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Correspondence about the Zermatt area

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Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt
Going solo
Theodul Glacier

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The Zermatt Area

Hike the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt

From: Joe Federl, e-mail Subject: the Haute Route
Dear Ken: I visited your web-site and I must say it is very well done. The photos are great and the layout superior- great job!
I am planning on taking my 12 year old son hiking this summer ( late June/early July) in Switzerland. It has always been my dream to hike the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.
I have hiked in Zermatt and the Jungfrau and all over the Sierra's in California and done some climbing in my youth ( I am still a youthful 46!!). I would be less than honest if I said I was an experienced Alpinist's. That I am not, but I have excellent endurance, mountain/survival skills and map and compass reading ability and most important- a sense of adventure.
Here's my question... Is this route something I can take my 12 year old son on? I know there are many huts and small mountain inns along the way and lifts/trams but my concern is the glaciers and the weather. He is capable of hiking 10-15 miles a day (depending on the altitude and terrain) and has hiked with me in the Sierra's, Canada and Costa Rica.
Would this be too much for him ( and me) in terms of the glaciers etc...
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated!! Sincerely, Joe Federl CMX Travel, Boston , MA USA
P.S. Do you know the Taugwalder's of Zermatt? the climbing guides?? I have met Willie Taugwalder about 15 years ago. he would be about 32-37 years old now.

To: Joe Federl Subject: Re: the Haute Route
Hello Joe, Thank you for your kind comments on our web site. You are obviously very experienced yourself. The short answer is I think - no, unless you have experience of glacier crossing & could rely on your son belaying you while you prussik up if you fell in a crevasse. The weather is unreliable, to say the least!
The Haute Route is best done in a party as a ski-mountaineering expedition in the Spring & you could probably both go on such a trip, if your son is fit enough but remember that adolescents tend to go up & down in energy fairly abruptly - it's the hormones.
Swiss huts tend to be positioned to climb particular mountains, rather than assist long-distance walking. Austrian huts are mostly better placed for this, as witness my Stübai Tour & your son would probably enjoy such a tour more. My stages were rather long but it is easy to work out shorter ones. The maps are published by Kompass & possibly available from places like the Harvard Coop.
Taugwalder is one of the few surnames in Zermatt, so there are quite a few, also Kronigs, Perrens, Julens, Gentinettas, Seilers & Biners. Some call themselves Zumtaugwald but that's it, surnamewise in Zermatt!

Note that this correspondence referred to the Haute Route as usually skied in Spring. Kev Reynolds has written a book about the whole tour, free of Alpine hazards, published by Cicerone Press. I have done most of something similar on this link.

Going solo

From: Dean Dunn, e-mail
Ken, I will be walking the Walser Trail (Saas Fee-Zermatt via Macugnaga, Col de Teodolu). As you have walked in that area I was wondering if there is any advice you could give a first timer in Switzerland (i've been practicing my German!).
I will be walking alone as I enjoy it this way, but was wondering what the likelyhood is of finding a partner/s in Saas Fee/Zermatt for doing some alpine climbing. I'd like to do some of the easier 4000m peaks but dont fancy soloing. I could use a guide but this is a much more expensive way of achieving this.
One last thing - should I take my sleeping bag for when I stay in the Alpine huts, or are you provided with blankets etc? Regards, Dean Dunn Northumberland, UK
PS I'm in Switzerland from the 9th August to 31st August, so if there are any must do walks please feel free to tell me. PPS Great website

To: Dean Dunn
Hi Dean, Be very careful crossing the Theodule Pass. Get into a group if you can. It was too awful (hidden crevasses) for me to contemplate alone in 1999. As for finding partners, I don't know where to hang out in Saas Fee. Try the guides bureau, not for guides but to see if there are any likely looking chaps around. Also, ask around the camp sites. But people normally prefer to climb with others whos capacities they know. I regard glacier crossing, except on the marked paths to huts, as potentially perilous. The only hill with none in that area is the Matterhorn, which is 'easy but dangerous' because of the loose rock, either causing you to slip (1st ascentionists!) or kicked down on your head. I think the Zinalrothorn might be relatively safe. The lower peaks I mention on the web site (Oberrothorn, Mettelhorn, Sasser Mittagehorn) are all safe enough alone. They have better views than the 4000ers! There are blankets in the huts but I always carry a light alpine sleeping bag (2lb 13oz) for emergencies. Note that Austrian huts (irrelevant to this trip, I know) are bloody freezing & you do need a bag in them.
Have a great trip & let me know how you get on. Best wishes, Ken

