) at 9.30. Fantastic views again, with Switzerland being clear but Italy carpeted in cloud. Today was to be a traverse, one of only 2 on the tour. The descent down the north side was spectacular scenery with the path winding its way through seracs. We arrived at the Hohass hut at miday for lunch.
Lift down to Saas Grund and back the apartment.
The forecast of showers and low cloud proved to be accurate. 6 brave souls walked past the Mattmark reservoir and up to the Monte Moro Pass (2,868mts). This is one of the passes linking Switzerland with Italy, not by road or rail but by foot or in the old days by mule. At the top of the pass is a golden statute of the Madonna, just beyond is an Italian refuge, which seemed incapable of offering any sustenance.
2 of us were not so adventurous as we walked up to Saas Fee for a game of crazy golf, followed by a visit to the excellent town museum.
Catching the 6.30 bus from Saas Grund we managed to get on the first lift at 7.15 to the MittelAllain, leaving a whole load of disappointed skiers behind, as the higher ski lifts were closed due to bad weather.
We followed the trench that we had taken on our first day on the mountains towards the Allainhorn.
Turning off before it started to steepen we headed to the coll at Feejoch. Here we met a guided party, where one of the clients was obviously desperate for a pee, as she did not mind who saw her bum.
We let them lead the way over the Feechopf (3,888mts), which is a hump made up of loose rocks covered in a sprinkling of new snow. Descending on the other side of the hump we could see the guided party heading for the nose which lead to the Alphubel(4,206mts). This was an icy steep slope. The intention had been to take this route, but the combination of the high wind and the slope itself deterred us. Over to our right a path lead around to the front of the mountain, we took that.
This started off OK but as we got higher the crevasses became more frequent and bigger, at that point the path that we were on faded away. We carried on heading upwards, backtracking a lot to find a way through the crevasses, eventually topping out at 12.15. We only knew it was the top because we could not go any higher, not that we could see anything, and there is no cairn or marker on top.
The guided party had arrived on top just before us. After a break for lunch, we followed the guided party down. It was good to see that they took a descent line similar to our ascent, and that the guide was not afraid to take risky jumps over the crevasses.
We were fortunate that we followed the guide all the way to the Langflue hut, as for us to walk there would have taken a good deal of navigation. Arriving there at 2.30 for a hot drink and then the lift down to Saas Fee.
A rest day, which involved more crazy golf & preparing to face the prospect of returning home...
Bus & train to Geneva followed by an evening flight to Liverpool.
Saas Grund is an excellent location, with easy access, reliable ski lifts, wardened huts, and excellent scenery.
An excellent holiday overall, with most of us getting to the top of six 4,000 metre peaks, plus two via ferrata routes.