Ofentalhorn and Spechhorn

Published by Stijn , 3 August 2015, 23h11.

Region: World » Switzerland » Valais » Oberwallis
Date of the hike: 1 August 2015
Hiking grading: T6- - Difficult High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: II (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: CH-VS   I 
Time: 2 days
Height gain: 1150 m 3772 ft.
Height loss: 1150 m 3772 ft.

A two day hike in a remote location was required in order to escape the Swiss national holiday festivities. The inspiration came from the Nollenhorn and Joderhorn descriptions in the SAC Alpinwandern/Gipfelziele Oberwallis guidebook, though in the end we didn't visit either summit. With bad weather on Saturday, we decided to limit ourselves to an ascent to the Bivacco Antigine for the first day. The goal for Sunday ended up being the Ofentalhorn-Spechhorn-Joderhorn route. Only limited descriptions of this route exist on Hikr (by Poge and Schneeluchs), making the endeavour all the more interesting.


Day 1: Mattmark - Ofental - Bivacco Antigine
(T3, 600m ascent, 2h30.)

It's overcast and a stormy wind is blowing over the Mattmark reservoir, but it's mostly dry and that's already more than we bargained for. We follow the marked hiking path though the Ofental (on the signs also "Ofutal") up to the Ofenpass / Passo di Antigine, where - a few metres on the Italian side - the Bivacco Antigine is located. There are already three Dutch guys in the bivacco; they are acclimatizing on the first day of the Alps trip. Later we are joined by four Italian students. In theory, the bivacco can sleep up to 12 people, but in reality, nine is already too much for comfort. Judging by the log book, it's rather unusual to have so many people here on one night. The cabin has rickety beds and smelly mattresses and blankets. Better bring your own sleeping bag, as well as your own stove and cutlery. The accommodation is free. Water can be obtained along the hiking path on the Swiss side, about 5 minutes from the bivacco.

Day 2: Bivacco Antigine - Ofentalhorn - Spechhorn - Mondellipass - Mattmark
(T6- / II, 550m ascent, 1150m descent, 8h.)

After a not-very-comfortable night in the bivacco, we wake up to enjoy the sunrise. Thankfully, the forecast was right, and apart from a little morning fog, the weather is beautiful.

After a relaxed breakfast, our first goal is the Oftentalhorn. The pathless ascent over Blockwerk is a taster for the rest of the route. Some concentration and sure-footedness is required, but otherwise the ascent is relatively unproblematic (T4). After less than an hour, we've already bagged our first 3000er.

The start of the ridge towards the Spechhorn is more of the same, sometimes slightly more difficult terrain. When the ridge starts to rise steeply towards the Spechhorn, things change dramatically. A first tower is offers some promising climbing (II), but then we are forced to swerve away from the ridge into the north flank, which is covered by unpleasant loose blocks. A first attempt to reach the ridge again proves to be a dead end. At the second attempt, the ridge itself is still too difficult to follow, but at least we can switch into the south flank. Here, the terrain is more comfortable, but also steeper. After some exposed grade II climbing, we reach the ridge again about 50m below the summit. The final bit of the ascent consists of relatively easy Blockwerk.

All in all the Spechhorn east ridge was more difficult than expected. It was a little disappointing that we couldn't stay more on the ridge itself. Though just one kilometre long, the Ofentalhorn-Spechhorn ridge took us almost 2.5 hours. The route deserves a T6, due the combination of the technical difficulties and the far-from-obvious route finding. A rope could come in useful.

We descend towards the Pizzo Mondelli over more arduous loose boulders (T4+, I), staying on the ridge until a little below P. 3107, then descending directly towards the snow field with a melting water pool at the bottom, near the Mondellipass. It's a relief to have some snow to walk on, because the going has been slow and tough for the last four hours now. 

The unmarked traverse below the Joderhorn towards the Monte Moropass, though described in the SAC guidebook as T4, does not look very appealing at all. The guidebook promised "traces across the scree-covered remains of the Tälliboden glacier", but we can only see steep ice and smooth rocks. Not fancying this, we call it a day and descend back towards Mattmark. We expect to find the marked hiking path that passes between the Galmenhorn and the Spähnhörner into the Ofental. Instead, we stumble upon a white-blue-white marked route that is not indicated on the Swisstopo maps into the pretty valley of the Stafelbach (T4-; some plates that can be slippery when wet, also described by Schneeluchs). The route traverses north for a while before reaching the Täliboden-Ofental path directly west of the Galmenhorn (junction indicated with a cairn and faint blue markings). Following this hiking path into the Ofental involves a sizeable detour to P. 2505. Taking an unmarked short-cut towards P. 2329 should be possible and would be considerable quicker.

After a solitary day, it's a shock to arrive on the busy hiking paths around the Mattmark reservoir. That doesn't make the Apfelstrudel at the restaurant less enjoyable, though. There's also an exhibition here about the reservoir (and its tragic history), for which we unfortunately don't have any time.


It's not difficult to understand why the Spechhorn is not visited so often. The arduous going over endless loose Blockwerk is not everybody's cup of tea. On the plus side, it's quiet summit with fabulous views over the 4000ers of Monte Rosa, the Allalin group and the Mischabel. The Ofentalhorn (via the north ridge) as well as the Stafelbach-Mondellipass route are two worthwhile objectives on their own.

Hike partners: Stijn

Click to draw, click on the last point to end drawing


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Comments (2)

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Lodewijk says: Nice report
Sent 1 March 2016, 14h09
Hi Stijn, I was browsing through Hikr and came across your Report. I soon realized we were at the Bivacco Antigine at the same date as your photos were taken. I remember now: We met during our stay there. Nice to see your trip to Spechhorn was successful and nice photos!
Cheers, Lodewijk

Stijn says: RE:Nice report
Sent 3 March 2016, 18h23
Dankjewel Lodewijk. Het was een beetje moeilijker als verwacht, maar uiteindelijk toch een schitterende dag. Hoe was jullie vakantie in de Alpen verder nog?
Groetjes en misschien tot een volgende keer in de bergen,

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