Valais Alps

General information

The Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy are perhaps the most spectacular mountain chain in Europe. The range borders on the Great St. Bernard Pass and the Mont Blanc group in southwest, on the Upper Rhône Valley in the north, on the Simplon Pass and the Lepontine Alps in northeast and by the Dora Baltea River valley in south. The compact area boasts ten of the twelve highest summits in the Alps (the other two are part of the Mont Blanc Massif), most of them located in the frontier crest. The high mountains are separated by long narrow valleys.

  • Western Valais (Grand Combin) Western Pennine Alps are located between Col du Gross St.Bernhard and Val d'Hérens. The most important peak of the area is Grand Combin, a separate massif in the west. It forms a link between Pennine Alps and Mont Blanc Group. Other important peaks of the area include Mont Vélan (3731m), Mont Blanc de Cheilon (3870m), Pigne d'Arolla (3796m) and Mont Collon (3637m).
    • Mont Velán Located in the westernmost part of Pennine Alps, to the south of Grand Combin and to the west of Tête Blanche. Most convenient access is from the road leading through Grand St. Bernhard pass. Most worthwhile route is Arête Tseudet (NNW ridge).
    • Grand Combin Grand combing massif forms a U shape, where main summits are located in the south, at the bottom of the U. Main peaks in the leftern arm consists of several side ridges. There the most important peaks are Petit Combin and Combin de Corbassière. Eastern arm, located to the wast of Lac de Mauvoisin, consists of a single long ridge with Tournelon Blanc as the main summit.
    • Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla North-South chain located on Arolla and Dix valleys watershed. Mostly suitable for rock climbing, but generally the quality of rock is far from perfect.
    • Cheilon - Pigne d'Arolla Reasonably famous rock and ice peaks that are the main objectives for parties based in central central part of western Valais Alps. Arolle is conveniently located base for climbs in this range. Emphasis of the climbing is on snow, ice and mixed. Peaks are lower than the more famous ones around Zermatt, none reaches up to 4000m, and routes generally somewhat shorter. Still, there are several worthwhile routes.
    • Gelé-Morion group
    • Otemma-Valpeline Frontier ridge
    • Mont Collon group
  • Col Collon - Theodulpass To the east of this chain are located Grand Cornier and Dent Blanche. They are connected to and Téte Blanche - Dent d'Hérens - Matterhorn chain on the border between Italy and Switzerland. Further north, between Grand Cornier and Matter valley lie chain Obergabelhorn - Zinalrothorn - Weishorn - Bishorn. West of Val d'Hérens lies mountain chain Monte Brule - Bouquetins - Aiguille de la Tsa - Dent de Perroc and Dents the Veisivi. There are no 4000 peaks with Veisivi being the high point with 3838m. Access is shortest from Arolla. To the east of this chain are located Grand Cornier and Dent Blanche. They are connected to and Téte Blanche - Dent d'Hérens - Matterhorn chain on the border between Italy and Switzerland. Dent Blanche and Dent d'Hérens both have several good routes but the undisputed king of this chain is the rocky pyramid of Matterhorn. Despite fixed ropes, it is still one of the hard 4000m peaks with Normal route graded at AD- and featuring 1400m of ascent. Access to western part of the chain is either from Zinal in the North, d'Hérens valley in the west, Aosta or Breuil-Cervinia in the south or Zermatt is the northeast. Apart from Matterhorn, approaches are typically quite long. Further north, between Grand Cornier and Matter valley lie chain Obergabelhorn - Zinalrothorn - Weishorn - Bishorn. Classically beautiful Weisshorn has several long ridge routes while Obergabelhorn and Zinalrothorn have the best rock quality of the 4000m peaks around Zermat. Access to the climbs is from Zinal on the NW or Randa, Täsch or Zermatt in east.
    • Bouquetins - Dents de Perroc group Section between Col ollon and Col d'Hérens. No really big or famous peaks, but the highest summits still rise close to 3900m. The area features the best rock climbing in western Valais Alps on sound rock. North side of Monte Brule is the only place in the group where ice routes still persist.
    • Grand Cornier group Northern section of the range between Hérens and Anniviers valleys. Grand Cornier is the highest peak in the group and by far the best known climbing objective. Pointes de Mourti also has some worthwhile routes.
    • Dent Blanche group
    • Dent d'Hérens group
    • Obergabelhorn - Zinalrothorn - Weishorn - Bishorn Pointe Zinal - Mont Durand - Obergabelhorn - Wellenkuppe - Zinalrothorn - Schalihorn - Weisshorn - Bishorn - Brunegghorn
