Weissmies (4017) by the South-East Ridge

The summit from the rocky foresummit

In July 2017, our climbing and mountaineering plans suddenly changed when my girlfriend sprained her ankle at Sustenpass, and it was soon obvious that it would not get better in a matter of days. So, like in 2015, I chose to make an ascent where crevasses weren’t an issue – this time the Weissmies south-east ridge.

We drove to Saas Grund, and like in 2015, we stayed on the camping grounds of Hotel Étoile – great spot for a reasonable price, I highly recommend it. I tried to go to bed early but only managed to hit the sack after 11 PM, with the alarm set to 0:30 AM. However, having built our tent close to the toilets – and the hotel – there was some annoying fan going off every 30 seconds or so, successfully keeping me up, and though I reset my alarm to 1 AM, I still managed to get only about 15 minutes of sleep. Never mind, it was high time to get started, since the forecast promised some baphomrds (= bad, bad things) in the afternoon. According to the tourist signs, it was supposed to take me 3 hours and 20 minutes from Saas Almagell to the Almageller hut (which I knew I could do faster), and according to “The Alpine 4000m Peaks by the Classic Routes” guide, 7-8 hours from the hut to the summit (which I thought had to be a typing error). I wasn’t really hungry, so I only ate an apple with a piece of bread and drove our car to Saas Almagell, where I left it in the parking lot (5 CHF per day), downed one non-alcoholic beer for energy, and set off at 2:20 AM.

The route to the hut was quite pleasant and reasonably quick, though there were thunderstorms in the neighboring valleys and around Alphubel summit across the valley. I continued up, hoping these were just the usual early-morning storms that would disperse at dawn. At the Almagelleralp (hut, 2194 m), you have the option to go right, or left (a quicker option by 10 minutes, according to the signs), I chose to go left. I reached the Almagellerhütte (hut, 2894 m) shortly after 5 AM. There were already several parties by the Zwischbergen Pass (3268 m). I refilled my bottle about 50 meters above the hut – there is no readily available water above this point, save for a small glacier lake on the other side of the Zwischbergen Pass, but you would have to descent to it a bit.

Almagellerhütte, photo taken during descent in the afternoon

The dawn was underway, and soon I turned my headlamp off. It started to get a bit windy and chilly near the pass with some clouds coming in from the east, so I put my jacket and pants on (I had walked in my T‑shirt and shorts up to this point). I went up a crumbly slab just below the pass, which proved to be a mistake, and I had to descend a bit back onto the right track – the track turns left before the crumbly slab becomes steep. When you reach the ridge, it is still a few dozen meters to the left (north) to the pass. The small glacier lake is about 50 meters below the pass on its east side, and it seemed easy to connect back to the ridge track further along the way without having to go back up the same path. Anyway, I got here at 6:30, and continued along the trodden path first a bit down some scree, and then up a few snowfields and some more scree. The snowfields were still frozen, and though I was using my ice axe at this point, the second snowfield was getting unpleasantly steep to walk on without crampons, so I had to chip some steps into it with my boots first. I chose to climb onto the ridge at this point – and it was a good decision, since the climbing proved to be pleasant, though maybe slower than a walk up the snowfields, had I put my crampons on. I wouldn’t recommend going up the snowfields for another reason as well – about an hour later, stones the size of a melon started to fall down the upper snowfield, as the sun started melting the snow. I joined the ridge just above one of the parties that started from the Almageller hut and continued at my pace up the ridge.

The ridge from the Zwischbergen Pass – it is a good idea to climb onto the ridge below the uppermost snowfield (the largest one) due to rockfall

The weather seemed quite stable now – the storms in the neighboring valleys had stopped rumbling, and it was mostly sunny with a cloud coming over the ridge every now and then.

