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Old 05.12.2010, 12:37
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Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

Hi there,

(this topic could be more relevant for the summer. However..)
Can anyone provide me some info what shall i do if i intend to climb such peaks as Jungfrau, Matterhorn or Finsteraarhorn?
I am young, in excellent physical condtition, trained. However no real alpine/ climbing experience. What would be the first step??
Thanks
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Old 05.12.2010, 13:03
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

Go on a training course with the SAC to get expert advice, learn more about the dangers and difficulties, get some practice and, if you are lucky, get to know a guide who will offer to take you up the Matterhorn one wonderful morning early in the year before the hut opens and the run starts! Have photos to prove it (it wasn't me who went up!!)
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Old 05.12.2010, 13:05
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

Are you a rock climber? I come from a family of climbers, though I am not one myself. Mountaineering and rock climbing are very different sports. To start out, I'd recommend doing a lot of training. Next summer, my husband wants to do the Tour du Mont Blanc. It entails 11 days of trekking from hut to hut and 8,000 meters of elevation gain (11,000 if you do the more challenging route). From Base Camp to the summit of Everest is 4,000 meters. Maybe you'd like to go along with him?

Then you'll need to do some actual mountaineering with others. Maybe google for beginning mountaineering groups in Switzerland/France? I read the book The Eiger Obsession and elite mountaineers/alpinists seem to do much of their training in France.

Even when you're ready, you will need to hire a guide. For example, for the Matterhorn, click here. As you can see, it states that you must be an experienced mountaineer even to go with a guide!!

Be sure to register with Rega for alpine rescue and also be sure that you have the supplementary insurance on your health insurance. You can get coverage for emergency transport. Have fun, stay safe!!
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Old 05.12.2010, 14:38
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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Go on a training course with the SAC to get expert advice, learn more about the dangers and difficulties, get some practice ...
I am a hiker, not a mountaineer, but from my experience the club route is by far the best way to get started in most outdoor activities. The SAC-CAS web site is only available in German and French, here are links to the courses section in both languages: Anmeldungen -- SAC Ausbildungsprogramme and Inscriptions -- Programmes des formations du CAS.

Last edited by RetiredInNH; 05.12.2010 at 15:13.
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Old 05.12.2010, 15:17
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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Even when you're ready, you will need to hire a guide. For example, for the Matterhorn, click here. As you can see, it states that you must be an experienced mountaineer even to go with a guide!!
Not taking an issue with you, but the website says Matterhorn is "extremely difficult" which is plain wrong. It also says "it is extremely dangerous". That is true: although it is technically not difficult, the normal route is still very dangerous because of loose rock and lots of people climbing/traffic jams; each year about 2 dozen climbers die there.

OP: If you want to become a mountaineer follow the leads by LB and RNH. Learn by going with guides or competent climbers. It is a slow process though.

If you just want to tick a mountain off your list, at your level of fitness (I am making a wild guess because you have stated nothing about your fitness in objective measures), go to Alpin centre Zermatt; if you are fit, and have little real experience in the Alps, they would still take you and get you back safely (mostly). Note their website also says "The Matterhorn is one of the most difficult classic climbs in the Alps." That is marketing blurb. On balance they have good reputation.
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Old 05.12.2010, 15:38
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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Not taking an issue with you, but the website says Matterhorn is "extremely difficult" which is plain wrong. It also says "it is extremely dangerous". That is true: although it is technically not difficult, the normal route is still very dangerous because of loose rock and lots of people climbing/traffic jams; each year about 2 dozen climbers die there.
Matterhorn problems are made worse, as Niranjan says, by the sheer number of people there, especially those without a guide and without enough experience. There is too much 'prestige' in having done the Matterhorn I suppose. The other problem is that it is just as hard coming down as it is going up - the climber is far more tired and the concentration tends to slip - and, with it, the climber. A video link to show you a little of what it looks like from a climbers point of view. Sorry, the commentary is in German.

