OverviewWhen you drive from the Wallis up the Rhone river to its source, there is one remarkable ice clad mountain in front of you, that will haunt you for a full hour: Galenstock. If you drive from Italy over the Gotthard pass, a different looking overwhelming shape shows, but it is still the Galenstock. It is the guardian of the Rhone glacier that is the source of one the main European rivers that flows into the Mediterranean near Marseille. The Rhone glacier is not as large as the Aletschgletscher, but it is more famous. Goethe was delighted by it, many artists painted it, and looking at those old paintings we get a sad feeling, because our glaciers are going to disappear. In 1850 this glacier reached the hamlet of Gletsch at 1770 m; today the tourists must climb the Furka pass road up to the hotel Belvedere at 2274 in order to touch some real natural ice. The Seiler dynasty of Zermatt built first class hotels at the Belvedere and in Gletsch, which are still open to tourists and worth seeing, if you like to enhale the athmosphere of the 19th century.
Early 1900 the railroad boom even reached Gletsch. Today the cogwheel railroad, called Furka-Oberalb Bahn (FOB), makes a short-cut in a tunnel, but some enthusiasts run the old steam engines on certain days as far as Gletsch and Furka (2160 m).
Before the boom of the automobile, the mountaineers needed that train in order to climb the Galenstock. They took the train to the Tiefenbach station (1845 m) and walked to the Albert Heim hut (2542 m). The next day they climbed the Galenstock over its north ridge, using rope and crampons. Today, the Galenstock has different customers. They arrive by car at 5 o'clock in the morning at the Belvedere and climb the mountain with skis.
Rock climbers often chose the small Sidelenhut near the Furka psss, that offers a dozen of possibilities in rock/ice or just in pure granite.
Link for books and maps:
Literature and Maps
Guide: Clubführer Urner Alpen West edited by the Swiss Alpine Club
Map: Nr. 1231 Urseren 1:25'000
Map: Nr. 5001 Gotthard 1:50'000
See the Swisstopo Map with many interesting features. Upload is in a seperate window.
Getting To The TopNorth ridge Normal route in summer.
From the Albert Heim hut, follow the track that leads north of Pt. 2713, then go down to the Tiefenbach glacier and head for the Tiefenstock. Stay as low as possible in the trough, because there is a minimum of crevasses. At ca. 3100 m turn left and climb towards the low saddle next to the north ridge. Now you leave the glacier and climb the saddle in easy, but loose rocks. On the saddle a magnificent panorama of the Rhone glacier and the Bernese Oberland will surprise you.
From the saddle climb the steep but not difficult ridge to the top. AD. Crampons, rope, axe, no screws. 5 hours.
Skiers chose sometimes a straighter route to the base of the saddle and usually leave the skis there. It is possible to carry the skis to the summit and ski down to Belvedere. Once I skied down directly to the Rhone glacier from the saddle, so it is possible, but not popular.
From Belvedere Normal route with skis
From Belvedere carry the skis up the hill above the parking place (15 minutes), then go left to the Rhone glacier and put your skis on. Follow the rather flat glacier for ca. 3 km. The first big crevasses welcome you, leave them at your left and stay in the steep trough that leads to the next flat part at ca. 2700 m. Now you can see the steep slope on your right hand side that leads to the Galensattel (3113 m). It is possible that after a winter with little snow this part of the slope consists of pure, green ice. In such a case, I despise the Galenstock, stay on the Rhone glacier and go straight on to the easier, but higher Dammastock (3630 m). Usually this is not the case and you walk in the shadow up the the Galensattel, always on your skis.
From the Galensattel a fantastic view on this wonderful south ridge helps to forget the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The last slope is usually climbed on foot, since a mistake on the skis would send you in your fast and last run to the Rhone glacier. 5 hours, only for good skiers. Take rope, axe, crampons with you, which you will not need under normal conditions.
And do not forget: go the Dammastock, if the slope is icy. The Galenstock will be still there next year!
When To ClimbFoot: July to September
Ski: May to July
AccommodationThe skiers usually wait until the Furka pass road opens in May or June and then all Galenstock and Dammastock lovers rush to the Belvedere and park the car there. No fees.
A stay at Hotel Belvedere would be an alternative, but when writing this contribution, it was closed.
At the east (Gotthard) side of the Furka I name three possibilities, there are more along the road.
1. Stay at the Hotel Tiefenbach (2109 m) on the Furka pass road, good food, simple and clean rooms, reasonably priced. To be reached by car or bus. Phone: ++41 (0)41 887 13 22. Mobile: ++41 (0)79 208 80 55.
2. Go the Albert Heim hut (2542 m, 80 places), belonging to the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). Your reach it in 1 - 2 hours from Tiefenbach.
3. For rock climbers (granite) in summer, I recommend the small Sidelenhut, 2708 m, 1 hour above the Furka pass road, located between Kl. Bielenhorn and Sidelenhorn.
General InformationFor books, maps, webcams, trains, buses, weather, avalanches, rescue see my list Swiss Links in a new window.
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