The Gletschhorn South Ridge is a classic route in the Urner Alps on solid granite. The summit offers a panoramic view of this part of the Urner and is a satisfying reward. In 2009 the ridge was rebolted.
While it is still recommended to take additional protection on the climb, the route is considerably better equipped than before.
The approach and retreat from the mountain require knowledge of glacial travel and may include some climbing on relatively steep snow to reach the first pitch. Getting down from the summit is a mix of down climbing and abseiling and requires continued attention!
The route is best accessed from the Albert-Heim hut which lies about 1 to 1.5 hours walk to the south east of the climb. The hut itself is an easy hours walk from the car park.
Leaving the hut you walk westwards towards the Tiefenglacier which you follow upwards and northwards towards the Tiefenstock. Pay attention to the crevasses, rope up if the glacier is snow covered, and scan the Gletschhorn South Ridge as you approach it on it's western side to find the start of the route. The start is located above a fairly steep snow field which leads to a small saddle in the ridge. Depending on conditions this snow field can be frozen so be sure to take a pair of crampons and an ice axe with you.
Once you've made your way up the snow field, the south ridge awaits. Do not make the mistake of leaving your ice axe and crampons at the start of the route as you will not be coming back this way! (We actually found 2 pairs of crampons.)
The route is quite straightforward as it sticks to the well defined ridge all the way to the summit. Pegs and shiny new bolts can show you the way should you be in doubt as to where to climb.
Once on the summit continue westward to make your way to the exit from the Gletschhorn. This part of the route involves a lot of downclimbing on loose ground above steep drops so be careful! We unroped for this part, only occasionally short roping to belay particularly tricky or steep parts of the route.
Be sure to look out for the dots sometimes painted on the rocks, these will lead you to the abseil points necessary to cross the last steep part of the route. The snow slope at the bottom of the route can be reached in 2 abseils but only just
so I would recommend using the 3rd abseil belay you come across while abseiling the 2nd length.
Once you have made your way down the steep snow slope you're pretty much home safe but do pay attention not to fall into any of the crevasses on the Tiefenglacier!
Glacier gear: ice axe, crampons
Plenty of slings, a few small-medium sized friends, a set of rocks.
Rock shoes if you don't want to climb the South Ridge on your heavy boots.
Map: Swiss 1:25000 #1231 'Urseren'
Guidebook: SAC Fuhrer Urner Alps III or Schweiz Plaiser Ost.
External LinksAlbert - Heim hut