Swiss 4000m Ski Tour

Fitness level
Tech level
Number of guiding days
6
Guiding ratio
1:4

Our Swiss 4000m Ski Tour explores the Saas Tal – Zermatt region, which is home to the greatest number of 4000m ski peaks anywhere in the Alps. Our aim is to climb as many as possible during the week, whilst staying in a variety of valley bases and high mountain huts along the way. This is a classic high altitude ski tour that involves the ascent of several 4000m summits.

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£1395

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Graham is an excellent guide who adjusted the weeks activities day by day as the every changing weather presented its own challenges! The Roby hotel is good, the Banhof in Zermatt is excellent, I’ve stayed there many times and have never had an issue. Fabian and Caterina run a lovely clean accommodation.

Miles Beckett

I had an excellent time thanks… and the weather although not perfect gave us some nice snow conditions and some excellent long descents. Graham did a very good job in deciding what to do given the conditions and the availability of lifts. Overall I got to 4 summits and one high col, and did a lot of skiing… Graham provided plenty of hints and tips along the way, which was very instructive both for my ski technique and more generally about glacier skiing, and I was very appreciative of that. It was also a good group, everybody fit and competent (I was worried about being able to keep up, not usually a problem!), and so everything went smoothly.

Roger Everett

Great trip – very smooth, will definitely remember that one – with the famous peaks and the altitude!  I struggled for the first couple of days but then my body adjusted and I remembered how to ski.  The accommodation was very good – both in the huts and the Roby. Good dynamics with the other 3 guys on both a ski and social level – I hope we can repeat it!

Jim Edwards

Trip overview

Our Swiss 4000m Ski Tour explores the Saas Tal – Zermatt region, which is home to the greatest number of 4000m ski peaks anywhere in the Alps. Our aim is to climb as many as possible during the week, whilst staying in a variety of valley bases and high mountain huts along the way. This is a classic high altitude ski tour that involves the ascent of several 4000m summits.

Good levels of fitness are required, as well as the ability to acclimatise quickly. Some nights are spent in the valley and some up in huts. You need to be prepared to accept changes in the itinerary, as stable weather and snow conditions are required to complete the full trip – however, some of the peaks can be climbed in most conditions.

Trip Report:

Need further information? enquire about this trip.


Suitability

This is an advanced level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3-4 and Tech Level 3-4 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need previous multiday ski touring experience in order to join this tour. Some roped climbing or cramponing experience is also required. The week includes 6-8 hour days and some long (1200m+) climbs, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-6 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 25% uplift and 75% skinning on the tour – approx 6700m skinning up, 9000m skiing down, all at high altitude.


Guiding ratio

One UIAGM guide skiing with 4 clients.


ABTOT Protected

This trip is protected against financial failure through our membership of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT) – Alpine Guides Ltd, Membership Number 5394.  For further information, please visit our Financial Protection page.

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Included in price

  • 6 days of guiding
  • All guides expenses
  • 5 nights valley hotel accommodation including breakfast.
  • 2 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and 3 course evening meal.

Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)

  • Evening meals in the valley
  • Uplift and local travel
  • Lunches and drinks
  • Flights and transfers to resort
  • Insurance
  • Equipment hire

Hotels

Our course base and meeting point in Saas Grund is the popular Hotel Roby. The Roby is well used and loved by skiers, climbers and guided groups – a friendly, comfortable spot in the centre of the village, with good access to the local shops, ski lifts and just 10 mins from the uplift in Saas Fee. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple) sharing basis, but if you wish to book a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. Any extra luggage can usually be left in the hotel, or else in the guide’s vehicle until your return to resort at the end of the week. In Zermatt we stay in similar standard accommodation. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.


Huts

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.

Detailed Itinerary

Saturday

You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 6-7pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through kit checks and safety routines, as well as hand out any rental equipment, before going on to discuss the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our plans. We’ll have maps and guidebooks of the area to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up. Overnight in the valley.


Sunday

Acclimatisation day – glacier skiing above Saas Fee, with a possible ascent of the Allalinhorn if we are all going well.

swiss-4000m-allalinhornAllalinhorn (4027m)

Due to it’s proximity to the Saas Fee lift system, the Allalinhorn is one of the most accesible 4000ers in Switzerland and therefore an ideal first summit for the week.

From the edge of the piste, a skinning track leads up across the glacier – weaving through various crevasses to reach the Feejoch at 3826m. Above here, a short steeper slope leads to more steady skinning up the broad WNW Ridge and a ski depot 50m before the summit, which is reached on foot.

