My climbing partner has recently come down with a serious case of non-existence & I don’t really want to use guides anymore, so I’ve been looking into solo routes in the Alps for this summer.
I’m no Alex Honnold, but I’ve climbed to a TD- grade with a guide about 5 years ago & done a couple of Scottish winter routes solo.
I’m just looking at a couple of solo routes in the alps for this summer that are fairly straightforward, but a bit of a challenge (if that’s possible).
I’ve been looking at the Durrenhorn, but I’m open to suggestions.
There are a few 4000m hills in that group, or a longer traverse of several that can be accessed by long ridges from Saas Fee side and generally avoid long dubious glacier plods on your own.
The obvious ones are the Lagginhorn and Weissmies (from the south), both PD ridge scrambles which can entirely avoid glaciers.
I've also done the Dent Blanche and Zinalrothorn solo, which are a bit harder and require briefly being on glaciers.
Lots of other good options in Switzerland if you're not wedded to 4000m summits
I hadn’t thought about the Dent Blanche, but it sounds like a good option, thanks.
I'm assuming the glacier crossing on the Dent Blanche was similar to the Mer de glacé if in the summer.
I’m not wedded to 4000mtr peaks though, so any other options would be welcome.
I spent a month last year in the Ecrins partly on my own and there are quite a few very fine high peaks around F+/PD which can be reached without serious glacier crossings. The nicest is probably Pic Coolidge but I also did Mont Gioberney, Pic Jocelme, Cime de Vallon, Pic du Glacier d'Arsine, Pic du Glacier Blanc and Pointe de Chamoix on my own. I also soloed Roche Faurio but that is glaciated and I only chanced it as I had already crossed the glacier twice roped to do the Barre and Dome and reckoned I knew a safe route (I still got frowned at and scolded by a variety of heavily armed bumblies!) . All the normal routes to these peaks are included in the guide Voies Normales et Classiques des Ecrins by Sebastian Constant. Of the higher Alpine peaks I can confirm the recommendation for Lagginhorn and Weissmies which are perfectly safe for a competent soloist, though I would suggest that Durrenhorn is now regarded a seriously dangerous in summer with a rope, let alone solo! Most other peaks above 4000m require glacier crossings. However as has already been suggested there are many Swiss options below 4000m to consider. Of course you could cut the gordian knot and seek out a partner via a club meet or on line. I solved the problem a few years back by joining the Alpine Club - they have a aspirant meet every year in Saas which is ideal and you sound more than competent to apply? I intend to go to the meet in Argentiere for three weeks this summer, though that is for full members only. However I have picked up some very competent scratch partners in Chamonix over the years. Whatever you do, take care and have a good season.
The WSW ridge on the Lagginhorn is a definite option to solo, I soloed it in descent after ascending another route, it's only about grade 2 or 3 scrambling. There's the small remnants of a glacier to cross at the foot of the route (a few hundred yards only) but it's not active anymore so no crevasse problems though you might want crampons to cross it in the morning when its frozen.
The SSE and SW ridges of the Weissmies both avoid glaciers and at PD could be reasonable to solo but I've not done them.
If you're willing to cross the odd straightforward glacier then the NE ridge of the Nadelhorn is a possibility. You have to cross the Hohbalm glacier (for about 6-800m) but it's flat and uncomplicated at that point. There are crevasses but not monster slots, there will normally be a well blazed trail and lots of other people around. Above this its a snowy ridge with a little bit of rocky scrambling.
I've always noted plenty people posting on here around May/June time looking for Alpine partners, however there's always the risk they could be utterly incompetent, despite no doubt initially claiming otherwise. There's also the Chamonix Rock Climbers facebook group, which peak summer has multiple people posting per day looking for partners, however the vast majority are beginners from my experience, so again be weary. Saying that, for rock, I'd still rather be roped-up with a beginner, simul-climbing and placing gear, than solo, though I'm sure some would argue otherwise.
I'm pleasantly surprised with how many people know about the Lagginhorn and Weissmies routes.
I had the same issue as you last year (mate bailed last minute) and soloed both the Lagginhorn and Weissmies over 4 days.
I made a video on both mountains if you want to see what the routes are like and want some extra info:
One thing to add is that on Weissmies is that from the Almagellerhutte hut (the one you're leaving from) you'll have 90% of the people going up the southwest ridge but then going down via the glacier/normal route, ending at the weissmies hut where you could do the Lagginhorn from the next day and do the whole mission in 3 days instead of 4. Most people are happy for you to share a rope with them so grab a harness in case you make any friends and do the full tour of the mountain!
