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Sunday
Sep192010

Swiss 4000-Meter Summits

The Alps of France, Italy and Switzerland have 128 summits over 4,000 meters. If you count summits separated by at least 100 vertical meters then only 52 rise above 4,000 meters. This is the Alps' peak bagger ticklist.

I joined UK-based Jagged Globe for their Zermatt 4000ers trip. As sold, the trip starts by acclimatizing on easier 4000-meter summits accessed from the Klein Matterhorn telepherique and culminates with the Dufourspitze, a.k.a. Monta Rosa (4,634m), the highest mountain in Switzerland. Dodgy weather stopped us from tagging the Dufour, but we still climbed four 4000ers and a technical via ferratta (steel ladders and cable route). 

When I was nine I visited Zermatt with Mom and Dad. This trip solidified my obsession with mountain climbing. I remember seeing Edward Wymper's infamous rope in the Zermatt museum and thinking it looked just like the rope in the garage I'd planned to start using when I got home. I also remember eating two banana splits for dinner one night and crying when we left. This time the mountains felt urbanized, 180-degrees different than Alaska's wilderness, but still I was hooked on climbing great peaks and sleeping in a bed every night. 

 

My cohort, the legendary Marty Beare. I followed in his shadow while living in New Zealand. I lived in his house after he moved out, I climbed his routes, I heard the stories. After the trip we climbed in Barbarine and La Fayete. 

 

I also worked with Jim Blyth. A Chamonix-based Scot.  

 

Jitendra Singh and Gavin Jackson climbing the SW ridge of Pollux (4,092m), our first summit of the trip. 

 

Jitendra, Gavin and I on the summit of Pollux (4,092m).

 

Jim belaying folks down the 32mm fixed lines on Pollux. 

 

Dropping down to the D'Ayas Refuge in Italy on the first night. The next day we climbed Castor (4,228m) in blustery and foggy conditions and continued to Zermatt for the night. 

 

Entering the Gorner Gorge via ferrata in Zermatt on a rainy day three. Here Marty is lowering folks down the zip-line. The via ferrata took five hours and had three lower-out zip lines and a king swing. 

 

On the final three days we heeded a marginal forecast and opted for lower summits in the Sass Valley rather than Monta Rosa. From the Hohsaas Refuge we climbed Weissmeis (4,017m in this photo) and Lagginhorn (4,010m). 
 

Slots on the Weismeiss. 

 

Fred O'Neil sharing England's finest on the summit of Lagginhorn. 

 

Belayed downclimbing off a jammed knot on the Lagginhorn.