|Allalinhorn, Normal Route|
There are a number of big peaks in the Alps, the 4000 meter summits, that by virtue of their height become magnets for alpinists. And of these, the technically easier ones are very popular.
There are two such summits, known to be technically less demanding than most, the Breithorn above Zermatt and the Allalinhorn near Saas Fee. The reasons for their popularity are the impressive nature of the peaks, the fantastic settings, high among wild surrounding glaciers, their height and their easy access (either peak can be done in a day from a valley base).
The Allalinhorn is the more interesting of the two, with big glaciers and impressive crevasses, some very large and close by indeed. And the climbing is also a bit more varied that that found on the Breithorn. While most of the route is straightforward cramponing, there are a few short steeper steps, where focus on good footwork is required.
This is a big glacier route, and the entire climb is on snow and ice. Usually the only rock we touch is the very last few feet of the summit stone. Starting from the well-known resort of Saas Fee, we ride the lift system (including a subway, the "Metro Alpin") to the Mittel Allalin station at 3454 meters. From there we head right, under the big north face of the Allalinhorn, climbing up to the Feejoch, a pass between the Feechopf and the Allalinhorn. In this section there are usually very large crevasses to pass, and the route zigzags in among them. From the Feechopf we climb the west side of the peak more steeply, finally arriving at the summit cross. We retrace our steps for the descent.
The Allalinhorn is a good peak for beginning alpinists or for more experienced climbers when an easier day is desired, or the weather is not ideal. It is a superb (and challenging) exercise in white-out route finding if new snow has obscured the track.
|Climbers on the Allalinhorn|
The main challenges on this climb are its high altitude (the summit is over 13,200 feet high), and the complexity of the crevasses glacier, which varies from year to year. There may be short snow steps to about 50 degrees in steepness but most of the climbing is about 30 degrees or less.
Climbers need to be fairly fit, with good endurance.
The peak just west of the Allalinhorn is the Feechopf, a rocky summit, offering a good traverse, especially when climbed in combination with the Allalinhorn. After a traverse of the Feechopf, climbers can either descend back to Saas Fee, descend to the Täsch hut on the Zermatt side of the range to the west, or, for the more ambitious, climb the 4206 meter Alphubel. This last yields a big day with lots and lots of glacier travel.
|Allalinhorn from the east|
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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