Ascent of the Breithorn on July 6, 2014 from Testa Grigia in cloudy conditions.
We took off from Zermatt by cable car to Furi and Trockener Steg (2939 m) on July 5, the first opening day of the season for the Trockener Steg cable car. The ticket office opens at 6.15 AM and the first cable car leaves at 6.30 AM. We were on the track by 7 AM and crossed the Oberer Theodulgletscher to the Rifugio Guide del Cervinia on Testa Grigia (3480 m) where we spent the night.
Exiting Trockener Steg it is not very clear which way you should take. In fact you have to aim to the left (east) of the exit towards a ski slope. At a distance, there is a red sign on the slope mentioning "Gandegghütte". You can then either choose to follow the marked path to the rather insignificant Gandegg hut or follow the ski slope straight up towards Theodulhorn and Testa Grigia, which is already visible to the South. It is a long and tedious climb, first gentle and then steeper but easy. By chance, we walked the whole stretch in the sunshine whereas all around us, clouds prevailed, hiding all the legendary peaks surrounding us. You reach the hut in 2.30 h. Testa Grigia is a agglomerate of ugly cable car, skiing and radio broadcasting infrastructure clad in numerous cables, wires and fences, but the hut section is warm and cozy and Mario, the warden will make you feel very welcome. The food was fantastic and we watched the World Soccer Cup on a laptop computer set on the the bar in great company. The next morning around 5 AM the skies were clear and and I could take some nice shots of the Matterhorn, Dent d'Hérens, Weisshorn, Mischabel Group, Mont Blanc and Breuil-Cervinia glistening down in the valley on the Italian side. We set off for the Breithorn at 6 AM. Basically you follow the ski slopes ahead to the South-East, aim for the ski tunnel and make a left (North) towards Klein Matterhorn. Make a bend to the right (East) and cross yet another ski slope coming from Klein Matterhorn. The Klein Matterhorn cable car does not start unloading skiers until 8 AM so we were temporarily still under the impression that we were in the high Alps ! Upon reaching the Breithorn Plateau the path in the snow leading to the summit is very clear. As clouds started rising around the Matterhorn behind us, and expanding in our direction, we decided to accellerate and passed several other groups of climbers, heading for the summit. To no avail ! As we left the vast snow expand to start the more arduous climb starting at about 3900 m we were engulfed in fog and cold winds. I barely managed to keep the climbers party ahead of me within view. As we reached the Breithornlücke at 4100 m around 8.30 AM, the wind was so hard, the visibility so bad and the cold freezing my fingers so fast that we decided to return immediately, following the other party's advice. We followed the same track back down to Trockener Steg entirely in the mist.
Rope, ice axe, crampons