/ Bernese Oberland Ski Mountaineering

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James Gordon - on 25 Feb 2014
I'm planning a trip to the Oberland at the very beginning of May. I've got several objectives & options in mind. Will probably approach from the South (Bettmeralp?).

Has anyone got experience of:

(i) Ski mountaineering in the area & specifically recommended routes to the summits of the 4000m peaks. For example using Moran's Alpine 4000ers as a guide. Has anybody climbed things like the Hasler Rib of the Aletschhorn? Hoping to look at Fiescherhorn, G Grunnhorn, Finsteraarhorn.

(ii) Recommended acclimatisation routes e.g. Abenfluie, Kranzberg, Trugberg.

(iii) Recommended kit for the climbing & huts e.g. hut slippers if none are available?

Many thanks,

James
graeme gatherer - on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

We never climbed any of the 4000s so can't help there but did 7 days of the lesser peaks and each of those you mention in (ii)

We had plans to do bigger things but as always conditions dictate and depends where you are on what day. Our favourite day was on the Grosses Wannenhorn after a big dump of fresh snow done from the Finsteraarhorn Hut. It's nearly 4000 and a real classic in the conditions we got.

I've never carried slippers - there was always crocs or the like to wear in each of the Konkordia, Hollandia and Finsteraarhorn Huts.

Oxygen would be good for your first climb up the Konkordia steps on day1 !!!

Have a good one. A memorable trip.

Graeme
kean - on 25 Feb 2014

Did the following:
Day 1: Leave car in Brig, train to Kleine Schiedegg. Hostel
Day 2: Train to Jungfraujoch (through the eiger...eye-wateringly expensive) to Monch summit (on foot). Overnight Monchjoch hutte
Day 3: Jungfrau and descent to Konkordia with broken binding. Holiday in tatters. Entered Konkordia & discovered they have complete workshop and spares for skis and bindings. Binding repaired...deep joy...holiday back on track! Never seen that before or since. Never broken a binding before or since...the gods were having a laugh...
Day 4: Gross Grunhorn and back to Konkordia hutte.
Day 5: Transfer to Finsteraarhutte in white out.
Day 6: Gross Wannenhorn and return to Finster hutte.
Day 7: Finsteraarhorn and traverse col (forget the name, but reachable from Frustuchplatz in descent, which avoids passing hut and reascent again) to Oberarjoch hutte.
Day 8: Ski out east. Train back to Brig.

Logic of this is you start high (headache risk!) but ascents are correspondingly shorter, giving opportunity to acclimatise, before Gross Grunhorn and Finsteraarhorn. No running water in any of the huts. Not even to brush teeth.
jon on 25 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

The itinerary that Kean outlines above is a pretty standard one and one I'd thoroughly recommend too, and which can be varied at will to include several big peaks (or not) in a six day trip. Coming in from the south you'd join it at Konkordia. Nearly all huts in that area used to carry complete Fritschi bindings/repair kits and I'd imagine they still do. The col that he mentions on his day 7 is called the Gemslücke and is certainly a handy shortcut to get to Oberaarjoch. From here a better way out is to go south to either Münster or Reckingen as going east to the Grimsel can be problematic (lake/dam etc)and depending on the season lands you on the north side of the pass. As Graeme says, all huts have slippers.
Doug on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to jon:

I've done a similar trip but exiting down the Lotschental to Blaten. This was done on a special (but still expensive) rail ticket from Spiez (where we left the car) which included Spiez to Grindelwald, Grindelwald to Junfraujoch, Blaten to Spiez (postbus & train). That was several years ago & the ticket may no longer exist, we also had a reduction for a group (we were 6 I think)
Graham Briffett on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to kean:
Hi James,
Did something very similar to Kean's trip 3 years or so ago. All good. The huts all had slippers as I recall though they were very busy (at about the same time of year). It was, as somebody else has said, a memorable trip. I think my wife has just about forgiven me for deciding to stay in the Monch hut on the first night (not that clever if totally unacclimatized).

I was advised that the guardian of the Hollandia hut was a miserable git and to try and avoid it. We ignored the advice and regretted it... There might be a different guardian by now, of course. All the others were great.

Graeme G - you back to Norway this year by any chance?

Graham

James Gordon - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Graham Briffett:

Thank you Graham! And Kean (didn't we climb in the Dolomites about 10 yrs ago?) and all others advice.

For those who did some of the 4000ers did a minimalist alpine rack & 50m rope suffice for travel & climbing?

Out of interest were there showers in the konkordia? I know some of the huts along the haute route have them now.

Graham Briffett on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

I don't recall there being showers, no. But was last there 3 or 4 years ago, so things might have changed.
graeme gatherer - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Graham Briffett:

Nah, no Norway this year unfortunately. Climbing trips, family ski trips and a 6 week trip this summer with the family mean quite simply I can't afford it!! You?

We're hatching a plan to ski in India next year though!!