From: Dean Dunn Subject: Swiss Walking Etc..
Ken, I'm back from my walking holiday in Switzerland. It was fantastic! I decided to do the Glacier crossing (Cervinia - Zermatt) and there wasn't any problems. Decided to climb Pollux to celebrate (my first 4000m peak). Heres a pic of me on the top. The other 2 guys were Danes who hadn't used ropes, ice axe or crampons before, however they did really well and as you can see got to the top. We did the climb from the Klein Matterhorn and around the back. Took just over 6 hours. Coming back it was a bit of a slog uphill, really warm that day. Regards, Dean
PS I'm the one in the foreground.
Photo copyright Dean Dunn

Theodul Glacier

From: m.van.kasteren, e-mail Subject: TMR
Dear Ken, With interest I read your pages on the Tour Monte Rosa. This summer I plan to do this tour with a brother of mine. I think we can call ourselvers experienced walkers. The TMR shouldn´t be any problem. One stage however gives me some concern: this is the passage of the Theodulglacier. I presume that the walk up to the Rif. del Theodulo (in bad weather: cable car to Testa Grigia) can be done without equipment (crampons, pickel). But then the Theodulglacier has to be decended. This is only a few miles, and in your report you write: it is always marked with a safe foot route. As we have no experience in crossing glaciers, I would like to ask you some advice: Is it save to cross this glacier (down to the Gandegghutte) without equipment and without glacier-experience? Even in bad wether? If equipment and a mountain guide are neccessary, can this be arranged in the Rif. del Theodulo? I would appreciate it very much if you can give us this advice. Greetings, Thieu van Kasteren Netherlands.

To: m.van.kasteren Subject: Re: TMR
Hello Thieu, The Theodulglacier is ok in good weather without ice equipment & you should be able to find out what the weather is likely to be at the Breuil Tourist Office. In bad weather, I would not try it, as visibility is going to be a problem (this is a wide, open space). I have been up there is Summer with not a crevasse in sight (1975) and also with wide, yawning chasms (1971). The temperature was too high for it to be safe in 1999. I doubt if anything much could be arranged at the Theodule Hut, unless you are lucky enough to find a guide on their way back to Zermatt. Walking up to the hut from Breuil should be ok but I have not yet done it.
Don't try the TMR too early, as much is high & is likely to be snowy in, say, June. July or August would be better or early September.


From: Daniel Woodruff, e-mail Subject: question about hike in Zermatt
Ken, My wife, 1 year old child and I are traveling from the US to Zermatt this September.
I am very interested in taking the cable car to Schwarzsee and hiking up to the Hörnli-Hütte. They claim 2 hour hike.
I have a nice pack to carry my son in. I have had a hard time getting a clear answer about this hike.
1. Is it very dangerous?
2. Is it well marked?
3. Am I foolish for thinking I can carry my son up to the Hütte? We would like to stay the night in September before they close. We spoke to a Dr. and she said the alltitude should not be a problem for our son.
We are in shape to do the hike but I want to make sure that it is a safe hike, no ropes, rock slides, etc..
I have viewed your web site and I really enjoyed it, Thank you, Dan Woodruff

To: Daniel woodruff Subject: Re: question about hike in Zermatt
Hi Dan, It is a clearly marked and safe path from Schwarzsee to the hut. If you want to stay in the hut, I suggest you book (go to the guides bureau opposite the Hotel Mont Cervin in the High Street), as it can get very crowded. It might take more than 2 hours with a kid in your rucksack. It would be worth walking all the way back via Hermettji, Zum See & Blatten. Get the Swiss Landeskarte (map) 'Zermatt und Umgebung' & have a lovely time.

Early Summer season hikes in the Trift area

From: Michael Walker, e-mail Subject: hikes in Zermatt
Ken, I really enjoyed your website and would like to ask you a couple of questions. I will be in Zermatt around May 1st. I am from the US and I have done a lot of non-technical winter climbs using crampons and an ice axe. Would I be able to get to the summit of the Mettlehorn with just these aids (and trekking Poles) ? I've read that the glacier crossing is pretty safe.
Also, what would the conditions for hiking be like for the Hohbalm hike from Trift? I'm looking for something strenous with good vistas.
Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks. Michael Walker Salem, NH.

To: Michael Walker Subject: Re: hikes in Zermatt
Hello Michael, May 1st is a bit early but, since you seem to be competent to treat it as a wintry trip, you should be able to get up the Mettelhorn ok. You don't have to go as far as the Trift Hotel to get onto the Hohe Balmen: there is a steepish path from the entry to the gorge. I have done this but not put it on the web site. But, in both cases, consult the guides buro opposite the Hotel Mont Cervin about possible avalanche danger. Please let me know how you get on.

If any of this info is of use to you, please print it off & take it with you

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