There are other mountains easier to start off with. Have fun.
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Old 05.12.2010, 16:07
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

fitness is a good start, but that alone is clearly not sufficient, in particular if you want to climb the mountains mentioned. I really recommend you either find a very experienced person to guide you up there or you book a mountain guide (in particular for Matterhorn not a bad idea). Another option as mentioned by others is the swiss alpine club. They typically have mountain trips every weekend, which enable you to train and possibly they even have an organised tour onto one of the mountains mentioned
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Old 12.01.2011, 22:08
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

Jungfrau and Mönch could be easier on ski-touring season (April-May) when there is more snow on the route and glacier. For both of those take a train to Jungfraujoch, hike to Mönch hut and sleep there a few nights. It is good place also to chat with other mountaineers. Book in advance.

Both Mönch and Jungfrau can be climbed with just crampons and ice-axe without any belays. Just watch your steps. For Mönch you don't even have worry about the crevasses.

Breithorn could be also a good starting point in Zermatt.

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Can anyone provide me some info what shall i do if i intend to climb such peaks as Jungfrau, Matterhorn or Finsteraarhorn?
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Old 12.01.2011, 22:35
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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Breithorn could be also a good starting point in Zermatt.
This is a thread I started on the subject. It is still on my 'to do' list.

http://www.englishforum.ch/sports-fi...ain-climb.html
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Old 12.01.2011, 22:38
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

Being fit is a good start but nothing can replace experience. All of the recommendations above are very good.

Joining the SAC is definetly a good idea. Finding someone with experience in winter mountaineering and getting comfortable using crampons and an ice-axe aswell as finding out how your body handles the altitude is also something to keep high on your list. Good physical condition really says nothing how about how your body will react to the altitude.

You can read trip reports from people who have climbed these mountains on:

www.summitpost.org & www.hikr.org
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Old 12.01.2011, 23:09
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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Not taking an issue with you, but the website says Matterhorn is "extremely difficult" which is plain wrong.
What the website says is very true. Telling someone otherwise, especially to a person who have no experience is dangerous. It is a technical climb, not a hike on snowy slopes with crampons. It is dangerous because there are few natural belay points on the route, and in many places along the way a simple slip can result in a fall that is fatal. There is no easy route up Matterhorn.

Being on a short rope with a guide is no guarantee of protection, as rope is mostly not fixed to anything guide can be dragged along. For this reason any proper guide will bring you back after few hundred meters from hornli hut if he feels like you should not be there.

Better start with Breithorn with a guide or experienced colleagues and go on from there. Even Jungfrau is a lot more effort and will need experience.

Starting with clubs is slow for a reason, no ones wants to rope together with a complete novice on a difficult route.
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Old 13.01.2011, 18:44
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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What the website says is very true. Telling someone otherwise, especially to a person who have no experience is dangerous. It is a technical climb, not a hike on snowy slopes with crampons. It is dangerous because there are few natural belay points on the route, and in many places along the way a simple slip can result in a fall that is fatal. There is no easy route up Matterhorn.

Being on a short rope with a guide is no guarantee of protection, as rope is mostly not fixed to anything guide can be dragged along. For this reason any proper guide will bring you back after few hundred meters from hornli hut if he feels like you should not be there.

Better start with Breithorn with a guide or experienced colleagues and go on from there. Even Jungfrau is a lot more effort and will need experience.

Starting with clubs is slow for a reason, no ones wants to rope together with a complete novice on a difficult route.
The OP said he wants "Real challenge peaks". I think most mountaineers will not consider Matterhorn normal route to be a "real challenge" in 2010; Simon Anthamatten climbed it solo wearing climbing shoes 1.5 hrs up and 1 hour down. Of course it is subjective, one man's expedition could be another man's evening stroll, so in serious matters such as mountaineering, people use words carefully.

