Zinalrothorn Traverse (North Ridge)

Having discovered that the hut for the Dent Blanche was full we developed a new plan, to traverse the Zinalrothorn from Zinal to Zermatt via the north ridge. To get to Zinal we had to get a number of buses, and due to the timetables we ended up in Zinal very early in the morning. This enabled us to have a leisurely stroll up to the hut before spending the afternoon relaxing.

The start of the walk was in the mist which we both appreciated as it kept us cool during the majority of the ascent. Eventually the sun started burning off the morning mist and we were greeted with a stunning view of the Grand Cornier, the Dent Blanche and the Ober Gabelhorn. Due to the ever changing views the walk in was one of the most enjoyable I have experienced to date, this combined with relaxing all afternoon at the hut made for a very enjoyable day.

All too early the next morning ours alarms woke us up and we both struggled to eat anything for breakfast as our bodies definitely wanted to still be asleep at 2:45. We made good time up the moraine and initial glacier and were soon at the start of the Arête du Blanc as dawn was starting to break. This arête gave a huge feeling of exposure with huge drops to either side as we walked up the narrow icy steps, at times I did resort to having my hands on the ground as well as my feet!

Once we got to the end of the snow arête we were greeted with the morning sun, as well as a fierce wind which made the rest of the ridge extremely cold. The ridge was fantastic with great positions above the valleys around us, stunning views of the mountains in every direction and entertaining scrambling. We made reasonable time up the rest of the ridge, with only one route finding issue which was my fault. The views from the summit were amazing due to the crystal clear air, lack of clouds in the sky and huge mountains in every direction.

The start of the descent was enjoyable with some interesting down climbing, however we then reached the start of the abseils which seemed to go on forever, especially in the current conditions. We were expecting about two abseils down to the gable notch, and got there after three. From there we were expecting an quick descent, but due to the lack of snow there was an awful lot of loose rock, so we decided to continue abseiling while there was the option.

Eventually we got to the end of the abseils and enjoyed the last snow ridge down to the end of the main difficulties. After a hideous traverse of loose ground, which was followed by a horrible loose chimney we were finally down at the last section of glacier to take us back to the Rothorn Hut, which was at 3200m. Unfortunately this meant that we still had 1600m of descent to get us back down into Zermatt.

This last descent seemed to go on forever, but we eventually made it back down into Zermatt and just had to manage the last challenge of getting some food and getting back to Saas Grund via public transport with our very tired bodies. We managed to get back to Saas Grund but totally failed at finding food!

It was a great but very long day out, in total we were walking for 16.5 hrs, climbed 1670m, descended 2870m and spend almost 6 hours above 4000m.

Misty walk in to the hut

Views back down to Zinal

Stunning views of the Ober Gabelhorn and Dent Blanche from the h

Amazing view of the Dent Blanche from the hut

Dawn view of the Matterhorn, Ober Gabelhorn and the Dent Blanche

On the exposed snow arete in front of the Dent Blanche

At the start of the rock ridge

Amazing views of the Matterhorn, Ober Gabelhorn, Dent d’Hérens

High above the valley

A Cheval on the ridge

Scrambling on the ridge

Nearing the top of the North Ridge

At the top of the difficulties on the North Ridge

Final section of easy scrambling to the top

Amazing view of the Dent Blance from the summit

Summit Panorama

Summit selfie

Matterhorn and Dent Blanche looking amazing

Descending the south east ridge

Walking above Les Haudères

After being evacuated from the campsite in Arolla due to landslides we headed down to Les Haudères. Due to an unsettled forecast we spent a few days doing day walks rather than heading up to the big mountains.

The first walk was the ridge directly above the campsite, we walked up to the Col de Torrent and then aimed to walk along the ridge over the Pointe du Prélet and along to the Pointe du Tsate.

The walk up to the Col de Torrent had lovely views up the valley towards the Pigne d’Arolla and down the valley towards some mountains north of the Rhone valley. As we were leaving the col we were treated to a close flypast by a bearded vulture which was stunning.

The ridge was fantastic, with great views in every direction, some good scrambling and plenty more wildlife. Unfortunately we got to within 100m of the Pointe du Tsate and had to turn back due to a climb and some loose rocks which we weren’t willing to do without ropes. Thankfully the forecast thunderstorm did not arrive!

The next day we planned on climbing the Pic d’Artsinol but decided to turn back due to the weather looking like it was closing in.

