Castor (4220m)& Pollux (4092m) from Gornergratby MarkHallam
Pollux is one of the 82 peaks above 4000 meters in the Alps (UIAA-list). Pollux is one of the twins , the other one is its slightly higher neighbor Castor and together they form the illustrious duo from the Greek mythology: Castor and Pollux. The reason is clear when you look at the peaks from the Zermatt (or Swiss) side of the mountain: Castor and Pollux appear near identical to one another. This is the clear reason both peaks are often referred to as the ‘’Zwillinge’’, which translates from German as ‘twins’. Pollux was first climbed by Jules Jacot from Geneva with guides Josef-Marie Perren and Peter Taugwalder on the first of August in 1864.
Polluxranks 55th in the list of highest peaks in the Alps and is often climbed, especially in summer when on a normal day, between 10 and 40 climbers reach Pollux’ summit. Although Pollux is the smaller brother of Castor when you look at elevation, Pollux is the harder one to climb. The easiest route is along the 45 degree West Flank and is a route purely on snow and/or ice. This route is graded PD. The route along the West face is often not in condition and there is increased danger of rockfall later on the day. As a result most climbers choose to ascent along the SW-ridge, which is regarded as the safer alternative and therefore the most ascended route. The SW-ridge (as well as the NE-ridge) involves rock climbing up to the third degree (UIAA III) and both routes are graded PD+.
The combination of rock climbing together with snow and ice make Pollux a popular objective. Often people regard to Pollux as one of the nicer normal routes (the SW-ridge in this case) on a 4000 meter mountain in the Monte Rosa Group and I for one second that. The popularity ofthe mountain has several reasons like for instance the accessibility: It ispossible to climb Pollux as a day trip by using the Klein Matterhorn cableway up from Zermatt. Also, the Ayas and Mezzolama Huts are nearby and the peaks are often climbed as a part of the so-called Spaghetti Tour, a round tour that includes climbing over 10 of the Monte Rosa 4000-meter peaks within a week. Of course the fact that Pollux is one of the 82 4000 meter peaks of the Alps attracts climbers as well.
Pollux is located on the border of Switzerland and Italy. The border crosses the peak from west to east and goes exactly over the summit. (Switzerland is north of the border and Italy south.) The mountain ridge Pollux is situated on stretches more or less from west to east and has several 4000 meter peaks on it. From west to east the main summits are Breithorn (5 summits), Pollux, Castor and Lyskamm West & East. The border follows this ridge as well. To the north of Pollux the Schwarze gletscher (=glacier) and Zwillingsgletscher flow down and eventually reach the immense Gornergletscher. To the south Pollux is bordered by the Grande and Piccolo Ghiacciao di Verra glacier. To the SE of Pollux the Zwillings Joch (3848m)separates Pollux from its twin Castor. To the NW the Porta Nera or Schwarztor saddle at 3734 meters separate sPollux from Roccia Nera (4075m), the last of the Breithorn peaks.
There are several Mountain huts surrounding the mountain. Most ascents are done from the Rifugio Val d’Ayas (3420m) or the somewhat lower in elevation Rifugio Mezzalama (3026m). Both are situated on the south side of the mountain in Italy. Another option is the Bivacco Rossi e Volante, a bivouac located west of Pollux at 3750 meters.
There are several routes up to the summit of Pollux. This section gives a short description of four of the main routes on Pollux. The other routes are described under section V. All sections provide a link to the route pages on SP (when available).All difficulties are based on regular conditions (experienced mountaineer, good weather, no icy snow!) as given in the guide. Note that when conditions are sub-optimal the difficulties can increase substantially.
The most difficult section
The SW-ridge is not the easiest route on Castor, that is the route along the West Face, but since this route is often not in good condition and considered more dangerous, most ascents are made via the SW-ridge. So, could one name the SW-ridge the Normal route on Pollux? Probably, although maybe not everybody would agree with this. Normal route or not, the SW-ridge is by far the most used route for Climbing Pollux and is one of the finer ''easy'' routes on a 4000 meter peak in the Monte Rosa Group. The SW-ridge requires climbing up to the third grade (UIAA III), but consists mostly of climbing in grade I and II. The route is graded PD+. At the end of the SW-ridge a Madonna statue is waiting. Many people think they have reached the summit at this point, but a snow ridge leads to the actual summit a 100 vertical meters higher. The SW-ridge is mostly climbed in summer and early fall when conditions are best. The route is often crowded in the summertime, especially at the more difficult climbing sections. The route along the SW-ridge can be reached from Klein Matterhorn via the Breithorn Plateau as well as from the Val d'Ayas (3420m) and Mezzalama Huts (3036m) who are located directly southwest of Pollux and its SW-ridge.
