A great week of mountaineering in Zermatt, the focus being to Climb Monte Rosa and in particular the highest summit in Switzerland – the mighty Dufourspitze. First we acclimatise on a number of classic 4000ers around Zermatt, before heading up to the excellent new Monte Rosa Hut, in order to climb the Dufourspitze itself.
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Climbing Monte Rosa
Dufourspitze (4634m) is the highest mountain in Switzerland and the second highest peak in the Alps. It offers a similar challenge to climbing Mont Blanc, but is more technical and considerably less busy.
At the start of the week, a number of other classic 4000ers above Zermatt are used for training and acclimatisation. Please tell us of any 4000m peaks you have already climbed, so we can plan accordingly. Typical grades are in the range PD to AD.
Trip Reports >> Report 1, Report 2
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You need previous alpine climbing experience on longer PD-AD routes, involving scrambling on rock and the use of ice axe and crampons in order to enjoy the Monte Rosa week. Good levels of fitness are required, as the Dufourspitze summit day involves 9-12 hours climbing at high altitude (see fitness level 3) so we advise you to prepare well in advance with regular exercise and training.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 3 nights accommodation in Zermatt, including breakfast
- 4 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and 3 course evening meal
- Local travel in the guides vehicle to complete the course itinerary
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in Zermatt
- Trains and cable cars
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
We work with a number of 2* hotels and chalets in Zermatt that provide an ideal base for mountaineering activities, with a generous breakfast and simple yet comfortable shared rooms. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 4-6 person) sharing basis, but If you prefer a single room please let us know at the time of booking and we will provide a quote. Storage facilities are available, so any extra luggage can be left in the accommodation during your time spent in huts. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
This trip is protected by ABTOT – Alpine Guides Ltd, Membership Number 5394. For further information, please visit our Financial Protection page.
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment, before we go on to discuss everyones ambitions for the week, together with current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our plans.
We’ll also have maps and guidebooks to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner.
PM Overnight in the valley.
Hut Approach and Training Day
In the morning we head up the Kleine Matterhorn cable car above Zermatt to a height of over 3800m.
From here, it’s a 2-3 hour high altitude glacier trek across to the Ayas Hut – en route, we’ll undertake some skills refreshment and training appropriate to the group and the week ahead. With a pre acclimatised team, there is also the possibility of climbing the Breithorn on day one.
The Ayas Hut is high, at nearly 3400m, so in order to have a more comfortable first night, we recommend some pre acclimatisation by coming out a day or two early before starting the trip.
Ascent of Castor (4221m), returning to the Ayas Hut for the night.
A good climb from either Italy or Switzerland, the summit crest on Castor is usually the main difficulty – conditions on this section dictate the safe guiding ratio.
From the hut, a steady walk up the glacier leads to the foot of a steepening slope, which is climbed to the final airy ridge crest. This is followed for a couple of hundred metres to the highest point, before carefully retracing our steps back down to the glacier and eventually the hut.
Ascent of Pollux (4092m) and/or the Breithorn (4164m), before descending to Zermatt for the night.
Pollux (4092m) – A short, technical climb leading to a great viewpoint. An ascent of Pollux can be easily combined with other nearby 4000ers such as the Breithorn and Castor. The main difficulty on Pollux is the initial rocky buttress which is often climbed in crampons, with fixed chains on the hardest sections. At the top of the rock section a short, snowy or icy ridge leads up to the summit.
Breithorn – 4164m
The Breithorn is a very accesible peak, both from Italy and Switzerland. An ascent of the south flank gives great views of the Matterhorn and surrounding 4000m peaks. The climb is for the most part a steady snow slope with the occasional small crevasse to negotiate, but the final 50m on the summit ridge is a little more airy, leading to an excellent viewpoint.
Hut Approach – walk up to the Monte Rosa Hut.
In the morning we take the Gornergrat Mountain Railway out of Zermatt, getting off at Rotenboden to start a long descending traverse to the ladders that access the Gorner Glacier.
Crossing the glacier then leads to the final climb up to the excellent new Monte Rosa Hut. The Hut is one of a new generation of ‘smart buildings’ that self regulate internal temperature and are highly energy efficient – as such, it has won several architectural awards. Non of this clever design has been done at the expense of comfort though and the view out of the dining room window is particularly spectacular!
Early pre dawn start for the long 1700m ascent of the Dufourspitze. Return to the Monte Rosa Hut for a second night.
Dufourspitze – 4634m
Second highest peak in the Alps and the highest summit in the Monte Rosa Massif, the Dufourspitze is a big climb by any route. Our preferred route is to climb the long, interesting and varied W Ridge to the summit and then descend a line of fixed ropes on the north side, down onto the glacier near to the Silbersattel, in order to make a traverse of the mountain.
Descent from Monte Rosa Hut back to Zermatt. The return journey to Zermatt takes nearly as long as the approach, involving recrossing the Gorner Glacier, before making a long traversing ascent back up to the station at Rotenboden, in order to catch a train back to town.
Fri PM – return to the valley for a debrief, exchange of photos etc and farewells.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Early departures – if you choose to depart on Friday night, please leave plenty of time for repacking and airport transfer. You will typically be back at the hotel by 4-5pm at the latest, so choose a flight departing after 9-10pm.
Location and Travel
Your course starts and finishes in Zermatt. The most common way to reach Zermatt is fly into Geneva, then take a train along the Rhone Valley to Visp, then onward train service to Zermatt. Alternatively fly into Zurich or Basel.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines: for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner flight comparison website.
- Train from Geneva/other airports to Zermatt: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html(integrated Swiss travel website.
- If you plan to arrive by train, then purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass (details on website above) could save you some money on this course, as you get half fare on the cable cars in many resorts, as well as on the trains and buses. If you purchase a Swiss card the journey from the airport to Zermatt and back will also be included.
- Alternatively hire a car at any airport (all 3-4 hours driving time).
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
Fitness and Experience
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3, and Tech Level 3 (as appropriate for the style of climbing on this trip ie Alpine, rock climbing or ice climbing).
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 40-50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
To view all climbing Technical and Fitness Levels, and for advice on trip preparation and training, please visit our training advice page.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Wicking thermal top – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Softshell Jacket – mid weight, wind resistant, light insulating layer (or a mid weight fleece jacket)
- Spare warm layer – lightweight synthetic/down jacket or other warm layer
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock climbing shoes – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Otley offer an excellent walking boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for climbing and mountaineering activities as outlined in the course itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Please find further details on our insurance info page.