Typical terrain in the lower part of the ridge – an easy scramble

The ridge is quite wide and easy, and there is little exposition most of the way. But there are a few exposed places where you need to be absolutely confident climbing at II-III UIAA grade, if you’re climbing solo without protection. It is probably possible to climb around the one or two III UIAA spots, but the climbing was so enjoyable I chose the more interesting way rather than the easier terrain a few times.

But a few more interesting places can be found in the lower part of the ridge as well

The rock above 3600 m is just great – very few unstable rocks (but watch out for them anyway, there are some), and I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the climbing – compared to the neighboring Lagginhorn’s west-south-west ridge with mostly loose rocks and only one short II UIAA section.

Some very nice climbing on firm rock in the upper part of the ridge – there are several such beautiful steps

But I did start to feel the altitude, having spent only two nights at 2000 m, so I had to slow down a bit to reduce the dizziness. Still, I felt perfectly safe and confident on the ridge, a pure joy with beautiful views of the four thousanders in the Mischabel group and the Monte Rosa massif – Dufourspitze, Nordend, Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn, Allalinhorn, Alphubel, Dom, Taschhorn, Lenzspitze, and Nadelhorn, with the clouds constantly covering and uncovering them.

Strahlhorn (right) and the Monte Rosa massif from the lower part of the ridge

The rocky part of the ridge ends at around 3900 m. I geared up and continued along the snowy ridge past a narrow rocky band to the top, meeting about three descending parties – incidentally, I think one of the descending climbers was the Swiss girl I met on Lagginhorn in 2015 – the one ascending late in the morning – this time she was in a team with another girl and obviously had set her alarm clock to a more appropriate hour 🙂 I wonder if she was a guide at this point, or if it was just a coincidence. The snowy ridge to the top is quite nice, but watch out for cornices, the trodden path was too close to the edge in some places – do not follow it blindly, this is where you can fall a few hundred meters to either side.

The final foresummit and the summit

I reached the summit around 9:20 and spent about ten minutes there, alone. The clouds were still coming over the mountain, making for a nice atmosphere.

The final snowy ridge leading up to the summit (photo taken from the summit, looking back down the ridge)

I went back along the snowy ridge to the foresummit, where I had some snack, filled one of my bottles with snow, and continued back down. On the way up, I thought I would have to rappel down a few sections, and thought I would get off the ridge midway down, to make the descent quicker. But surprisingly, I found it quite easy to climb down the harder sections, even though I was thirsty and had a headache. Though the snowfield on the left (eastern side) of the ridge looked tempting and there were even places where I could just climb down without rappelling, I chose to continue down the ridge as I was descending in quite a good pace, virtually the same as when I was ascending. Even though there wasn’t any rockfall on the snowfield at this time, it was a good call not to descend that way – when I later got off the ridge in the same part where I had climbed onto it in the morning, the snowfields proved to be quite unpleasant – mushy, unstable snow on a steep slope, crampons making zero difference – I chose to descend as much as I could down the scree field to a less steep part of the lower snowfield. One of two British guys, whom I had passed on the ridge shortly before this section, chose to slide down the snowfield, breaking with his ice axe – quite an elegant solution.

The snowy ridge between two foresummits (looking down during descent)

I reached the Zwischbergen Pass at 12:30 – so three hours up the ridge, three hours down the ridge. Though I was parched at this point, had no water, and the snow in one of my bottles had not melted much, I didn’t descend down to the small glacier lake, as I felt one more hour to the hut wouldn’t make any difference. And it didn’t – there was a short, windy shower, when I reached the pass, but it lasted only for about 15 minutes, and right after that

Climbing down such sections in the upper part of the ridge is easier than it looks on the way up

I came upon a stream from one of the snowfields. I took a short break, and continued down to the hut, where I bought a cup of tea – I wasn’t in the mood for any solid food but I was in the mood for some energy. The weather cleared, and I continued down to Almagelleralp (hut), taking pictures of the many beautiful flowering alpine plants. This slow descend proved to be a good strategy, as my left knee was quite OK after that (I had banged my left knee against a rock in a fall while climbing 2 years prior to that, and since this is my healthy, weight-bearing knee, it had hurt during lengthy descents ever since). The flip side was that the weather worsened once again when I was only at Almagelleralp, and I walked the remaining hour down to the valley in rain. I reached the parking lot at 5:20 PM, so it took me 7 hours up to the summit and 8 hours back down. People with healthy knees would probably make it back down in about 6 hours. On the other hand, if someone were to use protection on the ridge, it would slow them down a bit in both directions.

