Jungfrau, Alphubel & Rimpfischhorn 2007
Member Nikman (Niklas) and I had planned a ski trip to Wallis, especially to the mountains in the Mischabel Group. Niklas wanted to complete his list of the 4000er summits around Saas Fee. Maybe climbing Rimpfischhorn and Alphubel and sleeping in a tent on the glacier. Why not! We had a deal.
Niklas and I met each other here at SP early this year. We had done some trips together some weeks before. First we did a "getting to know each other"-trip to Hinterer Brochkogel and then a serious ski trip to Piz Buin a very prominent summit of Silvretta at the border of Austria and Switzerland. The weeks after we thought about more details of the trip to Wallis. After playing some options we decided to stay at Taeschhuette a hut high above the Matter-valley. We thought about climbing Alphubel and the the day after Rimpfischhorn. Alphubel (4.206m) is a very easy ski mountain. You can reach the flat top by ski. It´s very uncommon for the Alps to reach a height of over 4.200m by ski (exception: Signalkuppe, Mont Blanc and Grand Combin). Rimpfischhorn (4.198m) is a sharp, one kilometer long and rocky wall. The name sounds funny, indeed but it´s a serious ascent with mixed-climbing in snow and rocks. But both routes, easy or not are long! What´s long or very long? Maybe it´s better to say that Alphubel has a elevation gain of round about 1500mH (6 hours ascent - totally 9 hours) and Rimpfischhorn of more than 1750mH (7 hours ascent - totally 12 hours). We thought we were tough enough to do this trip, but due to the height of the area we wanted to acclimatize first, otherwise it would be very exhausting to do two 4000er by ski on two days with hot temperatures.
We decided to go to Jungfrau in the Bernese Alps the weekend before our trip to Wallis starts. We drove to Grindelwald on Friday evening after work and arrived at the foot of the Eiger at Saturday 0200. We slept only 2 hours in the car and took the first train to Jungfraujoch (~3.450m). It´s a perfect origin for trips to Moench or Jungfrau. We wanted to do Jungfrau as a day trip. When we arrived at Jungfraujoch we saw many mountaineers on the route to Jungfrau. They slept at Moenchsjochhuette and had a headstart of about 2 hours. We were optimistic to do this trip within 6 hours to reach the last train to Grindelwald in the afternoon. Yeah, right! Bad thoughts! Unacclimatized in a height up to 4.157m, temperatures over 0°C, no wind, heavy load with all the useless avalanche rescue gear, a night with 2 hours of sleep and the sun was burning like hell. It was a torture, of course no hero story, but it was simply no fun! Niklas got health problems and was very slow. He stayed at the ski depot at Rottalsattel and I was going to the summit. The snow conditions were perfect. No rope required. The summit-flank was directly climbable. I was the last person who arrived at the summit. Nice view to the surroundings like Eiger, Finsteraarheorn or Aletschhorn. But I had to be fast on the descent. The last train wouldn´t wait. Niklas had left the ski depot before I arrived and I had to ski down the route alone and had to cross the glacier on my own. Not the best way, but that´s life. I reached Jungfraujoch within the calculated 6 hours.
Meanwhile, Niklas was sitting in front of the station and had some fun with japanese tourists:
"Could you make a photo of me and this mountain there?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Ah, could I get your ice axe for the photo?"
"Ah, mmmmh, yes, of course?!"
We took the last train down to Grindelwald and on the way we had some nice views into the North Face of Eiger. We drove back to Germany and felt well prepared for the two double length routes in the Wallis. ;-)(To tell the truth: I wanted to start a fire with my ski and get the summer started. But after a drove about 700km and reaching my home I was eased and mountaineering was still the best avocation of the world.)
On the next Saturday I drove to Karlsruhe and met Niklas for our trip to Wallis. We drove to Switzerland and used the Loetschberg-tunnel to get quickly to Wallis. After reaching Taesch the village at the foot of Weisshorn, we drove up to Taeschalp and walked 90 minutes to the Taeschhuette. There was no trace of snow. This could be funny. Maybe we had to carry our ski a long part of the routes. But after some talks to some italian and french mountaineers we were relieved to hear that the last crappy remain of snow started after 15min of walk. Perfect! We had the normal business and fun with the other mountaineers in the hut, especially in the night. Thanks to the french guy next to me snoring in my ear. We woke up at 0400, had breakfast at 0415 and started at 0500. After 15 min of walking with full moon we saw behind a corner the grey remain of snow shining in the darkness. The fun could start. The best thing of the route from Taeschhuette to Alphubel is that you stay the first 1000Hm on the west-side of the mountain and you didn´t get any sunshine. Best temperatures to get quickly to Alphubeljoch. At this notch you can feel the first rays of the sun. Wonderful feeling. But then we got a shock. A crowd was coming up from the East side from Laengfluh to Alphubel. We joined the traffic and reached the summit of Alphubel in round about 6 hours.
We had perfect views to Weisshorn, Matterhorn and Rimpfischhorn and after reaching Alphubeljoch also to Allalinhorn, Strahlhorn and the Weissmies-Group. The descent was very funny. Skiing down 1500mH on wet snow is very funny. It´s like water-ski in the Alps, paired with noises of scratching stones in the lower parts of the route. We reached the Taeschhuette at 1400 (this means 2 p.m.) and relaxed the rest of the day.
On Monday we started at the same time and did the same route for one hour. Then we turned to the South, joined two austrian brothers and headed towards Rimpfischhorn. The two just wanted to reach the Rimpfischsattel (ski depot). We tried to skied down to the next glacier but got some problems. We skied down a couloir which ended 20 meters above the glacier. We had to climb down. Niklas throw down his ski which landed on a frozen glacier-lake. After the down climbing he crawled over the ice to rescue his ski. After this part followed the long way to Rimpfischsattel.
I reached the ski depot first due to some endurance problems of Niklas. Nothing important, but it was not his best day. After I had waited 20min at the ski depot he dicided to skip the summit and ski down to the hut.
I told him that nobody of us would ski down a glacier alone. (Pennine Alps / Wallis is the area with the most accidents due to crevasses!) I told him two options, going to the summit with me or staying at ski depot and relaxing till I am coming back. Niklas wanted not to freeze more than 2,5 hours in a ski depot in a height over 4000 m. So he decided to join the summit party, and in the evening he was happy that he had decided right. The ascent to the summit of Rimpfischhorn is a little bit mixed climbing of snow up to 55° and some short parts of climbing (III). We had bad luck on the summit. A little cloud came up and we had no view to Strahlhorn or the other surroundings, but the deep view to East Side and to the sharp fore- summit was very impressive. We joined a swiss group and rappeled down to the ski depot. At ski depot the clouds had gone and we had a fantastic view to the Monte Rosa with the East Face the highest european Wall and the four summits Dufourspitze, Nordend, Zumsteinspitze and Signalkuppe. We skied down and had to ascent ~150Hm to the Alphubel-glacier. The rest was the same as the day before. Nice water-ski in a height over 3000m. We reached the hut and walked down to the car. After 13 hours we reached the car at Taeschalp. We drove via Bern to Karlsruhe. Niklas drove to Gerlingen and I drove to Cologne. I reached Cologne by 0300, drove to a discotheque and picked up my girlfriend Katrin.
Finally it was a great trip with perfect weather, funny snow conditions und two 4000m peaks. Ski mountaineering is one of the best styles of mountaineering! But now it´s May, in Germany there are 30°C (due to the climate change) and the winter is ticked off, definitively!
Best regards to all SP-Members.