Lenzspitze - Nadelhorn traverse (23.07.2019)

Written by hmsv1 (Hannah Vickers) GSM

Start point Mischabel hut (3,305m)
Characteristic Alpine climbing
Duration 8h 00min
Distance 5.8km
Vertical meters 1,012m
GPS
Ascents Lenzspitze (4,294m) 23.07.2019
Nadelhorn (4,327m) 23.07.2019

With a pretty good looking weather forecast for the week after we’d come down from the Dent d’Herens there didn’t seem to be any reason to stop ticking off some good quality 4000m peak ridge traverses. So after having taking a rest day in Evolene the next plan on my «wishlist» was to climb the east-northeast ridge of the Lenzspitze and continue the traverse to the Nadelhorn, returning down its easy northeast ridge. Tim had done the northeast face of the Lenzspitze before and the traverse to the Nadelhorn but not the east-northeast ridge so he was psyched for giving it a go (generally he’s psyched for most things regardless of whether he’s done it before or not though)! We left Evolene again relatively early for the drive over to Saas Fee and parked up just outside the town. The start of the route was from the Mischabel hut, located on a rocky outcrop high up on a ridge at 3340m. Like the Aosta hut it’s in a pretty stunning location and the hut walk in itself is really nice. The option was to either start walking direct from Saas Fee, giving an elevation gain of about 1500m, or take the Hannig chair lift up to 2300 and start walking from there to save ourselves about 500m of elevation. Unsurprisngly we took the latter option.

The week had started warmer than the previous week and the walk-in to the Mischabel hut was pleasant but hot. We walked slowly, same strategy as on the way in to the Aosta hut. Going fast on a hut approach was clearly not a smart thing to do because everyone who’d gone past us on the way to the Aosta hut had been much slower than us on summit day on the Dent d’Herens. Anyway, the first half of the walk to the Mischabel hut was on a nice gently sloping path, which led us up to the start of a series of via ferrata type cables and ladders nearly for the rest of the way up to the hut. It made the hike a bit more interesting than plain walking anyway, so I thought it was good fun. Also seemed like a good option for acclimatising if I was to spend some time in the Saas valley again. We used about 3 hours to get to the Mischabel hut from the Hannig lift, so it didn’t really take such a long time and we could eat lunch inside the dining room of the hut since it was just past midday when we got there. Initially I’d been given a bed in one of the dormitories upstairs but the girl at the reception was super helpful and friendly and told me that if I wanted more space then I’d be welcome to use the winter room, which is basically another small hut just below the main building. Well to me it seemed like a win-win situation – no people to share the hut with and it was cool and dark inside the old hut, so naturally I took this option without any second thoughts! I was already really excited about going to bed. Maybe this could be my first hut night with a really good night's sleep?!!

Scenic walk up to the Mischabel hut
Scenic walk up to the Mischabel hut
Good Swiss paths :)
Good Swiss paths :)
Via ferrata type adventure trail
Via ferrata type adventure trail
View back down toward Saas Fee from the trail up to the Mischabel hut
View back down toward Saas Fee from the trail up to the Mischabel hut

It was a long afternoon before dinner was being served at 6.30pm but there were some magazines in German (with nice pretty mountain pictures) to browse through and I had some music to listen to on my phone, so the time passed fairly quickly. Dinner was good, with the usual starter of a soup followed by a main course of some sort of sausage with polenta and salad. We were sat next to a friendly pair of people at the table – a Swiss lady who was very pleased at having summited the Nadelhorn via the normal route, apparently her highest peak so far. And her guide was the father-in-law of speed climber Dani Arnold! Talk about small world :) Maybe not as exciting as if we’d bumped into Dani Arnold himself but still very cool I thought.

We had yet another early breakfast set for 2.30am, so it was early bedtime again and this time instead of heading off to the dormitory dreading the night to come I almost skipped happily down to the old hut knowing that there was absolutely no danger of being in a room with snorers that night. In fact no danger of being in a room with anyone else! And it definitely was worth it because I did have an awesome sleep (though maybe with a few vivid dreams) and was feeling super cheerful when the alarm went off at 2.15am. Never have I felt so happy to wake up at 2.15am before ;) But 5.5 hours sleep seemed like a very good deal in comparison to the sleep I had had at the Almagellar, Torino and Aosta hut so far on this holiday!

