This trip links the Balfrin in the S with the Gross Bigerhorn in the N. Although without great technical difficulties or bagging 4000m peaks, the traverse is a satisfying trip with superb views. Most often it is climbed in south-north direction, starting from the Riedpass (3565m) and avoiding a descent over the Ried Glacier in the afternoon. The traverse is described in this way. The Balfrin - Bigerhorn Traverse is an excellent acclimatisation trip for his big brother on the other side of the Ried Glacier which listens to the name Nadelgrat.
The traverse is described well in Valais Alps East Selected Climbs by Swindin and Fleming.
From the Mischabelhütte, the best way of reaching the Riedpass is via the Windjoch and a traverse of the Ulrichshorn. Allow 3 to 4 hours to reach the pass.
From the Bordierhütte, the Riedpass is reached via the Ried Glacier. This takes about 2 to 3 hours.
Starting from the Riedpass, follow the S Ridge of the Balfrin over easy terrain. From below it looks more difficult than it is. Within an hour you reach the southern summit of the Balfrin. Continu along easy snow and lose rock to its northern summit, which is a little bit lower. Then descend into the snowy/icy NE Face. This is quite steep and can pose problems when the slope is icy. At the lowest point between Balfrin and Gross Bigerhorn there is a small melt water lake.
Continu along the SW Ridge of the Gross Bigerhorn. The last rocky step is taken via a traverse along the right side of the crest and a steep climb back to the ridge. Descent goes via the normal route to the Bordierhütte. The traverse can be extended with a visit to the Klein Bigerhorn.
Everything you need for an alpine outing. Nuts & friends or a technical ice axe are not necessary.
The difficulty according to Valais Alps East Selected Climbs by L Swindin and P Fleming (1999) is PD for each part of the traverse. There are 2 reasons for which I believe the entire traverse is more difficult.
1. climbing the entire ridge from the Mischabelhütte to the Bordierhütte is a long trip which is frequently underestimated in time
2. climbing in the direction of the Bordierhütte implies downclimbing the NE face of the northern summit of Balfrin, which can be very tricky when icy and definitely harder than PD
Anyway, AD is a little overestimated indeed :o)
Posted May 3, 2009 11:25 am
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--Hunter S Thompson