Thanks very much,
This is really useful. I had looked at the Ecrins as well, but I’ve contacted the Alpine Club about the aspirant meet to see if I can get on that.
Have a good season too.
Some more ideas, some under 4000m
- Breithorn, F Glaciated but low risk. Not that interesting though, despite good views.
-Punta Giordani, F Low risk glacier. Could continue to Pyramid Vincent (PD+) but getting down from there involves a crevassed glacier.
- Domes de Miage from the Durier hut (PD). Reverse route to avoid significant glaciers.
- West Flank Eiger (not done it but no glacier although loose, AD??)
I actually feel a little uncomfortable now about suggesting it having seen the thread about soloing in Ogwen. It's classic alpine ridge with loose rock and some very exposed nontrivial climbing.
That said, I did it in early June, before the hut was open. I think I was the first person to do it last year. This meant there was decent ice in the couloir which allows one to avoid the F4c crux. I took a 6mm line for abseils but frankly that was more trouble than it was worth except for a few difficult moves.
Be careful and have fun
Have you considered doing some Via Ferrata in the Alps this year? There are some good ones near Saas Fee, a few good urns near Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, more down round Pralognan, yet more in the Ecrins etc. Plus you could go the whole hog and visit Dolomites this year for as much VF as you can manage.
No need to feel uncomfortable. ultimately, I assess everything & the decision is solely mine, so it’ll only ever be myself that leads me to my doom.
I appreciate the information.
May just be easier to find a new partner.
Have a great season.
Delighted to be of help. I hope to meet you out in Saas Fee in September if you join the club. I imagine there must be other clubs who have Alpine trips as well who may be easier to join than the AC! Good luck. BTW, regarding other suggestions posted here, you can reach the Rimpfischorn on its normal route from Tasch or Zermatt without crossing glaciated ground. I did a roped ascent of that route last summer. Though the grade 3 climbing on the upper section was snowed up and would have felt quite testing solo, especially as the ridge was crowded - with quite a few bumbly teams included. However we did pass two competent soloists on the way down. The Dome de Miage by the ridge avoiding the glacier is a route I have picked out as a possible solo as well. I have picked up a number of scratch partners around Chamonix on the site over the last few years and they have been pleasant, safe and competent without exception. Maybe I am just lucky!
You can't get onto the normal route of the Rimpfischhorn without crossing a glacier can you? Granted it's dry, or at least was when I was there from Pfulwe, but I don't see how you could get across without crossing it.
I found the dent blanch to be fairly serious and at the upper end of the AD bracket... granted i did it in september and early summer would be a different ball game, but based on my experiences i would not be recommending it as a sensible route to solo. Its big, its high, its long, its remote, all things which the Honnalds and Stecks of this world would love, but to somebody who is asking for recomendations, i would not recommend it!
stating that you have been dragged up a TD- by a guide and done some scottish winter is not very helpful. what have you ACTUALLY done yourself in the alps with equal partners. with that information we may be able to make more realistic and informed suggestions!
> Some more ideas, some under 4000m
> - Domes de Miage from the Durier hut (PD). Reverse route to avoid significant glaciers.
^this is a good suggestion, just requires solid cramponing technique
EDIT: did you mean the durier hut? the approach to that is fairly heinious at any time of year! doing the domes de miage as a there and back from the conscrits hut is a better journey, and just as safe, there is no need to go via the glacier to get there.
> - West Flank Eiger (not done it but no glacier although loose, AD??)
^this is most definitely not! it is virtually never done these days except as a descent route in winter. its generally too unstable
> ^? the approach to that is fairly heinious at any time of year! doing the domes de miage as a there and back from the conscrits hut is a better journey, and just as safe, there is no need to go via the glacier to get there.
I did. I found the approach fine a couple.of years ago and the weird hut in a cave en route is worth a stop. Isnt the Conscrit approach fairly glacial?
> ^this is most definitely not! it is virtually never done these days except as a descent route in winter. its generally too unstable
> I did. I found the approach fine a couple.of years ago and the weird hut in a cave en route is worth a stop. Isnt the Conscrit approach fairly glacial?
no, you only go up the glacier in winter (and presumably sometimes in spring), the 'summer' path is way above on the hillside.
The old path to Conscrits was down amongst the moraine and then steep ladders, but just a few years ago they built a big Nepal-like wire bridge across a big gap, and now the path is a nice wander around the high ground on the true right.
