Swiss alps advice

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 stu84 08 Feb 2021

Afternoon all,

I know travel is still a bit optimistic at this stage but I’m passing some time by planning a trip to the Swiss alps for late June.

it’s the first time I’ve been and having had a look through the guidebook the Breithorn seems to be a good starting point as it has a variety of routes and grades along with some neighbouring peaks.

Travel will be via train to Zermatt by the looks of it. Can anyone recommend a campsite or cheap accommodation for a night, preferably near the lifts. Also if anyone has any recommendations for mountain huts that are more affordable (I know it’s Switzerland and things are expensive) I’d be keen to hear them along with any other advice for the area.



 colinakmc 08 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

Who knows when it’ll feel safe to do the Alps again. But you could get to the Breithorn (plus Castor & Pollux and a host of others ) from the Italian side which would be cheaper accommodation wise. I based myself at Staffal a few years ago, with good lift access to the Gnifetti and Val d’Ayas huts, giving lots of options.

 LakesWinter 08 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

Saas grund is in the valley next door and probably a better bet for a first trip as there are more good easy peaks. 

 stu84 08 Feb 2021
In reply to LakesWinter:

Thanks for the advice. Do you know what guidebook/resource is best for these routes please?

 SouthernSteve 08 Feb 2021
In reply to LakesWinter:

> Saas grund is in the valley next door and probably a better bet for a first trip as there are more good easy peaks. 

Also Arolla is good for a first visit. Perhaps look up the local British guide. Frost Guiding Arolla Evolene Swiss Alps Switzerland

However, my last business trip to Switzerland had me amazed at the prices with current conversion rates and Italy, or France might be a lot cheaper.

 Mark Haward 08 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

Zermatt is very expensive; there is one basic campsite that I'm aware of:

FR - campingzermatts Webseite!

Supermarket in town.

Before Zermatt there is a more pleasant campsite in the village of Randa:

Campingplatz Randa - Umfassende Infos, Bewertung, Karte

Small food shop on site.

From the Randa campsite there are regular shuttle buses up to Zermatt. From these you could get the various lifts up or walk from the valley. Possible to acclimatise sufficiently for the Breithorn on non glacial terrain - could be snowy though. Superb alpine walking in the area. Assuming you are competent at glacier travel the Breithorn is very straightforward and short, easily done via a morning uplift on the Klein Matterhorn. Don't be misled by the skiers and easy ground, this area has  crevasses. From the Klein Matterhorn lift system you could then walk, all on glacial terrain, to the Italian Ayas hut and spend some time there.

    As others have suggested approach from the Italian side is cheaper but I don't know about public transport systems there. Assuming you are after climbing peaks then the Valais Alps  East covers the  area ( in English ). Although restricted to the 4,000 metre peaks ( obviously ) the '4,000m Peaks of the Alps' by Romelli and Ciridini is a more recent and really clear guide with excellent photos. Sections on the Monte Rosa group ( which includes the Breithorn ) plus other areas you may be interested in such as the Saas Fee / Saas Grund area which LakesWinter recommended.

   You may want to check out the 'Spaghetti Route' and its variations...

 LakesWinter 08 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

Just wrote a lengthy reply that the site lost

... take 2.....

Valais east by the alpine club is old now (1999?) But not too out of date for standard routes around Saas. Whichever guidebool you get, I'd check for the latest info on as this wil give up to date info taking into account more recent glacial changes.

Huts will also have up to the minute info on the current state of routes done from said hut.

Plenty of summits round Saas can be done from a bivi, for example the Weissmies

South east ridge as long as you were well away from the allmageller hut

Equally the  Fletschhorn normal route can be done from a nice bivi and can be combined with Alpendurst (4c) on the jagihorn the afternoon before

In reply to stu84:

THe Italian side is worth seriously considering instead.  Overall costs will be about two thirds those in Switzerland.  And the food and wine are much better.  One snag is not many campsites in the relevant valleys but they are there further down, and local buses are good and very cheap (about 1/10th the cost of Switzerland).

 pec 08 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

The campsite in Zermatt is right next to the railway line so from early morning to late evening there is a lot of noise from this, there sometimes seems to be a lot of freight shunting in the early morning as well. It’s also very small and only suitable for small backpacking type tents.

Better sites are available lower down the valley but not ideal for catching early cable cars.

