The best 4000m peaks in Switzerland for beginners

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 01/06/2018
British Mountain Guide Paul Farmer on the south ridge of the Weissmies. Photo: Andy Perkins
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What's the best 4000m peak in the Alps for beginners? We asked five British Mountain Guides who are based in the Alps this question - Tim Blakemore, Jon Bracey, Matt Helliker, Andy Perkins and Tania Noakes. All of them picked a peak in Switzerland - testament to the concentration of excellent peaks of that altitude there.

Progressing to alpine routes can be intimidating and rightly so – as well as rock climbing and gear placements you need to be able to judge the weather and conditions, climb ice and snow, be safe in a remote environment, and cope with long approaches and altitude. These routes should only be undertaken by those who have learnt the appropriate skills. If in doubt, you know the score: hire a guide.

Breithorn
4164m
Pennine Alps, Switzerland
by Tim Blakemore

The Breithorn is the easiest 4000m peak in the Alps and ideally suited to beginners. Only 1.5 to 2 hours from the Kleine Matterhorn lift, the South-South-West Flank route has been the gateway to many novice alpinists starting their careers. Graded F it is little more than a steep walk with one rimaye to cross. If conditions are good a further summit (there are four further distinct tops above 4000m) can be easily reached by the sometimes corniced SSW ridge at PD (a little harder).
 
More about Tim: northernmountainsport.co.uk

Bishorn
4153m
Pennine Alps, Switzerland
by Jon Bracey

My favourite 4000m peak for beginners is the Bishorn 4153m. Away from the busy summer alpine valley bases, the hut approach starts from Zinal in the picturesque and serene Val d'Anniviers of the Valais Alps. There are no ski lifts, so start early for the five-hour hike to the Cabane de Tracuit via the Roc de la Vache. It's a great hut with brilliant food and welcoming staff. The next day gentle glacial slopes gradually lead you up to the pristine snowy summit with inspiring views across the Alps.

More about Jon: www.adventureconsultants.com


Selfie on Bishorn. Photo: Jon Bracey

Castor

4226m
Pennine Alps, Switzerland
By Matt Helliker

For me is has to be Castor, as it was one of my first ever 4000m peaks and one that's surrounded by other alpine giants, which is bound to get the imagination flowing! One of the best ways to climb Castor for me would be starting from the beaufitul Rifugio Quintino Sella, to climb a route entirely on glacier but without any real technical difficulty to the SE ridge, here the knife edge, airy ridge to its pyridmidal summit will increase the heart rate … but not only due to the altitude! Focus and best foot forward.

More about Matt: matthelliker.com

WATCH: Explore the Alps with the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust

Weissmeis

4017m
Pennine Alps, Switzerland
by Andy Perkins

The Weissmies is probably my favourite. Why? The south ridge is doable in a wide variety of conditions. The Almageller hut at its base is everything a hut should be. It’s low in the 4000m bracket so acclimatisation is easier. The full traverse up the south side and down the north face is a great journey but check the conditions with locals before committing to it. Also, there’s reason why it’s the banner shot on my website! 

More about Andy: andypmountainguide.com


Gav Parker and Michelle Ward on the traverse of Piz Palu. Photo: Tania Noakes

 

Piz Palü 
3900m   
Bernina Massif SW Switzerland
by Tania Noakes

The fact that this one falls a touch below 4000m has protected it from popularity so it remains a more wild alpine experience. The valley base is the Engadine, home to the famous ski resort St Mortiz. Piz Palü is a beautiful, striking ridgeline composed of three summits linked by airy snow crests and rocky scrambling. It is very accessible from the nearby Diavolezza hut (2978m), which is more like a hotel with both basic and luxury options. In good conditions, it is possible to take an early flight to Milan Bergamot airport, arrive in time for the last lift and climb it in a long weekend. The traverse of the ridge itself will test all of your alpine skills but at a relatively simple level. The climbing is never sustained and the ridge broadens regularly to allow you to catch your breath, regain your energy and to take in the awe-inspiring views of the Bernina range. 
 
More about Tania: www.classicclimbs.com

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