/ Saas Fee

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Andy S - on 03 Apr 2019

I’m an experienced rockclimber and me and my mate went up Toubkal last winter. We now have our sights set on Saas Fee to do some 4000s in June. I have little alpine experience (a little Scottish winter and one biggish alpine summer peak multi pitch). My mate has almost zero climbing experience but has a good head on his shoulders.

Any and all tips welcome. What does the typical routine look like for going up one of these? How much do the huts cost? Do we need them? How much for lift passes? Do we need them? Guidebook recommendation?

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Smythson on 03 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

The Martin Moran 4000ers book is a good start. If you're just starting out try staying down the road in Saas Grund - there's a hotel that has its own campsite. It's comes with free lift pass to all the lifts bar the higher Saas fee ones. You don't need a hut for a few of the 4000ers. Beware there are some further down towards Saas fee that probably look like you can do them in a day but coming down can be sketchy so worth using a hut for the early start and safe descent. I'd recommend starting with the Lagginhorn (rocky) and Weissmies (crevassed) and seeing how you get on. There's an awesome traverse on the other (Dom) side once you've got your hand in.

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pec on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

If you are staying in paid for accomodation in the Saas valley (including capsites) you can get a pass to use the lifts for "free" although there are some strings attached (forgotten exactly what) but it probably works out cheaper.

Regarding routes,

The Lagginhorn WSW ridge is very straightforward, mostly no harder than the Snowdon horseshoe, perhaps the odd move harder. The approach only involves crossing about 200m of glacier but it's only a dying relic with no crevasses, just a big patch of ice that hasn't melted yet (though it might have by next summer!). There may be a bit of snow on the ridge but not anything that requires climbing as such. We downclimbed it after ascending another route and didn't feel the need to rope up for any of it.

It can be approached from the Weissmeis hut, reached by walking downhill from the cable car but the climb then requires more uphill, or from the Hohsaas Hut, cable car almost to the front door. This approach requires crossing the WSW spur which should ideally be scoped out in daylight the day before, it requires a bit of exposed scrambling to cross it protected in part with a cable.

Another straightforward ascent is the Allalinhorn WSW ridge. This can be climbed in a day (no hut needed) from Saas by taking an early cable car and then the Alpin Metro (you have to pay for this but the cable car up to it is "free").

Its very straightforward but is over crevassed terrain though not complicated. If there's a big crevasse that year it will have a big ladder over it so the guides can drag punters up it by the hundred. Expect a blazed trail and a lot of company.

A bit harder but more interesting and really not that hard is the Nadelhorn NE ridge. The walk up to the Mischabel hut is a long slog (the chairlift to Hannig knocks a bit off it) and the descent is a knee grinder but its in a wonderful position when you get there.

The climbing is never more than steep snow walking or scrambling but in great positions. There is a short section over a glacier with a few crevasses but usually obvious trails to follow.

I was surprised by how reasonably priced the Swiss huts were though nothing in Switzerland is cheap. Some give discount for BMC membership but others require a reciprocal rights card available through BMC membership but has to be obtained separately.

Post edited at 00:05
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pec on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Smythson:

> I'd recommend starting with the Lagginhorn (rocky) and Weissmies (crevassed) and seeing how you get on.

The normal route up the Weissmeis from the Hohsaas hut crosses some very dodgy looking terrain. Its easy enough but potentially threatned by serac fall. When I was last there (2017) it looked awful, people were still doing it but I was glad I'd already done it because I wouldn't have fancied it.

About a month later it was wiped out by a huge serac fall. The video in this link shows the area that went, the normal route goes straight through the middle of the debris field.

https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/bevoelkerung-von-saas-grund-atmet-auf

Post edited at 00:17
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McHeath - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

My first 4000er trip started with Weißmies, Lagginhorn and Nadelhorn; I'd just advise not to underestimate the 4000ers in general! The climbing was easy, but all three taught us scary lessons:

1. Weißmies: acclimatize! We went straight up to the Hohsaas hut, and summiting the Weißmies the next day was basically torture, we just were'nt functioning. We were last down, with bad sunburn to boot.

2. Lagginhorn: the weather can change very quickly, and we sat a thunderstorm out cowering on the flank in a snowstorm. There have also been several fatal slab avalanche accidents on the summit section; it's an easy peak, but be careful, especially on the descent.

3. Nadelhorn: again, a technically easy peak, but we nearly got blown clean off the ridge by a sudden very strong gust of wind; the three of us were stupidly moving together on a short scrambling section, roped up.

All this is just to say that the dangers can be unfamiliar and unexpected. That having been said, they're magnificent peaks and you should have a great time if you watch out for yourselves!

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Graeme G on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

Long time since I’ve been but the things I remember are; practice glacier movement and rescue before you go, get as fit as you can and acclimatise.

Goedeke’s book on the 4000ers proved very useful.

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pdone on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

As already mentioned above, the normal route up the Weissmies from Hohsaas passes underneath some very threatening seracs.  I descended this route last summer and would not recommend going up that way.  

A safer way to climb the Weissmies is up, and down, its south ridge from the Almageller hut.    

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Monkeysee - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

Hay Andy , have you done the Breithorn ?

If not I'd recommend it as a first route to get acclimatised ect,  give me a message if you would like any info/ tips 😎

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andyd1970 - on 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

I spent a week there last year and all the peaks are within touching distance.

You should get lift and bus passes to use in the Saas fee/grund valley from your accommodation host.

Jegihorn is a good rock route to start your acclimatisation, which can be accessed very easily via a bus from Saas Fee to Saas Grund and then a cable car up to about 1/2 hour walk from the start of the route. It’s similar to a grade 1 scramble and can be done without ropes unless you do the via Ferrata route. 

Anything bigger with snow and ice you would need Alpine skills.

I did see a few people using Saas Fee guides and the guides seamed nice and friendly as this may help you get up some peaks and learn some skills.

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Andy S - on 10 Apr 2019
In reply to everyone:

AMAZING responses everyone - thank you SO much - an absolute wealth of knowledge and has easily saved me a week of googling.

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streapadair - on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

Just a few points. If you're camping, the 2 big sites in SG (Kapellenweg and Mischabel) are vastly superior to the SF one, which is hard against the multistorey car park.

As said, a free lift pass is available from all accommodation providers, including campsites (which may impose a small admin charge of a franc or two). This is valid for all uplift in the valley except for the Metro Alpin funicular railway to Mittelallalin, and all local postbus services, very useful for nicking up and down between SG and SF, or up to Saas Almagell or the Mattmark dam.

A more satisfying objective on the Allalinhorn than the granny route from Mittelallalin is the Hohlaubgrat from the Britannia Hut (easiest access from the Felskinn lift station), with an easy glacier crossing and a fairly simple 30m band of rock just below the summit..  

And a more satisfying objective from Mittelallalin would be the Alphubel, with a scramble over the Feechopf and a choice of routes - SE ridge or, if that is known to be icy, and it's not called the Eisnase for nothing, along the E flank and up from the NE.

Martin Moran's book is probably the most useful.

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James Gilbert on 11 Apr 2019
In reply to Andy S:

If you're going well, the S ridge of the Lagginhorn could be a good objective (you then descend the WSW ridge normal route mentioned above). Some climbing is involved, and it could be worth sleeping in the Hohsaas hut/restaurant for an early start.

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