Beautiful climb! Rather easy but very pleasant climbing until the Grand Gendarme. We were lucky to be the first party at the base of the Grand Gendarme, which is a real bottleneck. It took a little effort to climb it on crampons. First party and alone at the summit. Bloody cold wind...Traverse to the Nadelhorn gives some good climbing on compact rock, but it is long.
ENE-ridge from the Mischabelhütte under winter conditions, descent via a traverse to the Nadelhorn.
Route: Randa - Dom hut - Festijoch - Lenzspitze - Randa
More images from this climb.
Great climb, we made a bivac on the foot of the glacier. From the foot of the face towards Lenzspitze in just 2.5 hours. Hard ice, but it went fast. Together with my climbingpartner we climbed everything solo. Wonderfull
Incredible climb! Excellent conditions! Vertigo-inducing exposure!
Briljant tour with a "descend" over the Nadelhorn.
My first real iceface, and especially the ridge took us (way ) to long....
Great route. Climbed the north face together with a friend solo in 2 hours and 10 minutes. The way back to the Rothornhutte took some more time because of a lot of snow on the ridge to the Nadelhorn.
Very good conditions of the north face. I suffered the high altitude but that was my first 4000 of the season.
The ridge to Nadelhorn is very long and not that easy.
Keep that in mind if you want to climb it!
Very good snow conditions in the ice-face. Traverse to Nadelhorn. Conditions on the ridge were not so good, too much snow. Great tour! Must do.
I had Tele skies and my partner had a Snowboard. We left the hut at 4am and we were standing on the summit by 8am. Skied back down the face in great conditions while the German team that we had passed on the way up were placing Ice screw belays. We were back down in Saas Fee by 10am.
August 27, 2000
As we pulled into the enormous car park in Saas Fee an hour or so late, I understood Vittorio’s initial apprehension over the chosen meeting place. Where on earth were we going to find Ernest? Vittorio, Pat and I in one car and Marco in a car behind us - we followed the maze-like concrete ramps and stopped to get our entry ticket. Miraculously, as we pulled up into the line of cars getting tickets, the one directly in front of us was Ernest’s! I recognized it by the Barcelona plates and leapt out of Vittorio’s car. I tapped on the passenger-side window until Ernest’s 10-hour car-ride-glaze and wonderment over who’s-the-nut-trying-to-get-into-my-car turned into a big smile and acknowledgment that it was me.
We parked, pulled our gear and packs together, made a call up to the Mischabel hut and were walking by 4 pm. It seemed like Ernest, Vittorio, and Marco hit it off right away – the language barrier was no hindrance. A late Sunday afternoon in light rain left us to ourselves for the approach to the hut. The higher we went, the steeper and more exposed the trail became - with sections of "via ferrata" (the Italian name for a trail with "fixed gear" to help the hiker over steep or exposed terrain – fixed cables, strategically placed metal steps, ladders, you get the picture). We were happy to see the fresh snow-dusted hut from below and arrived just in time before the last of the dinner was served. At over 3340 meters (about 11,000 feet), it was a big elevation jump (Saas Fee 1700 m, 5600 feet) and both Pat and I could feel it. We all sat down to a hot meal and planned our climb for the next day.
The hut keeper promised a 3:30 am wake up if the weather conditions improved. We didn’t get a wake up call and the view from our small window in the 20-person dormitory-style room at 7 am was dismal and gray. Five centimeters of new snow covered the hut and nearby terrain and the visibility was poor. The north face of the Lenzspitze would have to wait another day.
We did wait in hopes that conditions would improve. But Marco, who had wanted to do the Lenzspitze with us, left before the weather cooperated in order to meet up with wife Sara for a planned vacation to Corsica. I appreciated the many hours he took driving to meet up with us, knowing full well that he might not climb if the weather was poor, given his narrow time window. The conditions did in fact improve and we ventured out by late morning to consider a revised itinerary: the Ulrichshorn (3900m, 12800 ft) and the northeast ridge (the normal route) of the Nadelhorn (4327m, 14200 ft).
Ernest, Vito and I were the first onto the Hobalm Glacier and we set a track towards the Windjoch, a pass between the Nadelhorn and the Ulrichshorn. We eyed a more direct and steeper line which looked very feasible and appealed to us. We went "off-route" and climbed this steeper 45-50 degree snow and ice to a small corniced ridge which lead to the mellow summit of the Ulrichshorn. Vittorio led the way and pulled up onto the ridge and we continued up to the now sunny summit and found two Swiss climbers who reveled in the sun and the fact that nearly EVERY peak in the Alps was visible from this vantage. And they proceeded to name each one! We dropped onto the lee side of the summit and checked blood sugars. All good – between 100 and 140 mg/dl. We descended the ridge to the Windjoch and I thought we were going to head back to the hut. I honestly thought Ernest and Vittorio were joking when they said we were going to climb the Nadelhorn’s northeast ridge, because it seemed so far away. They were not joking.
