Gross Fiescherhorn, a story of a 4000 peak to climb... with the snowshoes

The La Sportiva ambassador and mid-mountain guide Lorenzo Naddei takes us among the huge glaciers of the Oberland for an extraordinary journey: a two-day tour that reaches the Fiescherhorn's peak, dedicated to ski mountaineers (and not only)

"The Fiescherhorn is a magnificent dominant point in the middle of the wildest area of the Oberland. If you observe it from Grindelwald, its wild and intimidating north face rivals the most famous one of the Eiger. If you look at it from the Ewigschneefeld it could be less beautiful, but it remains an attractive and truly remarkable ridge ".

What the Goedeke writes about this mountain in its guide to the 4000mt peaks of the Alps, more than a description these words sound like a call... and if you want to accept it, spring is definitely the best season. The plentiful snow makes the steep couloir that leads to the saddle between the two Fiescherhorns - an authentic crux of the ascension - much easier, and it’s also decisive for the approaching, making the immense Oberland glaciers easily accessible.  Given the slightly steepness, these places become the ideal terrain to move with snowshoes, which we have chosen to use for this climb and that represent the perfect mean for opening the high mountain wintery environment also to non-ski mountaineers.

Thanks to the famous, comfortable (and just as expensive) Jungfrau train, this tour starts at high altitude - about 3500 meters - with the dazzling sight of the Oberland’s glaciers and peaks. The first part follows the slightly upward slope marked by the snowcat leading to the Mőnch refuge, where you can stay overnight. Just below the hut you reach the enormous, endless Ewigschneefeld glacier. From there, keep on descending until the large plateau at an altitude of about 3300 m, where the lateral glacier Fiescherhorn flows. This is also the best place to pitch the tent in case you would go for a more adventurous trip, and above all if you would like to better distribute gradients and hours of travel over the two days’ march. The area is truly a wonder in nothingness: the view extends to the Konkordiaplatz, where the large glacial flows of the Oberland meet, making the ice reach the maximum thickness on the Alps with over 900 meters. To the south you can see the great Aletschhorn, while to the east the view is closed by an impressive wall of snow and rock, an increasingly steep and cracked glacier that represent the next challenge of the journey.

Little groups of ski mountaineers look puzzled at our snowshoes, but not too much as at the beginning of the final climb everybody looks the same: living the respective gear and start wearing crampons and short rope, for climbing a snow and icy ramp that passes the 50 ° (uphill) and finally coming out at sublime Fieschersattel.

This is one of the most beautiful and exciting places in our mountains, at least in my opinion: from the saddle the two Fiescherhorn peaks seem unattainable. Behind, the steep, dark, wild wall just climbed, in front of you, instead, the immense Fiesch glacier, flooded with sunlight, on which stands the great Finsteraarhorn. All around an outstanding panorama embraces almost all the highest peaks of the Alps, while in the north the spring is announced with the green of the Swiss Prealps and their valley floor. After taking some minutes enjoying the beauty of the landscape, it’s time to head north to the highest of the Fiescherhorn facing an exposed ridge, delicate in certain passages but never really difficult. It is a path with some ups and downs, now on snow now on rock and always aerial, with the snow that probably makes it easier than it could be in the summer. The panorama from the summit, it’s simply amazing, as it is almost inevitable given the good premises of the entire trip!

From the top you just have to go down with due attention, the ridge and then the slope, when you can put the snowshoes on again returning with a long, exhausting march to the Jungfraujoch station. In broad daylight, with soft snow and the necessity of catch the last train, the last climb could seem endless, even if it is a truly wonderful experience in an environment of rare beauty.

Technical details
Jungfraujoch (3454 m) – Mőnchsjochhűtte (3627 m): 1 hour, 200m vertical height gain
Mőnchsjochhűtte – plateau at 3300 m: 2 hours downhill
Plateau 3300 m – Gross Fiescherorn (4048 m): 3 hours, 700 m vertical height gain
Backt to Jungfraujoch: 5/6 hours with up and downs, 400 m vertical height gain

Difficulties: WT6 (on the difficulty range made in Siwtzerland especially for snowshoes and now used all along the Alps ).
The last climb to the Fiescherhorn and the last ridge made without snowshoes reach mountaineering difficulties up to PD and PD+ according to the conditions.

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX: Considered the ultimate technical mountaineering boot, they proved to be ideal for the mixed terrain (rock, snow and ice) of the final ridge of the Fiescherhorn - of course combined with a pair of good automatic crampons - .
Personally I find them perfect even for snowshoes, especially for all those models designed for mountaineering. The innovative system of multidirectional ankle hinge provides total freedom of movement which is extremely important while facing the ridges as it is the less suitable terrain for snowshoes. On the other hand, the stability and the protection guaranteed to the foot allow, in addition to a better attitude on the snowshoes, to better face the most hard descents. Finally, it’s completely waterproof, breathable and keeps your feet warm and dry thanks to the insulating Gore-Tex®/Duratherm® lining and the insulating Ibi-Thermo footbed and the integrated elastic gaiter.


About the Author:
Lorenzo Naddei, born in 1967, is an agronomist and guide of medium mountain of the Lombardy College of mountain guides. He has collaborated with ERSAF on some projects related to the mountain environment, and with the main Italian outdoor magazines as editor. Together with the friend and alpine guide "Frisco" D'Alessio founded "Vie Alte", which offers hiking and mountaineering trips in some of the most unusual and enchanting places in the Alps.