After the usual quick breakfast we were ready to go at around 3am again. It was a fairly brutal start to the day with the path ascending straight up from the hut and following the ridge in a westwards direction on the southern edge of the Hohbalm glacier. The trail eventually gave way to more broken ground and easy scrambling, then rose more steeply in places and provided nice climbing with the odd slab traverse thrown in here and there. For most of the early part of the ridge I don’t remember a lot about what we climbed since we couldn’t see it, other than the piece of rock which was closest to our headtorches! We’d initially got passed by a pair of italians (??) but as Tim put it: they didn’t seem to be able to climb as fast as they could walk! They let us past again…. The first hints of dawn began to appear as we arrived at the foot of the first tower. Still not enough light to be able to switch off the headtorches, but there were some nice orange and purple stripes on the horizon behind us. The climbing here was surprisingly nice with decent hand and footholds all the time, though I guess it could have been more fun in daylight. At the top of this first tower there was another slab that had to be descended and not far after that a short abseil descent, from where we did a sort of rising traverse around a pinnacle on the ridge; there was the most incredible sunrise just as we finished this traverse and arrived at the start of the second tower/buttress. Good timing too when a Swiss guide and his client came up onto the ridge behind us, it made a very good picture!

Tim on the first tower
Tim on the first tower
First lights of dawn
First lights of dawn
Tim downclimbing one of many slabs!
Tim downclimbing one of many slabs!
Dawn over the Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn, Dufourspitze and Alphubel
Dawn over the Strahlhorn, Rimpfischhorn, Dufourspitze and Alphubel
View eastwards
View eastwards
North face of the Dom comes into view
North face of the Dom comes into view
Zoom in on the Stellihorn
Zoom in on the Stellihorn
Abseil number one
Abseil number one
Traversing across to the next tower
Traversing across to the next tower
Swiss guide at sunrise
Swiss guide at sunrise

Now it was more type 1 fun with climbing on fairly good, solid rock in early morning golden sunshine. It had already been fairly mild but now it was getting warm very quickly. Team Switzerland overtook us around here since the guide didn’t appear to be concerned over putting in much protection. It seemed to be just about possible to climb two different lines on the same tower, but I didn’t like very much that I was climbing a line directly under them for most of the time. Fortunately it didn’t last too long and we were soon at the start of the snow ridge bordering the northeast face of the mountain. From here there was a very good track and good crampon snow leading up the initial part of the ridge, but the upper section largely consisted of ice and loose rocks at the side. Team Switzerland didn’t seem so competent with their front pointing skills as they did on rock and we ended up waiting a distance behind as the guy on the end of the rope was scrabbling a bit hopelessly up the ice and releasing a load of small rocks as he did. Tim ended up taking a detour onto the looser rock ridge at the edge f the ice to avoid being directly in the firing line of the stones that were coming down. Not a great alternative, but compared with behind the second Swiss guy it seemed like a relatively good option.

After joining the rock again it was a short distance to the summit of the Lenzspitze where we arrived 4h 15 from the hut. The views across to the north face of the Dom were fantastic from here and there was an obvious track which could be seen in the snow. By now the sun was so warm I could take off my fleece jacket and was still warm enough only wearing a vest top, which felt pretty bizarre up at over 4200m! We took a nice little break here to enjoy the views and a bit of drink and let Team Switzerland get ahead since they had not stopped at the summit. Then we eventually started the traverse across to the Nadelhorn. The ridge connecting the Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn had quite a few mini summits along the way, and I had not counted how many there actually were when we looked across to the ridge from the climb up the Lenzspitze but there seemed to be a lot! The initial descent from the Lenzspitzw was mostly over easy broken terrain though it was fairly exposed. The ridge continued up and over the minisummits for a while giving nice scrambling in places and a few downclimbs along the way. Generally the rock quality got better and better as we progressed along the ridge and although some of the climbs seemed fairly steep there were always massive jugs to grab hold of a stand on. It was such nice climbing! We passed Team Switzerland again as they were having a food break and then continued to cruise along the ridge to the Nadelhorn. I could quite happily have spent all day climbing this kind of rock so it was a pity when it was over and we’d finally reached the final top before walking across to the summit of the Nadelhorn. A short downclimb and scramble back up brought us over to the summit cross and we met lots of other climbers who’d done the snow plod up the northeast ridge on the other side of the mountain. This was our easy descent route. It had taken just less than 2h to traverse from the Lenzspitze to the Nadelhorn, so it was still only 9am when we got to the day’s second summit and we took another long break about 20m below the summit. It had been a bit busy on the summit itself so there weren’t many places to sit down!

