Enjoy a Swiss 4000m Peaks climbing holiday! Climbing 4000m peaks is one of the classic challenges of alpine mountaineering. On this guided climbing week, flexibility is the key – as we climb varied objectives to allow you to build up your tally of 4000ers.
A varied week of 4000m peak climbing in the Swiss Alps, based in the Saas valley and visiting nearby areas such as Zermatt and Val D’Anniviers. Routes are selected to allow access to 4000m summits without undue technical difficulty. Please tell us of any 4000m peaks you have already climbed, so we can plan accordingly. The itinerary described below is a typical plan for the week, but we regularly vary itineraries and objectives to suit your ambitions and the weather. Grades are in the range F to PD depending on the mountain.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 2 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need to be competent in the use of ice axe and crampons. Scottish winter climbing or an Alpine mountaineering course are suitable preparation. A good level of general fitness is required to enjoy the week, as summit days involve 5-9 hours climbing at altitude, so we advise you to prepare well in advance with days out in the UK hills, or other regular exercise.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 3 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 5 nights accommodation in the Saas Valley, including breakfast and evening meals
- 2 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meals
- Local travel in the guide’s vehicle to complete the course itinerary
Excluded from price
- Trains and cable cars
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our usual hotel base is the comfortable and convenient Hotel Roby, situated in the centre of Saas Grund. The Roby is a popular hotel amongst mountaineers and guided groups, with friendly staff, good food and within walking distance of the main Saas Grund cable car. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please book online and we will confirm availability asap. 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.
You should arrange outward travel to Saas Grund 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 the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our planning.
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.
Day 1 is normally a warm up and acclimatisation day in order to find your feet on alpine terrain again and get used to the altitude. Typical outings might include a mid altitude rock peak such as the Jegihorn. Where appropriate we may alternatively use this day for a hut approach, doing some relevant skills training/refreshment en route.
Monday – Tuesday
Climbing Days – two day trip climbing 4000ers, staying in an Alpine Hut on Monday night before returning to the valley on Tuesday night. There are numerous different options and combinations to go at. We often start with an ascent of the Allalinhorn, as this can be climbed from the valley in a morning by making use of the Alpine Metro above Saas Fee. From here, we can then head onto either the Britannia Hut to climb the Strahlhorn, or Langflue to climb Alphubel the following day:
Due to it’s proximity to the Saas Fee lift system, the Allalinhorn is one of the most accessible 4000m peaks in Switzerland and therefore an ideal first 4000er for the week.
From the top of the Alpine Metro funicular railway, a trail leads across to the glacier, weaving through various crevasses to reach the Feejoch at 3826m. Above here, a short steeper slope leads to the broad WNW Ridge and a final scramble up rocks to reach the summit cross.
The descent is made by the same route, after which we may head to Langflue for Alphubel, or the Britannia Hut for the Strahlhorn the following day
A long glacier trek, skirting under the south face of the Rimpfischhorn from the Britannia Hut leads to the Adler Pass, from where the Strahlhorn is usually climbed.
The ascent follows a broad snowy ridge until the final 150m, where a rocky scramble leads up to the summit – from here we enjoy magnificent views of the nearby Monte Rosa chain and the famous peaks around Zermatt and Saas valleys.
On the descent, we head back down to the Adler Pass and return via the Britannia Hut to Saas Fee and the valley.
Alphubel is a long but straightforward climb in good conditions, involving a big glacier ascent through some complex crevasse terrain.
Starting from Langflue Hotel (it’s used more as a mountain hut than a hotel!), the East Flank route weaves it’s way up through a series of crevasse zones in order to reach the steep upper slopes below the summit.
This final section leads up to the broad summit plateau and stupendous views across to the Weisshorn, Matterhorn and Zinalrothorn.
The descent follows the same route, leading back to Langflue and finally down the cable car to Saas Fee.
Tue PM Overnight in valley.
Climbing Days – second two day trip, staying in an Alpine Hut on Wednesday night before returning to the valley on Thursday night. We often use this second trip to climb a 4000er with longer hut approach. Typical objectives are the Weismies or the Bishorn
Weissmies (4017m) – via the classic SE Ridge.
We start in Saas Almagel in order to walk up to the Almageller Hut. The hut approach begins with a short chairlift ride, followed by an idyllic 3hr walk up via Almageller Alp. We’ll stop for a picnic lunch en route and arrive at the hut mid afternoon.
