The Weisshorn is one of those mountains that you can see from all over the Western Alps. Combine that with the knowledge that it's one of the most difficult 4000m peaks to summit, and that makes it very attractive as an objective for guides and clients alike.
The problem with guiding routes like this is that circumstances need to coincide: having the right client who is both motivated, acclimatised and capable during a period when the mountain is in the right condition and the weather is stable. Luckily for me, all these came together this week when climbing with Gerard Ritter, a friend from way back , now heading up Lowe Alpine in Benelux. Gerard is a very experienced alpinist with Scottish credentials too. We first climbed together in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms in the 80's. Having made a great success in the outdoor business and raised a family as well, he's approaching a significant age this year, and wanted to celebrate by climbing some of the routes that eluded him in his younger days.
We kicked off the week with some rock climbing and then a mixed route on the Tacul, before heading over to the Mattertal and up to the Weisshorn hut. The hut was fully booked, packed with guided and amateur groups all taking advantage of the settled weather. It was a relief to get up at 2 am, get out of the sauna and head up the hill in the leading peloton of guided groups. The snow couloir described in many guidebooks at the start is long gone, a victim of global warming, so an intricate traverse gets you onto the long snowfield leading to the start of the 400m climb up loose scrambling to the start of the ridge proper at 3900m.
Dawn found us well established on the technical section of the east ridge, which has some exciting sections of rock to turn several towers. Once on the snow, the cramponning wasn't as steep as I'd anticipated, though higher up the covering was a little more icy. Given that Gerard is 6 feet 7 and 100 kg compared to my 5 feet 7 and 70 kg, we took it nice and steady but were still on top in just under guidebook time of 6 hours. The view from there is amazing, especially that of the Tobleronenhorn to the south. The descent feels as long as the ascent, though it took less time, and we were back at the hut for 1 in the afternoon. I'd booked two nights at the hut in anticipation of being tired (we were!), but in retrospect it would have been better to hoof it to the valley after a short rest, as the second night in thre Weisshorn hut was the worst I've ever had in a hut - hot as hell. So hot I got out of the dorm at 11pm and laid on the ground outside, froze my arse off till 2 am and then got back in once the teams had left for the hill. Oh the joys of alpine guiding....
A gentle walk down the next morning and then a wind down on the Riffelhorn in Zermatt on the excellent Thermometeregg. A great 3 days of alpinsim on a classic hill. All I need to do now is combine the circumstances to get the north ridge done. Any takers?