Northern Mountain Sport / Blog / Mountaineering in the Monte Rosa Massif - Dufourspitze

Mountaineering in the Monte Rosa Massif - Dufourspitze

As the isotherm rises in the alps you have two choices; one is to go lower and avoid the exposed glacial ice from melting snows or conversely you can go high and try and get above it (which is what we've done this past week). The obvious choice for a continuously high, multi day hut to hut traverse is the Monte Rosa massif on the Swiss Italian border - commonly called the 'Spaghetti Tour' or Italian Haute Route.

There are so many variations to this tour - some focussing on simply getting round the circuit others on gaining as many 4000m peaks as possible. I think what they all have in common though is the crossing of the col de Lys (or Lisjoch) which in effect is a continous circle starting and finishing in Zermatt with the hulk of Liskamm as the hub.

Alec, Teresa and John joined Gavin (BMG Aspirant) and I in Zermatt after acclimatising in the Valais; for this tour (and our itinerary) this was really important as we planned on staying in the Alps' highest hut, the Margherita. Our first day's objective was the Breithorn accessed from the Kleine Matterhorn lift. This is a great acclimatisation peak with a variety of routes on it at most grades; the SSW flank (our objective) being the most popular with the 'half traverse' a close second. We huffed and puffed our way up the standard route before taking a long descending traverse to the Ayas Hut at 3394m. It was interesting to compare this experience with the last time I was here. The snow cover was not a million miles different but the temeperatures certainly were!

The next day was crucial in that we were hoping to stay high and continue to the Quintino Sella Hut. To do this a traverse of Castor 4223m must be made via the WNW Flank (PD+) which has a dramtic knife edge to finish. We set off around daybreak in perfect conditions and made good progress teetering along the final section enjoying the sensational exposure. I mostly enjoyed not being tied to 3 people like most other guides there. This was actually one of our easier days (though still challenging) and it was nice to settle in to the hut and enjoy the Italian hospitality (and wifi!).

Another crucial section of this tour is the crossing of the Paso del Naso. I had told the team it actually translated as the Widowmaker Pass but they were not to be deterred and in fact were going well so we took in the top of Il Naso as our first 4000m peak that day. Many tours would now head for either the Gnifetti or Mantova refuges but in fact due to ambitious hut booking we crossed the Col de Lys and started one of the best days of the tour - the Traverse of the Tops. From the col we climbed (in order) the Corno Nero 4321m, Ludwigshohe 4341m, Parrotspitze 4432m and finally the Signalkuppe 4554m to make the day's tally 5 4000m peaks which Alec was pretty pleased with. The Signalkuppe is the 4th highest peak in the alps and perhaps more importantly our home for the night housing Europe's highest building (I believe?). The Margherita hut is often a cold and windy place and certainly feels wild. It's not luxurious and you'll be lucky to sleep well there but all in all I think it's an experience worth having - as long as you are acclimatised.

We woke (those of us who slept!) to yet another perfect day and set forth on one of the highlights of the tour, the traverse of the Dufourspitze 4634m. This peak is the Alps' second highest and climbed via the Zumsteinspitze 4563m and the connecting SE Ridge. It gives a shortish but technical AD outing and I really enjoyed it; never too tricky (though the descent from the Zumsteinspitze is delicate) it gives a good mix of snow aretes and short rock pitches. We all summited together and after descending the fixed ropes to the Silbersattel set off downwards on the long descent to the Monte Rosa hut- a long but satisfying day.

Lastly, after walking out to Zermatt and repositioning ourselves in the Saastal we spent our last day on a long rock route on the Jagihorn. Apart from a slightly bizarre encounter with a Swiss guide and his poor family it went well. In fact I think Alec's potential mountaineering targets have just increased expotentially!

Comments

With ref. Kutarski 'Jesus' Tour 04/13

Thanks Tim
Really pleased to read this. Takes me back to our fantastic tour with yourself and Matt. Glad it was warmer up there from the Breithorn to Ayas. I remember Nev being moderately hypothermic before Matt saved his and all our lives life with his baked burnt pasta in the wonderful Ayas Hut Winter room!
I am just amazed to think we can still ski tour at this time of year. Food for thought in future. Best wishes.

Monte Rosa - Dufourspitze

As you know I was just about to throw the towel in when we met. Through your inspiration, skill and guidance, I not only got my love of walking in the mountains back, but was able to complete one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

Lets make sure we keep in touch and follow up on the things we spoke about.

With my biggest thanks and warmest best wishes.

Big hugs.

John

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