Weisshorn Ascent

Many connoisseurs of alpine mountaineering consider the Weisshorn to be the greatest of all alpine peaks. At 4505m it is higher than the Matterhorn and more arduous and serious to climb, and its setting amid massive glaciers is more impressive.

Level 4 Guiding & Coaching

5 or 6 days

Ratio: 1:1

Prerequisites: Technical AlpinISM (Instructional Course) Or equivalent

Price: Call

The peak takes the form of a gigantic pyramid having three huge faces and three long ridges. It is beautiful from every side – a great white cone dominating the view from so many summits in the Oberland and Swiss Valais.

It is essential to be in good shape to climb the Weisshorn. The total ascent from the valley is over 3000m and there are no cable cars; every metre has to be climbed and descended. The climb itself from the hut is nearly 1600m, making it one of the biggest summit days in the Alps.

This is a week for experienced alpinists who have climbed other high peaks either in the Alps or greater ranges. We start with a training/acclimatisation peak (probably in the Saas Valley) where we check out and perhaps freshen up the skills demanded by the Weisshorn, which include good technique with ice axe and crampons, efficient rope work and the ability to climb at a good steady pace on the rocky terrain typical of alpine ridges.

When to attempt the climb

The traditional 'high season' for the Weisshorn is mid-July till the end of August. Recent hot summers have extended this and at the same time made weather patterns generally less predictable. We can accept bookings from mid-July till the end of the first week in September.

Who the course will suit

The course is suitable for people with experience of alpine mountaineering to 4000m and having the full range of alpine skills (as covered on ISM’s Techncial AlpinISM course). Confidence on both rock and ice is vital, as is the ability to move swiftly on ground at alpine grade II standard.

You need to have a high level of general fitness, such as that gained from regular climbing combined with regular hill walking with a rucksack, or regular strenuous aerobic exercise focused on legs and lungs. Climbing any 4000m peak is physically demanding and the Weisshorn is among the very toughest!

Sample Programme

This is a sample programme based on 5 days of 1:1 guiding. Several different acclimatisation peaks are possible - our choice will depend on your needs and acclimatisation level. We always plan the program to make use of the best weather for our ascent of the Weisshorn.

Sunday evening
The week starts with meeting your guide at 7.00pm at Le Grand Chalet hotel in Leysin. This is the chance for the guide to give you a thorough briefing on the details of the course, to sort out any particular equipment requirements and for you to ask any questions that you may have.

After breakfast we start by checking and issuing any personal climbing equipment you may need. We then drive to the Saas Valley, take a cable car from Saas Grund then walk up to the Weissmies hut at 2726m. In the afternoon, we refresh the alpine skills which will be needed on our first peak.

Our first objective is the classic traverse of the Fletschorn 3993m and the Lagginhorn 4010m, one of the finest mountain days in the Saas valley. The Fletschorn gives pleasant ridge scrambling followed by an exposed traverse across the upper snowfield of the Gruben glacier to reach the corniced NW ridge which leads to the summit. We drop down to the Fletschjoch at 3694m then make our ascent of the NNE Ridge of the Lagginhorn, a fine crest which is part rock, part snow. We descend the S ridge of the Lagginhorn and continue back down to the valley for a comfortable night.

From the village of Randa in the Mattertal, we begin our ascent to the Weisshorn hut before the day gets too hot. The walk takes 4½ - 5 hours and we’ll take a lunch break part way, arriving at the hut around mid-afternoon. At this point the guide may make a reconnaissance of the terrain which has to be covered in darkness next morning, while you take a good rest!

The day starts very early – normally around 1.00am. We gain the Schali glacier and ascend it to reach a huge shallow couloir which runs up to meet the East Ridge near Pt 3916m. The couloir is normally best climbed by rocks on the left side, and we should hit the ridge just as dawn is breaking. The views over the Bisgletscher and Bishorn are breath-taking. Now we follow the jagged East Ridge, which can be quite tricky if holding much snow, finally reaching a broader snow ridge before the steep summit bastion of snow and ice. This can be the hardest section if icy and often has a bergschrund half way. We stop briefly on the summit rocks for a snack and photographs before beginning a long and careful descent by the same route to the hut.

A leisurely walk down (taking good care of our knees which will have been working overtime!) takes us back to Randa and down to the pleasures of the Rhone Valley, which can include a swim and ice cream en route to Leysin. Evening brings a very well-deserved night out in Leysin spending time with other ISM clients and guides. Alternatively you may wish to stay in Zermatt, in which case the guide will take you to the station at Randa which is just 20mins by train from Zermatt.

This week is based entirely on a 1:1 guiding ratio.

Taking into account your previous experience, acclimatisation and the expected weather pattern, the guides will plan any preparation required and decide the best day for a summit attempt (which would normally be by the normal route of the East Ridge, although alternatives can be discussed with your guide). We offer this either as 5 days of 1:1 guiding or 6 days of 1:1 guiding, the latter providing an even higher probability of success as it gives more time for acclimatisation/training as well as more options for the summit day.

It will be of great benefit for anyone attempting the Weisshorn to be acclimatised before the start of the week (preferably having taken another ISM course so that we are happy with your capabilities and have had a chance to work on any weaker areas). This would give us the option of attempting the Weisshorn earlier in the week if the weather was more favourable then.

Note on costs. We charge for this course on a personal guiding basis. You cover expenses as they are incurred. Please contact the ISM office for our private guiding rates and for more information.

Course Dates

Please call +44 1539 721561 for availability