/ Wisdom of a Hornli ridge solo...

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featuresforfeet - on 27 Aug 2014
Have been trying for literally years to get the weather, acclimatisation and partners to line up to do this; been up to the shoulder before but turned back due to snow.

Looks like there may be a window early next week. Not acclimatised or have anyone to go with but sorely tempted to give it another punt.

What does the UKC collective think? Bad idea to go it alone or try and make friends on the way...
sbc_10 - on 27 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

This is how it looked earlier in the week.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=244740
ablackett - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

Is it more dangerous - yes.
How much more? depends how good you are.
Are you willing to take on that extra danger? depends how risk averse you are.

I believe you are best placed to answer those questions.

But I wouldn't have thought it was possible to "make friends along the way" nobody in their right minds would let someone tie into their rope without any idea of how experienced they were. Also, I think the hut i shut, you might have to stay in some kind of temporary tent shelter that is 150CHF a night.
featuresforfeet - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to ablackett:

I'm not convinced there is much of the route that is any safer being roped together - indeed, wouldn't expect (or want) to rope up with a random. I guess I am answering my own question; going alone seems a bit miserable rather than dramatically more dangerous.

Been up to the temporary tents - more substantial than they appear but yes, 150chfs is a touch on the steep side.
Sean_J - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:
Came down the Hornli just a few days ago. Very snowy, so much so that the guides are not touching it this year. Would not like to solo it myself in those conditions, you might find a partner out there but best bet might be to wait for better conditions next year....

...then again, if it is quiet then you can do lots of abseiling without annoying anybody. There are plenty of fixed spikes/hoops for abseiling from, in that respect going solo is better because you can ab faster. The top slopes above the fixed ropes were a bit dodgy though, no ability to abseil up there. Also not sure how easy the fixed rope sections are to climb (we only descended the route)

If you were turned back before due to the snow, then you might be disappointed with its current state!
Post edited at 10:53
featuresforfeet - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to Sean_J:

Useful - which way did you go up?
Sean_J - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

Italian ridge - which was also snowier than usual. Saw a few other parties on it, but not as busy as usual apparently.
chris687 - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

I'm sure you'll make a sensible decision yourself. I don't usually offer advice on here but please don't "try to make friends on the way". I had a soloist make friends with my partner and myself on a route, it began with "can I clip your rope for this section?" and we ended up becoming more and more responsible for someone who we didn't know/trust. This slowed us down and changed our dynamic as 2 competent alpinists to becoming 2 chaperones for someone who in essence should not have been there.
featuresforfeet - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to chris687:

Indeed, I didn't express it very well but the comment about making friends was more about having other people around. In reality it doesn't make a huge difference in terms of safety but psychologically having other people doing the same thing as you makes it easier.

Certainly would never embark on anything Alpine (or elsewhere) where I wasn't 100% confident to get myself up and down alone.
butteredfrog - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

A quick thread hijack: Do you have to use the ridiculously expensive tent shelters? Would we get away with a low profile bivi?

Cheers Adam
smithg on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

It has to be entirely your decision, and try to make it as objective as possible.

ie this:
"Have been trying for literally years to get the weather, acclimatisation and partners to line up to do this; been up to the shoulder before but turned back due to snow."

and

"doesn't make a huge difference in terms of safety but psychologically having other people doing the same thing as you makes it easier."

should have no bearing.

If you're not familiar, I'd recommend googling heuristic traps.

As regards other people being around. I have met others on routes (roped and un-roped) who I wished weren't there, and have been glad not to be clipped to them (they probably thought the same about me).

Anyway, "look well to every step" and have fun.
featuresforfeet - on 28 Aug 2014
In reply to smithg:

Thanks. Interesting that I know all of this but find it harder to apply to myself than if someone else was asking me the same question.

Decided against going it alone on the basis that I've got a mate who is similarly competent and motivated who is free in a couple of weeks when the conditions will undoubtedly be perfect then...
caradoc - on 29 Aug 2014
I climbed it solo in 2003 which was a very dry year. It didn't feel too bad, in fact I did it in a day from Zermatt using the first lift to Shwarzee then all the way to the top at 1.30pm, back in Zermatt at 9.30pm. It's tempting as a solo because there is no glacier, the climbing isn't too difficult and it's covered in ropes now. I wouldn't have done it with a lot of snow on the ridge though.

Enty - on 29 Aug 2014
In reply to caradoc:

This is something that interests me so i have a question.

What is the most exposed dangerous bit actually like? Is it like soloing HS over a 10,000 ft drop?

E
caradoc - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Enty: The hardest bit technically is the Lower Moseley Slab, around VDif in good conditions. I wouldn't be surprised if the guides haven't put metal steps in by now, it looked like they had stuck a few in the first pitch when I watched The Limbless Mountaineer. As a solo I think the hardest thing is believing that you are doing the right thing climbing higher and higher on this scary looking mountain. Soloing is much more about belief and decision making, you are on your own, no one to discuss the route with, hard to know whether you are making the right choice. I remember looking up to the summit when I got onto the roof and seeing a strange figure sitting at the top. This figure didn't seem to move and I became a bit unnerved by this apparition, I wondered if I was hallucinating, had the altitude got to me? The figure was finally revealed as a blackened statue of St Bernard, watching silently over the valley. I realized I wasn't going mad but that is the sort of thing that can eat away at your confidence.

Pyreneenemec - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to featuresforfeet:

Firstly partners : the internet is a marvelous tool for finding partners. I've done some really great climbs with occasional partners found on the 'net. There is no shortage of suitable sites ( though I'm not sure about Switzerland). In the past I've used successfully the Club Alpin Français site and Alpinisme.com, plus many others I forget the names of ! You'll also find that many people using these sites have a personal blog and can show/prove the level of competence they have. I must confess that I've had a couple of bad experiences doing this: notably a Dent de Geant - Gd Jorasses traverse, which, although had a happy ending was a nightmare !

Secondly, soloing the Matterhorn. I did so in 1998, but not through the lack of a partner. It's something I'd always wanted to do and 1998 was the year of my 40th birthday. The Hornli ridge was still quite snowy,but there were no problems for most of the climb. The worst part was feeling so knackered on the descent below the Solvay hut. You enjoy the brief moment of safety at the hut and then realise you've still got 800m of mountain to down-climb, where one slip will undoubtedly result in death !

Believe me, you'll never enjoy a beer so much as the one you'll have in the first café in Zermatt, looking back at the huge hunk of mountain you've just climbed ! I'll shove my photo of it in my gallery ;-)



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wilkesley - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Enty:

There is also a short chimney/groove near the start, which is about VDiff. The Moseley Slab is about the same standard, but ISTR has a fixed rope (it's 20+ years since I did it). The snow/ice bits higher up are not at all difficult, but the sort of place you definitely don't want to trip over your crampons.

Most of the lower section is scrambling, but very loose. In many ways being roped on this section is more dangerous that going alone, unless you are very competent at moving together. It's a bit like climbing along the ridge on your roof, but with very loose tiles. he drop down to the left doesn't look that steep, but people that fall off seem to go all the way to the bottom:)

Detailed route finding can be tricky and may lead you onto slightly harder alternatives.

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