Skiing in late June, my first 4k mountain

I have been silent for more than two months. The main reason was the end of the semester when I was busy with teaching. And given the bad weather, I was rather working, studying for paragliding theory exam (I passed!), and doing home tasks, than going for some fancy trips.

Tropical week in Zürich, day temperatures around 35, what is a more provoking plan than to go skiing? But Zürich inhabitants were not surprised.

Map of the Saas-Fee area, where we went.

It is my first glacier tour, and I am scared as we have too little time to plan our ambitious tour. My mate Martin suggests mountains as Bernina, Monte Rosa, or Domm. My concerns lead to compromise, Alphubel (4206), a PB+ tour where is only one more difficult section, passing the Feekopf ridge. Based on several videos on YouTube, the path should be secured.

My 30 liters backpack is surprisingly able to take all the gear, I am ready to go.

The first view from Saas-Fee.

In Saas Fee, we observe much less snow than expected. Will it be skiable from the gondola’s uppers station?

We just did our first mistake, putting on skins before looking to the map. We have to ski down 200 meters first. Skins down, nice 35° slope to assess my new skis in the melting snow.

Task 1, ski 200 m down.

Upper station of our gondola, melting snow showing the glacier, Alphubel on the right.

From 2600 up to 3500 is the air density really changing. We are burning, but we progress relatively fast. Melting glacier warns us with regular serac falls, fortunately far of our path. The views are nice, but the closest surrounding is too modified by people, the summer season on the glacier starts in 2 days, so the lifts and slopes are almost ready.

Seracs were falling over this cliff.

We reached a restaurant at 3500 around 3pm. Eventually, it will be our sleeping place, but first, we enjoy the views and go for a tour. It is encouraged to reach 200-300 meters higher altitude than where you plan to sleep. So we skied to 3700 to the highest lift station. Skiing down showed us that skiing on these pistes with frozen traces everywhere won’t be a pleasure.

Restaurant in 3500 m.

We watched the stars for a moment and then slept shortly until 3:15. Frozen snow is safer, so we wanted to walk most of the tour during the night or early morning. Unfortunately, packing and breakfast took longer than anticipated, so we left around 4:30, during dusk.

We got just 250 m above the restaurant before the sunrise. Every step today is so much more difficult.

Skis down, the snow is too icy and steep, crampons are better. I feel already more tired than on Saturday.

My first motivation is over, from the Feejoch pass (3807), we can see Matterhorn.

Now the hardest part, rocky Feekopf ridge, then on skis to 4206, Alphubel is the snowy mountain. I fight in my brain with my dizziness, “Mountains are just about your head” helps, I continue walking.

Crampons works perfectly on snow, so I am not extremely scared of the steep slopes. But on rocks, they tend to slip off my boots. At the second pillar, we get to non-secured vertical III climbing. After considering alternatives (leaving the skis where we were), we retreat, as the last pillar should be the worst.

The back-up plan is Allalinhorn (4027), the second easiest 4k in Switzerland (for those, that take the lift to 3500 m). With the mountain sickness, even this is not easy. Swiss couple coming from Alphubel is twice that fast, they are just better. The last 10 vertical meters are a bit scary, but no pictures would show the steepness.

Finally, the view from 4027 masl!


The ridge on the summit, showing via normale path, which we ignored.

The first lift brought more than 20 mountaineers. We were the only ones with skis :D.

My attempt to do headstand.

Martin skied down from the top, I left my skis in Feejoch. The melting snow was quite funny, but I was scared of the steep slope leading to crevasses.

You better slow down before such crevasse.

Allalinhorn from the restaurant.

And the panorama to the other direction.

On the way down, we asked the staff of the restaurant to send down our stuff that we want to ski down as light as possible. They denied us to ski that it is too dangerous and asked us to take the lift down for free.

Our tracks!

In Saas-Fee, I immediately felt better, no dizziness, big taste to eat something, full of energy. So altitude has an influence on me. Sleeping so high for just a single night was the issue. Adaptation should be just 500 m up per day (from 2500 m up). But who has time for that?

In the valley, it was incredibly hot. Again, almost no Swiss was surprised by our skis. Just one asked us, where we were, challenging us that next time, we should take a harder route. Only a Czech group and a Slovak group both independently said something as “The locals are crazy, they go skiing when it is summer.” I am proud that my mountaineering attitude is considered local.

Written on July 1, 2019