Reaching Heaven in the Swiss Alps

Two Classic Climbs
By Richard Goedeke
Clouds floating over Mont Blanc
Paradise found

The 4000ers are terrific. Quite beautifully big. Quite beautifully cold. Quite beautifully wild. Even though the heights look modest by comparison with high peaks on other continents, the 4000ers of the Alps rise further above the snow line than many much higher mountains in the Himalayas and in the Andes. And to climb them, one need neither contribute to the hole in the ozone layer with long-distance flights nor diminish one's savings. Furthermore, one does not have to make excessive demands on one's normal professional and family life. No wonder, therefore, that many people collect 4000ers.

The ordinary routes on these peaks are considerable challenges. Above all, however, they are the most logical routes, for they trace the lines of least resistance, were mostly the routes of first ascent, and thereby remain a part of classical Alpine history. To take note of this history gives additional dimensions of experience to our ascents today. And even though these routes receive heavy traffic, they renew themselves constantly with fresh snow. Changes in circumstances, usually in the weather, add an extra degree of unpredictability and often produce surprising problems that can lead to a change of route. That is all part of the fascination of big mountains, which makes the ordinary routes perennially interesting even for those who normally tackle harder climbs.

Alpine Prerequisites

Naturally, all those who climb the 4000ers will already know that in the Western Alps, the hut climb is often more exacting than a full mountain excursion in the Eastern Alps. In addition, the critical importance of good Alpine technique cannot be overstressed.

Fitness and acclimatization are also very important prerequisites, requiring a sensible tactical plan to acquire them. Then we need settled weather and favorable conditions for the type of climb being tackled, together with a suitably early start to allow it to be completed in relative safety. Finally, good equipment with ample food and fuel are needed. All these factors need to be present to ensure success.

We trust that collectors of 4000ers will take care to equip themselves properly before embarking on these climbs; otherwise, they will not get far with their 4000m peak collecting.

This article gives sufficient information so that, apart from the appropriate detailed maps, no further references are necessary. I have also provided details of how to get to the departure points by public transport, which, as everybody knows, is more environmentally friendly than the motor car.

To all who use this information, I wish you much joy and a safe return.


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