Needless to say, I slept for over 14 hours that night, fan or no fan.

What are all those two-legged animals doing up there?

Starting point: Saas Almagell, paid parking (5 CHF per day in 2017)

Time needed: The ascent to the Almagellerhütte 3 hours; from the hut to the start of the ridge near Zwischbergen Pass 1 hour; the ridge to the summit 3 hours (may take longer if using protection); roughly the same for the descent

Equipment needed: Ice axe, crampons, helmet, rope and some protection for descent during bad conditions or if you are not comfortable in a II UIAA terrain without protection (I think all the III UIAA places can be climbed around through easier terrain, I might have climbed down only one during the descent).

Dangers: In good weather very few, the rock in the steeper sections of the ridge is very good, there is no glacier on the approach. The only slightly dangerous place is the snowy/firn ridge near the summit – it is quite sharp, and the trodden path is sometimes too close to the edge of the steeper (north-east) face – do not follow it blindly! There is a several hundred meters drop to each side and the snow/firn can be easily stepped through! This final part of the ridge could also become quite dangerous if there is a lot of snow – it would basically become one big cornice on one side and an avalanche slide on the other. A larger amount of fresh snow on the firn underneath would also be very dangerous here.

The ridge in its lowest parts
Very good rock in the upper part of the ridge
A look down the north-east face from the final sharp summit ridge
Left to right: Monte Rosa, Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn, and Allalinhorn (taken from the lower parts of the ridge)
Left to right: Rimpfischhorn (part), Allalinhorn, Alphubel, Täschhorn, Dom, Lenzspitze, and Nadelhorn (taken from the lower parts of the ridge)
Summit selfie 🙂 Yes, I brought a tomahawk and a dead fox.
The summit with Lagginhorn
And of course the beautiful alpine flora
And our non-tumble dryer, The Red Dragon, sadly now operating as a taxi in Nigeria 🙁


Östliche Simonyspitze by the South-East Ridge

Östliche Simonyspitze – the south-east ridge and the snowy summit

In the last days of September 2016, my girlfriend and I went for a trip to the Austrian Alps. Our goal was Östliche Simonyspitze (3448 m) and possibly some other peak in the area – the Venedigergruppe, the mountain range around Grossvenediger, Austria’s second highest peak.

We chose to go from the south, from a parking lot near a little village called Streden. Delightful little village. If you like the movie Deliverance, that is. (Those who wish to skip to the description of the ascent itself, please go to the next paragraph starting “Anyway…”)

Nice autumn colors in Maurer Valley

Our plan was to get to the parking lot in the afternoon, go up the valley and bivouac somewhere above Essener-Rostocker Hut (2208 m) so we could go up Simonyspitze the very next day. We arrived late, but still had about one hour of daylight left, so I thought we would walk at least part of the way without the use of our headlamps. That proved to be an overly optimistic assumption. The parking lot was paid, which we knew beforehand, but it soon became obvious that it was virtually impossible to pay the fee. Which we wanted to pay, since A) we didn’t want to come across as jerks, and B) we didn’t want to receive any unnecessary fine. But there was no one in the parking lot, and you had to have a filled-in parking card behind your windshield – which, according to the sign on the wooden toll-booth, you had to obtain in the tourist center in the next village, Pragraten, if no one was present. We weren’t sure we understood the German instructions correctly – luckily, there was some man just running past us. I said “Hi”, he said “Hi”, I asked “Excuse me, how do I…”, he ran past me like he didn’t see or hear me. No reaction whatsoever. What the fuck? I’d never gotten a non-response like that, and definitely not in the Alps. Never mind, let’s try the tourist center. Closed, open till 6 on weekdays, closed on the weekends. Well, there are never any tourists on the weekends anywhere, are there? We were there on Wednesday, but we certainly didn’t want to wait until the morning to get a parking card, or better yet, to find out that the center was closed anyway.

