Topping Out On The Weissmeis

I know that before I said we were going to try the Weisshorn instead of the Eiger because of the weather, but it turns out I got the name slightly wrong. Instead we (Seth, Dylan and myself) heading up to the Weissmeis hut the night before last, to make our way to the Weissmeis ridge the next morning. Morning came and found us leaving at just after 4am on up a snowy ascent for a couple of hours, and climbing up onto a very picturesque, long ridge. At this point Seth and Dylan were worrying over the warm weather and the lack of stars that we could see, and so we, along with all of the other teams also attempting the ridge that morning, settled down in a relatively comfortable patch of ridge to wait for the sky to lighten sufficiently to make a decision on the weather, and to check the forecasts again.

As we watched the sky turn pink over in Italy we could see black cloud fronts in two different directions, and the forecasts had switched predictions of thunderstorms from afternoon to morning. Although from what we could see it didn’t as yet look decisively bad, the ridge route is one where if you start it, you’re committed to finishing it to be able to get back down… The decision made, all of us except one couple turned back down the mountain to contemplate our next move for the day.

We reached the hut an hour later, at 7am, and had a quick discussion over what to do next. The weather was being vague and it was hard to say what the day was going to turn out like, and so we wanted a route where we could turn back quickly and easily if it did take a turn for the worse. We decided to get started up the normal glacier route up the Weissmeis, and to try and move pretty quickly and basically just see what happened. So, starting out over two hours later than the other teams that were trying this route, we started off. Seth and Dylan had said that it should take 4 or 5 hours climbing to get to the top, and that we’d set a turning back time for 1:15 that afternoon, just to make sure we didn’t miss the last chairlift back down into the valley. We were at the summit in 2 hours and 10 minutes. We’d cruised up passed many of the other teams, and topped out at the same time as the couple that had pressed on with the ridge route – they were locals and had completed it incredibly quickly.

We were back down at the hut an hour later. It was great to have summited another 4000m peak whilst we were in the Alps, and although it was a real shame having to give up on the ridge bid we all knew it was the right decision. The weather swung between looking ominous and looking lovely and eventually ended up being good for the day, but definitely better safe than sorry and when we made the decision it was just too difficult to predict.

I ended up thoroughly enjoying the day, and we had a farewell late lunch down in the village of Saas Grund with my dad after the climb. I’ll definitely miss Seth and Dylan, but hopefully will climb with them again someday. Potentially ice climbing in Norway (hopefully!) with Seth, as he has his own guide company over there – Northern Alpine Guides – and maybe Ama Dablam sometime too. We’ll see what happens with my dad’s knee, and where life takes us, but this whole holiday has reminded me just how much I love climbing and I can’t wait for the next adventure.

Ttfn, thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of summer!

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