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First Ascent Guide Caroline George Summits the Bietschhorn in Switzerland
Posted on September 30, 2010

By Caroline George

The Bietschhorn reigns proudly on the northern slopes of the Valais and is the only snowcapped mountain visible from anywhere in the Rhone Valley. I first climbed this peak in 2005 during a Swiss Alpine Club training regimen. We climbed most of the routes from the remote Baltschiederklause hut. I remembered being blown away by this pristine remote valley, the Chamonix-like rock quality and, of course, I could not forget the hut keeper’s yummy butter-laden cakes.

The southern slopes of the Bernese Alps drop so steeply into the V-shaped Rhone valley that they hardly ever see rain. The fields are therefore deprived of any humidity. As a result, the locals built and dug water tunnels to get the water flowing from the glaciers to the fields.

With 1,850 meters of elevation gain, the hike to the Baltschiederklause hut is one of the longest hikes in the Bernese Alps. We arrived just in time to see the sun setting behind the following day’s climb.

We woke up the following day to stars glimmering in the pitch-dark sky. We followed the little dotted reflectors along the trail and hiked in the stillness of the night. Once we arrived at the glacier, we put our crampons on and traversed the 2 kilometer-long stretch of the Ausser Baltschieder glacier to the base of the North Ridge. After climbing up really poor rock and a 300-meter long snow/ice face, we reached the ridge proper: a snow and ice knife-edge ridge that leads to a rockier ridge of the summit.

The view from the summit extended southward from the Monte Rosa to the Mont Blanc range and to the north to the Bernese Oberland. We climbed and were back at the hut in the early afternoon, in time for a slice of warm cake right out of the oven.

We woke up the following day to gray skies, hoping that the clouds would burn off as forecasted. The ascent starts 5 minutes from the hut and climbs up perfect granite. Halfway up, we were caught by a snowstorm and strong prevailing winds. By then it would have been longer to go down than to keep going to the summit. The storm died a little, and we were able to reach the summit. We made a quick note in the summit book, and we headed down, following cairns to the start of the 6-by-20-meter rappels back to the trail.

We arrived back at the hut in the early afternoon, but we still had a long day ahead of us, having to hike back down to the car 1,850 meters below. We had a bite to eat and made our way down, marveling at the surrounding summits and already dreaming of other climbs to guide.

Author: - Thursday, September 30th, 2010
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  1. TRACY OWENS

    Caroline,
    Awesome photos! Interesting summit marker on the Beitschhorn. Is there any history about the cross?


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