  • Theodulpass - Monte Moro (Monte Rosa) Monte Rosa Massif on the frontier crest between Switzerland. It is a complex massif with dozens of summits, sharp ridges and massive glaciers. Depending on the consideration of subsidiary peaks, there are 15 - 22 4000m peaks, high point being the Dufourspitze at 4634m, the second highest mountain in the Alps. Northern slopes is made of not overtly steep glaciers while the Italien Southeastern side is dominated by over 2000m high East Face. Several of the high peaks have relatively easy normal routes. Breithorn is reputably the easiest 4000m peak in the Alps. Also Castor and Pollux are very popular. Traverse of all 4000m peaks is possible in 4-7 days from Klein Matterhorn cable car using the huts on the Italian side. This traverse can be done various ways, those in search of climbing challenges include W-E traverse of Breithorn (AD+) and traverse of Lyskamm (W-E, AD/AD+), both of which are avoidable if easier alternative is wanted. There are also plethora of harder routes, especially classic are North faces of Breithorn and Lyskamm and gigantic East Face of Monte Rosa. There are also hard rock ridge on Nordend, Dufourspitze and Signalkuppe.
    • Breithorn - Lyskamm Chain running west to east between Theodulspass and Lysjoch. There are only five main peaks on the chain: Klein Matterhorn, Breithorn, Pollux, Castor and Lyskamm. That being said, both Breithorn and Lyskamm and broad peaks with several summits and sharp ridge crests. South side towards Italy is far less dramatic feature than steep north side, rising 700-1000m above wildly crevassed glaciers at its base and featuring numerous ice and mixed routes. Pollux and Castor are fear less intimidating.
    • Monte Rosa Monte Rosa massif is a chain of high peaks running from south to north, located immediately to the East of Lysjoch, separating Monta Rosa from Breithorn - Lyskamm chain. While the peaks are not overly dramatic when seen from south or north, gigantic East face of Monte Rosa (Signalkuppe - Zumstreinspitze - Dufourspitze - Nordend) rising 2000m from the valley base of Macugnaga is the biggest face in the Alps. There are several mixed routes, on the face, all of which are domain for those not intimidated by their sheer scale. All of the routes on the face are also serious undertakings due to ice fall danger. Access to south side is quite painless from Alagna Valsesia (1190m) using the lift to Punta Indren (3250m). From there ascent to Rifuge Cittá di Mantova, Cabane Gnifetti, Bivacco Giordani or Rifugio Margherita is not too long.
      • Southern part Traverse of the whole southern Crest is a classic and popular high mountain route where difficulty is kept at bay (PD, 2a, 6-7h, SAC 4/5 #210).
      • Northern part
      • Eastern chain The long ridge running towards east from Signalkuppe. The upper part of the ridge is classic Cresta Signal.
    • Weissgrat - Roffelhörner from Fillarjoch to Monte Moro pass, from Riffelhorn to Stockhorn Kleines Fillarhorn (3621m) - Gross Fillarhorn (3676m) - Cima Brioshi (3642m) - >Torre de Castelfranco (3632m) - Cima di Jazzi (3802m) - Schwarzberg Weisstor (3535m) - Schwarzberghorn (3609m) - Stockhorn (3532m) - Gornergrat (3090m) - Riffelhorn (2927m) - Roffelhorn W (3563m) - Roffelhorn E (3478m) - Rothorn/Corno Rosso (3230m)
  • Mischabel Group Mischabel massif is a 15 km long and 8 km large North-South branch connected to Monte Rosa massif. To Mischabel ridge belong lots of high peaks, from North to South: Gugla (3377m), Dirruhorn (formerly Dürrenhorn, 4035m), Hohbärghorn (4219m), Nadelhorn (4327m), Lenzspitze (4294m), Dom (4545m), Täschhorn (4496m), Alphubel (4206m), Feechopf (3888m), Allalinhorn (3288m), Rimpfischhorn (4199m), Strahlhorn(4190m) and a Point 3609m on the Switz-Italian border. Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn and Alphubel all have easy normal routes, and are well suited for acllimatisation. Dom and Täschhorn are big mountains, both of which have important routes. Especially the latter is both long and challenging, even on the easiest routes. Traverse of the Nadelgrat consisting of Lenzspitze in the south, Nadelhorn, Steccknadelhorn, Hochbärghorn and Dirruhorn is a classic (several variations and both directions are feasible). Arguable the best climbing is found between Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn. One interesting and varied way is to start with NE face of Lenzspitse (Dreieselswand (D/D+), then follow Nadelgrat to Dirruhorn and return to Mischabel huts over Windjoch.
  • Weissmies Group Weismiees Group is a 12km long and 8km wide ridge running from north to south in the North Eastern Pennine Alps, between Simplon Pass and Saas Valleys. The highest and finest mountain of the area is Weissmies (4023m). Other high peaks of the group are Fletschhorn (3993m) and Lagginghorn (4010m). Normal routes of all three are easy glacier climbs with the latter being one of the easiest 4000m peaks in the Alps. North face on Fletschhorn is the most interesting feature of the area.
    • Pizzo d'Andolla - Joderhorn