The website says Matterhon is "extremely difficult". Fair enough, if you are in the business of mountain guiding and need to please your clients. However in mountaineering, the grades are as follows:

  • F: facile (easy). Straightforward, possibly a glacial approach, snow and ice will often be at an easy angle.
  • PD: peu difficile (not very difficult). Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.
  • AD: assez difficile (fairly difficult). Fairly hard, snow and ice at an angle of 45-65 degrees, rock climbing up to UIAA grade III, but not sustained, belayed climbing in addition to a large amount of exposed but easier terrain. Significant objective hazard.
  • D: difficile (difficult). Hard, more serious with rock climbing at IV and V, snow and ice slopes at 50-70 degrees. Routes may be long and sustained or harder but shorter. Serious objective hazards.
  • TD: très difficile (very difficult). Very hard, routes at this grades are serious undertakings with high level of objective danger. Sustained snow and ice at an angle of 65-80 degrees, rock climbing at grade V and VI with possible aid, very long sections of hard climbing.
  • ED1/2/3/4: extrêmement difficile (extremely difficult). Extremely hard, exceptional objective danger, vertical ice slopes and rock climbing up to VI to VIII, with possible aid pitches.
  • ABO: Abominablement difficile (abominable) Extremely difficult as well as being dangerous - self explanatory.
Copy pasted from here

To give examples, Eiger North face is TD+ or ED. Matterhorn normal route is AD-; to call it "extremely difficult" is exaggeration. If you habitually exaggerate, grades become meaningless and come to be disregarded, leading to safety issues overall.


I completely agree Matterhorn is a dangerous mountain, that is what I and LB and others are saying with facts and figures, so you are just reiterating my position.

A common complaint I hear is "Telling someone otherwise, especially to a person who have no experience is dangerous." With due respect, it is not like someone will go stay overnight in Hornli hut and get up in the morning and start climbing; of course as you approach it it's seriousness will be plainly obvious to anyone. I don't think someone can just climb it because he read it is easy on internet

For the record I am just above complete beginner, so take my words with a pinch of salt.

Last edited by Niranjan; 13.01.2011 at 19:06.
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Old 13.01.2011, 19:03
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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Being on a short rope with a guide is no guarantee of protection, as rope is mostly not fixed to anything guide can be dragged along. For this reason any proper guide will bring you back after few hundred meters from hornli hut if he feels like you should not be there.
Couldn't agree more on that In fact, nothing is guaranteed when in the mountains, not even fixed ropes, that is why mountaineering is considered a serious adventure sport.

However, "any proper guide" will be able to evaluate your overall fitness before starting the climb. Many, if not most, guide-client teams that turn back, turn back at the Solvay hut. It is rare for a guided party to turn back after just a few hundred metres from Hornli hut and that would show the guide in poor light (at least in my opinion).
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Old 13.01.2011, 19:29
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

Maybe off topic, but food for thought:

Real challenge is Oh so very subjective and personal, and varying depending on a host of situational factors, as my own experience illustrates, I wrote it the day before: 14 years back, as a climbing virgin I had free-soloed a long route in the night. Last week when I repeated it, but this time in broad daylight and had all requisite climbing equipment and climbing partners, and the route is now a bolted 9-pitch long sport route, it still felt as challenging as 14 years ago.
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Old 13.01.2011, 19:46
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

My wife is a climber and one of the first things she related to me about climbing in Suisse is to be mindful of their ratings on trails etc...Expect many easy to moderate routes to be more of the difficult variety by US standards
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Old 13.01.2011, 22:56
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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For the record I am just above complete beginner, so take my words with a pinch of salt.
I am going to say it bluntly, only fools go to Matterhorn thinking it is a simple climb and then find it out the hard way, often taking down their colleagues or guides with them.

Mountain climbing is not done by books and classification grades. If you would have actually been up the Matterhorn or something similar you should have understood that. After the very easy hikes, grades and classifications are meaningless.
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Old 13.01.2011, 23:03
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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. There is too much 'prestige' in having done the Matterhorn I suppose.

There are other mountains easier to start off with. Have fun.
Couldn't agree more. There are some very challenging "smaller" climbs to be done which will give just as much pleasure as the biggies.

