I was pretty tired after the Nadelhorn ascent. One day of sightseeing in Zermatt and one day of trekking in the lower mountains of Zinal, however, gave me loads of energy to continue the race of climbing 4000-meter peaks. The challenging Weisshorn (AD) was out of scope because of too much ice and snow on the ridge, so I aimed for the neighbouring Bishorn (F+) instead.
Bishorn is one of the easiest 4000-meter peaks in the Alps, and it’s mainly a snow plod on a low angled glacier. But many people seem to forget that it is quite demanding in terms of elevation, and there are no cable cars or lifts to transport lazy climbers to a high starting point.
Zinal to Cabane de Tracuit
I started to walk from the village of Zinal (1680m) at lunch time the 19th of July 2004. The trail was very steep in the first part, and I could see a lot of people who struggled in the dense woods. Some few hours later I reached Cabane de Tracuit (3256m), a mountain hut located only 50 meters from the Turtmann glacier. Unfortunately Bishorn and Weisshorn were partly hidden in clouds, but still I managed to get a glimpse of the route.
Only 10-15 guests stayed in the 140 beds large hut, so there was plenty of space. The unsettled weather was probably the reason why so few people had ventured into the mountains. I was surprised to see that the hut was staffed by four young girls (probably between 16-18 years), but I could not complain about the dinner, it was very good indeed. I found the evening rather boring because all the people were French speaking and their English skills was very limited. So instead of mingling with the strangers, I read a book.
Alone on the summit
Bishorn does not require an early start, because it’s only 2-3 hours to the summit, and less than 900m in elevation. So I started to walk from the hut around 5-6 AM, while the other ones started 10-15 minutes later. 50 meters beyond the hut I had to put on my crampons, and I stepped on to the glacier. There was a broad trail on the glacier; however it was passing some crevassed areas, so I didn’t feel totally safe. The night had been quite warm, hence the surface of the glacier was not as solid as I would prefer. I had to jump over a couple of crevasses, and that was pretty much the only challenges on the climb.
The weather was detoriating as I went higher, and when I reached the summit of Bishorn (4153m) I did not see very much of the surrounding peaks. I was extremely disappointed that Weisshorn, one the finest peaks in the Alps, was hidden in clouds. Because of the furious wind, I did not stay very long on the summit. On the way down I considered to take a side trip to the slightly lower twin peak of Bishorn, but I skipped it.
The descent was pretty eventless. I met the other climbers, and I encourage them to think that the summit was not so far away. When I reached the crevassed parts of the glacier, one of my legs suddenly stepped into a “black hole”. I acted fast and got myself out of the unpleasant situation. If there was a deep crevasse lurking below my feets, I don’t know. I decided to speed up and reached solid ground half an hour later. I went into the hut, packed my belongings, and said goodbye to the young girls. 3 hours later I reached the valley floor (Zinal) and I drove directly to the ancient city of Sion, to do some sightseeing of the castles and churches. A busy day full of contrasts, and that’s how I like it to be :-)