Sunday. 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 Taschalp in the Zermatt valley (2hrs) then walk up to the Tasch hut at 2701m. This is a relatively easy hut walk which will give us time for an instructional session in the afternoon on the various alpine skills needed for the rest of the week. We cover the correct use of climbing harness, basic knots and how the rope will be used on steeper ground.
A strenuous but superb day. A good track leads up to head of the valley, and then a steep path climbs the moraines to the col of Spitzi Flue at 3260m. A short scramble (which we sometimes rope up for, depending on conditions) gets us to our first real summit - Pfulwe (3314m). After enjoying the view and a snack we walk down a good footpath to the very hospitable 'berghotel' at Fluhalp (2607m). The Hotel Fluhalp has an excellent terrace with expansive views and we'll take a drink here before having an instructional session on glacier travel before supper. This will prepare us for the next day, much of which is spent on glaciers.
A path leads up the moraine slopes above the hotel to the base of the Findeln Glacier, beneath the giant 4000m peaks of the Rimpfischhorn and the Stralhorn. We have to ascend this glacier, probably walking in crampons for 2-3 hours, to attain the Stockhornpass at 3394m. On a clear day the view from here is breathtaking, with the whole of the Monte Rosa chain of peaks spread out before us as well as many other famous peaks. Now we follow the vast Gornergletscher (one of the biggest glaciers in the Swiss Valais) which has to be descended then crossed, before making a steep scrambling ascent (with the aid of several fixed cables) to the brand new Monte Rosa hut.
We descend steeply from the hut (again using the cables) to regain the glacier, and then we follow this westwards for 5 kms beneath the huge and complex north face of the Breithorn (not our route of ascent!). Near its base we turn southwards up the lower Theodule glacier which gives us an interesting ascent, with a scramble to finish, to the Gandegghutte (or Gandegg Inn as generations of British alpinists have called it). Situated on a rocky ridge at 3029m, this is an old private hut having great charm and character.
Early in the morning we make the short walk down to Trockener Steg to catch the first cable car. This takes us up to Klein Matterhorn, the highest ski station in the Swiss Alps and the starting point for our ascent of the Breithorn. By now we should be perfectly acclimatised so that our 2-hour ascent to the 4164m summit of the Breithorn should feel comfortable and pleasurable. We will be roped all the way, initially to travel safely on the glacier and then for protection on the moderately exposed snow track leading up to the summit. The views from here are incomparable, with the Matterhorn dominating the vista to the west, the Weisshorn across the valley to the north and the Mont Blanc Massif shimmering in the distance. Once everybody has snacked and photographed to their hearts content we retrace our steps to Klein Matterhorn and take the lift system all the way down into Zermatt, where there is time to look around the village for an hour before meeting our transport back to Leysin.
Breakfast at the Grand Chalet is included before departure.