5-day Frontier Traverse of Monte Rosa



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See also:
7-day Monte Rosa & Matterhorn program
9-day Jungfrau, Monte Rosa & Mont Blanc Program

Descending from Pollux

Also affectionately known to Swiss guides as the "Spaghetti Tour", this high mountain expedition winds along the Swiss-Italian border, climbing several 4000 meter peaks and traversing high glaciated terrain in a great loop to the south and east of Zermatt. The tour begins in Zermatt, and accesses the high glaciers via cable car to the Klein Matterhorn. We stay in friendly, hospitable Italian huts along the way (hence the name), including the spectacularly located Margherita hut, at 4554 meters (14,900 feet) the highest hut in the Western Alps. The tour culminates in an ascent of Monte Rosa's Dufourspitze, via the interesting and exposed Southeast Ridge from the Margherita hut.

As you can see from the day to day itinerary below, there are many variations to to this traverse. While some are more technically demanding than others, all are spectacular, taking in numerous 4000 meter summits.


This route is primarily on snow and ice, thought there are significant rock sections on the Breithorn Half traverse, and the summit ridge of Monte Rosa. However, the main difficulties result from the long days at high altitude. If you plan to do the Liskamm Traverse, you'll need more prior technical experience. While the climbing on the Liskamm is not overly difficult, it is often on a sharp ridge crest and the smooth footwork of an experienced alpinist is necessary.


Participants for this 5-day program must have previous rock scrambling experience and be in very good condition. You should have experience scrambling on steep rock, such as climbing in the Sierra, Cascades or Tetons. You also need to have experience in crampons and be comfortable on 40 degree frozen snow or soft ice, both in ascent and descent. If you plan to do the Liskamm Traverse you must have considerable experienced on very exposed knife-edge snow ridges and a good head for heights.


Climbing on Monte Rosa
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Frontier Traverse of the Monte Rosa Group

Day 0

Meet in Zermatt in the evening to go over equipment and logistics.

Day 1

Take the aerial tramway to the Klein Matterhorn, traverse the Verra glacier to climb Pollux (4,092 m. 13,422') via its Southwest Ridge, then continue on to the Guide d'Ayas Hut for the night (3420m or 11217 feet). Pollux is a fun climb, first on rock, then finishing with a fine snow arête.

An alternate for the first day is to do the Breithorn Half Traverse. This is a bit harder than Pollux but it is never extreme. The route is mixed with great exposure in many places. It is one of our favorites in the area.

Day 2

Climb Castor (4,223 m. 13851') via its glaciated west side. We descend along the scenic Southeast Ridge to the Felikjoch, enjoying impressive close up views of the massive Liskamm ridge, and then south down easy glaciated slopes to the Sella hut (3858m, or 12,654 feet).

Day 3

On this day we have two different options both ending at the Mantova Hut (3470m or 11380 feet). The usual variation is to traverse below the enormous south face of Liskamm, over the steep "ice nose" to the eastern lobe of the Lysgletscher, and then descend easily to the Mantova hut, taking in a couple of Monte Rosa's 4000 meter peaks along the way, such as Ludwigshöhe or the Vincent Pyramid. This variation can be done at the 2:1 ratio.

A more technical option is to traverse over the entire Liskamm Ridge itself, including the West and East summits (4527m or 14850 feet). This variation requires excellent fitness and solid cramponing skills, a head for heights, good snow conditions, and calm weather. The climbing involves extremely exposed, often knife-edged snow, some easy rock, and short steep traverses below the crest. The distance covered on the ridge is about 5 km.

Day 4

From the Mantova Hut we reascend the Lysgletscher to the Lisjoch, and then continue to the Margherita Hut via the Parrot Spitze and/or any other summits we didn't bag the day before!

Day 5

Starting at first light, we traverse the Zumsteinspitze en route to Monte Rosa's highest peak, the Dufourspitze (4618m or 15150 feet). We enjoy dramatic views and airy situations while scrambling among towers and along the ridge to the tiny summit. The descent via the normal route is down the steep fixed ropes that lead to the Silbersattel. If we are early and with extra energy to burn, we can also climb Nordend, another 2 or 3 hours return from the Silbersattel. From here the routes continues down easy glacier and moraine for several thousand feet to the Monte Rosa hut. A further 2 hours or so of flat dry glacier and an uphill trail at the end, lead us to the Gornergrat railway station at Rotenboden, and we descend back to Zermatt by train.

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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