Logistics

To switch between Swiss and Italian valleys involves a rather lengthy car ride via either Grand St. Bernhard pass in the west or Simplon pass in the east. The fastest way to cross from Swiss side to Italian side is by using the ski lifts via Klein Matterhorn. Moving around from valley to valley is not too easy without a car. That being said, trains and busses could be used to move back and forth in Mattertal and Saastal.

Airport
Geneva or Zürich for the parties visiting Swiss valleys; Milan for the parties visiting Italian valleys.
Mattertal
Easiest to reach with either by car to Täsch or by train. Zermatt is car free zone, so the last part from Täsch to Zermatt requires train ride.
Saastal
Reachable by train to Stalden, and from there by bus.

Accommodation

Val de Bagnes
  • Cabane de Panossière2669
  • Cabane de Chanrion2462
Val d'Hérens
  • Bivouac du Col de la Dent Blanche3540
    Connections:
    • from Ferpècle in Val d'Herens, 6h, F (Biner #303)
  • Cabane des Dix2928
  • Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges2810
  • Cabane des Vignettes3158
  • Cabane de Bertol3311
  • Cabane de la Tsa2607
  • Refuge des Bouquetins2980
  • Cabane de la Dent Blanche2980
Ferpècle
  • Bivouac du Col de la Dent Blanche3540
    Connections:
    • from Ferpècle in Val d'Herens, 6h, F (Biner #303)
  • Cabane de la Dent Blanche2980
Val d'Anniviers
  • Bivouac du Col de la Dent Blanche3540
    Connections:
    • from Ferpècle in Val d'Herens, 6h, F (Biner #303)
  • Cabane du Mountet616.630100.9602886 (pref)+41 27 475 14 31
    Connections:
    • from Zinal (1675) in Val d'Anniviers F, 4,5h. (true)
    • from Zermatt: via Schönbielhütte and Col Durand (3451m). PD/PD+, 5,5-6h from Schönbielhütte (3h to pass, 2 h to Mountet). In opposite direction 2,3h to pass, 1,5h to pass.. (true)
    • from Rothornhütte: via Triftjoch. PD. (true)
  • Cabane du Tracuit32.84000113.913256 (pref)+41 27 475 15 00+41 27 475 26 35
    Connections:
    • from Zinal (1675) in Val d'Anniviers, 4h (Biner #316)
Dix valley
  • Cabane des Dix2928
Arolla
  • Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges2810
  • Cabane des Vignettes3158
  • Cabane de Bertol3311
  • Cabane de la Tsa2607
  • Refuge des Bouquetins2980
Turtmanntal
  • Cabane du Tracuit32.84000113.913256 (pref)+41 27 475 15 00+41 27 475 26 35
    Connections:
    • from Zinal (1675) in Val d'Anniviers, 4h (Biner #316)
  • Turtmannhütte2519
    Connections:
    • from Vordere Sänntum (1901m) above Gruben in Turtmanntal, 2h (Biner #317)
Mattertal
  • Weisshornhütte2932
    Connections:
    • from Randa (1407) in Mattertal 4,5h. (true)
  • Biwak am Schalijoch3780
    Connections:
    • from Rothornhütte (3198m): via Schalihorn (3974m). AD, 8,5h. (true)
    • from Schali (1426) in Mattertal between Randa and Täsch PD, 8h. (true)
  • Rothornhütte3198
    Connections:
    • from Zermatt (1614m) in Mattertal 4,5h. (true)
  • Cabane de la Dent Blanche3507
    Connections:
    • from Ferpècle in Val d'Herens, 5h, F (Biner #304)
    • from Zermatt in Mattertal (4h) or from lift station Furi (3h), (Brandt 3 #4)
  • Hörnlihütte
    Connections:
    • from lift station Schwarzee (2583m), 2h
  • Schönbielhütte614.750094.5102694 (pref)+41 27 967 13 54 (cell)+41 79 447 41 87
    Connections:
    • from Zermatt: via Zmutt (1614m). 4h. (true)
    • from lift station Schwarzee (2583m) 2,5h. (true)
  • Rifugio de Teodulo3317
    Connections:
    • from Trockener Steg, F, 1,25h (SAC 4 #51)
    • from Tresta Grigia (Breuil - Plan Maison - Tresta Trigia lift), F, 0,5h (SAC 4 #52)
  • Gandegghütte45.962847.753433029 (pref)+41 27 9672112+41 27 9672149
    Connections:
    • from Trockener Steg lift station, 0,5h, good path (SAC 4 #2)
    • from Monte Rosahütte F, 2,5h. (true)
    • to Schwarztor, PD, 5h (SAC 4 #195)
  • bivacco Rossi e Volante3750
    Connections:
    • from Klein Matterhorn, F, 1,5h (SAC 4 #57)
    • from Rifugio Val d' Ayas F, 1,5h. (true)
    • from Monte Rosahütte PD, 4-4,5h. (true)
    • to Zwillingsjoch, F, 0,5h (SAC 4 #213)
    • to Schwarztor, F, 0,25h (SAC 4 #200)
  • Rifugio Val d' Ayas3394
    Connections:
    • from station Klein Matterhorn (3820m), 3h, F (Biner #402)
    • to Schwarztor, F, 1,5h (SAC 4 #118)
    • to Zwillingsjoch, F, 425m, 1-1,5h (AC East 26a, Moran 27b, SAC 4 212)
    • to Felikjoch
    • to Cabane Quintano Sella
  • Cabane Quintano Sella3585
    Connections:
    • from station Klein Matterhorn (3820m) via Castor (4228m), 4,5h, PD (Biner #404)
    • from Rifugio Val d' Ayas (3394m) via Castor (4228m), 4h, PD (Biner #404)
    • to Felikjoch, F, 460m, 2h, (SAC 4 #238; AC E 28a; Moran 26d)
  • Cabane Gnifetti3644
    Connections:
    • from Monte Rosahütte F, 5h.
    • from from Lysjoch (4151m), 1h, F (SAC 4 #282; Biner #409)
    • to to Lysjoch (4151m), F, 640m, 2,5h (SAC 4 #282; Biner #409; AC East #30b)
    • from With lift from Alagre to Punta Idren (3250m). From there 400m to hut
    • to Bivacco Felice Giordano: via Lysjoch. 1,5h. (true)
  • Rifugio Regina Margherita4554 (pref)+39 163 910 39
    Connections:
  • Rifugio Città di Mantova3440
  • Bivacco Felice Giordano4167
    Connections:
  • Monte Rosahütte2795 (pref)41 27 967 21 15
    Connections:
    • from station Rotenboden (2815m, along Gornergratbahn), 2,5h, F (SAC 4 #1; Biner #406)
    • to Gandegghütte F, 2,5h. (true)
    • to Schwarztor (3731m), PD+, 4h (SAC 4 #197)); further to bivouac Rossi e Volante or Rifugio val d'Ayas
    • to Zwillingsjoch/Passo de Verra (3845m), AD, 4-6h (SAC 4 #211); further to Rifugio val d'Ayas
    • to Felikjoch (4066m), AD, 5-7h (SAC 4 #235; AC E 28b); further to Cabane Quintano Sella
    • to Lysjoch (4246m), AD(+)/PD, 5h (SAC 4 #280/#281); further to Cabane Gnifetti F, 2,5h (SAC 4 #282) or Bivacco Felice Giordano F.
    • to Rifugio Regina Margherita PD+, 6h. (true)
    • to bivacco Rossi e Volante PD, 4-4,5h. (true)
    • to Cabane Gnifetti F/PD, 1460m, 5h.
