Category Archives: Fell walking

Climbing the 3,200m Jegihorn

Four months on from an amazing ski tour I was back in the Swiss Alps in August, this time for a week of mountaineering and rock climbing.

The (mostly) white wonderland of April had transformed into the deep green of summer in the valley, the temperature on my arrival in Visp was a hot 30C. Waiting patiently was my guide, Davide, and we were soon on our way to the cooler climes of Saas Grund, little sister to Saas Fee – though with scenery as, if not more, spectacular.

weissmeis
The glacier leading up to the 4,017m Weissmies stops abruptly around 3,000m

Day 1: Jagihorn from Hohsaas hut

Mountain sickness saw me abandon any attempt of climbing the Weissmeis. Though sleeping at the the Hohsaas hut was intended to help me acclimatize to the altitude I think the 3,100m elevation was simply too much for my system to handle. It is hard to put into words the symptoms; imagine your worst-ever hangover and multiply it by five.

hohsaas
The Hohsaas hut, left, and cable car

Anyone can get sudden altitude sickness, even top athletes. After an awful night I was ready to descend back to Saas Grund but was soon sent back to bed with a painkiller. Two hours later I was just about fit to set off and was soon descending down the valley to climb the 3,200m Jegihorn in the far distance. I felt a pang of disappointment as I glanced over my shoulder at the magnificent Weissmeis; the purpose of the week was to get as much glacier mountaineering as possible.

 

jegihorn distance
The Jegihorn can be seen in the distance

As we traversed over the scree and across gurgling streams however, the beauty made me forget my disappointment. The sheer magnificence of the Jegihorn soon became apparent, too. It reminded me of Tryfan in Snowdonia, only this was three times the size.

The route up soon forked – it was either the ‘easy’ way up or via ferrata, a series of steep drop offs, grab handles, steps and precarious looking ladders allowing access up sheer cliffs. After a couple of hours progress to the peak proper becomes a choice of climbing down and up or this suspension bridge that is like something out of the film Cliffhanger.

bridge
This suspension bridge, high above a ravine, saves the pain of walking down and up to the summit proper.
bridge me
Like something out of the film Cliffhanger

After the bridge it is a further scramble up steep ledges and narrow gullies for the remaining couple of hundred metres to the summit.

summit marker
The summit of the Jegihorn with Saas Fee in the far distance
summit me
The 3,206m Jegihorn using the via ferrata route up

With every summit comes a descent, the part I always find the hardest because of the strain on the knees. But the trek back to the bottom of the Hohsaas cableway presented plenty of scenery.

blue lake
A solitary cloud hangs above a aquamarine mountain lake
grey glacier
The rugged and harsh glacial landscape, shaped over millions of years
boulders
The landscape on the way down from the Jegihorn shows all the signs of movement that comes with time
marmotte
I saw about 5 marmottes on the descent. You can see one under the rock if you look closely

 

 

 

 

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Is this the last remaining snow of winter?

I spent last weekend in the Lake District, on Saturday ascending both Scafell and the Pike, England’s two highest mountains.

The 964m Scafell, though lower than the Pike, is a much more technical ascent with hard to negotiate gullies, among them Lord’s Rake, where I discovered three lumps of icy snow. My findings, that I later Tweeted, attracted the attention of Iain Cameron, who, with a team of volunteers, maps and measures all British snow patches that survive through the summer.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 18.26.12.pngI’ve read about Iain’s findings in the Royal Meteorological Society‘s journal Weather but to find one of these surviving patches myself enabled me to empathise just why he and others find the task of mapping and measuring them fascinating, a sort of first-hand insight into how the UK’s climate varies from year to year.

On descending from Scafell I thought I’d seen further patches lower down but these turned out to be melted puddles on the moorland that were reflecting white against the bright sky.

It was a cracking weekend weatherwise. Though the wind on Sunday was fairly brisk at the top of Hellvellyn it didn’t impact much on the conditions. Two dry days in a row with excellent visibility are rare at any time of year in the Lakes. I can’t wait to return.