In this first of a series of articles about the finest Alpine summer routes, Mike Pescod of the Jottnar Pro team guides us through the Blüemlisalphorn Morgenhorn traverse. Little known amongst UK alpinists and a world away from the usual honey pots, this is one of the best traverses in the Bernese Oberland.
When you’re going for a traverse of a delicate snow crest it is crucial to get good snow conditions. The snow needs to be firm, well frozen, but not icy. Soft fresh snow will make it slow going and rather delicate; soggy, unfrozen snow will be insecure and difficult; icy snow or thin snow cover revealing bare ice will be very difficult. So, when it is still cloudy and drizzling at the hut at 11pm the night before the traverse, it’s not normally a good sign.
The forecast was quite sure though. The clouds would break up, the temperature would drop and we’d get a sunny day. The question was, would there be enough time once it got cold for the snow to freeze? There was only one way to find out.
The snow was firm, frozen and untracked. We were the first to go up after the recent bad weather so there was no trail of boot prints in the snow, just pristine, sparkling white perfection to walk over with a satisfying crunch under every crampon placement.
The crest did not disappoint. Seemingly endless snow along the crest with a cornice on one side and steep smooth slopes all the way down the other drew us on over bumps and dips in the ridge. The view over the Berner Oberland to our left was brilliant, and in front we had the Valais giants of the Matterhorn and Weisshorn across the Rhone Valley.
Getting this superb snow crest in such perfect condition was such a treat, and being the first on it to set the trail over untouched snow made it even more special. You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and this was our time to enjoy one of the best routes in the Alps.
Valley Base - Kandersteg, Switzerland
Start and finish - Blüemlisalp Hut, 5 to 7 hours walk from Kandersteg
Blüemlisalphorn (3663m), Wyssi Frau (3650m), Morgenhorn (3623) Traverse – AD, snow/glacier
Mike Pescod is an IFMGA guide, and a member of Jöttnar's Pro Team. He is the founder of Abacus Mountain Guides, an outdoor guiding company based in Fort William, as well as being the author of the guidebook Winter Climbs Ben Nevis and Glen Coe.
Read more about him here.