Westliche (left) and Östliche (right) Simonyspitze from under Essener-Rostocker Hut

We went back to the parking lot and looked around, hoping to find someone we could ask. With the exception of a large barn with cows, we didn’t find anybody, so once again, we went back to the tourist center. Although the center was closed, there was someone in one of the two or three offices. The light was on, and he was doing something on a computer. I’ll wait for him, I thought. Sure enough, about ten minutes later, he turned the lights out. He will come out. Just a few seconds. OK, just a few minutes. OK, where is he? I went around the corner to our car, parked next to what must have been his car – the only car around – and waited in the car. Five minutes. Ten minutes. OK, this is getting ridiculous. Well, he is probably scared of us, we thought. It was dark at this point, and yes, our car was just two years shy of becoming a veteran, and yes, it was the shabbiest car one could find in 50 kilometers in any direction. And certainly with the most dirt and bird poo on the roof. Back to the parking lot. We chose to stay until the morning, not because of the damn parking card, which we found out only about half of the cars had on their dashboard, but because it was too late to go anywhere. Two cars came into the parking lot, each time they drove around slowly, and drove away. Around 10 PM, we were sitting in our car with the ceiling light on, when a third car came into the parking lot, with a spotlight mounted on the roof. It stopped, and the driver was searching the nearby hillside with the spotlight. OK, looking for cows. Then he turned the spotlight to the parking lot and started checking the individual cars there, one by one. OK, maybe some municipal employee checking the parking cards. He turned the light to our car, and I stepped out to talk to him. He kept pointing the light at our car and me, and halfway to his car, I waved hello at him. At that point he turned the engine on and drove away. What the fuck? It was dark, but I don’t think I looked like Jack the Ripper, though maybe I did, since no one knows what he looked like.

Vordere (left) and Hintere (right) Gubachspitze from above Essener-Rostocker Hut

Anyway, we left the parking lot early in the morning, leaving a note in both English and I think quite OK German saying that we would pay when we got back down from the mountain. The trail up to the hut along the Maurerbach creek is very beautiful, especially once you get above the tree line – the autumn rusty-greenish colors and the character of the landscape reminded us of New Zealand, and we got to snack on blueberries at one of our stops.

The upper part of Maurer Valley above the hut

After about two and a half hours, we passed the hut and continued up the valley, now flat with just a little elevation. It still looked quite New-Zealandish, grassy with a lot of boulders. We found a nice spot for our tent among a group of big boulders (some of them are nice to climb) and set up camp. At first we intended to at least go to one of the lower peaks nearby, but both of us soon developed a headache and were feeling utterly tired – the lack of sleep prior to our trip and the elevation sucked all the energy and zest out of us, and we decided to rest, go for a dip in the creek, and enjoy the views.

On the SE ridge

We set out at 4:40 in the morning, in the dark. We went a bit back downstream and turned right onto the SE ridge of Simonyspitze – the path is marked with a sign at the branching. We quickly gained height on the slope. It was quite warm, and I ended up walking just in my T-shirt and cargo shorts, until the wind at a higher altitude talked me into putting my jacket back on.