The descent is made by the same route, with often some nice powder pitches to enjoy on the glacier, skiing down below the Feejoch.

Skiing the Allalinhorn involves 500m of ascent from the top lift station and takes ~2-3hrs

PM Return to Saas Grund, overnight in the valley.


Monday and Tuesday

Skiing 4000m peaks around the Saas Valley – possible objectives are the Weissmies, Allalinhorn and Alphubel. On Monday night we typically return to Saas Grund and on Tuesday we ski to the Britannia Hut to spend the night there.

swiss-4000m-weissmiesWeissmies (4017m)

Weissmies is climbed from the top station of the Hohsaas lift above Saas Grund. More 4000m peaks can be seen from it’s summit that from any other peak in the Alps.

The ascent first traverses the glacier, before climbing a steep crevassed section that is overlooked by some seracs. This is the most serious section of the route and nowadays current information about conditions needs to be sought before making an ascent.

Above this, a broad ridge leads eventually to the ski depot – with the final section often being climbed on foot. The descent involves some steep pitches through heavily crevassed terrain on the way back down.

NB Conditions on the peak are changing rapidly at the moment, so we’ll take local advice about the  current situation before committing to an ascent.

900m ascent and descent, ~3-5hrs


swiss-4000m-alphubelAlphubel (4206m)

A big glacier ascent through some complex crevassed terrain, Alphubel is a long but straightforward climb in good conditions.

Starting from Langflue in the Saas Fee system, the East Flank route weaves it’s way through a series of crevasse zones in order to reach the steep upper slopes below the summit.

This final section requires a number of kick turns in order to gain the broad summit plateau and stupendous views across to the Weisshorn, Matterhorn and Zinalrothorn.

The descent is equally long, with plenty of high quality skiing back down the glacier to Saas Fee.

1400m ascent and descent ~5-7hrs


Wednesday to Friday

Traverse across to the Zermatt Valley, taking in furthur peaks along the way. Objectives include the Strahlhorn, Breithorn and possibly the Signalkuppe on Monta Rosa if everyone acclimatises well.

swiss-4000m-strahlhornStrahlhorn (4128m)

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 straight forward rounded snowy ridge until the final 150m, where a ski depot is made and a moderate rock scramble leads up to the summit.

On the descent, we ski back down the broad ridge to the Adler Pass.

From here it’s either a long, steady north facing run back down to the Britannia Hut/Saas Valley, or a much steeper south facing descent if heading on to Zermatt – this latter descent needs to be done in the first half of the day in order to catch the best spring snow conditions.

1300m ascent, 4-5hrs


swiss-4000m-stockhornStockhorn Pass

If travelling on to Zermatt or the Monta Rosa Hut, a steep descent from the Adlerpass leads on to the final 200m climb up to the Stockhorn Pass, from where either destination can then be reached.

Although only 200m of climb, it always feels further, as it comes at the end of a long day – usually involving an ascent of the Strahlhorn en route.

The view of the Matterhorn is particularly fine from here, as are those of numerous other 4000m peaks overlooking Zermatt.

In order to reach Zermatt, it’s then a long ski down the Grenz Glacier – or to reach the Monta Rosa Hut involves a descending traverse to a rocky rib dividing two branches of the glacier.

This has be traversed on foot with the aid of in situ cables, in order to reach a bowl on the far side that leads round to the hut.


swiss4000stour-schwarztorBreithorn (4164m)

The Breithorn is a very accesible peak, lying close to the high Kleine Matterhorn lift above Zermatt.

The summit can be reached in a couple of hours of steady skinning up the south flank, with not too many kick turns.

In good conditions it’s possible to skin right to the summit and ski back down all the way, either straight from the summit, or after a section traversing the ridge on foot to another col which gives an alternative line of descent to complete a circular trip.

From the foot of the south flank, it’s then possible to traverse under the south face of the mountain and skin across to the Schwarztor Col, which gives access to the magnificent north facing Schwarztor Glacier to ski back down to Zermatt or on to the Monta Rosa hut.

500-900m ascent, 1500-2600m descent, 5-6hrs


swiss-4000m-monta-rosaMonta Rosa, Signalkuppe (4554m)

This famous summit is home to the highest hut in the Alps and a classic objective for touring parties skiing the Monta Rosa.