A very good and detailed page of the SW-ridge is created by SP-member rgg. You can find the SP-route page Here
On the south east ridge
The SE-ridge is an alternative for the SW-ridge. The ridge starts near the Zwillingsjoch, the pass that seperates Pollux from Castor. On often icy slope has to be climbed in order to reach the actual SE-ridge. The ridge consists of many loose rocks, which makes the climbing more difficult then the grade of the route would suggest. The route is graded PD+ and requires climbing in the third UIAA (III) grade. After climbing the rocks with some third grade slabs the snowy crest is reached. Follow the crest to the summit. The route starts at the Zwillingsjoch and can be reached from from Klein Matterhorn via the Breithorn Plateau and can be reached as well from the Val d'Ayas (3420m) and Mezzalama Huts (3036m) who are located directly southwest of Pollux.
A route page of the SE-ridge is created by SP-member Diego Sahagun. You can find the SP-route page Here
A Beautiful Finish
The West Face is, when in condition, the easiest route on Pollux. It is graded PD and does not involve any real rock climbing like the SE-ridge and SW-ridge. Although relatively easy, the west face/flank has a steepness up to 50° that has to be overcome. The route along the West Face can be reached from Klein Matterhorn via the Breithorn Plateau as well as from the Val d'Ayas (3420m) and Mezzalama Huts (3036m) who are located directly southwest of Pollux and its W-face. Head out in the direction of the SW-ridge and pass to the North of it. The West Face is clearly visible and marks the start of the route. When you enter the West Face the steepness increases from 40° at the start until 50° higher up the face. Keep heading up the West Face until the Madonna statue is reached. From here, follow the snow crest to the summit of Pollux.
IV North Ridge
Pollux north ridge
The North ridge is a classical route to the summit of Pollux. This route is not climbed very often and it is one of the few routes on the Northern (Swiss) side of the mountain. The route starts at the Monte Rosa Hut. From the Monte Rosa Hut the Grenz Glacier is entered in the direction of the Gornergrat. Instead of going there, take a left onto the Schwarze. The North ridge is more or less followed to the summit. The route is graded AD, 45°. This is one of the longest routes on Pollus, it may take up to 7 or 8 hours to get to the summit from the Monte Rosa Hut.
A route page of the North-ridge is created by SP-member Kletterwebbi. You can find the SP-route page Here
History / Historic Ascents
The first ascent of Pollux was made by Jules Jacot (from Geneva, Switzerland) with guides Josef-Marie Perren and Peter Taugwalder on the first of August 1864. (the Swiss National day) The route they took up was via the Schwarztor, a pass first crossed by John Ball and Gabriel Zumtaugwald in 1845.
Peter Taugwalder was one of seven men that made the first ascent of the Matterhorn in July 1865. He was also one of the three men that survived the descent, along with his son (with the same name) and Edward Whymper.
The impressive north ridge was first climbed by Captain John Percy Farrar (a future President of the Alpine Club) and Robert Wylie Lloyd with guide Josef Pollinger of St. Niklaus in the canton Valais on 18 August 1910. Farrar is wellknown for his first-ascents of the Wetterhorn North ridge and the Ebenefluh North ridge. He also made the second ascent of the Peuterey ridge on Mont Blanc in 1893. The first winter and ski ascent of Pollux was by Dr Alfred von Martin and Karl Planck on 7 March 1913.
Getting There I: Klein Matterhorn
Klein Matterhorn (Piccolo Cervino)
Klein Matterhorn - Zermatt
The starting point for Climbing Pollux as a day trip is the top station of Klein Matterhorn at 3882 meters. For more information about Klein Matterhorn see the links below.
A detailed description of how to get to the base of Pollux from Klein Matterhorn (via the Breithorn Plateau) can be seen on the route page 'Southwest Ridge' by SP-member rgg. See the Section ''How to get there'' (from Switzerland)
Getting there II: Mezzalama & Val d'Ayaz Hut
How to get there
How to get to Champoluc / Saint Jacques:
From Milano: take the motorway A4; at the junction with E25 head in the direction of Aosta and then take the exit at Verres. Follow the main road ''Via Caronici Regolari Lateranensi'' to Champoluc and Saint Jacques at the end of the valley.
From Torino: take the motorway E612; at the junction with E25 head in the direction of Aosta (on the E25) and then take the exit at Verres. Follow the main road ''Via Caronici Regolari Lateranensi'' to Champoluc and Saint Jacques at the end of the valley.
From Genova: take the motorway E25 towards Aosta and Milano and and then take the exit at Verres. Follow the main road ''Via Caronici Regolari Lateranensi'' to Champoluc and Saint Jacques at the end of the valley.
