Family-fun weekend at Klein Matterhorn-Testa Grigia- Castor


Published by Lone Ranger , 6 July 2011, 11h50.

Region: World » Switzerland » Valais » Oberwallis
Date of the hike: 3 July 2011
Mountaineering grading: PD+
Waypoints:
Geo-Tags: CH-VS   I 
Route:Testa Grigia- Breithorn pass - Castor - breithorn pass - Testa grigia - Klein Matterhorn
Access to start point:Klein Matterhon by cable car (or you can approach Testa Grigia from Italy, as my partner did)

It is always a challenge to balance family interests and climbing; this is how we figured out an itinerary that would keep everyone happy.

Day 1 (Friday):
Went to Klein Matterhorn Glacier Paradise Lodge with wife and son. I was sure this itself would be a big adventure for them and everyone would get headache. However, since we had spent the last few weekends at altitude huts, surprisingly, my son slept very well, wife managed some sleep, and I was the one who could barely sleep :-( The hut was empty barring three other climbers, and as you would know, the staff go home from 1630 hrs to 8:00 hrs, so it was fun being all alone at that height, enjoying the sunrise and sunset, being so close to the high mountains, yet in warmth and comfort. But anyway I derived some acclimatisation from this stay.

Day 2 (Saturday):
My climbing partner was to join me this day. He was accompanied by his non-climbing girlfriend; they felt Klein Matterhorn (3800m) would be too high, so we instead chose to stay at Testa Grigia (3480m). The point here is, by this choice we were committed to an additional 350m ascent compared to the normal routes from Klein Matterhorn. Moreover, in terms of comfort, this hut pales comparison  to Swiss huts in general, and especially the KM Lodge (admittedly, Swiss quality is a class apart). What further irked me was that this hut charges the same full amount for adults and kids, which is a shame, because kids eat a tiny fraction of what adult mountaineers eat, often share parents' beds, and ALL SAC huts that i know charge less for kids.
The hike down to Testa Grigia was only about 45 mins, we spent the rest of the day just relaxing, and practicing some basic skills.

Day 3 (Sunday): Summit Day Castor (4208m)

As planned, we set out of the hut at 2:30 am from Testa Grigia hut, just my climbing partner and I. It was a clear, starry night; perfect conditions, and we enjoyed hiking the first 1-2 hours, going past the Breithorn plateau and following the tracks. It was super; we did not see any other head lights until about 4 am where we saw some climbers coming up from the Italian hut. Then it started getting very windy and cold. This prevented us from taking proper breaks for eating. barring this single aspect, it was perfect conditions there. We kept making good progress and reached the summit around 6:30 am. After taking some pics, we soon descended because it was too windy and cold. I thought 4 hours to summit from Testa Griagia was pretty neat time. The climb was nothing too hard and was fun; it certainly helped that there were clear tracks for us to follow.

Now we were tempted to do the Pollux. However, since I had to go back to Testa Grigia and pick up my son, and hike up back to Klein Matterhorn, this would mean an additional couple of hours of work, quite above my "enjoyment level", so we opted to head back toward the hut. The last part (Testa Grigia to Klein Matterhorn) was really tiring, and very scary to dodge the speeding skiers on the Testa Rosa ski area, and I barely managed to reach the Klein Matterhorn.


Tips:
  • It was a good decision to start early; 2:30 am is about ideal, so that you are at the start of the mountain climb at dawn and you can do it in daylight. And get back to the hut early, avoiding the sun
  • It was a bad decision to stay at Testa Grigia. Not only is it not comfortable, but for me, it entailed a total of 700m additional elevation gain that day, compared to staying in Klein Matterhorn. Maybe if we had stayed in Klein Matterhorn we could have done the Pollux as well.
  • We saw two guys soloing. There are crevasses; not sure if it is a good idea to solo there.
  • We carried a 30m 8 mm glacier rope, and used one walking axe each, which was ideal
  • By the time we reached the hut, our families had just woken up and finished breakfast, so effectively, the time we were away was only an hour or two...so it is eminently doable
Now my worry is, my next climbing partner for our proposed climb has a 2 year old boy and a 20 week old boy in the making; how will we manage the logistics?

Hike partners: Lone Ranger

Gallery


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