A view of the nicely crevassed Simonykees (glacier) with several three-thousanders in the background

We reached the rim of the glacier shortly after dawn. Lazy to put on my crampons, I chipped steps into the firn with the tips of my boots to get up the two-hundred-or-so meters of glacier to the rocky part of the ridge, with my ice axe as a walking stick/emergency break. It would, indeed, be one hell of a ride toward the edge of the glacier, and if successful in swooshing over the crevasses, the final jump over the edge of the steep wall to the bottom of the valley might ruin one’s day. I got off the glacier at the first suitable place to climb onto the ridge, whereas my less-lazy, crampon-shod girlfriend continued further up toward what seemed to be an easier way to mount the outcrop. My chosen option was quite all right, though unexpectedly exposed – up to some twenty meters above the glacier, where, in the event of a fall with unbroken limbs, it would still be quite difficult, if not impossible, to take out the ice axe from in between my back and my backpack in time to avoid the jump into the valley. But the climbing was enjoyable (about II UIAA), though a layer of fresh snow on all the holds in the upper part of the climb provided a mild adrenalin surge at one point. Once on the ridge, I continued up the ridge to wait for my girlfriend. Her chosen variant proved to be less suitable than mine, as the terrain there was quite unstable, with a lot of loose rocks. I built a belay station, threw her a rope, and gave her belay.

A look to the north-east from the summit ridge

We continued up the rocky ridge, onto a snowfield, and up another rocky step, this time a lower one, but still entertaining to climb onto. After this step, it is only a few hundred meters’ walk on a glacier to the summit. We tied ourselves to the rope and left a full length of it between us because we didn’t know whether there were going to be cornices at the summit ridge and how big they could be. The ridge turned out not to be that sharp, though I can imagine cornices there at the more narrow parts or with more snow. Still, my girlfriend didn’t feel comfortable getting on the ridge, not to mention continuing a few dozen meters along the ridge toward what seemed to be a slightly higher point – probably the true summit. This part of the ridge was pretty sharp, and I opted not to go there without belay, since I didn’t know how stable the snow was – with the potential prospect of sliding and flying a few hundred meters down onto the heavily crevassed glacier below. Anyway, the summit seemed dwarfed by the western summit of Simonyspitze, a few dozen meters higher. Connecting the two was a sharp rocky ridge, which seemed to offer some interesting, exposed climbing (according to various online sources, there should be some places of II-III UIAA), but it was hard to judge how stable it was from the distance.

A look from the summit ridge to the west with Westliche Simonyspitze summit

We went back down the same way to the spot where I had climbed onto the rocky part of the ridge, where I had climbed onto it. After some reconnaissance, this proved to be the best point to get off the ridge as well. We rappelled down onto the glacier/snow field (a rope really comes in handy here – it is possible to climb down, but not easy, and not really safe, especially with fresh snow on the rock).

Getting off the ridge

On our way down, we admired the nicely eroded rock among the grassy patches on the outcrop of the lower SE ridge before its final drop to the valley. We got back to our tent quite early – around 2 PM, so the whole trip to the summit and back took about 9 hours at a relaxed pace. We had another skinny dip in the creek and went back down to our car, where we eventually spent another night. Again, there was no one there to give the parking fee to, neither in the evening, nor in the morning. But we did pass some friendly locals on our way to the parking lot, so the place lost its Deliverance vibe 🙂

The SE ridge in all its beauty

Time needed: At a slow pace, about 2.5 hours from the parking lot in Streden to Essener-Rostocker Hut. A round trip from the hut to the summit and back about 9 hours. Could be easily done as a round trip from the parking lot in one day.

Dangers: Objectively very few, just watch out for loose rocks on the ridge, there may be some rockfall if there are climbers above you (we were there alone). The summit ridge seemed to have potential for cornices.

Equipment needed: Helmet, ice axe, crampons, it is good to have a 50-m rope and some protection to rappel down the 20 meters from the ridge on the way back, especially in more difficult weather conditions, and also for the summit ridge.

The view of the valley from above
The valley to the south-east with Essener-Rostocker Hut
Just rocks?



