Two-day high-altitude tour with bivouac from Randa (1406m) to the highest mountain on Swiss soil. Route: Festigrat high, normal way down.
We arrive as usual at midnight in Randa, a town in the Mattertal, just before Zermatt. The sky is clear and we can see the White Bisgletscher, its tongue hanging high above the village. We are not going that far anymore, just up to the place to go Pt. 1534 where a wooden bridge crosses the village stream. Here we lay down quickly and sleep like the marmots.
As the sun rises, we slowly get up. The sleeping bags are dripping wet outside, during a small breakfast we hang them on the bridge. And here we go! The trail runs steeply through the forest uphill, at Lärchberg it is at least a bit flatter. There is no sun so early in the day, but we still sweat like moose (or other native animals). High above under the Grabenhorn we see the European bridge, which was hit by rockfall and since then theEuropaweg forcing a detour. The forest clears, we reach the Europahütte (2265m), a pretty wooden house in the middle of the light-filled rubble heap with great views.
Here, the Europaweg runs, but we follow the signs towards Domhütte, from now the path becomes a blue-white marked trail. With inspiring depth, the path runs through a terrain in which you would never expect such from below. In some places insurance is attached, wire pins, ropes and a ladder. The altitude difference, we run down quickly, and from the exit from the cliff you walk off Pt. 2820 only in the boulder field, until suddenly the Domhütte (2940m) in front of you. A super nice location opposite the Weisshorn, and in the background already the steep west flank of the cathedral shines. After a long break, we run the remaining twenty minutes to the Bivouac places (at approx. 3150m) on the moraine of the Festigletscher. So late in the year we are the only ones and we are spoiled for choice to find the nicest place for our tent.
It's early afternoon, so we have plenty of time to go jogging on the Festigletscher and practicing column rescue, rope handling and ice climbing on a steep ice step. The weather is still awesome, a few single clouds do not make the whole thing so hot. For dinner, there is delicious rice with sauce, and as soon as the sun has disappeared behind the Weisshorn, we disappear in the warm tent.
The ascent - in snow and ice
The alarm goes off at 3:30 am, we shoulder our prepared backpacks and start walking at the same time as the two rope teams that are just coming up from the hut. Go straight over the moraine until we reach the track on the glacier. A few crevasses must be bypassed, then followed by about a kilometer of shallow glacier until the trail pulls itself up to the rock ledge below the Festijoch. On our first tour we started much too early, now we know better and practically go into the fall line Festival Pass (3723m) high. The others use crampons here, but with the dry rocks, the soles of the shoes are clearly better. With easy climbing (II) we sit after 15 minutes up in the yoke, and approve us first a small breakfast. Now the sky is getting dark, and the black is giving way more and more to a blue and then a light red. For this spectacle alone, it's worth making an early departure to see it from as high as possible.
From now on we follow more or less always the broad, but steep ridge (up to 50 °), there are always columns to see. Despite the high altitude, you can move fast, as it is practically only upwards. A few bars and photo breaks make the tour a pleasure. From approx. 4100m the ascent flattens off somewhat in the saddle 4460m the normal route meets the route. From here it is only 100 meters up, but steep as an eternity. Then finally, up 4545 m above sea level, we stand on the spacious summit plateau of the highest mountain lying entirely on Swiss soil, the cathedral!
The view is outstanding, there is almost no wind blowing and the sunbeams warm our puffing figures. To enumerate the summits, which one has in view, overwhelms this report. It reaches from Mont Blanc in the west to the Bernina in the east (160 km distance!). The summit cross is slightly lower on the rocky summit, which is reached via a short exposed ridge. For the ascent from the bivouac we needed about 5 hours (with breaks).
The descent - the knee-jitter
As is the case with such high mountains, you are level on the summit really only half done, so we soon start the descent and take the not so steep route over the normal route. The leads in a big arc on the Hobärggletscher past the Serac zones. From the last snowfall here is still a lot of snowdrift, in which one would sink down to the knee, if there was no trace. So we come down quickly and will be back soon Festijoch, After a long break, we concentrate on the Festigletscher, tie ourselves in the rope again and run down the sodden firn and back to our bivouac.
Since we meet with friends in Zermatt that same evening to go to Mettelhorn to hike, it goes after the cleanup and a delicious lunch directly down to the Domhütte, then to the European hut and then the knee snaker through the forest Randa, That's 3000 Hm in total, you should not expect his knees every day!
Arrived in Randa, we are overjoyed with the successful mountain tour, hiss a beer and keep our cheese feet in the Swiss mountain air 🙂