Dom was my first 4000 meter peak in 2007. It's the highest mountain entirely within Switzerland and the gain of elevation is 3200 meters, thus one of the most demanding ascents in the Alps.
Start in Randa
I parked my car at the trainstation in Randa, south of Visp. The elevation in Randa is 1400 metres and it's a long way to the Dom summit from here. I packed my gear and set off at 13:00, first towards the church in Randa. From here it is excellent signs all the way to Domhütte. An early start is recommended because then you can walk in the shadow, while I had to walk under a steaking hot sun. My heavy backpack didn't make it easier, but I had no other choice than to bring my sleeping bag and other camp gear, because the hut was full.
It was relatively steep but easy going in the forest. Well above the forest started the fixed ropes, or actually iron pegs and wires. I could see other people taking on their harness, but I continued unbelayed.
At 16:30 I reached the Domhütte (2940m), situated on a ridge left of the Festigletscher (glacier). It has 75 beds, far to little for the high season traffic. I asked nicely if it was possible to sleep on the floor somewhere, but I was rejected. I had to camp outdoor, 1 hour above the hut. Camping next to the hut is forbidden. After a couple of hours rest outside the hut, I continued my hike beyond the hut. After having gained 200 metres of elevation, I could see 2 tents and plenty of available sites for a biwak. From here I could also see the route further up, which now turned right on to the Festigletcher. It didn't look to bad concerning crevasses, which is my fear number one, when soloing mountains.
It was a fantastic evening. I could see Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Obergabelhorn, Matterhorn in the beatiful evening sun. The other people planned to wake up 02:00, but I thought that was far to early. Anyway I agreed that they give me a signal when leaving. Then I prepared my site, using the backpack, rope and jacket as sleeping-matress. I tried my bed, and it felt comfortable. At least I wouldn't freeze with my 20 below zero down-bag. I marvelled at the beautiful sunset, before I closed my eyes.
Dom by night
At 02:00 a climber woke me up. Afraid that I would go back to sleep, I moved myself into a sitting position and ate some food. Still i relaxed for more than one hour, but as soon as I could see and hear climbers from the Domhütte started to approach my camp, I started to prepare for leaving. At 03:45 with approx 20 climbers in front of me, I left the biwak site, aiming for the glacier. It was a pleasant warm night, and I really enjoyed the walk on the glacier. Not too slow, and not too fast. I crossed some ugly crevasses, but I was more concerned about the return later in the day, when the snowbridges soften. Thus I agreed with myself that I would try to join a roped team, when returning over the Festigletscher.
After one hour, I had got in front of most of the climbers, and stood beneath the steep and dark rock pitch to Festijoch. Here I decided to wear my helmet, but take off my crampons. It was steeper than I expected, but the difficulty did not exceed II. In addition there were some fixed ropes. After 20 minutes I gained the ridge (Festigrat), then I had to traverse it for a short bit, before I descended a 10 metres exposed pitch to the Festijoch.
I put on my crampons again and started on the steep ice/snow slopes of Festigrat. It got unpleasently steep (up to 50 degrees), thus I was very glad to have 2 ice-axes on the solid ice. At a couple of occation I decided to turn right onto the rock (II+), when the ice-slopes got too exposed. A little further up I got a serious problem with one of my crampon, standing on a 50 degree ice slope. Without my extra iceaxe I would have been in a very dangerous position. It was nerve-wrecking even with 2 ice-axes to traverse onto the rock again, where I could put on my right-foot crampon again. I lost some confident in my shoes/crampons setup, but luckily the steepest part was now finnished (anway there was the descent to think about as well, but hopefully in softer condition).
The Festigrat is quite long, but the second part of it, was mostly easy going (no more hard ice) however more windy. I had only one team in front of me when I started on the last few metres to the summit. I reached the top at 08:30 and at 4545 metres I felt above the entire Alps. Only the Monte Rosa massif to the south rise higher than Dom.
After 5 minutes entirely alone on the summit, another solo-mountaineer arrived at the summit. We took photos of eachother and I agreed with Mike that we could rope up together and descend the rather crevassed normal route (Hohberggletscher). This would probably be much faster than to down-climb the Festigrat-route.