The Dufourspitze (4634 m) is the highest mountain in Switzerland. The mountain is situated
in the Wallis region in the
south of the country. The summit is very close (a few hundred meters) from the Italian border.
is part of the large Monte Rosa massif and near a number of famous 4000m
peaks like the Matterhorn (4478 m), Lyskamm (4527 m), Dent Blanche (4356 m),
Zinalrothorn (4221 m), or the Weisshorn (4506 m).
Nadine, Wilfried and I had planned to climb Dufourspitze for a long time but we needed
several things at once: stabile weather, good acclimatization to the high altitude, and
reservations for the newly opened Monte Rosa hut (which are hard to come by in the high season). We also preferred a winter ascend with skies as this speeds up the descend considerably.
We left Zurich by train and in less than 3 hours we arrived in Zermatt. Thanks to the newly
opened Lötschberg Base Tunnel
this is actually faster than driving there by car. A short bus ride through the village and
a longer ride by gondola through the ski area brought us to the Klein Matterhorn. Here we
would spend the night at 3800 m to help us acclimatize. Now it seems like we cheated quite a lot
by taking a gondola to that altitude but the plan was to descend the next day to 2500 m
and ascend Dufourspitze from this more "honest" altitude.
The accomodation at the Klein
Matterhorn is very nice and modern. After dinner we took the flight of
stairs to the top of Klein Matterhorn and enjoyed the sun setting between Matterhorn and Dent D'Herens -- a
Onto the Breithorn and through the seracs of the Schwärzegletscher
The next morning we got up at 6am, had breakfast, and were on our way by 7am. The main
objective for the day was to descend to the Monte Rosa hut, stay there overnight, and attempt
Dufourspitze the next day. To fill an otherwise pretty short day we wanted to climb
Breithorn (4164 m) via one of the easiest ascends of any of the Alps' 4000m peaks.
We were on the top in 1,5 hours
and had the summit to ourselves (which is rare) to enjoy the panorama.
This was my third climb of Breithorn but the first time via the normal way. I had climbed it in 2009 with Moritz via the Triftjigrat ridge through the north face and later that year with Wilfried where we climbed the complete traverse from Roccia Nera.
A quick ski down brought us to where Nadine had been waiting. She didn't feel well, probably
due to the altitude, and at this point chose to abort the trip and ski down through the ski
area to Zermatt.
We continued by traversing along the southern slopes of Breithorn to get to
Schwarztor pass which gives access to the south side of the massif and to Schwärzegletscher
glacier. This glacier is quite broken up in parts and it was quite exciting to ski
through the crevasses and seracs to arrive at Gornergletscher glacier. Here, we put o
skins once again and skied up to the Monte Rosa hut.
The new Monte Rosa hut, opened two years ago, is an architectural marvel. Oddly shaped with
lots of steel and glass and covered with solar panels the hut is claimed to be completely
We enjoyed our dinner and watched the sun setting spectacularly behind the Matterhorn. Then
we went to bed.
We got up at very early, had breakfast, and when we took off from the hut it was still dark.
The night was cold but we quickly
got warm as the slopes toward Dufourspitze can be quite steep. At 4200 m the route splits.
One option is to head left toward the Silbersattel saddle between Dufourspitze and Nordend and ascend
Dufourspitze via a series of steep colours where fixed ropes have been installed. We chose the
other -- on this day less popular -- option of heading toward the saddle at 4359 m and ascending
the mountain via its long west
ridge. There were only a few parties on the ridge as most people had chosen the other way.
The ridge starts off as a fairly steep snow ridge with a few rocky outcroppings and
eventually turns into a rocky ridge which leads to the summit where we arrived just after noon.
We enjoyed the fantastic
views from the summit and took a good break to refuel for the long descend toward the saddle
where we had left our skies.
The Long Way Home
We were slower on the descend of the ridge than on the ascend since we had gotten quite tired
and the altitude was getting to us. Eventually we arrived at our skies and started to ski
down over the glacier. The snow had turned soft in the midday sun which made the going tough.
We arrived back at the hut just before 5pm and we were spent. We ate a quick
soup and eventually started to head down. We had liked to spend another night at the
hut but it was completely booked. Also, the normal winter ski descend to Zermatt
was unpassable due to too much melted snow in a gorge. So we had to descend
to the Gornergletscher and then ascend the moraine for over 300 m of elevation gain.
Normally, this takes perhaps 4 hours. It took us twice that long and by 8pm or so, when the
last train to the vallay was scheduled, we were still lugging our packs and skies up the
We arrived at the top around midnight. Since the last train had long departed the plan was to
ski down to Zermatt by headlamp via the ski area (officially closed for grooming). The
problem was that we were neither sure if there was enough snow to ski all the way to the
village nor if we would find any accomodation in Zermatt after midnight...
Eventually we passed the Riffelberg hotel. The door was open, we managed to wake the guard,
and were relieved when they were able to give us a room.
We enjoyed a great breakfast the next morning, took the Gornergratbahn down, then the train
back to Zurich, took a shower and arrived at work at noon. Better late then never.
Great climb, great weather, mostly great conditions. However, we had underestimated the long descend
which became quite memorable. Luckily, this is Switzerland so even if you are stuck at 3000 m in the middle of the night
there might just be a hotel around the next corner!