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Old 08.08.2008, 23:59
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Breithorn or other Mountain climb

I would value your advice and tips on a trip that I am considering. At some stage in the not too distant future I plan to climb to the top of the Breithorn from Klein Matterhorn. The thought of actually climbing to the top of a major mountain in the Alps appeals to me, but rock climbing doesn't. Not being in the first flush of youth (Over 50) and of average fitness, this could be quite a challenge, particularly due to the altitude.

For those of you that don't know the area, the Klein Matterhorn cable car ascends to 3,883 metres, the highest sightseeing point in Europe accessible by cable car.

The Breithorn is described as the easiest four-thousand-metre peak in the Zermatt area. The term climb is not exactly accurate. It is basically a steep walk up ice and snow to 4164 metres.

http://www.alpincenter-zermatt.ch/en...breithorn/chf/

The site outlines suggestions for a guided excursion. Have any of you undertaken this, or similar climbs? Any other suggestions for similar trips? What sort of preparation would you consider beneficial? Am I mad?!

All constructive comments welcomed. (And other comments expected)
Thanks

Rod
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Old 09.08.2008, 13:21
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Hi Rod,

I've been up that Klein Matterhorn lift, and the air starts to get thinner up there. More effort for every movement you make. Plus if you are going up ice and snow (even with a relatively mild slope), it's a very good - and safe - idea to have crampons on your boots, and that takes some getting used to. I do hope you aren't considering doing this on your own; accidents can happen awfully quickly out there, and the mountains aren't your friends -- so please be prudent and don't become one of those horrific news reports about another mountaineering accident!

Since you don't say how much mountaineering experience you have - but even if you do - I'd suggest either a guide, a guided tour (have you ever checked out per pedes in Zürich? They do tours of all kinds, from day trips to hut-to-hut to glacier crossing to mountaineering. I've been on some of their trips and their leaders are superb), or at least doing a mountaineering course (teaching you how to use ice axes and ropes, etc.). Don't know what's available around Zermatt, but there is a good mountaineering school I know of in Meiringen.

I thought of doing something similar for my 50th (climbing the Wetterhorn), and looked into some of the above; be prepared to pay handsomely for getting up to one of those peaks... And I do have a suggestion: check out what the SAC (Swiss Alpine Club) has available by way of tours, instruction, etc. I've often stayed in their huts, and those are usually the jumping off point for climbing the nearby peaks; I once did a tour with a friend where we went up both the Wildhorn and the Wildstrubel (Berner Oberland), and those were eminently doable without a lot of equipment.

Keep me posted!

John
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Old 09.08.2008, 14:09
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Suggest you start here. The mountains can be very dangerous and even on the ‘easy’ climbs you can quickly get into trouble so do get the advice of the guides and follow all their safety instructions. Every year they have to risk their own lives trying to save people who think they can do it without professional help.
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Old 09.08.2008, 15:40
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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Plus if you are going up ice and snow (even with a relatively mild slope), it's a very good - and safe - idea to have crampons on your boots, and that takes some getting used to. I do hope you aren't considering doing this on your own

Since you don't say how much mountaineering experience you have - but even if you do - I'd suggest either a guide, a guided tour
I don't have any mountaineering experience, and have not used crampons before. My walking experience at altitude and in the mountains has been limited to relatively short walks across the glaciers from Klein Matterhorn, Jungfruajoch and Les Diablerets. The climb to the Breithorn is around 1.5 miles and arond 30% slope. I have done a few longer hill walks in the area around Z'mutt and Rothorn. To date, nothing on the scale that I am planning. I certainly won't be going it alone. Even though there are often many people walking to the summit, (See pic below) I certainly won't be risking a lone venture.

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Suggest you start here
I had already looked at the Zermatt Alpine Centre website. They have the only organised trip that I have seen so far. It seems as if this would be my best bet. I have also looked at the Swiss Alpine Club site but unfortunately this is not in English. My French is not up to the technicalities of the site.

As I recall, the main equipment that I will need (climbing harness and crampons) can be hired in Zermatt. I have the general bits and pieces, suitable clothing, boots and hiking poles etc.

Obviously, the more that I improve my fitness the better, but would you suggest any other preparation in advance?

Thanks for the advice

Rod

Last edited by Deep Purple; 09.08.2009 at 14:45.
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Old 09.08.2008, 19:09
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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I had already looked at the Zermatt Alpine Centre website. They have the only organised trip that I have seen so far. It seems as if this would be my best bet. I have also looked at the Swiss Alpine Club site but unfortunately this is not in English. My French is not up to the technicalities of the site.

