Welcome drinks and meeting at hotel Le Grand Chalet at 6.45pm. After discussing the week we will check kit so that we are ready for a prompt start the next morning.
We travel to the Zinal valley (2 hours). From the village of St Luc a beautiful walk up through alpine forests takes us to the Hotel Weisshorn, amazingly situated at 2337m. From mid-afternoon we have an instructional session covering the various alpine skills needed for the rest of the week, including correct use of climbing harness, basic knots and how the rope will be used on steeper ground.
A good trail leads up to the Meidpass at 2790m where we enjoy a stunning view into the Turtmanntal, a tiny valley ringed by magnificent peaks. Our route takes us down and along this valley, past the little lake of the Meidsee, until an ascent of 400m gets us to the Turtmann hut at 2519m. Beyond here our route is on serious glaciers so we will have an instructional session covering the use of ice axe and crampons, glacier ropework and simple crevasse rescue.
A very interesting glacier ascent connects Turtmann with the Tracuit hut at 3256m. A steep scramble onto Gassi gets us onto the Brunegg glacier which we cross to the Turtmann glacier. We climb up on its left bank beneath the impressive Diablons des Dames to reach the Col de Tracuit (3250m) not far from the hut. This is an amazing day of glacier travel through very impressive terrain, and may involve using crampons on moderately steep ice slopes (protected by the rope of course). The Tracuit hut is an old traditional building located directly below the Bishorn and the Weisshorn (4505m - one of the most sought-after summits in the Alps).
Climbing the Bishorn (4153m) will be for most people the highlight of the week. It requires a very early 'alpine' start to ensure that the glacier is well frozen, making it safer for travel. We travel as light as possible, leaving any non-essential equipment at the hut. A three to four-hour climb of 900m, usually with a good trail in the snow but passing between big crevasses, gets us to the spacious summit. The views are amazing - above looms the mighty Weisshorn and to the SW many of the greatest peaks of the Swiss Valais. We return to Tracuit for refreshments then descend and cross the Col de Milon to Cabane d'Ar Pitetta (2786m).
The final day takes us down the lovely valley of L'Ar Pitetta back to the main Zinal valley, where a relaxing descent through pastures and alongside the river gets us to the pretty resort of Zinal at 1675m. From here we return to Leysin and the Hotel Le Grand Chalet.
Breakfast at the Grand Chalet is included before departure.
Maps: 1308 St Niklaus, 1328 Randa, 1327 Evolene