Re huts, the cheapest hut in the vicinity of the Breithorn is the Rossi e Volanti bivouac hut which is free . It has mattresses and blankets but no cooking facilities so take a stove. It is quite high, 3,750m so not ideal until you are a bit acclimatised and no running water, only snowmelt so take enough fuel and be careful where you collect snow to melt as it also has no toilet so people “go” nearby.

You can walk to it from the Kleine Matterhorn cable car by traversing “round the back” of the Breithorn, you could do the ordinary route on the Breithorn en-route or use the hut as a base from which to start the Breithorn traverse the next day.

You can also climb Pollux and Castor easily from there. Lyskamm is a bit further but doable.

If you fancy a grand traverse you could go from this hut via some/all of these peaks to the Balmenhorn bivi hut and on to the peaks of Monta Rosa the next day though it would be a long way back so better approached from Italy unless you descend to Zermatt from Monta Rosa.

The Balmenhorn hut has blankets and a stove with gas and pans, plates, cutlery etc. It too has no running water but it does have a toilet (which is something to behold) and at nearly 4,200m you really do want to be well acclimatised before stopping there.

I believe there are some other huts in the vicinity that you can pay for but I have no experience of them ;-)

 McHeath 08 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

You don't say if you'll be on your own, that's an important factor. If you are: stay off the 4000ers as a first-timer, or expect to pay thousands for guides! If not: how experienced is your partner? Late June is early in the Summer season, and many crevasses on the glaciers will still be hidden. 

Post edited at 22:13
 stu84 16 Feb 2021

Thanks for all the advice so far. I know Italy would be cheaper but I am visiting a friend in Switzerland on my way there.

I’m not going alone and me and my mountaineering partner have suitable knowledge of crevasse rescue and have done a fair bit in Scotland and other places (for me it will be the first time in the alps so will take suitable care)

sounds like an overnight a little further out than Zermatt would be preferable then a combination of huts and staying high seems like the more cost effective way.

 stu84 16 Feb 2021
In reply to colinakmc:

Thanks the advice. Do you know the best airport to fly into if I was to change plans and go via Staffal?

In reply to stu84:

Hi. Saas was giving free uplift a few years back, if you were staying in the valley. I believe it continued for a while. 

Swiss tourist office does a variety of tickets to save on rail and uplift combined. Half price uplift and buses plus a transfer to point of entry and transfer to exit on return. 

The Swiss charge for breathing their air. Big saving can be made by self catering in huts and flashing your mountain club card

Enjoy. Hope to get there as well....

 colinakmc 16 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

can’t remember the numbers but we figured it was cheapest to fly easyJet to Geneva and take a car through the mb tunnel. The car gave us flexibility that in the event we didn’t use.

In reply to stu84:

You could fly into Turin, pick up a hire car or get the train to Aosta, then bus to one of the high resorts (Cervinia?)

There are a couple of camp sites in Saas Grund, with several worthwhile via ferrata in the area to help with acclimatisation. The Balfrin from the Bordier hut is a good acclimatisation peak.

In reply to Mark Haward:

In 1966 and 67 we camped at Winkelmatten, some distance up from Zermatt, perhaps 20-30 mins walk (I can't remember). It was charming in every way, in a wonderful position with a grandstand view of the Cervin. Not a huge amount of facilities, so I think it was quite good value (by Zermatt standards!) No idea if it still exists. Would be sad if it doesn't.

I've done some Googling. Can't find it.

Post edited at 21:08
 Frostguiding 17 Feb 2021
In reply to stu84:

For 2 people hiring a car might be a better option. Then you can drive to the valley to do a big shop in Aldi or Lidl instead of using the Saas Grund Coop, for example and more easily avoid bad weather.  

Start on a lower peak to get acclimatised. Don't go straight to 4000m! You could do the Breithorn without the lift - walk and bivvy day 1, summit and down on day 2. You'd save £100 but turn a half day into 2 long days.

If you do the "Spaghetti route" you'll be staying in Italian huts anyway because the whole thing follows the border. You can walk down instead of using the train at the end - it's about 1000m. 

If you really want to save money then avoid Zermatt! Even Saas is better, but Turtman, Anniviers, Arolla etc are all harder places to spend money. If you want to use lots of lifts then get a half fare card. 

 stu84 17 Feb 2021
In reply to Frostguiding:

Thanks for the advice. Certainly not looking to waste money and understand the need for good acclimatisation so will look into your idea of a two day walk up too. 

 stu84 17 Feb 2021
In reply to phizz4:

Thanks, hadn’t thought of via ferrata to help with the acclimatisation but that could be a fun idea.

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