  • Täschhütte2701
    Connections:
    • from Täschalp (Ottavan, 2214m), 1,5h, (Biner #501)
  • Mischabeljoch Biwak3851
    Connections:
    • from Täschhütte (2701m), 4h, AD- (Biner #506)
  • Domhütte2940
    Connections:
    • from Randa (1407) in Mattertal, 4h (Biner #502)
Schaligletscher
  • Weisshornhütte2932
    Connections:
    • from Randa (1407) in Mattertal 4,5h. (true)
  • Biwak am Schalijoch3780
    Connections:
    • from Rothornhütte (3198m): via Schalihorn (3974m). AD, 8,5h. (true)
    • from Schali (1426) in Mattertal between Randa and Täsch PD, 8h. (true)
Triftgletscher
  • Rothornhütte3198
    Connections:
    • from Zermatt (1614m) in Mattertal 4,5h. (true)
Zmuttgletscher
  • Cabane de la Dent Blanche3507
    Connections:
    • from Ferpècle in Val d'Herens, 5h, F (Biner #304)
    • from Zermatt in Mattertal (4h) or from lift station Furi (3h), (Brandt 3 #4)
  • Hörnlihütte
    Connections:
    • from lift station Schwarzee (2583m), 2h
  • Schönbielhütte614.750094.5102694 (pref)+41 27 967 13 54 (cell)+41 79 447 41 87
    Connections:
    • from Zermatt: via Zmutt (1614m). 4h. (true)
    • from lift station Schwarzee (2583m) 2,5h. (true)
Schwarzee - Furggletscher
  • Hörnlihütte
    Connections:
    • from lift station Schwarzee (2583m), 2h
Breuil
  • Rifugio de Teodulo3317
    Connections:
    • from Trockener Steg, F, 1,25h (SAC 4 #51)
    • from Tresta Grigia (Breuil - Plan Maison - Tresta Trigia lift), F, 0,5h (SAC 4 #52)
  • Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi2802
    Connections:
    • from Breuil (2006m), 2,5h
  • Rifugio Carrell3829
    Connections:
    • from Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi (2802m), 4,5h, PD (Brandt 3 #58)
Trockener Steg
  • Gandegghütte45.962847.753433029 (pref)+41 27 9672112+41 27 9672149
    Connections:
    • from Trockener Steg lift station, 0,5h, good path (SAC 4 #2)
    • from Monte Rosahütte F, 2,5h. (true)
    • to Schwarztor, PD, 5h (SAC 4 #195)
Klein Matterhorn
  • bivacco Rossi e Volante3750
    Connections:
    • from Klein Matterhorn, F, 1,5h (SAC 4 #57)
    • from Rifugio Val d' Ayas F, 1,5h. (true)
    • from Monte Rosahütte PD, 4-4,5h. (true)
    • to Zwillingsjoch, F, 0,5h (SAC 4 #213)
    • to Schwarztor, F, 0,25h (SAC 4 #200)
Val de Verax
  • bivacco Rossi e Volante3750
    Connections:
    • from Klein Matterhorn, F, 1,5h (SAC 4 #57)
    • from Rifugio Val d' Ayas F, 1,5h. (true)
    • from Monte Rosahütte PD, 4-4,5h. (true)
    • to Zwillingsjoch, F, 0,5h (SAC 4 #213)
    • to Schwarztor, F, 0,25h (SAC 4 #200)
  • Rifugio Val d' Ayas3394
    Connections:
    • from station Klein Matterhorn (3820m), 3h, F (Biner #402)
    • to Schwarztor, F, 1,5h (SAC 4 #118)
    • to Zwillingsjoch, F, 425m, 1-1,5h (AC East 26a, Moran 27b, SAC 4 212)
    • to Felikjoch
    • to Cabane Quintano Sella
  • Cabane Quintano Sella3585
    Connections:
    • from station Klein Matterhorn (3820m) via Castor (4228m), 4,5h, PD (Biner #404)
    • from Rifugio Val d' Ayas (3394m) via Castor (4228m), 4h, PD (Biner #404)
    • to Felikjoch, F, 460m, 2h, (SAC 4 #238; AC E 28a; Moran 26d)
Aostatal
  • Rifugio Val d' Ayas3394
    Connections:
    • from station Klein Matterhorn (3820m), 3h, F (Biner #402)
    • to Schwarztor, F, 1,5h (SAC 4 #118)
    • to Zwillingsjoch, F, 425m, 1-1,5h (AC East 26a, Moran 27b, SAC 4 212)
    • to Felikjoch
    • to Cabane Quintano Sella
  • Bivacco Giorgio e Renzo Novella3706
    Connections:
    • from Over Dent d'Hérens (Biner #1070)
  • Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi2802
    Connections:
    • from Breuil (2006m), 2,5h
  • Rifugio Carrell3829
    Connections:
    • from Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi (2802m), 4,5h, PD (Brandt 3 #58)
Valle de Gressoney
  • Cabane Quintano Sella3585
    Connections:
    • from station Klein Matterhorn (3820m) via Castor (4228m), 4,5h, PD (Biner #404)
    • from Rifugio Val d' Ayas (3394m) via Castor (4228m), 4h, PD (Biner #404)
    • to Felikjoch, F, 460m, 2h, (SAC 4 #238; AC E 28a; Moran 26d)
  • Cabane Gnifetti3644
    Connections:
    • from Monte Rosahütte F, 5h.
    • from from Lysjoch (4151m), 1h, F (SAC 4 #282; Biner #409)
    • to to Lysjoch (4151m), F, 640m, 2,5h (SAC 4 #282; Biner #409; AC East #30b)
    • from With lift from Alagre to Punta Idren (3250m). From there 400m to hut
    • to Bivacco Felice Giordano: via Lysjoch. 1,5h. (true)
  • Rifugio Città di Mantova3440
  • Bivacco Felice Giordano4167
    Connections:
Alagna - Valsesia
Gornergletscher
  • Monte Rosahütte2795 (pref)41 27 967 21 15
    Connections:
    • from station Rotenboden (2815m, along Gornergratbahn), 2,5h, F (SAC 4 #1; Biner #406)
    • to Gandegghütte F, 2,5h. (true)
    • to Schwarztor (3731m), PD+, 4h (SAC 4 #197)); further to bivouac Rossi e Volante or Rifugio val d'Ayas
    • to Zwillingsjoch/Passo de Verra (3845m), AD, 4-6h (SAC 4 #211); further to Rifugio val d'Ayas
    • to Felikjoch (4066m), AD, 5-7h (SAC 4 #235; AC E 28b); further to Cabane Quintano Sella
    • to Lysjoch (4246m), AD(+)/PD, 5h (SAC 4 #280/#281); further to Cabane Gnifetti F, 2,5h (SAC 4 #282) or Bivacco Felice Giordano F.
    • to Rifugio Regina Margherita PD+, 6h. (true)
    • to bivacco Rossi e Volante PD, 4-4,5h. (true)
    • to Cabane Gnifetti F/PD, 1460m, 5h.
Täschalp
  • Täschhütte2701
    Connections:
    • from Täschalp (Ottavan, 2214m), 1,5h, (Biner #501)
  • Mischabeljoch Biwak3851
    Connections:
    • from Täschhütte (2701m), 4h, AD- (Biner #506)
Randa
  • Domhütte2940
    Connections:
    • from Randa (1407) in Mattertal, 4h (Biner #502)
Saastal
  • Connections:
    • from lift station Hanningalp (from Saas Fee) in Saastal, 3h (Biner #509)
  • Hotel Längflue2867
  • Hooh Saas
  • Weissmies huts
Hochbalmgletcher
  • Connections:
    • from lift station Hanningalp (from Saas Fee) in Saastal, 3h (Biner #509)
Feegletscher
  • Hotel Längflue2867
Triftbach
  • Hooh Saas
  • Weissmies huts