Looking back towards the Pigne d’Arolla

Stunning alpine scenary

At the start of the ridge

Lots of big mountains

On the first summit

Big Ibex

Great views on the ridge

Becky high above Les Haudères

Scrambling on the ridge

High mountains starting to close in

Scrambling on the quick return

Walking up towards Pic d’Artsinol

Pigne d’Arolla

After arriving in Arolla we decided to make the most of a weather window by heading straight up to the Cabane des Vignettes with the aim of climbing the Pigne d’Arolla on the next day. The weather on the walk up was stunning but it was very hot, and with the combination of the excessive heat and altitude I really struggled on the ascent. Thanks to some encouragement from our friends we continued, and thankfully as we got onto the glacier it clouded over which provided some respite from the heat.

After an excellent evening in the hut, followed by the best hut breakfast I have experienced (bacon, scrambled egg and pancakes) we started the climb up the Pigne d’Arolla the next morning. The route is meant to be an easy snow plod, but due to the very hot summer there was a short section which was steep, bare glacial ice. As we were four on a rope we pitched the ice on the way up and down to ensure that we were safe. After the icy section the rest of the route was straightforward snow where we were able to enjoy the fantastic views.

The 1800m descent back down to Arolla was very long, and increasingly hot but the desire for a beer in Arolla kept us going!

Hot walk up to the hut

Dry glacier on the approach to the hut

Roped up as the glacier turned wet

Dawn light

Dawn over the Dent Blanche

Hot ascent in the sun

Stunning views approaching the summit

On the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla

On the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla

Descending from the Pigne d’Arolla

Descending from the Pigne d’Arolla

Descending looking towards the Dent Blanche and the Matterhorn

Steep ice on the descent

Looking towards the hut and the Dent Blanche

Descending back to Arolla

Lochnagar Circuit

Having had a number of days out walking, where the snow was generally excellent we decided to make the most of the beautiful forecast on Easter Sunday by heading over to the east to complete the Lochnagar Circuit. The circuit is long with around 28km of walking which includes 5 Munros, so we didn’t want to be attempting it with deep snow.

It was a very cold morning, with temperatures of -6 degrees according to the van, we had to scrape frozen condensation off the inside of the van! What the cold morning did bring, was a beautiful clear sky and hard frost. Soon after we set off we realised that the east had had far more snow than the west in the previous few days, and it became apparent that the day wasn’t going to be a quick romp along frozen high on the plateau.

The walk in towards Lochnagar was beautiful in the sunshine, as there was no wind we couldn’t hear anything over than our steps in the crunchy snow and the grouse flying around. We were amazed when we got to the col before the final climb up to Lochnagar, as the view of the north face was outstanding. Thankfully we had steps to follow on the climb up to Lochnagar, which made it significantly easier as the snow underfoot was fairly hard work.

The views across the plateau were amazing, it was a huge white expanse which seemed to go on for ever in one direction, and a view towards the other huge plateau of the Northern Cairngorms in the other direction.

We spent a long time walking in a circuit around the plateau to include the five Munros, but it never got dull due to the changing views and the immersive experience of being so small in such a vast white expanse. The weather was beautiful all day, and despite the air temperature being cold we both spent all of the day walking in base layers.

After lots of trail braking and tough walking we eventually got to the last Munros were we savoured the views down towards Loch Muick and the view of our long descent (~9km). We decided to try and save some time by taking the quick descent back down to the loch, rather than staying high on the plateau. This was a mistake as the snow hadn’t been in the sun all day and was very steep and frozen solid, which lead to a short but very exposed traverse to get to the path. This meant that after 8 hours of walking without needing crampons we had to get our kit out for 15 mins at the end of the day.

We made good time around the loch and got back to the car in just under the summer book time, which given the conditions on the plateau we were very pleased with.

Beautiful valley on the walk up from Glenmuick

Harder going on the climb up to Lochnagar

Stunning view of the north face of Lochnagar

Steep climb up onto the plateau

White wilderness on the plateau

Becky approaching Lochnagar

Summit panorama from Lochnagar

Becky on Lochnagar

Summit selfie on Lochnagar

Heading into the white expanse

Amazing views towards the Northern Cairngorms

Becky in the white wilderness

Becky on the summit of Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach

Heading further into the white wilderness

Becky on Carn an t-Sagairt Mor

Us on Carn an t-Sagairt Mor in front of the Northern Cairngorms

Amazing view towards the Northern Cairngorms

Becky on the walk up to Cairn Bannoch

Becky on Cairn Bannoch

Selfie on Cairn Bannoch

Us on Broad Cairn

Descending from Broad Cairn with Loch Muick