We were the only rope team on the mountain and conditions were wintry! We arrived on the summit and blood sugars were good for everyone in the low 100s with not much deviation. Whatever each of us was doing was certainly working out. I was/am using an insulin infusion pump and both Vittorio and Ernest were on MDI using insulin pens. All three of us were keeping insulin delivery and blood glucose meters in our customized winter diabetes supply bags, under our clothes. Now I was primarily focused on the next most important task – getting down safely! We descended the mixed terrain which in good conditions is quite trivial (PD). I used 2 ice tools and faced the slope. Small spindrift avalanches rushed down the slope and reminded me to be careful and get down quickly. We retraced our steps and arrived at the hut with 30 minutes of sunlight to enjoy on the southwest side of the hut, out of the wind.
Soon dinner was served and the dining area was packed. The large room was warm, had a mild fragrance of "seasoned"climbers, and conversations in Swiss-German, British English, French and Italian permeated the airwaves. Vittorio, Ernest, and I felt somewhat reassured that 1) we could move together and climb peaks and 2) that blood sugars were for the most part very good; and 3) this was a fun group! The aproned hut guardian asked how our day went and inquired about the next day’s plans. We told him - the north-northeast face of the Lenzspitze to its northwest ridge to the Nadelhorn and a descent of the northeast ridge of the Nadelhorn. He gave a skeptical, concerned look and somewhat jokingly said directly to Ernest – "Well, are you good? Are you REALLY good?!?" in a Swiss accent. The implication being that this was a SERIOUS route. Without flinching, in a completely no-nonsense, unemotional tone, Ernest replied "We’re EXCELLENT." That was good enough for the hut guy. And he left us alone. Don’t think he knew we were insulin dependent diabetics!
Everybody was feeling well, acclimatizing and semi well-rested. My mild headache of the day earlier went away and blood sugars continued to be excellent for everyone.
Up at 3:30 am. (with the throngs of climbers), a light breakfast, prepared packs and gear and with headlamps departed. We started up the rocky ridge behind the hut in dark and passed a few slower parties. We reached the glacier and the track we set the day before, which was now used by all the groups. After a half-hour walk, we turned off the flat portion of the glacier and headed towards the north-northeast face of the Lenzspitze which towered at 50-55 degrees for more than 500 meters (1600 feet) above. We again set our own track across the glacier. At the base of the face, we pulled out our other ice tool and searched a few minutes for a place we could safely cross the enormous bergschrund.
We were the only people on the route and in the immediate vicinity. We belayed Ernest who probed and stepped onto a snow bridge consisting of old avalanche debris and crossed without incident. Once we were all above this difficulty, we moved together directly up the face towards the summit. Snow conditions varied considerably (even from runnel to runnel), with generally firm to hard nevé at the bottom portions of the route, and cold, unconsolidated, fresh, winter-like snow on the top 1/3. Ernest lead the entire way up the face and when possible kicked steps which made it easy following. I used one tool in dagger mode, the other in piolet-traction and I used a combination of French technique (flat foot technique with all crampon points on the slope) and front-pointing. We reached the summit of the Lenzspitze at 8:20 am. The entire face below us was in full sun in a matter of minutes. It was very cold (below freezing), windy, and all of us with low (but not very - we were all around 60 mg/dl) blood sugar. We ate a snack.
From the summit of the Lenzspitze we could see our "destiny" as Vittorio recalls - the northwest ridge towards the Nadelhorn. The conditions on the ridge were in fact very difficult, perhaps worse than our view suggested. In Vittorio's words, "eravamo nella merda."
A series of thin, corniced and knife-edge, unconsolidated snow ridges connected pieces of mixed terrain to a low point on the ridge (Lenzjoch 4103m). Vittorio lead the entire ridge, and now where there was more competent rock and huge holds, we had icy slabs to descend (and in places rappel) and again thin, delicate snow aretes between rock towers. I was feeling very happy having a number of set belays which took lots of time (as opposed to running belays which would have been safe, too, and less time consuming). I also felt like the luckiest diabetic climber in the world being connected to Vittorio at one end and Ernest at the other – two of the greatest diabetic mountaineers in the world. They moved gracefully and were completely unfazed by the most worrisome looking/feeling terrain. Ernest and I simul-climbed while Vittorio belayed. In trickier sections Ernest gave me a quick belay in addition to the belay given by Vittorio. At 2:40 pm. (finally) we touched the summit cross of the Nadelhorn and were on yesterday's familiar terrain. The descent was a walk in the park compared to any of the terrain we were on earlier. Many others had reached the summit of the Nadelhorn earlier in the day via the normal route and now we were using their track, which nearly felt like walking on a sidewalk.
Pat spent much of the day again trying to keep warm in the hut and continuing her own challenges - that of reading Middlemarch and exploring the nearby unglaciated terrain. She could follow our progress climbing the face (like little ants) with the aid of the hut keeper's binoculars. It was a wonderful surprise to have her meet "the very tired climbers" (in her words) at the edge of the glacier above the hut at a little past 4 pm.
After portioning out the remaining scraps of food - an orange, an apple, a carrot, some old bread and peanut butter which even Vittorio and Ernest were hungry enough to eat (a first for both), we began the 1500 meters of excruciating descent into Saas Fee. We changed our grimey clothes and had pizza and beer. Ernest departed for Barcelona, and the rest of us drove to Vittorio's home in Besana.