Climbing info

General

After Mont Blanc area, Pennine Alps is the second most popular alpine climbing area in the Alps. All types of climbing is available in the area:

  • Classic mountaineering on high peaks. Great number of high peaks located in Monta Rosa group, many of them climbable in a multi-day trip aided huts located high on the ridge. Breithorn is reputedly the easiest 4000m peak in the Alps. Classic big peaks Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Dent Blanche and Lyskamm with normal routes between PD+ and AD. In the western part of the group, Grand
  • Technical mountaineering. Classic routes include ice faces on Monte Rosa, Lyskamm, Obergabelhorn, Lenzspitze, Breithorn, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Dent Blanche and Matterhorn. Classic mixed ridges on Matterhorn, Täschhorn, Dom, Dent d'Hérens, Nadelhorn Breithorn, Signalkuppe and Täschhorn. Rock routes on Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Obergabelhorn and Signalkuppe.
  • Alpine rock climbing. Western part of the group has generally best rock quality, so the most worthwhile alpine rock routes are found here.
  • Ice fall climbing, seasonal water ice climbing. The best known areas for ice fall climbing in Valais Alps is val de Bagnes/Lac de Mauvoisin.
  • Ski mountaineering. Classic Haute Route (multi-day excursion from Chamonix to Zermatt)
  • Cragging, via ferrata

Most of the climbing routes in Pennine Alps are on snow, as the rock tends to be loose. There are several big mountains, often with big approaches. Saveral of the high peaks have relatively easy glacier ascents (such as Breithorn (4164m), Allalinhorn (4288m) and Alphubel (4206m)). However, there are also several very pointed mountains, such as Matterhorn (4478m), Weisshorn (4506m), Dent Blanche (4356m) and Zinalrothorn (4221m), that are demanding even on the easiest routes. Furthermore, North Face of Breithorn and East Faces of Monte Rosa and Lyskamm have host of the biggest ice routes in the Alps.

In the westernmost Pennine Alps, Grand Combin massif is the best known climbing objective. Other highlights include Mont Blanc de Cheilon and, Pigne d'Arolla and Mont Collon.

Dent Blanche and Dent d'Hérens both have several good routes but the undisputed king of the central part of Pennine Alps is the rocky pyramid of Matterhorn, quite possibly the most famous mountain of the world. Anyone attempting to normal route (Hörnligrat, AD-) during the summer months has to be prepared to share the mountain with numerous other parties. Despite fixed ropes, it is still one of the hard 4000m peaks with Normal route graded at AD- and featuring 1400m of ascent. Other routes see much less traffic. Other highlights of the area are classically beautiful Weisshorn with its long ridge routes while Obergabelhorn and Zinalrothorn have the best rock quality of the 4000m peaks around Zermatt.

Monta Rosa massif has 15-22 4000m peaks, depending on what is considered an independent peak. Several of the high peaks have relatively easy normal routes, Breithorn being reputably the easiest 4000m peak in the Alps. Also Castor and Pollux are very popular. Traverse of all 4000m peaks is possible in 4-7 days from Klein Matterhorn cable car using the huts on the Italian side. This traverse can be done various ways, those in search of climbing challenges include W-E traverse of Breithorn (AD+) and traverse of Lyskamm (W-E, AD/AD+), both of which are avoidable if easier alternative is wanted. There are also plethora of harder routes, especially classic are North faces of Breithorn and Lyskamm and gigantic East Face of Monte Rosa. There are also hard rock ridge on Nordend, Dufourspitze and Signalkuppe.

In Mischabel group, Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn and Alphubel all have easy normal routes, and are well suited for acclimatization. Dom and Täschhorn are big mountains, both of which have important routes. Especially the latter is both long and challenging, even on the easiest routes. Traverse of the Nadelgrat consisting of Lenzspitze in the south, Nadelhorn, Steccknadelhorn, Hochbärghorn and Dirruhorn is a classic (several variations and both directions are feasible). Arguable the best climbing is found between Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn. One interesting and varied way is to start with NE face of Lenzspitse (Dreieselswand (D/D+), then follow Nadelgrat to Dirruhorn and return to Mischabel huts over Windjoch.

The highest and finest mountain of the easternmost part of Pennine Alps is Weissmies (4023m). It, as well as the other high peaks of the group Fletschhorn (3993m) and Lagginghorn (4010m) all have easy glacier climbs with the latter being one of the easiest 4000m peaks in the Alps. North face on Fletschhorn is the most interesting feature of the area.

Grading

Several grading systems are used depending on the type of climbing:

Alpine climbs
International French adjectival system is most common system used to grade alpine climbs. Several climbs have been graded using Bernese Alps G-grade as well.
Rock climbs
For alpine rock routes traditionally UIAA grade has been used. New SAC guide 4/5 has switched to French rock grade though. Standard aid climbing grade is used when appropriate.
Ice & mixed
For moderate and middle grade climbs, most common way is to express the steepness either as maximum or average angle of the slope. For the difficult routes, WI grading is used, usually as two-part variation (including commitment grade). For mixed stuff, some modern routes sometimes use M grades for mixed sections, which certainly tells a lot more about the actual demands met by a climber rather than more commonly used normal rock grade. British guidebooks sometimes use Scottish winter grade.

