The Zinal Rothorn is one of those climbs that, for better or for worse is overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, in this case the Matterhorn just to the south and the Weisshorn to the north. The Rothorn, has become one of our favorites, however. Clean solid rock, diverse and interesting climbing, fewer climbers, a wonderful hut and views unequaled in the area.
The climb to the hut is on a good but long trail, leaving Zermatt right out from the town center and climbing over 5000 feet to the pleasant Rothorn Hut. The following morning we ascend an easy glacier but soon turn upward on steeper snow slopes with short rock steps to reach a fine snow arete that leads to the final rock pyramid.
This is climbed first by mixed then more rock climbing to the SW ridge, at a point known as the Gabel. Above this the route rises steeply, climbing straight up the ridge crest for one pitch before traversing left across the Biner Slab. Mixed climbing brings us back to the crest with is closely followed to the summit.
The sound rock and tremendous exposure are what make this climb so special. There are many sections where we are right on the crest, feet seemingly thousands of feet above the glaciers below.
Much of the route on the Rothorn faces south, and the climbs comes into good condition soon after snowfall. A few days of sun are often all that is needed to melt the snow off the difficult pitches. Often other peak, such as the Matterhorn will remain out of condition while the Rothorn is quite doable, even in spite of the difficulty of the rock, which is generally greater than that found on the Matterhorn.
|The view south from the summit|
The Zinal Rothorn requires a wide range of skills. It is one of those big mountains where the technical difficulty is not extreme (though there are a few hard moves here and there, but cumulatively it quite demanding. The rock is the primary difficulty, and occasionally we climb parts in crampons, particularly after the Biner Slab. There is moderately steep snow and ice lower on the peak. Also, the climb is a big day and good fitness is needed.
Climbers need to be very fit, with good endurance, comfortable on steep icy slopes with french technique cramponing and be able to efficiently climb mid-5th class rock in crampons.
Other peaks that can be climbed from the Rothorn hut are the Trifthorn, the Wellenkuppe and the Ober Gabelhorn. This last can be done by its normal route from the hut, or the Arbengrat on the SW side can be climbed as an "approach" to the Rothorn hut, a very hard approach indeed.
|The Rothorn hut|
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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