Sunday, August 21, 2011

Scrambles Amongst The Alps

The Matterhorn! After some very busy summer weeks I had the opportunity to spend a little time climbing in the Alps of Switzerland. It was incredible! Our main goal was to climb the Matterhorn but when we got there it was covered in snow. The above picture was taken over a week into our two week trip, at which time we were keeping our fingers crossed for the snow to melt. We hoped the conditions would improve just enough for a summit bid. Throughout the time we anxiously waited for conditions to improve, Jesse Von Fange, some of his family, our friends and I climbed and hiked many other things. If the mountain came into form we knew we would be fit and well acclimated (the summit of the Matterhorn is 14,691 feet).

Conditions did improve! Otherwise I would not have taken this shot from the Italian (slightly lower) summit. One has to walk the knife ridge in the foreground if you want to see the Italian cross up close and you come up the Hornli ridge on the Swiss side. Two climbers are seen just cresting the true summit in the distance.

A celebratory axe flip on the true summit! Yes, this was dumb. No, I did not drop my axe 5000 feet into the crevasse -riddled glacier below.

Another view of the Matterhorn. On the day we climbed it, snow conditions were similar to those seen above. We ascended the obvious ridge in the center of the mountain.

On the way down we passed many climbers still coming up. This picture gives you an idea of what the snow climbing was like. The climbing on rock and snow was consistently steep for the 4000 vertical feet of the summit day. Although there was a lot of snow for a summer bid, the temperature was a little below freezing and the snow was firm and crunchy. Perfect conditions for snow climbing with cramponed feet.

The rock was steep as well. Here we are coming down one of the steeper rock pitches that did not have a fixed line as an aid.

The Matterhorn isn't the only cool horn-named peak around. Here is the Mettelhorn as seen from the Platthorn. Both peaks offered a great hike and a spectacular view.

Both the above and below pics show one of the mountains we climbed in the background. It's the Breithorn and at over 13,000 feet it makes for a great acclimatization climb. Jesse, Pat and I climbed the Breithorn from the Klein Matterhorn (there's a gondola up the Klein), which is the little rock peak seen on the right side of the below pic. The above pic is taken from the Klein and if you look closely you might be able to see little climbers headed up or down the snowfield.

Here's Pat and Jesse on the hike to the Stockhorn with the Breit in the distance. Pat and his girlfriend Caroline were able to meet us in Switzerland for the first week of the trip. Pat and Caro are true travelers and for a year kept a blog viaje al sur as they traveled across the states and through South America. It was great to finally travel with them a little and to make it part way up the Hornli ridge with Pat on a reconnaissance climb.

I was happy to be able to take some of Jesse's family climbing on both rocks and ice while we were there. Here's Julie climbing on the terminus of the Gorner glacier.

There are many different and unique flowers over there. This one was my favorite.

Edelweiss is everyone elses' favorite. It's the national flower of Switzerland. I only saw it twice in the wild on the trip.

If you happen on the right trail there can be a lot of sheep grazing in the high country. I determined two things which can be seen in the next three pictures:
1. If my girlfriend gets a hold of these pictures they might end up on the website cute overload .com
2. The sheeps' eyes can not be seen from any distance or angle.

See! I even checked from the side.

Back in the land of the free, home of the brave! The town of Zermatt, where we stayed, has had no gas powered vehicles since 1954. Even at fifty mpg my bike would be out of place along side their little electric carts. As big as my front tire, that snapping turtle would be very out of place too. In fact it seems like (with the exception of gravity) there is nothing over there that can hurt you. It's kind of fun to be back home where there are venomous snakes and poison spiders, big black bear with cute little cubs, coyotes, bobcats, and turtles that could bite your arm off. And now we can add one more to the list, EARTHQUAKES! It was pretty cool to be standing in White Oak Canyon and feel the Old Rag Granite bedrock move beneath our feet less than an hour from the epicenter! Well, I guess danger lurks at every corner, so if your worried you should hire a guide. Otherwise I hope you are out there enjoying it.

Even the bugs are brave around here!

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