Obviously recommending routes to solo is always tricky and I have no idea how good/bad at soloing you are, but these might be options:
Matterhorn. No glacier to get to the base of either the Liongrat or Hornli. Both good routes that I think would be fine to solo. There are a couple of steep sections on chains on the Liongrat, if you're worried about those then I'd consider getting a Petzl Evolv Adjust - you can use it to clip into chain links and effectively daisy solo, but on a dynamic daisy so pretty safe, sounds complicated isn't actually. Recommend combining them both for the traverse.
Lagginhorn. Plenty of people recommended Lagginhorn already, but this one is a little different. The route names, if logical, are quite confusing unfortunately! The normal route (West-southwest Ridge, West-southwest Ridge (Normal Route) (PD)) on the Lagginhorn isn't that amazing, but when I was there there was no glacier atall, so easy access. An alternative, also with no glacier for access is the West-southwest Rib and South Ridge (West-southwest Rib and South Ridge (AD)), this joins the better South-southwest Ridge (South-southwest Ridge (AD)) part way up. In order to access the South-southwest Ridge normally, you have to go accross a glacier to the Lagginjoch (the col between the Lagginhorn and Weissmies), so that's a bit risky - I got into a crevasse up to my arms there. The West-southwest Rib and South Ridge is a bit loose in the West-southwest Rib part before it joins the South Ridge, but that bit is also not very popular so not much chance of other people knocking stuff down. The South Ridge bit has a UIAA grade 3ish downclimb near the top, think that's the hardest bit. I'd really recommend going up the West-southwest Rib and South Ridge, then down the West-southwest Ridge (normal route), much more fun than up and down the normal route imho.
Weissmies. Again plenty of people have recommended the classic South-Southeast Ridge (South-Southeast Ridge (PD)) which can be accessed with no glacier problems. A different option is to do the North Ridge (North Ridge (D)) and come down the South-Southeast Ridge. The start of the North Ridge is at the Lagginjoch, which - as mentioned above - is normally accessed by crossing a glacier. However, the actual Lagginjoch itself is not crevassed, it's very rocky. It can be accessed by traversing the Lagginhorn up the normal route and down the South-southwest Ridge to the Lagginjoch, or up the West-southwest Rib and down a small part of the South-southwest Ridge. Maybe an option if you're feeling very fit. It's harder than the other routes, so that's something to consider - I've not actually done it (was rained off at the start) but a friend has who says they soloed it all except an approx 10m section of what she estimated to be about HS.
Allalinhorn. This is a very snowy one and there are crevasses, but on the normal route the guides put in a massive ladder over the bergschrund and there are absolutely loads of people on the same route. So just pick a party and walk behind them and hope that if things hold them (and the 10 groups before them...) they'll hold you 30sec later! I saw a guy soloing this with a dog. Obviously there are still crevasse dangers, but the number of people does mean things are well tested and if you get scared you can probably persuade people to let you on the end of their rope for a bit.
You don't "cross" the glacier, just follow the southern edge of it until you reach the steepish snow slope.
> You can't get onto the normal route of the Rimpfischhorn without crossing a glacier can you? Granted it's dry, or at least was when I was there from Pfulwe, but I don't see how you could get across without crossing it.
Re Weissmies - soloing the North Ridge is rather a forbidding prospect as it is a long serious AD+ with grade 4 pitches. For a solo traverse I did the Rotgrat ridge from the Almageller Hut, at PD+ with a couple of bolted grade 3 pitches, then descended the South East ridge normal route. The Rotgrat has been recently well marked and prepared by the hut staff to try to ease the crowds on the normal route. This traverse avoids all glacier crossings and is a fine day out.
I did the Rimpfischorn via Pfulwe last summer and only crossed easy non-crevassed snow en route. I was in a roped team but would have been perfectly happy soloing and we passed a couple of soloists on way down. It may be worth noting that a well marked walking trail now links the Taschalp car park to the Pfulwe col. This is a much cheaper and pleasanter approach than the one from the Zermatt side and we found a good bivouac site on the next col beyond Pfulwe to allow us a pleasant high start the next day.
There's some pretty major and committing routes being suggested here. Think the OP could do with sharing more detail of what he's/she's done previously in order for them to get more informed suggestions.
Lagginhorn has now turned into a slag heap as the permafrost has melted. Since 2012, many have fallen & some have died on the SW ridge (?) - normal route from Weismeiss Hut.
…but they are soloable.
IIRC the lethal accident on Lagginhorn was a slab avalanche after a summer snowfall that had not consolidated yet. If you stay on the ridge the normal route is not THAT danngerous with respect to rockfall.
Dürrenhorn (and the North end of the Nadelgrat in general) on the other side of the valley is a completely different story!
This Alpine Conditions page gives a summary of what is being climbed at the moment, what is 'in' nick and what the prospects are...