The trail to both the Mezzalama Hut and the Val d'Ayaz Hut starts at St Jacques.
A description of how to get to the Mezzalama hut from St Jacques is described on the Mezzalama Hut SP Page ; see the ''How to get there section'' on the Page.
A description of how to get to the Rifugio val d'Ayaz from St Jacques is described on the Rifugio val d'Ayaz SP Page ; see the ''How to get there section'' on the Page.
Getting There III: Monte Rosa Hut
For ascents from the Northern side of Pollux (North Ridge) one starts from the Monte Rosa Hut. See theSP Page for more information about how to get there. For more information about the route from the Monte Rosa Hut along the North ridge to the summit of Pollux see the route page by SP-member Kletterwebbi. You can find the SP-route page Here
If you are climbing from the Swiss side (Zermatt) it has to be noted that it is not possible to reach Zermatt by car. You can drive as far as Randa and Tasch. From here you have to take ether the train or a Taxi to get to Zermatt.
When To Climb
On the summit of Pollux (13425 ft / 4092 m)
The end of June, July, August and first in September. In the rest of the year the exposed rocks are covered with ice and snow.
Or you can put it the opposite way:
All seasons are good except there are usally large crowds on Pollux in late July and August.
The myth of Pollux and Castor
Castor & Pollux
In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces) were twin brothers, together known as the Dioskouri.Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, and Pollux the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. How they were born is part of discussion of, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters and half-sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.
In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini or Castores. When Castor was murdered, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin brother to keep them together, and they were transformed into the constellation Gemini. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo's fire, and were also associated with horsemanship.
They are sometimes called the Tyndaridae or Tyndarids, later seen as a reference to their father and stepfather Tyndareus.
A good description of the myth of Pollux and Castor can be found here.
There are several good maps for Climbing Pollux. However, the only map on a 1:25.000 scale that covers all routes on Pollux (and all of the Monte Rosa as well) is the IGC map ''109 Monte Rosa Alagna Valsesia''. For Climbing Pollux I would recommend this map. The other 1:25.000 map ''Zermatt - Schweizer Landeskarte'' is fine as well, but only covers the Northern parts of Pollux. All routes from south are not on it. From the 1:50.000 maps ''Gressoney'' only covers the Southern routes. Both the Kompass map and the ''Matterhorn Mischabel'' map cover the entire area surrounding Pollux (and the rest of the Monte Rosa as well.)
ISBN / EAN
5006 Matterhorn Michabel
Covers the Southern routes on Pollux
Covers the Northern routes on Pollux
87 Breuil Cervinia
Covers the entire area
Institutico Geografico Centrale
109 Monte Rosa Alagna
Covers the entire area
There are several books describing one or more climbing routes on Pollux. The ''Hochtouren Westalpen'' by Rother Verlag is a very popular choice. This guidebook includes photos, route descriptions and detailed route maps for many climbs in the Western Alps, including Pollux. For me this is the best guide book at this moment. The ''Viertausender der Alpen'' by Dumler is a true classic. It is a 2014 reprint of one of the classic mountain books. The English version is still accessible as ''The high mountains of the Alps''. If you are looking for a smaller format the 4000er tourenfuhrer by Goedeke is a good choice as well. This guidebook has a description on every normal route on a 4000 meter peak in the Alps. If you are planning a ski-touring ascent of Pollux the guidebook ''Walliser Alpen'' by Rother Verlag is the guide to go with. Other recent publications like ''the 400m peaks of the Alps'' and ''Topo Verlag Walliser Alpen'' are shown below.
Year (last Print)
ISBN / EAN
Hochtouren Westalpen Band I
Viertausender der Alpen
The High mountains of the Alps
4000m peaks of the Alps
Walliser Alpen Skitourenfuhrer
There are several Mountain huts surrounding Pollux. From the Italian side Pollux is often climbed from the Rifugio Mezzalama or the higher in elevation Rifugio Val d'Ayas. The Bivacco Rossi e Volante is also situated on the Italian side of the mountain at an even higher altitude of 3750 meters. This Hut is ungarderd (A bivouac). When planning on Climbing Pollux from the North (North ridge) the Monte Rosa Hut is used as a starting point. Less frequently used is the Gandegghuette, especially since the arrival of the Klein Matterhorn cable-car. The Rifugio Quintino Sella is often used as destination after Climbing Pollux and Castor, but when climbing in the opposite direction as a starting point as well. The Rifugio Teodulo is used a starting point for climbers from Cervinia / Valtournenche.
On the Swiss side there is a nice camping called camping Attermenzen. It is located in Randa near the end of the road. (Zermatt is only reachable by Train or Taxi). There are many taxis going from Attermenzen to Zermatt.