Stunning golden light on the ridge. We walked across that!
Stunning golden light on the ridge. We walked across that!
Tim starting the climb up tower number 2
Tim starting the climb up tower number 2
The ridge between the Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn
The ridge between the Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn
Dom north face. This needs to be skied! :)
Dom north face. This needs to be skied! :)
On the snow
On the snow
Catalogue pose at the start of the snow (photo by Tim N)
Catalogue pose at the start of the snow (photo by Tim N)
At the top of the first part of the snow (photo by Tim Neill)
At the top of the first part of the snow (photo by Tim Neill)
Back on the rock (photo by Tim Neill)
Back on the rock (photo by Tim Neill)
Other climbers below
Other climbers below
Tim at the summit of the Lenzspitze with the Nadelhorn to the right and Weisshorn on the left
Tim at the summit of the Lenzspitze with the Nadelhorn to the right and Weisshorn on the left
Summit selfie with the Dom behind
Summit selfie with the Dom behind
Weisshorn!!
Weisshorn!!
More posing on the Lenzspitze (photo by Tim Neill)
More posing on the Lenzspitze (photo by Tim Neill)
Dom north face in all its glory
Dom north face in all its glory

After breakfast number three we got the crampons back on and basically walked shortroped all the way back down the northeast ridge in the amazing track that was there; as we descended more south facing slopes down to the Hohbalm glacier the snow quality generally got worse, so it was a matter of getting it done and getting off the glacier sooner rather than later. We joined the ascent ridge after half hour or so crossing the glacier and then it was a straightforward walk back down the trail to reach the Mischabel hut again. In total it had only taken 8 hours to do the traverse even with all the breaks, so it was a fairly decent time I think. We were still back before Team Switzerland in any case, so that was all that mattered ;) After about an hour drinking coffee, drying out gear and repacking all our kit we decided to head on back down to the valley from where we’d drive over to Tasch for the night. It was a easy, albeit hot walk which took about 2 hours for the 1000m descent to the Hannig lift, but at least it was good fun with the via ferrata and we lost the height without too much effort! 12 hours after breakfast we were back in Saas Fee. It was a really great feeling to have completed such a fine ridge traverse and in such warm and calm weather too. Thanks to Tim for another fantastic trip! :)

Descent off one of the numerous minisummits
Descent off one of the numerous minisummits
Before climbing the next one
Before climbing the next one
And then abseiling again...
And then abseiling again...
Summit of the Nadelhorn!
Summit of the Nadelhorn!
Tim coming over the last part of the ridge to the summit of the Nadelhorn
Tim coming over the last part of the ridge to the summit of the Nadelhorn
Yet another summit selfie
Yet another summit selfie
Crowded!
Crowded!
Last breakfast for the day
Last breakfast for the day
The excellent track down
The excellent track down
View of the northeast face of the Lenzspitze. Not super snowy!
View of the northeast face of the Lenzspitze. Not super snowy!
Start date 23.07.2019 03:02
(UTC+01:00 DST)
End date 23.07.2019 11:02
(UTC+01:00 DST)
Total Time 8h 00min
Moving Time 3h 38min
Stopped Time 4h 20min
Overall Average 0.7km/h
Moving Average 1.6km/h
Distance 5.8km
Vertical meters 1,012m

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