As I recall, the main equipment that I will need (climbing harness and crampons) can be hired in Zermatt. I have the general bits and pieces, suitable clothing, boots and hiking poles etc.

Obviously, the more that I improve my fitness the better, but would you suggest any other preparation in advance?

Thanks for the advice

Rod
I have no experience of this type of hiking but my (Swiss) wife does. Her advice is very straight forward but so often overlooked.

Never underestimate just how dangerous the mountains can be and how quickly conditions can change. My wife, and her companions, all had training. Until you have gained some experience and training, employ a guide.

The Zermatt Alpine Centre does offer a group tour (3-6 persons) for CHF 165.- or a private guide for CHF 480-.
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Old 10.08.2008, 00:39
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Check out the following link:

http://www.summitpost.org/mountain/r...breithorn.html

I haven't been up the Breithorn but I have done a bit of climbing up other peaks of higher altitude. Depending on the route that you are taking, it looks like it should be a pretty basic climb. Of course, you need to take all of the precautions as have been mentioned in other posts. It sounds like you will be going with either a guide or someone that has a bit of experience. They will be able to teach you the basic crampon, harness and rope skills that this climb would require in 15-30 minutes. I think your biggest concern for this climb will be the weather. If the weather forecast is good, I would say just go for it. Be prepared to turn around if you feel uncomfortable.

As far as training, if you are in decent shape, this shouldn't be too strenuous. Do some basic training and climb lots of stairs to make things easier for you. For the altitude, the only thing you can do is to spend some time at altitude. If you can, spend a few nights in a mountain hut or hotel immediately prior to your summit attempt. Altitude affects everybody differently so there's no saying how you will react until you try it. But honestly, if it's only 1.5 miles to the summit and less than 300 meters of gain, you should be fine.

If you are thinking that you may want to do some more of this in the future, sign up for a mountaineering course with these guys in Chamonix:

http://www.chamonix-guides.com/pages...en/ete_en.html

I skied the Haute Route (Chamonix to Zermatt) with them a few years ago and highly recommend them.

Have a good trip and be sure to post a trip report when you get back.
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Old 10.08.2008, 22:32
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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Thanks for the links. This one has confirmed to me that it is within my capabilities, but certainly not a Sunday afternoon stroll. At least the Breithorn is shown as the easiest category of climb.

I will probably be looking at doing the trip next July/August time.

Rod
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Old 11.08.2008, 11:09
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

I havent done it, and have very limited mountain climbing experience, but this seems like an easy climb as long as you go with a guide. Since you ascend with a cable car to 3800m+, then it is only a matter of 300m to the summit. Thats not far at all, and a guide should keep you safe enough.

Of course, there is always a chance that you get altitude sickness. I was at 5400m in Ecuador and I can tell you that altitude sickness isnt very pleasant.


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Old 11.08.2008, 14:08
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Hi Deep Purple,I climbed the Breithorn two weeks ago-with a guide. For my first 4000metre peak and first time in crampons I thought it was probably safer.Actually it was great.I was however already quite acclimatised-having spent two weeks hiking up various routes in the area to around 3200 metres.The route is a well trodden one and can be very busy in August /late July so try early Sept or Early July if possible.We were lucky in that our guide -a young guy of about 24/5yrs -Johannes decided we could cope with the route variation which goes up the ridge and is more interesting-steep drops either side however so not good if you get vertigo.You are roped for the glacier traverse and need to use crampons for the actual climb which is up a snow slope-about 35degrees. On the day we went the weather was fantastic-bright and clear with snow in good-ie frozen -condition-and we did the route there and back in under three hours.I would recommend doing some hill climbing at altitude first though -some other parties seemed to be making heavy weather of the trip.
The views from the top of the rest of the range-Castor Polux etc etc were sensational and we could clearly see Mt Blanc.
My advice is go for it .The Zermatt Guides do it daily -weather permitting-and charge CF 165-so unless you have an Alpinist mate who is happy to rope you up I'd go with them for your first peak .Don't worry about age -I'm late 50ties myself .-No rock climbing is involved and provided youre reasonably fit you should enjoy it. By the way if you don't have the gear crampons,alpine boots etc can all be hired in Zermatt from sports shops if you can't borrow them.
Good luck .Hopeful Hiker
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Old 11.08.2008, 20:47
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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Of course, there is always a chance that you get altitude sickness. I was at 5400m in Ecuador and I can tell you that altitude sickness isnt very pleasant
I have done walks around 2-3000 metres and a short walk from Klein Matterhorn around 3800 metres. I didn't suffer any particular problems so hopefully I will be OK.