Lagginhorn (4010 m) via West-South-West Ridge

Lagginhorn from above the Weissmieshütte, the main summit with the WSW ridge is on the left
Lagginhorn from above Weissmieshütte, the main summit with the WSW ridge is on the left

Right at the start of our trip to the Alps in 2015 my girlfriend’s back refused to go any further up Rimpfischhorn, so after coming back down we decided to spend a few days climbing and wait for things to improve. After two days it became clear that it wouldn’t get any better, and since she wasn’t able to climb either, it was pointless to wait any longer. Luckily I knew there was one four-thousander that didn’t require crossing a glacier and was easy enough not to require belaying either. And luckily, my girlfriend has the same-size boots, so I didn’t have to worry about the fact that my right sole had decided to become independent and was now just barely hanging onto my boot.

Lagginhorn, with its 4010 m, is one of the lowest four-thousanders in the Alps. The standard route to the summit goes up the west-south-west ridge. You can either go up the ridge from its foot, or you can get on it midway up from the Lagginhorn Glacier, at c. 3500 m. As you can avoid any glaciers completely, my main worry was not to sprain my not entirely stable knee on the way down from the summit because of the many scree fields and loose slabs.

The suitable starting point is Saas Grund (around 1590 m). If you decide to make the trip with an overnight stay on the mountain, you can either use Weissmieshütte (hut, 2726 m) or you can bivouac at several places above the hut – there are both water and prepared sites for tent at the foot of the WSW ridge. There are also several good spots on the ridge itself, again with sites prepared for tents, up to 3200 m, but there is no water anywhere on the ridge nor are there any snowfields in this part of the ridge.

Weissmieshütte, Lagginhorn summit in the clouds, and Fletschhorn (3993 m) on the left

There are several possibilities of accommodation in Saas Grund. We chose a campsite right across the main street from the cable car station. Their standard price per person includes a ticket for the lift, which I didn’t want, and they offered me quite a decent price for the area (25 CHF for 2 people, a car, and a tent) and were absolutely OK with us leaving around 5 PM the next day.

I got up at 1 AM, and at 2:00 I set out from the cable car station and reached the hut at 4:25. There were already a few groups of people ahead of me on their way up the mountain. At the hut I made a mistake and went further up – there is a stream to the left of the hut when looking up the mountain and the easiest way to get to the foot of the WSW ridge is to cross the stream right at the hut – there is a small metal bridge there, a bit hidden, which I didn’t see in the dark. I continued up from the hut along the path that led up to the glacier and missed the path branching off it toward the foot of the WSW ridge, which would have been impassable anyway as there was too much water at the crossing. I realized this after a few minutes, when I was unnecessarily high for crossing the stream, descended toward it and crossed it without any problems. This is the last spot where you can refill your bottle, which I did and continued to the foot of the ridge where I climbed onto the right path that leads from the bridge. As the dawn had begun by now, it was quite easy to find a suitable point to start the ascent of the WSW ridge.

The foot of the WSW ridge - basically a giant scree field
The scree field at the foot of the WSW ridge

The ridge itself is very wide at its foot and is basically a scree field. The path is marked by cairns and is visible quite well. Even if you wander off it, you’ll be able to continue up without any problems. The only danger is to watch out for loose slabs – in most places you can’t fall off the ridge, but you can still take a fall or a slide of several meters, which can be just as inconvenient for a safe return. A helmet is a must – in this part of the ridge not because of a rock fall from above (which is the case in the upper part of the ridge), but for the simple fact that in the case of tripping, you can easily bust your head open in this terrain. The last suitable place for pitching a tent (no pun intended :-)) is roughly at 3200. From there on, the ridge gets more narrow. Still, there is almost no exposure anywhere. This middle part of the ridge is also much more entertaining, as it requires using your hands (an easy climbing of I UIAA). The way up is still marked by cairns and is well defined, with many possible variants. Just watch out for unstable slabs – there are quite a few, and at several points they could knock you off the ridge even though generally it is still almost impossible to fall off the ridge here. I met the first party here – the path from Lagginhorn Glacier joins the path on the ridge here. They were a bit surprised to see me in a T-shirt and shorts, but since I hadn’t gone up the glacier and had kept a good pace, I was warm.