Rescue

Switzerlang in general and Pennine Alps in particular have a good rescue system. It does come with considerable cost though, be sure to have valid insurance.

Alpine distress signal
6 x within a minute with regular intervals, give some sort of visual or acoustic signal. Then pause for a minute and repeat the signal until you get an answer. To answer: 3 x within a minute - one minute pause.
Telephone
  • Switzerland +41
  • Italy +39
Rescue services
  • REGA (pref)+4113831111
  • Police (pref)117
  • Air Glacier (pref)027/3226464
  • Air Zermatt (pref)027/9662966
  • Heliport Aosta (pref)+3916544306

Seasons and weather

Summer season between July and September, with late August being probably the most crowded. Conditions vary a great deal between summers, valleys are often very hot and it may be quite warm high up in the mountains as well. Make no mistake though, people freeze to death on the slopes of Mont Blanc area every summer. Most popular routes usually have good paths which make route finding much easier that it would be otherwise. That being said, it is very much possible to get plenty of new snow during the summer, so don't count on there being a path through crevasse labyrinths on the glaciers.

For ice routes spring usually has better conditions (April-June). Later in the year some ice routes are still possible but harder due to blank ice and may be unjustifiably dangerous, some routes are just out of nick in the summer season. Most huts are not open before start of July, so north face aspirants mostly need to use the winter rooms, bivouac huts or bivouac outside. Winter conditions are usually at best between January and February for ice fall climbing.

References

Authoritative guide to the area is Swiss Alpine Club's Clubführer, available in six volumes both in German and French. For those limited to English, English Alpine club has good guidebook available in two volumes. There are also several guidebooks with selected routes. All the books featuring the 4000m peaks naturally have loads of info on routes on Valais 4000m peaks, they mostly cover only normal routes though. Exception is Martin Moranäs book "The 4000m Peaks of the Alps", it has also several mid range routes and include also selection of difficult routes. Michel Vaucher's book "100 Schönsten Gipfelziele in Walliser Alpen", also available in French is a bit outdatetd as a guidebook but gives good tips on worthwhile routes. See Les Alpes Valaisannes - Les 100 plus belles courses for online list of the routes.

Best maps are Swiss Landeskarte maps available in 1:25 000.

Western Pennine Alps (Grand Combin)
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1325 Sembrancher
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1326 Rosablanche
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1345 Orsières
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1346 Chanrion
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1347 Matterhorn
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1365 Gd-St-Bernard
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1366 Mont Vélan
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 5003 Mont Blanc-Grand Combin
Col Collon - Theodulpass
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1307 Vissoei
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1308 St.Niklaus
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1327 Evolène
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1328 Randa
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1347 Matterhorn
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1348 Zermatt
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 5006 Matterhorn-Mischabel
Theodulpass - Monte Moro (Monte Rosa)
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1348 Zermatt
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 2115 Zermatt - Gornergrat
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 284 Gressoney1:50 000
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 294 Matterhorn-Mischabel1:50 000
Mischabel group
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1308 St.Niklaus
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1309 Simplon
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1328 Randa
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1329 Saas
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1348 Zermatt
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1349 Matterhorn
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 274 Visp1:50 000
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 284 Mischabel1:50 000
Weissmies group
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1308 St.Niklaus
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1309 Simplon
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1328 Randa
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1329 Saas
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1348 Zermatt
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 1349 Matterhorn
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 5006 Matterhorn-Mischabel
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 274 Visp1:50 000
  • Swiss Landeskarte: 284 Mischabel1:50 000
  • Kopp, Christine: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 1 - Vom Trient zum Großen St. Bernhard, 1. Auflage. edition. Isbn: 9783859021440. SAC-Verlag, 1999.
  • Brandt, Maurice: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 2 - Vom Großen St. Bernhard zum Col Collon, 1. Auflage. edition. Isbn: 9783859021457. SAC-Verlag, 1999.
  • Brandt, Maurice: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 3 - Vom Col Collon zum Theodulpass. Isbn: 3-85902-231-8. SAC-Verlag, 1993.
  • Brandt, Maurice: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 4 - Vom Theodulpass zum Monte Moro. Isbn: 9783859021280. SAC-Verlag, 1993.
  • Banzhaf, Bernhard R.; Biner, Hermann & Burgener, Beat: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 4/5 - Vom Theodulpass zum Simplon, 1st edition. Isbn: 978-3859022904. SAC-Verlag, 2009.
  • Brandt, Maurice: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 5 - Vom Strahlhorn zum Simplon. Isbn: 9783859021297. SAC-Verlag, 1993.
  • Kopp, Christine: Alpinführer Walliser Alpen 6 - Vom Simplon zum Nufenenpass (Gonerli), 1. Auflage. edition. Isbn: 9783859021396. SAC-Verlag, 2010.
  • Swindin, Les & Fleming, Peter: Valais Alps East (Alpine Club Guides). Isbn: 090052362X. Alpine Club, 1999.
  • Griffin, Lindsay N.: Valais Alps West, Switzerland - Alpine Club Selected Climbs. Isbn: 9780900523618. Alpine Club, 1998.
  • Vaucher, Michel & Rebuffat, Gaston: Walliser Alpen. Die 100 schönsten Touren, 2., überarb. u. aktualis. A. edition. Isbn: 9783765421242. GeraNova Bruckmann, 1996.
  • Waeber, Michael: Walliser Alpen - Gebietsführer für Wanderer, Bergsteiger, Skitourengeher, Kletterer. Die beliebtesten Anstiege auf alle wichtigen Gipfel mit Beschreibung aller empfehlenswerten Skitouren, 13. A. edition. Isbn: 9783763324163. Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, 2003.
  • Sertori, Mario: Alpine Ice - The 600 Best Ice Falls In The Alps. Isbn: 9788887890839. Versant Sud, 2009.
  • Moran, Martin: The 4000m Peaks of the Alps - Selected Climbs. Isbn: 9780900523663. Alpine Club, 2007.
  • Pusch, Wolfgang; Schmitt, Edwin; Senf, Thomas & Waeber, Michael: Hochtouren Westalpen - Band 1 - 86 Fels- und Eistouren zwischen Tödi und Grand Combin. Isbn: 9783763330287. Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, 2007.
  • Odermatt, Urs: Hot Ice - Eisklettern In Der Schwiez. Isbn: 978-3-033-00635-5. Panico Alpinverlag, 2005.
  • Anker, Daniel & Volken, Marco: Monte Rosa, 1., Auflage 2009 edition. Isbn: 9783909111688. As Verlag, Zürich, 2009.
  • Bösch, Robert: SchweizAlpin - Die schönsten Touren in Fels und Eis, 1., Aufl. edition. Isbn: 9783909111558. As Verlag + Buchkonzept a, 2008.

