Today started with a suitable golden omen. I was out of the hotel at six am this morning and by pure coincidence the Matterhorn was gold tipped.
I wish I had had the time to watch the sunrise unfold but I was off to catch a train and then a bus to Saas Fee – a two hour trip. With the intention of climbing a mountain: the Allalinhorn. A graceful, even elegantly shaped, mountain that is one part of the giant horseshoe of peaks that surrounds Saas Fee. The Allalinhorn is a compact 4000M peak – size isn’t everything.
This is where it all began 50 years ago on my first visit to Switzerland with my parents as a fifteen year old teenager. My first hut-based climb of an Alpine 4000M peak was up the Allalinhorn.
The route we took in 1962 – me, my house-master from school (he was a keen Alpinist and a huge inspiration to me, and was on the same holiday trip as us) and our guide – is a route seldom climbed these days, but in 1962 it was probably the easiest route up the mountain via its South-West ridge.
That was 30 years before the inauguration of the Metro Alpin – the highest underground funicular railway in the world – that now transports tourists, skiers (to ski all year round on the vast glacier) and climbers, to the Mittelallalin at a height of 3,456M almost within touching distance of the mountain. Its construction meant that climbing the Allalinhorn is now a short and fairly easy one-day climb.
Over the intervening 50 years since my first Alpine climb up this mountain, I’ve visited its summit a further five times, making today’s visit the seventh. I’ve guided our children up it, climbed the Ostgrat – the left skyline in the first image of the mountain above – and soloed it. So it seemed fitting that if I was to climb anything this summer it should be this mountain. A golden Jubilee excursion!
I can’t do this mountain justice in the short time I have tonight. Suffice it to say that it was a straightforward 2.5hr climb, the descent took about half that time. No mishaps, beautiful weather, fantastic views. I’m still in one piece, but I may be walking slightly stiff-legged tomorrow.
The images that follow give you some idea of what climbing this mountain entails. I’ll re-visit sometime in the future in a little more detail. Do remember you can enlarge any of these images for a better view.