The II UIAA slab and the upper part of the ridge with the summit

I met a second group at around 3600 m, preparing to surmount a slab of II UIAA – there was a child in the party, so they were tying themselves to a rope. The slab is easy and wide without any feeling of exposure, though you can fall off it toward Fletschhorn Glacier if you climb it on the left side – which I did as it is the most obvious choice, with very good holds, and won’t even slow your pace. The climbing part of the slab is only about 5 meters, above it the inclination drops to the point that you can walk. After this slab comes a giant scree field with occasional easy climbing (I UIAA). A helmet is absolutely necessary here because of the rockfall from people above you. Up until the snowfields further up the ridge, the only way to fall off or get injured here is by rockfall. I met another group here, a Swiss guide with two clients. They courtly ignored my “Hello” though at least the guide definitely wasn’t mute, as he kept instructing his clients. Without flinching, they successfully ignored my presence and carried on at their pace with me behind them. After a few minutes I managed to climb around them and continued up.

The WSW ridge from its upper part
The WSW ridge from its upper part

Only a few minutes later, somewhere around 3800, I reached the first snowfield. It was a very hard firn when I got there (at about 7:30), almost ice. I put on crampons, took out the ice axe, and dressed up, as I finally cooled down when unpacking the necessary gear. The guide with his clients were quicker about it since they were dressed already and got ahead of me again. The snowfield, when icy, is indeed a place where you can fall off the ridge – it would be quite difficult to stop on the few meters before the drop to Fletschhorn Glacier. At least there were frozen, trodden-down steps from the previous day. I walked carefully, and above the field I caught up with the guide and his clients again, which I didn’t mind as the main thing here was to walk/climb carefully. The second snowfield, just meters above the first one, could be avoided for the most part on the scree to the right, but it seemed a better option to walk up the firn. It definitely was not the better option, as I found out – the firn was much steeper here without any steps, and the tourist crampons with my girlfriend’s boots were pulling my heels quite unpleasantly. I had to stomp the crampons in (though I had sharpened them) and had to use the front spikes at one point. However, the tourist ice axe blade’s wide tip, though sharpened as well, just chipped the ice, not even remotely sticking in. The only possible way to go up was the French style, i.e. sideways, feet inclined, using the ice axe shaft’s tip as a supporting point. I got on the scree again and after a few meters I entered the last snowfield. This one was less inclined with good steps, and after a few minutes I got to the last few meters of rock (I UIAA, maybe not even that) at the summit.

The summit cross with the south ridge and the Weissmies summit
The summit cross with the south ridge and the Weissmies summit

The Swiss guide with his clients sat about a meter below the summit in the east face without any belay, watching the clouds. I wondered what the guide would have done if one of his clients had fallen down. Not too hard to imagine – but that has been the case with all guides I have seen so far, the best example of which was a guide on Austrian Grossglockner dragging three very insecure clients basically on a leash on the summit ridge without any sort of belay – I doubt he would have had a chance to react and jump down the other side of the ridge if one of the clients had lost their “balance”.

Trust your client
Trust your client

I got to the summit at about 8:15, ate a bar and tried to take a photo of myself with the summit. After a few tries I asked one of the clients, sitting closest to me, if he could take a picture of me with the summit cross. He refused (probably not feeling overly secure) and referred me to his guide, who helped me out and took the picture. I thanked him, looked around one last time and went down.