Have you tried doing Klettersteigs? I know it's not the same as climbing but on some of the harder grades you certainly need technique and brass b***s to get up there AND at the top you are still rewarded with stunning views.

I climb a lot, starting the ice climbing very soon and I can honestly say I really really have enjoyed doing some of the Klettersteigs.

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Old 13.01.2011, 23:26
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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I am going to say it bluntly, only fools go to Matterhorn thinking it is a simple climb and then find it out the hard way, often taking down their colleagues or guides with them.

Mountain climbing is not done by books and classification grades. If you would have actually been up the Matterhorn or something similar you should have understood that. After the very easy hikes, grades and classifications are meaningless.
Whether you put it bluntly or sharply, I agree with what you say above 100% I am beginning to wonder if you are really reading and understanding my previous posts before you attempt to refute me

As I said before, mountains such Breitrhon normal route are simple or "fascile"; Eiger N face and the like are "extremely difficult". Matterhorn lies somewhere in between; it is moderately difficult. It is said that four guides can take even a cow up to the summit; while I can't vouch for its veracity, what I know for sure is a man with only one leg climbing to the top; pre-teens and 60+ age groups routinely climbing it, so I wouldn't call it a real challenge for a person as described by the OP. That is has extremely high objective risk and fatalities doesn't mean it is also technically extremely difficult; they are two distinct concepts.

And yes, neither mountain climbing nor horse-riding or flying an airplane is done solely by books, however it helps to think with some clarity and educate oneself of what literature already exists on the subject.

I look forward to your next refutation now
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Old 15.01.2011, 01:23
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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I wouldn't call it a real challenge for a person as described by the OP.
Enjoy the books and climbing from couch or things like breithorn (not much different from couch climbing)! This makes sure you don't hurt yourself but don't pretend and advice people on things you are clueless about.

Go ahead and try and the Matterhorn climb and then post.
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Old 15.01.2011, 10:26
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Re: Climbing "real"challenge Swiss peaks..

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OP: If you want to become a mountaineer follow the leads by LB and RNH. Learn by going with guides or competent climbers. It is a slow process though.

If you just want to tick a mountain off your list, at your level of fitness (I am making a wild guess because you have stated nothing about your fitness in objective measures), go to Alpin centre Zermatt; if you are fit, and have little real experience in the Alps, they would still take you and get you back safely (mostly).
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don't pretend and advice people on things you are clueless about.
I don't think I advised anything; I only pointed out two options, which were given to me, and I had to choose from, last year around this time when I was in the OP's position. I preferred the first option: to build a solid base through Alpine hiking and rock-climbing, with the idea that if I am still fascinated by a more dangerous sport like mountaineering, I might put the skills to use, else rest on the fact that it is the journey that matters, not the destination.

"Clueless" is a rather strong word; I do often climb with expert mountaineers, such as those who have done Eiger N Face, things that are not in my wishlist but we talk about it and form my opinions. I did admit I am an advanced beginner, right? So what exactly am I pretending?

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Enjoy the books and climbing from couch or things like breithorn (not much different from couch climbing)!
Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. Briethorn is not couch climbing. Reading many reports and getting information from diverse sources is very useful if you want a balanced view. I for one don't believe in pissing on the electric fence to test if it conducts.

I have to agree with Hordur who is highly experienced in this matter, and worked as a mountain rescuer too.

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You can read trip reports from people who have climbed these mountains on:

www.summitpost.org & www.hikr.org
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Go ahead and try and the Matterhorn climb and then post.
Since when did climbing a particular mountain become essential to have a meaningful internet discussion? In any case, English forum is just a starting point; the OP should soon go to more specialist sites like hikr and SP.

Secondly I consider Matterhorn to be objectively too risky (for my taste, that is); last year I managed climbing up to PD; this year if my interest lasts, I plan to go for Dent Blanche which is maybe a touch harder but much safer. So, no, I don't intend to climb the Matterhorn. But I intend to continue to air my views about it
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