Me and Nina have dreamed of going to the Alps. During the last 5 years we have been preparing for this journey to the ‘big’ mountains. The winter season in Bulgaria gives a lot of possibilities for training and we used every chance (climbing, ski mountaineering, winter traverses and ascents on moderate and hard routs, sleeping in snow holes, intentional trips in bad weather conditions) with the grand idea of being prepared for the Alps. Our vision for mountaineering has always been up and down on feet, no lifts, sleeping in tents or bivouacs, no refugees. At the beginning of spring 2009 we realized that we have finished every wall and peak, every idea that has came to us for the last years. Buying the airplane tickets to Bergamo, Italy came naturally. Our plan is Monte Rosa with Dufour than traverse Lyskamm, Castore, Braithorn and climb Matterhorn.
The first 2 days we spent traveling and walking the beautiful streets of Alagna.
02.08 – target: start walking up to Monte Rosa.
We should start from “Campeggio Alagna” 1200 m. but in 12 h. we were still in the camping bar. It has been raining the whole night and morning. The temperature has dropped with app. 10 ⁰C. The weather forecast said clouds and rain for the next 2-3 days. In 12:30 h. as all shops in Italy the bar closed. We were fully racked out on the rain. The final decision was to GO!
Exiting Alagna was not as easy as it seemed. Practically every street leads out but you end on a steep hill surrounded with forest. We lost 30 min in search of the correct path (rout 5. Starts at the end of the village after the river). Once surrounded by nature the rain stopped disturbing our minds as it is in the civilization. We found the drops beautiful and move on with a smile. We reached Col’d Olen 2881 m before dark and set the tent. The temperatures were around the freezing point.
03.08 – target: Biv.Balmenhorn.
We woke up in dense fog and light snowfall. The path was well traced so loosing oneself was not a risk. Anyway we waited for better weather but there was no change. We departed in 11:00 h. At 3000m the path was muddy. The silence was interrupted from the lift and noisy machines. The Italians were building a lift to “Valle di Gressoney”. Above “P-ta Indren” we walked on wet and icy rock. The arête was on the right side. We passed the “Gh. del Indren” glacier and found ourselves at a “Via ferrata” passage. We implemented our hands for climbing (app. 40 m) and the adrenalin dispersed the grey scenery. After 20 min. we were on top of the rock, app. 100 m above Ref.”Citta di Mantova” 3500m. A rift in the clouds told us to continue with crampons. We passed the “Gh.Garstelet” glacier and climbed the rock to Rif.Gnifetti 3647m. After app. 6 h walking we felt tired and dehydrated. Beside the fog and snowfall the wind was rising. We spend the night in the refuge. Our window was facing North to Lyskamm. We were 650 m above the highest point in Bulgaria and there was still a whole mountain to climb…. The wind was blowing during the night and the temperatures dropped significantly.
04.08 – target: Biv.Balmenhorn.
We woke up in 04:30 h. Nina prepared the usual breakfast (oatmeal) and in 05:30 h we were out and ready to go. The weather was perfect – clear sky, cold. No wind. Walking up we passed by 3 tents and а guy numbed with cold. A party of 5 has slept in a 2 person tent in order not to freeze. We reached the “Balmenhor” bivouac in 08:30 h. and began to melt snow. In 12:00 h we were hydrated and rested. This day we climbed C-no Nero 4322m, Ludwigshohe 4342m and returned to the bivouac. There we met 2 boys and a girl from Spain. We easily become friends. We wanted to rest well because the next day we were supposed to climb P-ta Dufour 4634 m. The night was tiring. The bivouac is constructed for 8-10 people we slept 17.
05.08. – target: P-ta Dufour.
