Five thousand metres of vertical joy

Five thousand metres of vertical joy

By Anna Wells

Five thousand meters of vertical joy - the exhilarating feeling of conquering high altitudes, one step at a time.

At some point during each of my trips to the alps I have always found myself drawn to the Saastal valley. In contrast to the hussel and bussel of Chamonix and Zermatt, the Saastal valley is a serene, understated and beautiful location with plenty of magnificent mountains. It was actually the first place I ever came to learn the skills of alpinism and over the next few years I worked my way through most of the 4000m peaks in the area, climbing some of them up to four times! But two remained elusive: Rimpfishorn and Lenspitze.

Rimpfishorn is described by the guidebook as a consolation prize when snow conditions prevent ascents of the more technical peaks in the area. I therefor considered it something of a bad weather option and consequently a previous attempt on skis had resulted in a sorry retreat during a snowstorm. Various other planned attempts were all aborted before they even commenced and so sadly this mountain came to be in my head as one I needed to “get over and done with”! How wrong and disrespectful my attitude was to this stunning mountain that stands recognisable within any angled panorama of the range!

In the interest of both fitness and finances, I have become attracted to the notion of tackling peaks as day-trips from the car park. Lifts and huts have been replaced by stronger legs and a slightly better bank balance. And so, after a night at the carpark in Taschalp we set off at 4am towards the glacier to begin our ascent of Rimpfishorn. Soon the first morning light began to appear behind the Monta Rosa massif and Zermatt giants, a fiery red light creating an unbelievable silhouette of the range. A little after that, the first beams of sunshine touched down gently on the Matterhorn giving the summit ice fields a gentle orange glow. It was breathtaking.

After crossing endless crevasses, we ascended to the col, and then onto the main WSW ridge towards the summit. Recent snowfall meant we kept our crampons on for a mixed style ascent, moving together clipping a mixture of bolts, pegs and pieces from our own small rack. A final scramble saw us at the summit, where we exchanged photos with fellow mountaineers and enjoyed some of my last remaining Scottish oatcakes. Several hours later we were back at the car, brewing up tea and contemplating the sensibility of our plan for the following day. We were already quite tired but neither of us could resist the good weather forecast and the idea to see if our bodies could manage another huge, even bigger, day!

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