One of the perks of working as a mountain guide – being the leader of groups – is the opportunity to explore off the beaten track. Over the years I have discovered some real Swiss gems, venues rarely crowded. Here are five of my favourites.
Vorderspitze – 2619m
Tucked away in the fairytale cirque of the Engelhorner, this soaring limestone peak is very accessible, but feels truly wild. From Meiringen, the drive up towards Rosenlaui is breathtaking, but that is nothing compared to what lies ahead. Walk from the road head or stay in the Engelhorner hut and start early, hopefully avoiding afternoon storms! The west ridge is classic and the descent commands respect.
Check-out this film of me and twid Turner making the first free ascent of Ecstasy on the neighbouring Simelistock – ‘Crux Sequence’ – http://www.andycave.co.uk/video-gallery/
Aguilles Dorees – 3518 m
Most alpinists visit the Trient glacier to climb the Aguille du Tour, but the long rocky peak of the Doree is much more commanding. The North face, the traverse or the sunny south face all have their challenges. The bivvy hut is hard to beat. [does this refer to the Dorees bivvy hut?] Approach from Champex via La Breya chair lift or from Argentiere, France . Stay in the Trient refuge or, for the south face, stay in the Envers des Dorees bivvy hut.
Ratikon, Drusenfluh – 2829 m
Some people find the drive to the base of this wall so harrowing (it’s best not to look down) that on arrival they have no motivation to climb! The cliffs are not for the faint hearted either with protection often spaced. The walls here demand good climbing technique too; strength alone will not guarantee success. But on it’s day, a big multi-pitch route here is hard to beat.
Salbitschen – 2787 m
Following a storm, the stunning Salbit can come into condition earlier than some alpine peaks. An 800-metre hike leads up to the welcoming Salbit hut. There is also the Salbit bivvy hut, if you want quiet. The south ridge, the monstrous west ridge and countless other routes are all sure to provide memorable outings. The granite is simply superb.
On the way down look out for the small lake, strip off and take a dip, marveling at where you were standing a few hours earlier.
Fusshorn – 3627m
Not being a 4000 metre peak means that, for many, this mountain isn’t deemed worthwhile. As a leader taking a team here, it doesn’t get much better. The approach reminds me of big glaciers in the Himalayas. A climb here feels wild and the views can be special. A superb challenge, away from the crowds in a quiet corner of the Bernese Oberland.