Valleys

The absolute center of mountaineering activities in Valais Alps is Mattertal, with well-known villages like Randa, Täsch and Zermatt. From this valley no less than 31 4000-metre peaks can be reached, among these Matterhorn 4478m, peaks of Monte Rosa Massif (Dufourspitze 4634m) and peaks of Mischabel Group (Dom 4545m). Another important valley is Saastal, which have many mountains in common with Mattertal plus a few of its own. Thirteen 4000-metre peaks can be reached from this valley, among these Nadelhorn 4327m and Weissmies 4023m. Also worth mentioning is Val de Zinal in Anniviers, a more quiet valley with access to one of the highest mountains in the Alps: the beautiful Weisshorn 4505m, as well as four more 4000-metre peaks. West of the Zermatt valley, the mountains are mainly lower and more remote, although at the chain's western extremity, the icy massif of Grand Combin rises to 4314m.

From north

Rhône valley

Main valley on the Swiss side, running more or less in West to East direction. Easily accessible either with car or by train from Geneva (nearest international airport) and Martigny. Main cities Sion, Brig and Visp. Rhône valley is used to access numerous side valleys located closer to the climbs.

    Val d'Entremont

    Bourg St.Pierre is located on the road through Gd. St. Bernard. It is located immediately to the west of Grand Comin and therefore suitable base for climbs from the west and south. Cabane de Valsorey and bivouac B. Musso are the most conveniently located bases for climbing Grand Combing starting from Bourg St. Pierre.

    Val de Bagnes

    Access to north and east side climbs on Grand Combin is most convenient from Fionnay (1490m). From there hike to Cabane de Panossière (2669m) takes 4h. Cabane de Chanrion (2462m) located further up the valley, close to Mt. Avril, Mt. Gelé and La Ruinette.

    Val d'Hérens

    Val d'Hérens is large valley located in the western part of Valais Alps.ö The upper valley is divided into three forks. Easily accessed from Sion in main Rhône valley. Arolla located at the end of the valley is the center for climbing activity. From there several huts can be reached to access the climbs. namesake of the valley, Den d'Hérens, is not readily climbable from val d'Hérens. Highest objectives, Dent Blanche and Grand Cornier are located to the west of the valley and best accessible from Ferpècle. Mont Collon, Pigne d'Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon are the best known climbs around Arolla.

    Dix valley

    Arolla

    Arolla region has traditionally been used as course base especially by Brits. The area has lots of easier objectives around F and PD on lower but glaciated peaks, thus it is well suited for such purpose. The valley also provides access for rock climbs on sound rock, especially in both Bouquetins and Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla. That being said, for parties looking for more technical objectives on ice and mixed ground, especially north faces of Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pigne d'Arolla and Mont Collon are classics. Due to glacier retreat in recent year, these climbs have suffered more than same type of faces on higher peaks, thus best conditions are typically found only in the spring and early summer.

    The the west of Arolla lie Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla and to the southwest chain Le Pleneur - La Luette - Mont Blanc de Cheilon and Pigne d'Arolla. Also climbs on Mont Gelé - Aouille Tseugue - La Singla -l'Evêque - Mont Collon can be reached from Arolla. Climbs on these parts are most readily accessed from Cabane des Dix (2928), Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges (2810m), Cabane des Vignettes (3158m) or Cabane de Bertol (3311m), all approached from Arolla.

    To the east of Arolla lie Monte Brule - Bouquetins - Aiguille de la Tsa - Dent de Perroc - Dents the Veisivi -chain. Climbs on these chains are mostly reached from Cabane de Bertol (3311m), Cabane de la Tsa (2607m) or Refuge des Bouquetins (2980m).

    Ferpècle

    Side valley branching to the east from Les Haudères with the village Ferpècle is starting points eastern side of Monte Brule - Bouquetins - Aiguille de la Tsa - Dent de Perroc - Dents the Veisivi -chain. The chain has mainly good rock climbs on excellent rock. North side on Monte Brulee is exception with ice routes between AD and TD. However, Grand Cornier, Dent Blanche and Téte Blanche located to the east of the valley are likely the best known climbing objectives from the valley. Cabane de la Dent Blanche is the most important hut reached from Ferpècle.

    It is possible to cross over to Schönbielhütte in Mattertal through col d'Hérens or to Grand Mountet hut via col de la Dent Blanche.

    Val d'Anniviers

    Also worth mentioning is Val de Zinal in Anniviers, a more quiet valley with access to one of the highest mountains in the Alps: the beautiful Weisshorn 4505m, as well as four more 4000-metre peaks.

    The valley can also be accessed from Mattertal via Schönbielhütte and Col Durand, from Mattertal via Arben Biwak and Arbenjoch, from mattertal via Rothornhütte or from val d'Hérens via Col de la Dent Blanche.

    Lac de Moiry

    Turtmanntal

    Located between Val d'Anniviers in West and Mattertal in east. Access from Turtmann in Rhone valley, lift to 1340, walking from there to Turtmannhütte, located ate the end of the valley. From there to Cabane de Tracuit.?

    Mattertal

    The absolute center of mountaineering activities on these many summits is the Mattertal, with well-known villages Randa, Täsch and Zermatt. From this valley no less than 31 4000-meter peaks can be reached, among these Matterhorn 4478m, peaks of Monte Rosa Massif (Dufourspitze 4634m) and peaks of Mischabel Group (Dom 4545m).