I will certainly do a few acclimatisation walks in the area beforehand. I have even considered walking up from Schwarzsee to the Berghaus Matterhorn and stopping over for a night.

http://www.matterhorn-group.ch/en/ma...haus/index.php

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I climbed the Breithorn two weeks ago-with a guide. For my first 4000metre peak and first time in crampons I thought it was probably safer.
Good to hear from someone who has already done this climb. I have been in touch with the Alpin Centre in Zermatt and they replied today. Your details basically confirm their comments.

It will probably have to be between early July and early September to fit other commitments. There is quite a queue in the picture in my earlier thread. When I was at Klien Matterhorn last September it was a bit quieter.

Rod
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Old 13.01.2009, 00:42
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Having done a few walks over Christmas and New Year in the Alps, I have come to the conclusion that I am no where near as fit as I need to be for this. It was not just the Christmas excess.

It is clearly something that cannot be treated casually, even for a comparatively simple trek such as this.
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Old 13.01.2009, 17:20
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Och - don't give up hope just yet! Where did you go that left you in this state? It may have been a trek more exhausting than you would actually do on your (planned) climb. Plus the weather conditions can take it out of you: even at altitudes below 3000, if you're facing a hard, cold wind, it can just drain all your energy trying to fight it. But be of good cheer and try again!

J.
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Old 31.01.2010, 23:01
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Hi folks,
How did this go, did the OP finally do it, or is something planned for this year? Actually I am in the same boat as the OP, found this thread extremely useful, so thanks all posters .

I have tentative plans to undergo some intro courses this summer. I was researching my options, and the week-long Alpine Intro courses offered by the English speaking mountain guide companies in Chamonix seemed the best option.

The thing is, I have problems of cold hands in sub-zero temps, and my main worry is what if I end up having to drop-out of the course, or suffer through it, after investing a week and serious money into it.

As I solution, I have been looking at short, preferably weekend outings that will serve as a taster, give me a feel of the crampons, and hopefully I don't have to wait until Summer to know how I will cope with this. Then I will be better informed to choose my next steps for the summer.

Breithorn, done through Zermatt Alpin center recommended by you guys suits my requirement perfectly, and if all goes well, I intend to do it in the next weekend or asap.

Any other advice is most welcome, but right now, two specific queries I have on this climb:

  1. The title of the tour linked above is Breithorn, Walking down like in the summer. I presume it means the normal walk-scramble type of ascent and not ski-touring. The reason I ask is the pics show ski-touring Or are they just some random pics
  2. Will these guys speak English (I guess they would. Otherwise I don't think 4000m high is a nice place to communicate by sign-language)
  3. The course price is listed as "185 CHF per person when in a group of 3-6 persons". Does this mean I have to form a group and then approach them, or is it normal that I ask them to fill me in as and when a tentative group is forming?

I have experience of some basic rock-climbing; scrambling/running in Alpine races upto 3000m height, I haven't felt the altitude thing so far, even when I experimented by exerting at the Klein Matterhorn tourist place, so fitness is unlikely to be an issue, but I still have a lot of trepidations when I mentally go over this new sport, and especially dread the cold If there is anyone seeking company/empathy PM me

Thanks in advance!
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Old 31.01.2010, 23:58
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Sadly, this is still on my 'to do' list. Maybe one day.
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Old 01.02.2010, 16:07
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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Sadly, this is still on my 'to do' list. Maybe one day.
well the Breithorn ain't going anywhere soon
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Old 01.02.2010, 18:27
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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I have experience of some basic rock-climbing; scrambling/running in Alpine races upto 3000m height, I haven't felt the altitude thing so far, even when I experimented by exerting at the Klein Matterhorn tourist place, so fitness is unlikely to be an issue, but I still have a lot of trepidations when I mentally go over this new sport, and especially dread the cold If there is anyone seeking company/empathy PM me

Thanks in advance!
Altitude sickness has nothing to do with exertion or physical fitness - it normally comes on after some time spend at altitude.
i.e. Arriving at a high hut and spending the night, or part of the night at that altitude can bring it on.
Fine - if it's morning but a pain if it gets serious in the middle of the night.

The only way to relieve the symptoms is to go down (and don't wait).

Taking exercise at altitude is normally more difficult due to the rarified reduced-oxygen air (but I'm sure you know that!).
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Old 01.02.2010, 19:54
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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Hi folks,

The thing is, I have problems of cold hands in sub-zero temps, and my main worry is what if I end up having to drop-out of the course, or suffer through it, after investing a week and serious money into it.

Will these guys speak English (I guess they would. Otherwise I don't think 4000m high is a nice place to communicate by sign-language)

The course price is listed as "185 CHF per person when in a group of 3-6 persons". Does this mean I have to form a group and then approach them, or is it normal that I ask them to fill me in as and when a tentative group is forming?