The ascent involves a night in the magnificent new Monta Rosa Hut in order to get a very early start to make the equally long skin up the Grenz Glacier. This takes 6-7hrs, so you need to be fit and well acclimatised in order to make it all the way to the Signalkuppe.

The descent is one of the great classics of the Alps, with superb northerly facing glacier skiing right back down to the hut. After a rest to refuel, it’s then a long ski and schuss down the Grenz Glacier before skiing through the notorious gorge at the snout of the glacier, in order to pick up a track and piste back to Zermatt.

1700m ascent, 3000m descent 10-11hrs

Fri PM Return to Saas Grund via train and post bus. Final night in the Roby.


Saturday

Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.

Location and Travel

Your course starts and finishes in Saas Grund, in the Saastal, the neighbouring valley to Zermatt, situated at the Eastern end of the Rhone valley.

Arrival/Departure

The most common way to reach Saas Grund is fly into Geneva, then take a train along the Rhone Valley, then onward bus service to Saas Grund. 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 website.
  • Train and Post Bus from Geneva airport to Saas Grund: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html (integrated Swiss travel website, displays all connecting bus and train services)
  • Or fly to Basel or Zurich, then 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).

Other travel options

  • Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 10-11 hours driving.
  • Eurostar train from the UK to Geneva, then onward train service to Saas (excellent fast service): www.eurostar.com/uk-en

Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.

Fitness and Experience

Training

If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.


Tech Levels

Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are based on what types of snow and conditions you can confidently do regular linked turns in – and just as importantly, what conditions you begin to struggle in. (By ‘linked’ we mean moving from one turn into the next without traversing in between).

Tech Level 1
Intro Off Piste Skier (Advanced Piste Skier). You cruise reds, black runs are challenging but fun and have ventured off piste with varying degrees of success (ie deep snow is still something of a mystery…) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Red – Aspirer*
Likely to say: ‘I’d love to learn how to ski well off piste and/or try ski touring’
Our Advice: Definitely go on an Off Piste Skiing Course to improve your ski technique first, before trying ski touring – you’ll get a lot more out of it that way around!

Tech Level 2
Improving Off Piste Skier. You enjoy black runs and the kind of tracked out off piste terrain found around many big resorts, but you haven’t skied too much in properly deep snow without a base to it yet. *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Silver – Intermediate*
Likely to say: ‘I’d like to ski well in powder/link lots of short radius turns/go ski touring’
Our Advice: An Off Piste Skiing Course is highly recommended. If you’d like to try ski touring, then do either an intro ski touring course or an intro level ski tour.

Tech Level 3
Confirmed Off Piste Skier. You can put down a reasonable set of tracks in powder, but difficult snow types – eg heavy wet snow, crusts, poor visibility or 40dg slopes – can all cause problems (though you can cope with them safely, if not elegantly!) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Purple – Advanced*
Likely to say: ‘I’d like to handle difficult snow/steep slopes more confidently in better style’
Our Advice: Off piste coaching still useful. Intermediate off piste weeks are at your level too. If you want to get into ski touring, try a touring course or intro level ski tour. If you’re an established ski mountaineer, then intermediate level tours are generally suitable.

Tech Level 4
Advanced Off Piste Skier. You can put turns in through heavier snow and on icy 40dg slopes, but difficult breakable crusts and skiing a fresh track off piste in zero visibility are still somewhat challenging! *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
Likely to say: I’ve been skiing ten/twenty years – I’d like to do your ‘……’ tour.
Our Advice: You will enjoy our advanced level trips. If you are new to touring – then you could do a Haute Route with two or three days of skills training beforehand (but don’t overlook the physical fitness needed as well). Mileage is the best way to improve your ability level.

Tech Level 5
Expert Off Piste Skier. You can ski all snow types including crusts in control and are happy on slopes of 45dg or when putting in a fresh track in zero vis. *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
Likely to say: ‘Bring it on…’
Our Advice: Stay strong – and may the force be with you… Advanced level trips and ski expeditions are the way forward.


Fitness Levels

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!). They include mountaineering fitness and ski fitness benchmarks for context.

Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of cardiovascular training/sport per week. On foot: 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. On skis: you are happy piste skiing all day with just the odd break for food and drink, but would struggle to ski off piste all day without finishing up very tired for the following day.

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 hr hillwalk, cycling 30 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. On foot: 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. On skis: you are capable of off piste skiing all day or doing a couple of hours skinning with out finishing up exhausted – ie you can do this for a number of days without taking a rest day.

Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours cv training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hr hillwalk, 50ml 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. On foot: 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. On skis: you can skin uphill at 300m/hr for 3-4 hrs a day (ie 8-1200m of ascent each day).

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. On skis: you can skin at 400m/hr or could handle 4-6hrs skinning a day. (ie 1000-1400m+ of ascent each day).

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. On skis: you are happy skinning at over 400m/hr or could skin all day if neccesary (ie 1400m+ days).

Please be realistic in your assessment, and remember you need both the required fitness level and ski ability level in order to enjoy any given trip – it doesn’t matter how fit you are, if you can’t ski well enough you won’t keep up on the descents – and vica versa on the ascents! If your fitness or skills are in doubt there is a risk you could be excluded from an activity or required to leave the tour, if your participation could risk the safety, success or enjoyment of the rest of the party.

Equipment

Hut to Hut Touring Equipment List

Just remember, every extra kilo on your back knocks 10% off your enjoyment on the descents – so try and keep the weight down!

Technical Clothing

  • Waterproof Jacket – preferably lightweight and breathable
  • Overtrousers/ski pants – preferably with side zips
  • Fleece mid layer – or equivalent
  • Socks – specialist ski socks or a warm loop lined pair of mountain socks
  • Wicking thermal top – not cotton please…
  • Thermal leggings or ski pants
  • Thin inner gloves
  • Warm ski gloves or mittens, if you suffer from cold hands
  • Warm hat
  • Spare fleece/lightweight duvet jacket

Personal Items

  • Water container – at least 1 litre
  • Personal medications and blister kit – regular meds, zinc oxide tape, compeed and painkillers etc
  • Lightweight head torch
  • Ski goggles
  • Sun glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
  • Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
  • Wallet, passport, Alpine Club/BMC card (hut discount) and insurance docs

Hut Overnight Items

  • Small wash kit
  • Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
  • Silk sheet liner
  • Ear plugs
  • (Hut slippers for indoor use, blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)

Technical Equipment

  • Rucsac 35/45l – try and avoid ones covered in too many features, just ski and ice axe attachments required
  • Ski mountaineering boots
  • Skis with touring bindings – some ‘freeride’ bindings are also suitable
  • Velcro ski strap – to keep skis together on your rucksack if we need to carry them
  • Ski poles – with good size 5cm+ baskets (telescopic poles are not needed)
  • Climbing skins – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
  • Harscheisen (ski crampons) – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
  • Metal snow shovel – must be a full metal shovel (plastic blades don’t work in real avalanche debris!)
  • Avalanche probe
  • Avalanche transceiver – must be a modern digital model (older analogue models are now obsolete)
  • Harness, with 120cm sling and locking karabiner
  • Crampons – lightweight model
  • Ice Axe – lightweight model

Your guide will have all other safety kit, first aid and survival equipment.


Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website, where we publish an annual review of the years best new skis, boots and touring equipment, plus a range of other interesting tips and recommendations. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!

Purchasing Equipment
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent ski boot fitting service, one of the best ranges of ski mountaineering equipment in the UK and top notch advice.

Hiring Equipment
Please visit our Equipment Hire page for recommended hire shops in your resort, and Alpine Guides hire equipment price list (safety equipment is provided free of charge on certain courses – please consult price inclusions).


Insurance

For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for the following activities: off piste skiing and ski touring 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

British Mountaineering Council. The gold standard in insurance for UK residents. Very competitive single trip or annual cover for all climbing activities. Use this link to book your BMC insurance.

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.


USA residents

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.

FAQ's

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.

See our terms and conditions


What happens if the weather or snow conditions are poor, or the avalanche risk is high?

We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and ski in a neighbouring area or even further afield. Many of our itineraries are designed with flexibility in mind, and it’s usually possible to ski in most conditions with some careful alternative planning.

Keeping the ball rolling - Val Claree


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.

See our accommodation page for more details


Does Alpine Guides ski with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?

Yes!

See our tips for overseas customers


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!

The Matterhorn at 70 yrs young


How do I book a ski trip?

For scheduled ski 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.

More booking information


Is there an age limit on any of our ski trips?

Under 18’s must be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian. There is no upper age limit, but please get in touch to discuss suitability if you are concerned about your age, with regard to fitness and pace.

See our fitness and training article


How do I rent ski equipment?

You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.

Ski equipment rental info


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.

See our terms and conditions


Can I book a single room on my ski 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.

More hotel information


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£1395