    Obergabelhorn - Zinalrothorn - Weisshorn - Bishorn chain has numerous worthwhile climbs. Reaching those is taxing though, as there are no lifts and the actual climbs are large in scale as well. Normal route of Bishorn is the only easy route in the chain. Classically beautiful Weisshorn has several long ridge routes while Obergabelhorn and Zinalrothorn have the best rock quality of the 4000m peaks around Zermatt. North faces of Bishorn and Obergabeljhorn are gems for those looking for steep alpine ice.

    Climbs in Téte Blanche - Dent d'Hérens - Matterhorn chain can be reached from Hörnli and Schönbiel huts, both of which are reached from middle station of Klein Matterhorn lift. Dent Blanche and Dent d'Hérens both have several good routes but the undisputed king of the central part of Pennine Alps is the rocky pyramid of Matterhorn, quite possibly the most famous mountain of the world. Anyone attempting to normal route (Hörnligrat, AD-) during the summer months has to be prepared to share the mountain with numerous other parties. Despite fixed ropes, it is still one of the hard 4000m peaks with Normal route graded at AD- and featuring 1400m of ascent. Other routes see much less traffic.

    Monta Rosa massif has 15-22 4000m peaks, depending on what is considered an independent peak. Several of the high peaks have relatively easy normal routes, Breithorn being reputably the easiest 4000m peak in the Alps. Also Castor and Pollux are very popular. Traverse of all 4000m peaks is possible in 4-7 days from Klein Matterhorn cable car using the huts on the Italian side. This traverse can be done various ways, those in search of climbing challenges include W-E traverse of Breithorn (AD+) and traverse of Lyskamm (W-E, AD/AD+), both of which are avoidable if easier alternative is wanted. There are also plethora of harder routes, especially classic are North faces of Breithorn and Lyskamm and gigantic East Face of Monte Rosa. There are also hard rock ridge on Nordend, Dufourspitze and Signalkuppe.

    Mattertal is used to reach the climbs on the west side of Mischabel group. There are no lifts, so reaching Täschhütte (2701m), Domhütte (2940m) or Mischabeljoch-biwak (3851m) already requires considerable ascent. Main climbing objectives are Täschhoirn and Dom, both requiring ascent of more than 1500m along the easiest routes. Ascent from Mattertal to Täschhütte and further to Mischabeljoch-biwak, then doing the traverse from Täscchorn to Dom is considered classic.

    Schaligletscher

    Triftgletscher

    Zmuttgletscher

    Schönbielhütte, Arbenbiwak, Cabane de la Dent Blanche, Bivacco Novella, Bivacco Benedetti

    Schwarzee - Furggletscher

    Trockener Steg

    Klein Matterhorn

    Gornergletscher

    Täschalp

    Randa

    Saastal

    Another important valley is Saastal, which have many mountains in common with Mattertal plus a few of its own. Thirteen 4000-metre peaks can be reached from this valley, among these Nadelhorn 4327m and Weissmies 4023m.

    Villages Saas fee, Saas Grund, Saas Balen and Saas Allmagel all are skiing resorts, thus some ski lifts can be used to reach the climbs.

    Highest and arguably the most impressive mountains that can be climbed from Saastal are the high peaks of Mischabel group. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Mischabelhütte (3329m), Längflue (2867m) and Mischabeljoch-Biwak (3851m) are the only huts available form reaching the climbs on Mischbel chain.

    Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn and Alphubel all have easy normal routes, and are well suited for acclimatization. saastal can be used to gain access to two impressive and classic ridge traverses, Täschhorn - Dom and Nadelgrat, the latter consisting of Lenzspitze in the south, Nadelhorn, Steccknadelhorn, Hochbärghorn and Dirruhorn (several variations and both directions are feasible, arguably the best climbing is found between Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn). One interesting and varied way is to start with NE face of Lenzspitse (Dreieselswand (D/D+), then follow Nadelgrat to Dirruhorn and return to Mischabel huts over Windjoch.

    To reach climbs on Weissmies group, Hooh Saas and Weissmies huts are the most common hut bases. The highest and finest mountain of the easternmost part of Pennine Alps is Weissmies (4023m). It, as well as the other high peaks of the group Fletschhorn (3993m) and Lagginghorn (4010m) all have easy glacier climbs with the latter being one of the easiest 4000m peaks in the Alps. North face on Fletschhorn is the most interesting feature of the area.

      Hochbalmgletcher

      Feegletscher

      Allalingletcher

      • AllalihornNort side
      • AllalihornEast side
      • AllalihornSouth side
      • Rimpfishhorn
      • Strahlhorn4190mNorth side

      Triftbach

      Almagellertal

      Simplon

        From south

        Aosta valley

        Main Aosta valley gives access to numerous side valley, that can be used to access climbs in Pennine Alps. Main convenient centeres to access climbs from Aostatal are Breuil-Cervinia,Gressoney Saint Jean and Alagna Valsesia, all of which are accessed from main Aosta valley. Closest major cities are Chatillon (27km, train), Turin (150km, airport) and Milan.

        Further to the east lie valle d'Ayas with Champoluc (1575m), valle Gressoney with Gressoney Saint Jean (1624m) and Valsesia with Alagna. These three valley form skiing area Monterosa ski with numerous lifts which can aid in reaching huts located on the Italian side of Monta Rosa: val d'Ayas (3425), Quintano Sella (3585), Gnifetti hut (3611m), Rifugio Mantova (3498) and rifugio Regina Margherita.

        Glacier des Grandes Murailles

        Breuil

        Breuil-Cervinia (2006m) and Valtournenche are located along the road towards north from the main Aosta valley. Breuil-Cervinia is located not too far away from Matterhorn on the Italian side. There are several ski-lifts and a few huts available from Breuil-Cervinia, the most important of which being Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi (2802m) and Rifugio Carrell (3829m), both of which are used to climb Matterhorn along the Liongrat, by far the best known climb from Breuil-Cervinia.

        Val de Verax

        valle d'Ayas with Champoluc (1575m)

        Valle de Gressoney

        valle Gressoney with Gressoney Saint Jean (1624m)

        Alagna - Valsesia

        Valle Anxasca

        Macucgnaga