Weissmies

It was already early afternoon and very warm when Tanya and I left Saas-Almagell and started walking towards Almagellerhütte, the cabin closest to the South-East ridge of Weissmies. There’s a height difference of 1200 m between the town and the hut and we sweated through it. We arrived smug that we thrashed the walking time on the yellow hiking signs, and pleased to see a slackline set up outside the cabin. At these mountain huts, boots are left outside and the cabin provides indoor shoes. This time the shoes were sandals, so it was socks-and-sandals time for us!

View from the cabin. The blue arrow points to Weissmies.
Classy: socks and sandals at Almagellerhütte.

Our aim for the trip was to do the traverse of Weissmies from SE ridge to NW face. Weissmies is a four thousander, if only just, and the traverse is a classic route. As night fell over the cabin we could see Weissmies up to the north, the ridge leading towards us and a bit of snow at the top hinting at the glacier on the other side. Breakfast was at four in the morning, so we set an early alarm and caught some sleep.

Classic climbs draw the crowds, and the hut was a hive of activity in the morning as people ate, geared up and left. We set off at 4h40 and became another two white dots on a sparse string of headlamp lights in the darkness. We moved quickly to Zroischbergenpass (3241 m), made a left turn onto the ridge, and started the proper climbing. The first part of the ridge was gentle and no rope was required, so we climbed quietly and easily as the dawn lightened slowly around us.

Tanya climbing the ridge, before sunrise.
Looking back to Saas-Fee and its mountains.

By the time the sun rose, we were well along the ridge. We roped up as the going got slightly steeper. It was lovely climbing on super solid rock, not remotely exposed, very comfortable going. The views back across the valley were incredible as the sunrise turned Saas-Fee’s mountains pink. Every so often the mountain spat a rock or three down the névé to the east, and we were glad to be on the secure arête.

Pizzo d’Andolla at dawn.

About two-thirds of the way up the ridge, the valve on Tanya’s water tube caught on a rock, pulled off, and was lost. Water sprayed everywhere from the tube, and Tanya danced around. She also said some very unsavoury things about the build quality of the tube. So as to not lose time, we decided to hook the tube up on her pack, and kept moving. Unfortunately, the result was that any time she lent forward even slightly, she would be showered from above by cold water and would yell “piece of crap!!”. The situation being untenable, we eventually stopped and emptied the water bag, and Tanya was able to continue the climb in peace.

At the top of the ridge, near 3950 m, the rock stopped and was replaced by snow. Crampons on now, we walked carefully across the sharp ridge. We reached the summit at 8h20, just as some pesky cloud rolled in to cover the view. This cloud came and went, and between grey patches we could see a magnificent distance; the whole of Saas-Fee from the Mattmark Dam, Allalinhorn, and across to the Dom was beautifully laid out.

The summit! 4017 m.
Another group arriving at the summit.

Continuing the traverse, we headed down the glaciated north-west side of the mountain. The hot weather in Europe this year meant that the glacier was not in top condition; there was a yawning bergschrund we had to cross carefully, and one steep section of snow mixed with hard ice that slowed us down considerably. Having passed that, the rest of the walk down to Hohsaas went fine. The lower part of the glacier was covered in spectacularly deep crevasses, some of which needed to be jumped over. Looking down into the blackness of the glacier as we leapt past was humbling and emphasised the need to rope up.

Looking back at Weissmies on the descent.

At Hohsaas in the late morning we looked back at Weissmies while we ate lunch. The traverse is deservedly a classic! The SE ridge was some of the nicest easy climbing I’ve ever done, and the one-way nature of the climb meant it was a varied and extremely fun day out. Plus, we got to wear socks and sandals, so the whole experience gets five stars.

August 10, 2015

Comments

  1. […] Weissmies (4017 m), which Tanya and I climbed (from R-L) last summer. […]

  2. […] Saas-Fee glaciers in December. The mountain behind is Weissmeiss (4017 m). […]

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