After a pre dawn start the following morning, we make our way up to the Zwischbergenpass and then turn left to approach the SE Ridge of the Weissmies via a series of snow slopes. Once on the ridge, the climbing is varied and interesting with a succession of short scrambly pitches – depending on how much snow there is on the route, we’ll decide whether or not to wear crampons along this section. The ridge gains height to a flatter snowy section at 3900m, where finally a classic alpine snow crest leads to the summit. Here we enjoy some amazing views and a welcome rest, before starting the long descent to the valley.
The Bishorn is a classic ascent from the Val D’Anniviers, so we start by driving round to Zinal in order to walk up to the Tracuit Hut. The hut approach is long and beautiful, climbing up through alpine meadows for 4hrs above Zinal – we’ll split the ascent with a picnic lunch en route!
The following morning we head out across the glacier from the hut and gain height steadily, to reach a final short steeper section which leads to the summit. The views from here are excellent, encompassing the great North Face of the Weishorn and distant peaks of the Bernese Oberland. Finally, we return to the hut and make the long descent to the valley.
Thur PM Overnight in valley.
Final Climbing Day
For our final climbing day, we often head round to Zermatt to climb the Breithorn in a day from the valley.
The Breithorn is a very accessible peak from Zermatt and gives great views of the Matterhorn and surrounding 4000m peaks.
The day starts with a drive round to Tasch, from where we take the train up to Zermatt and then the Keine Matterhorn lift up to 3800m on the Swiss-Italian border. From here, a steady snow climb with occasional crevasses to negotiate leads to the final summit ridge, which gets a little more airy and provides an excellent viewpoint.
The descent is fast and easily completed in just an hour or two, before returning to Saas at the end of the day.
Fri PM – return to the valley for final night.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation. For this trip, do not plan to fly home after climbing on Friday – as if our return to the valley is later in the day, then there’s a risk of missing an evening flight.
Your course starts and finishes in the magnificent alpine valley of Saas Grund. The most common way to reach Saas Grund (SG) is fly into Geneva, then take a train along the Rhone Valley, then onward bus service to SG. 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 and Post Bus from Geneva airport to SG: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html (integrated Swiss travel website, displays all connecting bus and train services).
- Alternatively fly to Basel or Zurich then take the train, as above.
- 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 Saas Grund and back will 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.
Alpine Mountaineering is an endurance sport – ie to get to the summit involves climbing uphill for several hours. Therefore, your fitness and power to weight ratio are very important factors for success. Another important factor is altitude, which people react to in different ways and finally, you need the appropriate technical climbing ability for the trip – please check that you have the correct fitness and tech levels for your trip using the Tech Level and Fitness Level descriptions below.
This is a key factor – you must be at the minimum Fitness Level quoted for your course (see descriptions below). However, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it and the greater your chances of success. Being fit also helps you to recover more quickly between climbs during the week.
Your power to weight ratio
What shape you are has a big impact on your likelihood of success! Eg are you slim and athletic, a normal build, a bit overweight, or 1-2 stone or more overweight? If you are a stone overweight (7-8kg/15lb) , then you will find the trip a lot harder and if you don’t have a solid background in endurance sports, you are likely to struggle. In our experience, if you are more than 12kg/25lb overweight, you may manage some shorter climbs or easier routes with less time pressure, but you stand almost no chance of completing a major alpine summit where speed of ascent is critical for safety. So if you know you need to lose a bit of weight, then start right away and you’ll reap the rewards!
Your personal acclimatization rate
All of our alpine trips involve an acclimatization climb at the start of the week, but everyone responds to altitude in different ways and personal speeds of acclimatization vary widely between individuals. Past experience is a fair indicator – so if you have coped Ok at altitude before eg. on a previous alpine trip, Kilimanjaro, or on a high altitude trek, then this should be good news. Conversely, if you have had problems or been slow to acclimatize before, then you definitely need to come out early, in order to pre acclimatize before the week starts – please contact us for further advice about this.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training advice page.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine mountaineering experience.
Tech level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons / alpine glacier treks or alpine peaks to F standard.
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.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced climber. Regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock / ice and mixed routes at Scottish 5+ or WI5 / alpine routes at grade D and above. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have very extensive experience climbing at this level.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
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, 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.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for the following activities: rock climbing and mountaineering in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. 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.
Insurance for UK residents
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Can I book a single room on my climbing trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens about accommodation, if the weather is very poor and we end up spending extra nights in the valley instead of in huts?
We will make any necessary last minute bookings for the team. On trips taking place outside the Chamonix valley, any extra valley hotel nights will be on a BnB basis rather than half board.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.