Weissmies from the upper part of the WSW ridge
Weissmies from the upper part of the WSW ridge

The firn fields had somewhat softened by this point and getting down was easy. The guide with his two clients were descending above me. At one point, I heard a rock getting loose – I looked up, and sure enough, a rather large rock was tumbling right at me from one of the clients – who didn’t make a sound to warn me, nor did his guide. I had but time to duck behind a bigger boulder. The rock slammed into the boulder and stopped. A few minutes later, I appreciated having my helmet on, as I received a rather big hit right into the back of the helmet by a small rock, which I didn’t hear falling. Quite a punch. Again, it came from the same group, and again, absolutely no warning. I looked at them, expecting some sort of “my bad!”, but they carried on without any sort of regard for their surroundings. The helmet was OK, but had someone without a helmet (there were some people without helmets there) received this little present, I think it is safe to say they would have had a pretty big hole in their head. If they managed to stay on the mountain, that is. I’m not criticizing the fact that the group had dislodged some stones – I myself succeeded at that a few minutes later – I’m criticizing the fact that they didn’t warn anybody about the falling stones, which is selfish, irresponsible, and very dangerous.

The terrain in the upper third of the ridge, where flying rocks are rife
The terrain in the upper third of the ridge, where flying rocks are rife

I climbed down the II UIAA slab a bit further from the edge to avoid landing on Fletschhorn Glacier in case I slipped. Shortly after that I ran out of water, which was a bit uncomfortable, since the sun was now going at it with all its might and to reach any snowfields, I would have to divert quite a bit from the ridge. This was the first time I had used a tube mounted on my bottle in the backpack, and it proved to be a great and comfortable thing, but the downside was I hadn’t kept track of the amount of water left.

The WSW ridge from its lower third
The WSW ridge from its lower third

About two thirds down, past the turn-off to the glacier variant of the descent, I heard someone coming in the other direction along the ridge. A girl emerged from behind a rock and asked a few questions about the conditions and the time left to the top. Her climbing partner caught up with her, a bit winded, and they continued up the ridge. It was about 11:00 AM, so my guess is they got to the top around 1:00 PM, which weather-wise was OK that day, only no one on the upper part of the ridge got to enjoy the views at that point as the summit got drowned in a cloud around noon.

When you don't give a fuck...
When you don’t give a fuck…

In the lower part of the ridge, I enjoyed two chamoises not even trying to pretend they would flee if I tried to get to them. They were probably laughing at the lame animal with two metal sticks for front legs and felt absolutely secure, though I went quite close past them.

...you just don't.
…you just don’t.

I was back at the foot of the ridge at 13:20, took a few pictures of the colorful rock plants, refilled my bottle at the stream and went across the little metal bridge to Weissmiesshütte, where I met with my girlfriend and continued to Saas Grund. We came back to the campsite at 16:45 without any sort of hurry.

One of the beautiful rock plants at the foot of the ridge
One of the beautiful rock plants at the foot of the ridge

Starting point: Saas Grund (1559 m), camping grounds available

Elevation: Saas Grund – Weissmiesshütte 1127 m; Weissmiesshütte-Lagginhorn summit 1284 m; Saas Grund-Lagginhorn summit 2411 m

Time: Saas Grund – Weissmiesshütte 2.5 hours, Weissmiesshütte – Lagginhorn summit 4 hours (4-5 hours back down); Saas Grund-Lagginhorn summit-Saas Grund 14-15 hours

Difficulty: PD; in good conditions a very easy climb. !!This applies only if the rock is dry, without ice or snow (see “Dangers” below)!!

Dangers: Rockfall in the upper part of the ridge (helmet is absolutely necessary), snowfields in the upper part of the ridge can be tricky when icy; otherwise a very safe climb. According to the information from a Czech mountain guide Viktor Korizek here, the upper part of the ridge can become very dangerous when there is a lot of fresh snow (especially early in the summer), which becomes soft during the day and turns into a very unstable layer and any reasonable belaying is virtually impossible in such conditions. This is not very hard to imagine with the icy snowfields under such a layer, and there were fatal accidents in this part of the ridge in 2011 and 2012 for this very reason.

Fletschhorn from the Lagginhorn summit
Fletschhorn from the Lagginhorn summit
Nicely crevassed Fletschhorn Glacier from the middle part of the WSW ridge
Nicely crevassed Fletschhorn Glacier from the middle part of the WSW ridge