|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||46.09390°N / 7.85900°E|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Jul 20, 2018|
For my first of two large Alpine climbs in the summer of 2018 I chose Dom. This was in part due to the appeal of its height and significance within Switzerland and the Alps, but also because it was a PD climb and I was not yet comfortable with more difficult routes. I was impressed by the enormous 3100m drop from the summit to the valley floor but was not concerned about the difficulty of this, being in pretty good shape at the time - my biggest concern was actually crossing the Festijoch, due to my limited rock climbing experience.
Setting off from Randa in mid-morning the forecast was good until mid-afternoon so I was able to take my time ascending. Surprisingly quickly I reached the new Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, and as a quick diversion I put down my back and went back and forth across! There were a few people on the bridge and going over it was fine but coming back I was behind someone who was terrified of the height and just had to settle with walking very slowly behind them.
Short after this the trees gave way and the path became steeper but was in lovely meadows with plenty of wildflowers in bloom.
The flowers thinned as the path got considerably steeper and there were cables, ladders and rungs enabling it to climb over a rocky escarpment that looked an improbably location for a path (or a hut). There were good views back down to the valley, including of the suspension bridge, Europa Hut, and Weisshorn.
The path eventually veers left away from the rock face it had been meandering on, and turns up a rocky slope leading to the hut.
This is a very welcoming hut. The older part is warm and cosy, and the large extension contains modern dormitories with bunk bed and an interior toilet. I spent the afternoon mostly on the sunny terrace enjoying some food and a couple beers, and later on my guide, Daniel (a Swiss guide assigned to me from Zermatters through whom I had booked the guided climb), arrived on the terrace and one of the friendly hut staff pointed him out to me to indicate he was my guide.
We met and discussed the climb for the next day, and he asked about my previous experience to gauge my ability (when he asked how long it took me from Randa I think he was gauging my fitness!). He said if my climbing is good on the Festijoch we could try to climb via Festigrat because the conditions were reported to be excellent, but the decision would be taken in the morning.
The next morning was fairly warm, perhaps 5 degrees Celcius, but the snow on the glacier was in good condition. We had a 2:30 breakfast and left at 3:10, behind a few other groups. The first half hour was a quiet, easy walk on a gravelly path leading up to the edge of the glacier. We were able to ascend this without crampons for a while because it was not so steep, but we did eventually put on crampons well before the Festijoch. The Festijoch was the section I was most anxious about but I found the climbing very easy, despite it being dark, so Daniel suggested we could try Festigrat if I wanted to. I just said that if he thought my ability was suitable for it, we could give it a go!
We put crampons back on after a short break. It was still dark but the first hint of light was beginning to appear as we began climbing the Festigrat which was mostly firm, fairly steep snow, but with some short rocky sections and a few tricky sections with ice.
We climbed quickly and soon got to witness a spectacular sunrise, where the first rays of light stuck the tallest peaks then slowly slid down.
The whole Mattertal being lit up with the first light, especially the Matterhorn with a golden top, really made the whole climb worthwhile - and would have done so even if we hadn't reached the summit. It's hard to explain or illustrate in a photograph the spectacular sense of scale and depth when you are so high up a mountain and have a deep valley and landscape of famous peaks spreading before you.
The Festigrat continued in a fairly straight line with steepness varying throughout. The conditions were very good so we did not have too many icy stretches to deal with. By the time we were halfway up it we had overtaken the only other group that was still ahead of us at Festijoch. The top third or so of the Festigrat was all snow.
From about 4000m or so we were high enough to see Mont Blanc in the far distance.
After one final sharp pull up a steep snow ridge we arrive on the summit at about 7:25, 4 hours and 15 minutes after leaving the hut and in great conditions. It was a bit cold but not much below freezing and not very windy. The panorama was excellent apart from some persistent clouds over Saastal.
The summit cross, peculiarly, is out on a narrow spur to the south of the main summit which is just a crest of snow.
We didn't stay long on the summit, perhaps 10 minutes, before descending down the normal route on the snow north face. This was very fast going as we were able to walk straight down the mountain taking fairly long strides. Several groups were on their way up as we went down, having taken the normal route over the Festigrat. There were a few deep, snow-filled crevasses to cross but they were very stable.
The Hobarggletscher became more gradual as we moved west after descending the north face, and we quickly passed under a serac zone with evidence of recent small ice falls to get back to Festijoch. From here is was easier to see what we had climbed in the darkness, and it looked bigger than I expected. We descended easily enough and on slightly softer (but still decent) snow returned to the hut down the Festigletscher.
The hut was a very welcome sight, but the staff were surprised to see us because it was only about 10:30, just over 7 hours since we had departed in the morning. Nonetheless we enjoyed rosti and a beer and took some time to relax on the sunshine. It was a very satisfying climb and I was pleasantly surprised by my fitness and my comfort with even the hardest sections of the climb. I made arrangements with Daniel to climb Dufourspitze a few days later, as it was good working together and it's nice to work with a guide who already knows my ability and who I am comfortable with.
Daniel set off before me, and no doubt he would have descended faster. I gathered my things (including a few items I'd left in the hut for the climb) and returned gradually. It was a fantastic afteroon and Weisshorn was looking particularly good. It was a hot day though too, in excess of 30 degrees Celcius when I got to Randa. One tinge of regret is that I didn't stay a second night at the lovely Dom hut, especially because my knees were giving me a very nasty sensation from descending 3100m in a matter of hours. Thankfully they recovered over the following day, such that I was in good shape to go to the Monte Rosa hut the day after.
Overall this is an excellent climb, not too difficult technically but physically requires a lot of stamina. Those who climb and have a clear day will be rewarded with very memorable and wonderful views, especially at sunrise.