Back on thread, I don't remember the Hollandia guardian at all and it was quite a nice hut somewhat quieter than the others. 2010 I think.
jon on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

I've done all the 4000ers in the Oberland (except for that bloody Lauteraarhorn which always seems to escape me...!). A 30m rope and a glacier kit is all you need even if you do something with a bit of rocky scrambling on it like the Fiescherhorns, Grünhorn or Finsteraarhorn. Don't weigh yourself down with unnecessary junk.

Taking showers is a sign of weakness.

Twenty years ago the Hollandia gardien was indeed a miserable old git. It's some time since I've been there but I'm sure it's got a better one now.

Bailing out in the Oberland due to bad weather can be problematic depending on where you are:
Konkordia down the Aletsch gletscher is OK but hard work as it's almost flat. We skinned down it!
Konkordia to the Lotschenlucke is a long way.
Konkordia to the Jungfraujoch is even further.
Finsteraarhornhütte down the Fiescher gletscher is a no no.

Doug, yes I used to leave my car in Brig and buy tickets from there to the Jungfraujoch and then from Münster back to Brig. No reason to think they don't still do it.
kean - on 26 Feb 2014
And Kean (didn't we climb in the Dolomites about 10 yrs ago?)
I wondered if it was you! We also just had a 30m rope, which was adequate. 10 years ago, there was no running water, let alone showers. We resorted to having a "snow wash", which was, um, invigorating, and very effective...

Orgsm on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:
Hollandia guardian really friendly now. We were the only ones there and a great few days touring round.
Post edited at 21:26
James Gordon - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Orgsm:

Ha! The showers are because I'll be with my GF! Thank you though for everyone's gen. V useful!

I ll tae it all into consideration.
Graham Briffett on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Orgsm:

Glad to hear the guardian has improved / changed. Its a nice hut otherwise.
rif on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

No need to carry much, if any, climbing gear. On my 2-person trip we did Jungfrau and Finsteraarhorn with just a 30m 9mm rope and our crevasse rescue kit, which included two ice screws and two long tape slings.

The other snag with the Jungfraujoch approach (apart from the cost!) is possible acclimatisation problems. We hadn't been to the Alps since the previous spring, and then only Austria, so weren't too surprised when neither of us ate or slept well the first night at 3500m or whatever it as at Monchjoch. And the reascent to the hut after Jungfrau on day 2 was hard work.

As Jon says, it can be a serious area to escape from in bad weather. We were at the Finsteraarhorn hut when cloud came down and intermittent light snowfall started. It stayed that way for 5 days, so we were unable to try our other 4000er targets. We had intended to leave via the Lotschental, and did navigate our way as far as an empty Hollandia hut in a long day, but we could hear avalanches in the morning and timidly decided to go all the way back past Konkordia and down the Aletschgletscher to Riffelalp and Brig instead.

Rob F
Doug on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to rif:

I'd agree that the Monchjochutte can be difficult - I'd spent some 10 days in the Vanoise a few weeks earlier but still suffered, although not as bad as many. I don't think I've ever seen so many people feeling sick, with the possible exception of a MacBraynes ferry to Stornoway and very few were managing to eat their dinner
inboard - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

I've been there a couple of times. Great area, I love it.

1. Would also check out Bill O'Connor's book (Cicerone as it aimed at winter/ ski touring conditions). Also, the SAC guidebooks (ski touring) are excellent. One of my ambitions in that area is the Hasler rib then over the A-horn summit and descent to the S. looks a stunning few days on the hills. one of these days...

2. We did a whistlestop 1 day version of the "Western Bernese Alps" tour (which is described as a c6 day tour by O'Connor) as a warmup/ acclimatisation for the Oberland 4000ers. Day 1. Col du Pillon - (lift up to) Les Diablerets - Col du Sanetsch - Wildhorn summit - descent E past Wildhorn hut - Iffigsee - Iffigenalp, then taxi to Lenk and train to Lauterbrunnen. Day 2, train up to Jungfraujoch and over Trugberg heading to Konkordia hut. Day 1 was, at the time, a real struggle but it made the following day much more fun than I know it would otherwise have been! Western Bernese Alps are lovely, some great touring and scenic views.

3. Never needed any hut slippers in the Oberland. Hardly any gear needed beyond glacier kit and 30m touring rope(s) - as Jon said.

have a great trip.
James Gordon - on 13 Apr 2014
In reply to inboard:

Any good sources for snow conditions in the mountains for the Oberland? Or anyone been there v recently?
James Gordon - on 22 Apr 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

Bump
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Dave Wynne-Jones on 01 May 2014
In reply to James Gordon:

Some years ago planned the following tour & did some of it (weather has always been a problem for me and the Oberland):
1. Bettmeralp - Mittelaletsch bivi hut
2. Aletschhorn & descend to Grosser Aletsch Glacier, up that to Konkordia (alternative is over the Dreieckhorn.)
3. Grunhorn & return to Konkordia
4. Traverse Fiescherhorn & descend to Finsteraarhornhut
5. Finsteraarhorn & return to hut
6. Konkordia via Grunhornlucke & traverse to Hollandia hut
7. Out via Lotschental & train back to Seilbahn station for Bettmeralp.

Good luck

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