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~ Saturday 17th August 2013

 Back in the Oberland again this week, my fourth visit of the summer. Again, we made the scenic approach up the Aletsch glacier, this time dry glacier all the way to the hut with a fair bit of zig-zagging around huge open holes. Quite a contrast to the earlier trip. Walking up the Aletsch is a great way to approach the Oberland but it's a long way. You're walking "upstream", and when you're halfway there it's easy to start thinking the glacier may be flowing downhill faster than the official 180m per year

Still, we made it. On Tuesday we set off into a dark and depressing rainy morning, the only people in the hut who took early breakfast. The darkest hour is just before the dawn...but then the sun came out and it all seemed like fun! Great conditions saw rapid progress up the Grunegghorn and fine panorama of a deserted Oberland. From the summit a quick downclimb leads to a col and the fine summit ridge of the Gross Grunhorn - great climbing and spectacular positions. 

 Great climbing on the Grunhorn summit ridge

Descending to the col before traversing the Grunegghorn

Wednesday morning saw some company at early breakfast. Soon however we were alone battling through the lower icefall to reach the aptly named Ewigschneefeld. (translate as "eternal" or "never-ending" snowfield depending on mood) We met another team turning back from the Fieschersettel ascent - not a promising sign - but pushed on up steep snow and found a good alternative exit up rocks on the right. Some enjoyable climbing on solid red rock, and we were on the Gross Fiescherhorn summit! The descent to the Finsteraarhorn hut is fast and direct but needs some careful crevasse avoidance lower down - all quite exciting ground!

 We came through there! Reaching the upper Fiescherfirn


Grunhorn and Fiescherhorns at dawns

Dawn over the Grunhorns and Fiescherhorns

Day 4 and the team was sadly down to 2, number 3s' knees having succumbed to Oberlanditis. Perfect conditions, fast progress, stunning views and a spectacular finale up the Finsteraarhorn summit ridge - a great day.

Superb positions on the summit ridge

View to Lauteraar and the Grimsel pass

Descending, with the swiss 4000s on the horizon

All that remained was the long walk home - a scenic trip back over the Grunhornlucke to Konkordia and down the Aletsch glacier (this time with the flow)

As well as being the longest alpine glacier, the Aletsch is home to the last population of the very rare Alpine Mole, and they've been active in the recent warm weather.