We woke up in 04:00 h tired but enthusiastic. After a fast oatmeal we were out and walking. The sleepless night gave its influence and our bodies refused to follow the usual rhythm. Anyway we were moving well and in 08:30 h were on top of P-ta Zumstein 4563m. From here we saw Dufour, Matterhorn, Breithorn, Lyskam, Gnifetti. The weather was perfect but we were not concentrated and confident. Studying the climbing line to Dufour we found two cruxes - a 15m steep rocky part followed by a 30 m snow/ice field. Our gear was crampons, 1 ice axe/person, 4 karabiners and a 60m rope. We figured to need at least 2 pieces of active pro and a set of nuts for the rock and another 2 ice screws for the snow. We decided to leave Dufour for another trip. The years of training and mountain experience has taught us never to be sorry for not reaching the goal from the first trial. It is important to get the most from each situation and prepare yourself for a confident ascent and sure descent. A deep breath and we are heading to P-ta Gnifetti 4554m (steep snow climb). After an hour break in “Cap.Margherita” (12:00 h) we were moving to P-ta Parrot 4436m. On the way down we met our Spanish friends. Exchange a smile and some encouraging words and continue. From the bottom P-ta Parrot seems like a hill but once you are on it you realize that it is rib like with all sides very steep. Two peaks are connected with a narrow traverse in the line of Lyskamm. This was a good exercise for the next day climb of Lyskamm. In 14:00 h we were back in the bivouac. (We realized that due to the strong radiation the time between 14 and 16 h is very tiring for the body. It is better to start before sunrise and be under the shed before 14:00 h.) This night there were 21 people in the bivouac. Happily we were so tired that slept like under anesthesia.
06.08 – target: Lyskamm traverse and as far as we can reach direction Breithorn.
We woke up 30 min after the alarm and got out in 05:30 h. The sky was crystal clear. In 06:30 h we were at the beginning of the climb to Lyskamm. The traced line makes a ~ 150 m traverse EW and then you are on the real climb. We decided to climb directly on the rib. It started on good hard snow. On the traverse after the first steep section we were walking on hard ice where the crampons were penetrating not more than 5 mm. On both sides the sloops are very steep and long. There were big cornices along the entire ridge and using the rope for arresting a fall in this section was not going to be effective. We descended 50 m from the S face where the snow was softer and traversed EW until we escape the cornices and icy passage. Than up to the traverse and ~200 m EW to the beginning of the 2nd steep section. Up the NE side (40 min.) and we were on the top of Lyskamm E 4527m. From here we continued EW on the cutting edge. Looks very exposed but if you are concentrated and calm it is only walking. App. 300 m before the W peak there is a short rocky section with a crux consisting of a 5 m 4th class rock climb with very good holds, steps and place for protection.
We passed it easily and reached Lyskamm W 4481 m. We descended on the SW side, passed the big plateau and found ourselves at the bottom of P-ta Castore 4228m.
This, just like P-ta Parrot seemed like a hill which turned to be exactly the opposite. The two peaks are very much alike just Castore is app 4 times bigger. The plateau is at ~ 4000 m so we must managed with ~ 220 m climb. Once you are on the top the view is stunning. You can see Monte Rosa, the whole Lyskamm, P-ta Polluce, Roccia Nera, Breithorn, Matterhorn and so on. We descended the 400 m W side and continue walking by P-ta Polluce and under Biv.”Rossi Volante”. We set the tent on the spectacular surface of the “Grande Ghiacciaio” glacier at the bottom of Breithorn. We had a good night.
07.08 – target: Breithorn and down to Cervinia
This day was supposed to be relaxing we did not have much to go. In 11:00 h we were ready for the climb of Breithorn. It took us 1 hour up, traverse and down. The descent from the mountain was along the ski sloops. We reached the upper lift station connecting the plateau Rosa with Cervinia. This time we decided to take advantage of the lift. On the 2nd middle lift station we went out to take an “oxygen” breath. A beautiful meadow full with flowers and scents under the Monte Cervino (It)/Matterhorn (Ch) was the most precious present for the last 6 days. We felt our bodies and spirits very alive. In 15:00 h we had already set the tent in the forest above Cervinia and started preparing for the climb of Matterhorn. We visited the guides’ house and discovered that the weather forecast for the next 4 days is cloudy and rain. For Matterhorn this meant hard ice on the rock above 3300 m for at least 1 sunny day after the rain (total at least 5 days waiting). We could not afford it and decided to move to the Monte Bianco massive. It started raining before sunset and continued during the night.
08.08 – target: Monte Bianco (It)/ Mont Blanc (Fr)
We woke up and packed the tent in rain. In 14:00 h we were already organizing our bivouac at the feet of Monte Bianco in the Vall Ferret.
After one more day we started our ascent. Climbed on feet by Rif.Torino to Col Du Midi 3600 m. The next day we climbed Monte Bianco and descended with the lift to Chamonix. This climb is another story….
We had a beautiful time. This first contact with the high Alps charged our imagination and desire to come back again and again.
Many thanks to our kind Spanish friends Aitiziber, Jon and Patxi!
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