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Preston Mountaineering Club

Newsletter extracts

Alps Meet- July 26th - August 16th

by Jeremy Whitehead

Attennenzen Campsite, Randa, Zermatt valley.

Attermenzen is midway between Randa and Tasch, and is the cheapest 3 star campsite in the Valais. It is the most popular climbers' site in the valley, the Zermatt one being rather small and too public, the Tasch one being crowded with caravans and too near the railway. It has its own bar/restaurant as well as the usual facilities. We found many Germans, British and Spaniards there; also coachloads of Czechs and other Eastern Europeans. The helpful and polyglot manager Viktor has an arrangement with Fredy's taxis which will convey you to/from Zermatt for 6 francs (less than the train fare, and no 1/2 hr walk to the station) or up the 800m to Taschalp for 10 francs.

The majority flew out to Geneva by EasyJet from Luton, the flight timings being 9 more suitable than from Liverpool.

Gary, Mick and Jeremy (nursing a bad back from climbs and via ferratas in the Dolomites) were the first to arrive, and the two former wasted no time in heading for a bivvi near the Dom hut, from which their climb of the Hohberghorn involved an incident on the descent. Mick then joined an unacclimatised and very shaky Jeremy for a traverse of the Pointe de Zinal from the Schonbiel hut, an ascent which must be a near record for slowness.

When the rest of the party arrived everyone promptly went up to the Tasch hut, some to stay there and others to bivvi some 600 ft above. The objective was to be the 4000m Alphubel, but once again altitude struck, and the objective was changed to the Feekopf, reached by all except two (who achieved almost the same height at the Alphubeljoch).

After an off day spent in Zermatt some of the 'rockjocks' decided to splash out 25 for the train fare to Rotenboden to do the Riffelhorn (and enjoy the view). Careless reading of the guidebook resulted in the wrong line being looked at, and the mountain did its best to dispose of the President. The excitement over, an easier and safe route was ascended. Meanwhile the others decided 8 for the funicular and a walkers' summit was quite enough.

Leaving Jeremy to nurse his injuries, the group again split. Some accompanied Mick and Gary to a bivvi near the Hornli hut, from which these two made a competent ascent of the Matterhorn in a very respectable time, the mountain for once being in good condition. The other group intended to repeat the traverse of the Pointe de Zinal, but having bivvied in the wrong combe they settled for the lower Schonbielhorn by an unorthodox route.

So far the weather had been good, with the mountains in excellent condition, so after Laura and Liz's departure we didn't quite believe a discouraging forecast and, loaded Up with kit for bivvi huts, had reached as far as Zermatt before steady rain forced a retreat to the campsite. The next day the weather cleared and everyone set off again. The four at the Rossi-Valante hut on the Breithorn found it just (un)comfortably full, while at the Arben bivouac the others were less crowded.

The Breithorn party found freshly crusted new snow a bit of a problem, and with a strong, cold wind blowing backed off the traverse of the three main summits. Pride was salvaged by one pair who got two 4000'ers out of the day. Meanwhile the others reached the Arbengrat of the Obergabelhorn, but again the wind on the N side forced them to back off this rocky ridge. One pair redeemed the day by traversing Mont Durand by way of compensation.

After further departures, the remaining few returned to the bivvi above the Tasch hut, and this time did climb the Alphubel. The final ridge proved rather icy and demanded some front-pointing, so the alternative descent route on the Saas side was taken.

Noteworthy (or otherwise) features and incidents:-

ball Sheena 'discovering' almost the only crevasse on the Feekopf!
ball Popularity with some members of the open-air chess at Zermatt. Dark horse Gary emerged as Meet champion.
ball The brilliance of the constellations and Milky Way as seen from the bivouac sites. Peacefulness of the same compared with the huts (at least in good weather). Jeremy is almost converted (provided the approach is not very long).
ball Dave's 40th birthday, also Laura's, celebrated by a dinner at the camp restaurant.
ball Steve's consumption of beer and cigarettes at the camp bar; others assisted with the former and we were twice rewarded with free rounds of Schnapps.
ball Jeremy's 'home improvements' scavenged from around the site.
ball Wind blowing the snow vertically upwards from the cornice of Roccia Nera.
ball Jeremy preferring to abseil a 6 ft jump over a bergschrund (to save his knees!), and demonstrating how to recover his axe afterwards.
ball Finding the AC guidebook has mixed up ascent and descent routes in its description of the Pointe de Zinal S ridge.
ball 'Popstar' Gary walking through Zermatt flanked by his two 'minders', Steve and Dave.
ball The processions of variously equipped people heading for the Breithorn, all stopping
to fix crampons, etc., at the windiest place on the whole mountain.
ball Seeing two dots of light, pre-dawn, on the N face of the Matterhorn; likewise two black dots, soon after dawn, moving together on the upper mixed section of the N face of the Dent d'Herens.