The course starts with participants and guides meeting at 7.00pm at Le Grand Chalet hotel in Leysin. This is the chance for the guides to give a thorough briefing and discuss the detailed plan for the week with you - and for you to ask any questions that you may have!
After sorting out any particular equipment requirements, we travel up the Rhône valley to Visp and then up the Mattertal to Zermatt. We will take the cable car up to the Klein Matterhorn, from which it takes 2-3 hours to traverse the big glacial plateau and descend a fairly steep and crevassed glacier to the Ayas hut. We have to check out/refresh alpine skills en route. Sometimes, with a more experienced and fit team, it is possible to take in an ascent of the Breithorn on the way. The Ayas is a modern and friendly hut – and sometimes gets quite busy.
A good alpine start is needed if we are to climb both Castor and Pollux. Both have fairly steep snow and ice slopes to negotiate and here your guide will be watching to see that you have a good crampon technique, giving any advice or training as necessary. We descend the glacier again down to the more rustic Quintino Sella hut.
We go back up onto the Ghiacciaio del Lis and make a fairly long traverse underneath Lyskamm to a steep and exposed section of the traverse, known as the ‘Passo del Naso’. Once across this we can take in the summit of Naso then the going is easier until we ascend again on straightforward snow slopes to climb the Balmenhorn (4194m – a small peak topped by a bivvi hut which makes an ideal picnic spot!). Now we can make the short but steep snow/ice ascent to the summit of the Schwarzhorn (4321m) and also bag the Pyramide Vincent (4215m) before descending the glacier to the Gnifetti hut.
We retrace our steps up the Glacier del Lis, this time keeping below the Pyramide Vincent, and then we traverse over the snow summit of Ludwigshöhe (4341m). A short descent leads to a col and a pronounced snowy ridge that continues to the Parrot Spitz (4432m). We traverse over the top of this and make a short descent again to another col. A steeper snow/ice ridge leads up to the Signalkuppe and a rest stop at the Margherita hut on its summit - at 4554m the highest hut in the Alps. Our final 4000m peak, the Zumstein Spitz (4452m), is only a short ascent from the hut, then we make a long descent down the vast Grenzgletscher to the Monte Rosa hut.
The descent of the dry Gorner glacier is now complex and interesting, involving chains to cover the steep ground near to the hut then spectacular glacier travel through a jumble of seracs and ice formations. After about 4 hours we reach the cog railway at Rotenboden, we can finally rest our knees and ride the train back down into Zermatt. We take a late lunch here then travel back to our hotel in Leysin where, after a much-needed shower and good supper, we’ll hopefully have the energy for a well-deserved night out!
Breakfast at the hotel is included before departure.