This was my third summer in the Alps in four years. As usual my plan was to ascend as many 4000 meters as possible. The first peak on my "to-do-list" was Weissmies, so I headed for the Saas Valley in Switzerland. I was very pleased to see that the weather was much better here than in Austria a few days before, when I had to cancel my Grossglockner climb. The sun always shines in Valais....
Weissmies is a perfect peak to climb solo. It's a rather safe mountain and the south-west route has no glaciers to deal with. Hence I find it strange that the normal route is the north-west flank, which is a heavily crevassed route. But this is certainly due to the easier access and a cable car bringing climbers up to approx 3000m.
The glacier route was off-limit for my part, hence I had to walk from the valley floor at 1700m elevation to Almageller Hut at 2860m and sleep there for one night (a half night to be more precise). Due to high temperatures it was not a very pleasant walk in the forest. But as I gained altitude, the temperature sank to more acceptable levels and I started to enjoy the trip. I walked rather fast in order to reach the hut before the daily rain shower started.
Almageller Hut was a really nice place to stay. The dinner was OK (sausages) and the beer was excellent. I spent the whole evening talking with 3 Belgium guys. They had a lot of information to share, because they had summited Weissmies in the morning. The peak was covered in clouds, so they were somewhat disappointed of the view.
A sleepless night
Usually I have no problems sleeping in altitude, but "sharing" beds with people that are snoring, easily keeps me sleepless. Frequent toilet trips are also annoying. I can lay awake for several hours considering whether to go out or not. This is a game I always loose. That night I had to leave my warm bed two times and search for the toilet in complete darkness.
Given the circumstances I was very tired when the indoor light was turned on at 4 AM. I ate my simple breakfast and packed the equipment. It was dark outside but finding the trail was no problem. After one hour I reached Zwischenbergpass (3268m) and for the first time I could see the continuing route up the snowfields. The steepness of the snowfield increased in the upper part where I had to put on my crampons. I was by now far above the other climbers. In approx 3800 meter altitude I switched to the rock ridge. This was easy scrambling sometimes on mixed ground. I stopped next to a memorial of climber for a few minutes, trying to figure out how it was possible to die here.
First to the summit
When I reached the top of the rock ridge I considered putting on my crampons, but the remaining snow ridge did not look very steep or narrow, so I continued without. Less than half an hour later I summited Weissmies (4023m), and I was surprised to see that none had arrived from the north-west side yet. I sat down totally alone and gazed at the breathtaking mountain panoramas in all directions. Especially the view northwards to the Bernese Alps was magnificent.
15 minutes later I started to descend, and I met a lot of climbers on the way up (approx 30). All of them were roped up in teams and brought loads of climbing gear. To be frankly I could not understand why, as the technical difficulties on the ridge was not exceeding II-. I also had to help a father and his son up an easy step (I+), the father being a very experienced mountaineer according to his stories in the Almagaller Hut the evening before. I could tell from his eyes that he felt the situation rather embarrassing.
The descent from 4023m to 1700m was less demanding on my legs than expected, but I was glad when I finally arrived the campsite at Saas-Grund. I found it essential to get a proper dinner and a whole night sleep before I continued to Nadelhorn base camp the next day.