This route ascends the prominent corner/dihedral on the north side of the peak overlooking the Riffelsee. The route is approximately 150m in length and can be climbed easily in four pitches, with a few sections of rock climbing to UIAA III+. Descent is easy along the East Ridge, requiring three rappels and some modest downclimbing. An overview of the route, as well as possible belay points and rappel locations, are shown on the Route Photo below.
As stated on the Main Page, the Riffelhorn can be easily reached from Rotenboden (preferable) or Riffelberg station on the Gornergrat-Monte Rosa Railway. On exiting the train at Rotenboden, pass through the gates and descend on an obvious trail towards the peak. At the low point of the trail, do not descend towards the Riffelsee, but rather scramble upwards through loose rock and gravel to pass to the left of a rock band (indicated on the Route Photo). Once above this, head for the large terrace (also shown on the Route Photo) below and left of the prominent orange corner/dihedral on the tallest part of the face. This is the Central Dihedral. There is a very deep, dark-colored gully just to the right which can be used to pinpoint the dihedral from Rotenboden. On reaching the terrace, traverse right to reach the base of a shorter dihedral, 10m left of the line of the Central Dihedral. The right face of this shorter dihedral is formed by an obvious 10m slab which is the starting point of the climb.
Ascent via Central Dihedral (AD+, 150m, 2.5 hrs)
We climbed the route in four pitches as outlined below and indicated on the Route Photo. Note, however, that belays are plentiful along the route and many variations are thus possible. A running-belay system (walking rope) may also be employed by more experienced parties.
Pitch #1: From the foot of the shorter dihedral, climb the slab on the right side for 10m (III+) and then continue up over easy blocky terrain to reach a nice terrace. Move right to about the midpoint of the terrace and belay (several cracks which take small to medium cams).
Pitch #2: Continue to the right edge of the terrace, descend slightly to a small and exposed ledge (poor hand holds), and traverse into the Central Dihedral. Climb the right face and corner of the dihedral for 8m (III+), then exit right and climb slabby terrain for another 40m to reach the top of the dihedral and a ledge (good belay).
Pitch #3: Slant up gradually right for a further 20m over easy ground to reach a gravel filled area with a small, protruding ledge directly above. Move left here and continue climbing up and left to pass blocky overhangs. After 30m, reach a small cleft on the left side of a buttress with a nice crack leading to its top. Belay here from good gear placements (small to medium cams).
Pitch #4: Climb the crack (III) to the top of the buttress or scramble up on the left and then continue over very easy ground for a further 30m to reach a ledge just below and right of the summit. Belay from here or walk around right and scramble on to the summit.
Descent via East Ridge (F, 1 hr)
The East Ridge offers the most convenient means of descent, since it is equipped for rappels and provides easy access to the trails back to Rotenboden. The locations of three convenient rappel stations are indicated on the Route Photo. Return to the ledge just below the summit and contour along the north side of the peak to reach bolts and rap rings at the top of the Third Step. Make a 15m rappel and continue along the crest of the ridge (or on ledges to the north) to reach the top of the Second Step. Rappel again from solid bolts (20m) to reach a notch at the bottom of the step. Descend northwards following the notch to reach more bolts at the top of a steep wall (see Route Photo). Make one more long rappel (20m) to reach easier slopes below and continue down to intersect any of the trails leading back to Rotenboden.
Rope -- A 60m rope of 9.5mm or similar is ideal, since the full rope-length can be utilized between belays, thereby reducing the number of pitches involved. A shorter rope and running-belay system may be desirable for more experienced parties.
Rock Gear -- A selection of cams (we took BD Camalots 0.1-3) and a set of stoppers. These are necessary for belays and can be placed by the leader as desired when climbing.
Helmet -- Protection against rockfall, although there are unlikely to be many parties on the route.
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