We had already decided to retreat due to the wind. At 4am, we looked outside the bivi hut and found strong gusting winds that would be too much for the ridge’s narrow snow crest. So, we went back to bed for a couple of hours, had breakfast, packed up and departed the hut. Shortly after leaving, we realised the wind had suddenly dropped. John and I looked at each other. The forecast said that stable and windless weather was now ahead, so we turned back around having decided to go for it.
The traverse of Täschhorn and Dom starts at the Mischabel Bivouac Hut, in the col between Alphubel and Täschhorn. Just getting there is quite a task, requiring a traverse of Alphubel, another 4000m peak. It is well worth the effort though, as the bivi hut is palatial and very comfortable. Perhaps this is why John and I did not want to leave it so early in the morning.
The climb up Täschhorn is a classic mixed Valais ridge with some rock, not all of it solid, and some snow crest. At the time we were there, we found much more snow than rock with some very delicate crests to pick our way over, and with cornices on alternating sides. We were right not to try this super narrow snow crest in a strong wind but the weather was great during the day, nearly no wind at all and the cold temperature kept the snow solid all day.
Protecting narrow snow crests like this can be difficult. Pitching it is slow and would result in a long pendulum swing in the event of a slip. Moving together reduces the length of a swing but the anchors are less secure. At one point, all we had was the rope flicked over the other side of the ridge, running under the cornice on that side. I would shuffle along flicking the rope over and John followed, unhooking the rope as he came along.
On top of Täschhorn, the ridge along to Dom looks very committing. But, we were already a long way up and going back down the snow crest did not appeal anyway. We got along the rockier ridge to Dom in good order though, but, due to the late start, it was 6pm by then. Normally, you want to be down off the summits by mid-afternoon due to the threat of thunder storms and the poor quality of the snow.
I phoned the hut guardian as a courtesy to say we were on the way and that everything was fine but we would be late for dinner. In response, I was told “It is very dangerous to be on the summit at this time” and “You will not make it for dinner, the restaurant closes at 9pm”. I must admit that I did not appreciate the critique of my guiding at that moment. It was a cold day and so there was no chance of a thunder storm, and the snow was still frozen. But I did want some dinner! So, John and I raced down to the hut where we arrived at 8.30pm, in time for some spaghetti bolognaise they had kept back for us.
Valley Base – Saas Fee or Tasch, Switzerland.
Start and finish – Mischabel Bivouac (3855m), finish at Domhutte.
Taschhorn (4491m) South East Ridge AD, Täschhorn-Dom Traverse AD, Dom (4545m) North Side PD.
SUMMER ALPINE ESSENTIALS