Thanks in advance!
Even in mid-summer temperatures are well below zero. I experienced -10C (-30C with windchill) in September at Klein Matterhorn

As I understand, there are usually English speaking guides available. They are not likely to accept you on a trip if they cannot communicate.

You are not required to make up the group. It is just that they need that number to make it viable.
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Old 07.09.2010, 16:26
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

We were planning a more serious tour but ended up doing Breithorn due to somebody not turning up, somebody not feeling too well etc.

Accommodation:
We spent the night before at Klein Matterhorn Lodge Matterhorn Glacier Palace (highly recommended; 65 CHF inclusive of breakfast, and although a sleepless night is almost guaranteed @3900m, it is opulent by mountain hut standards).

The hike:

The Breithorn normal route is known as the easiest 4000-er, and for good reason. Whereas I agree with everything posted previously about the serious nature of high mountains, in pure fitness and skill demands I would rate this tour below the EF snowshoe hikes and winter Rigi's with Assassin.

We started predawn, ascent took us about 1.5 hours to the main summit, then I went up to the middle summit alone (there are a few crevasses, but early in the day things are mostly hard and safe, or so I was told). Descent was much faster at 30 mins or so (but I cheated: removed the crampons and jogged down ). By around 9 am I was back sipping coffee, feel fresh as a lily and ready to take on the rest of the day's hikes.

To go with a guide? Well, if you don’t have any prior training and can’t manage an experienced partner, probably this is the only option. Or else, when you stay on K Matterhorn, you can make friends and go on someone’s rope.

If you are not 100% sure of fitness, go with a guide. Most guided parties start pretty late (around 10 am) when the sun is strong, the views are not really very distinctive from what you see from cable car; the ground will have lost its crunchy crispy hardness, and lastly I would feel like a reined-in horse if I am roped up with 6 people in close proximity, but these are trade-offs you must accept.


It is a rather safe area, with 200-300 people walking up daily, there are permanent tracks. And with even 100+ kilo folks walking on it, you can say they render the path pretty safe from crevasses.

Age: Fifty-plus is nothing, from my reading of their trip reports, I think the 70+ aged forum members can do it competently, slowly and securely. However the degrees of safety falls, and no mountain trip is 100% safe, you can die in cable-car accidents too. Fitness, and more importantly, acclimatization are crucial than age.

Caveat: This is internet. Read with an open mind and common sense. What I have written is true to the best of my knowledge (admittedly limited, as I am an advanced beginner at this sport), and I have tried not to overstate or understate the risks/pleasure. Glaciers/route conditions change rather rapidly, and there is no substitute to consulting locals/guides before stepping out of the building.

Pictures:
There are many things I like about high mountain tours, but one immediately gratifying thing about it is the sheer beauty of it at the crack of dawn.
Full resolution pics here

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Old 07.09.2010, 16:39
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

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Altitude sickness has nothing to do with exertion or physical fitness - it normally comes on after some time spend at altitude.
i.e. Arriving at a high hut and spending the night, or part of the night at that altitude can bring it on.
Fine - if it's morning but a pain if it gets serious in the middle of the night.

The only way to relieve the symptoms is to go down (and don't wait).

Taking exercise at altitude is normally more difficult due to the rarified reduced-oxygen air (but I'm sure you know that!).
But I was not referring to altitude sickness, just "feeling the altitude" i.e. the bit about exercise becoming more difficult at elevation. Altitude sickness doesn't come in picture for people doing the Breithorn as a day trip i.e. coming up from Zermatt and going back home.

Even for altitude sickness, I am not sure fitness and sickness are unrelated. I would suspect some significant relation.

What normally happens in mountains is the fitter climbers tend to gain more altitude than their less fit counterparts, so end of the day both feel same incidence of altitude sickness, But suppose you rope them up so they do identical climbs, i would expect the fitter ones to be less prone to altitude sickness...just my thoughts, haven't seen a study proving this side or that.
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Old 07.09.2010, 18:14
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Re: Breithorn or other Mountain climb

Great job Niranjan. And nice pics!

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i would expect the fitter ones to be less prone to altitude sickness...just my thoughts, haven't seen a study proving this side or that.
I've always heard that altitude sickness is not correlated to physical fitness and is mostly determined by genetics alone. Here is one study that points in this direction: "We conclude that habitual physical activity performed at sea level does not play a role in the development of altitude illness at moderate altitude in a general tourist group."

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Altitude sickness doesn't come in picture for people doing the Breithorn as a day trip
I'd be surprised if this was entirely true. Any expert here?
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