Gletscher in den Schweizer Alpen


Alpine tour in the Uri Alps: ice and crystals

  • #Alpine tour
  • #Mountaineering
Julian Rohn
Author, 4-Seasons
© Fotos

Compared to other Alpine tour destinations, the Uri Alps are rather quiet. We set off on a summery route from the Hasli Valley to the Susten Pass.

When the alarm clock goes off at 4 am, it’s no big deal. You rarely sleep soundly the first night in a hut or cabin anyway. The thin mountain air is unfamiliar and one of your fellow campers is usually snoring. Slightly sleepy but highly motivated, we shovel down our muesli and stow away a few last things in our rucksacks before we leave the cabin and disappear into the darkness. Today we’re setting off from the Gelmerhütte in the direction of the Diechterhorn.

We – by the way – are four Transa colleagues, Joy, Fini, Marcel, Patrick, and a 4 Seasons editor. Together with our mountain guide Philipp from the Höhenfieber mountaineering school, we want to cross the Uri Alps from the Hasli Valley to the Susten Pass over the next few days.

A summit all to ourselves

Start early and be back at the accommodation early – that’s one of the most important rules on these summer Alpine tours. Because, as soon as the sun is high in the sky, the snow bridges over the crevasses soften. And beautiful summer days in the mountains tend to bring heat thunderstorms in the afternoon. As we strap on our crampons on the glacier, it slowly gets light. Philipp demonstrates the correct technique once again. The crampons need to be positioned so that as many points as possible dig into the ice at the same time. This is easier on the calf muscles and ensures a firm footing. A good refresher for us, and Fini, who is using crampons for the first time today, learns it in no time at all.

There’s no snow left on the lower parts of the Diechter Glacier. Safe crampon technique is important on the bare ice. We slowly make our way uphill. We’re completely alone. The Uri Alps are generally not teaming with people in summer, but today it’s especially secluded. Even at the top of Diechterlimi, the pass to the Trift Glacier, we can only make out one other rope team in the distance. Nothing like the masses who are probably sharing the track on the coveted four-thousand-metre peaks right now. From the small pass, we have them all in view: the Finsteraarhorn and the Schreckhorn in the Bernese Oberland are almost directly opposite us. A little further back, we recognise the peaks of the Matterhorn, Weisshorn and the Mischabel Group in Valais. At 3,389 metres, the Diechterhorn is well below the magic mark, but is no less beautiful for it. We reach the summit via a steep snowy slope and a short ridge climb in the granite.

Five people on an Alpine tour on the ascent.
Photo © Julian Rohn

We check the sky. Apart from a few thin clouds, there’s no sign of the weather turning. We can relax and start our descent over the Trift Glacier. It’s unusually warm, even for August. Because the zero-degree limit this week is at over 4,200 metres, the snow no longer freezes solid overnight. Even now, in the early morning, we’re trudging through soft firn. We give the open crevasses a wide berth. But, once, Patrick stumbles with one leg in a small, hidden crevasse and shortly afterwards a small dark hole opens up underneath me. No problem, we don’t fall completely through, and we’re tied together in a big six-person rope team anyway. All the others feel is a brief tug on the rope. In a few hours, though, it could well be one level lower in the same place.

Arriving early at our next accommodation for the night also has its advantages. At the Trifthütte, cabin warden Nicole welcomes us with a cup of tea. We’re the first guests of the day so the atmosphere is relaxed.

«I usually go hiking with friends. But this time, I’ve been able to learn something from our mountain guide.»
Julian Rohn
Author, 4-Seasons

Nicole asks if we want to go ‘hunting’, i.e. looking for crystals, later in the afternoon. We borrow a hammer and chisel from the cabin. She also tells us which way to go in on our search. The area around the cabin is known for its rich mineral deposits, as the array of varying specimens scattered around the cabin testify.

After a little refreshment in the form of cake and coffee on the cabin terrace, we thump and dig earth and rock out of crevices – hoping for a big find. Marcel in particular is loving the search. The orthopaedic technician from the Transa Markthalle Bern branch already has some experience in crystal hunting and a good nose for the right places. Again and again he finds small splinters and, at some point, there’ll be a crystal the size of a quail’s egg. For everyone else, even without a big find, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon high up with a view of the imposing drop of the Trift Glacier.

Panoramaaufnahme Triftgletscher

View of the Trift Glacier.

Photo © Julian Rohn

The end of silence

The next morning, we continue almost level with the huge ice tongue. The free-standing ice towers on the edge of the escarpment look even more impressive up close. After a short descent on the path leading to/from the cabin, we turn off into a wild valley. We continue upwards over moraine ridges and smooth granite slabs in the direction of Tierberglücke. Here, too, the high temperatures make themselves felt. There is almost continuous rockfall from the direction of the Mittler Tierberg, splashing up the grey ice of the Zwischen-Tierbergen glacier. We keep a safe distance and yet we are also strangely fascinated with each volley that crashes from the rocks high above.

We leave the narrow valley through a steep gully up to the Tierberglücke. We’re soon standing on the Vorder Tierberg. Today’s summit is 3,091 metres high and we’re leaving the quiet part of the Uri Alps behind us. The broad wall of the Wendenstöcke and the large boulder of the Titlis tower to the north, but the road to the Susten Pass winds up in front of them. From there, for the first time in days, the unfamiliar sound of motorbikes reaches us on the wind. We only have to traverse over a balcony-like glacier edge to reach the Tierberglihütte cabin. Numerous day visitors have climbed up from the road and are enjoying the uninterrupted view of the glacier. After days of tranquillity, it’s almost too busy for us.

  • Jemand hält einen Bergkristall, im Hintergrund Bergpanorama.
    Photo © Julian Rohn
  • Jemand auf einer Hochtour macht einen Schritt über eine Gletscherspalte, sie trägt Steigeisen und hält in den Händen einen Eispickel.
    Photo © Julian Rohn

It doesn’t get quiet at the hut until the evening, and it’s time to plan the final stage. At 3,503 metres, the Sustenhorn is the highest and most famous peak on our crossing. A very popular ski tour summit in spring – as part of the Uri Haute Route and also as a day tour from the Hotel Steingletscher. However, the weather forecast predicts conditions will take a turn for the worse with rain and, above all, thunderstorms in the early hours. But we don’t want to descend into the valley without getting what we came for, so we decide to set off a little earlier and give it a go. We leave any equipment we don’t need at the cabin, after all we’ll pass by here again on the descent. Our rucksacks are now extra light.

The plan seems to work – we set off the next morning under a clear, starry sky. With lighter packs and now perfectly conditioned to the activity from the last few days, we’re making excellent time. The ascent initially leads to a large glacier plateau and doesn’t pose a challenge at all. Only a large crevasse requires us to take a courageous step across, and then we can see the slope up to the final summit ahead. On the last few metres to the summit cross, the soft morning sun breaks through and bathes everything in a golden light. There’s no better way to reach the summit.

The clouds are slowly drifting upwards on the horizon, but they won’t catch us. Satisfied, we sign the summit register. On the descent to the Susten Pass road, we even have enough time for a quick slice of cake back at the cabin.

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  • #Alpine tour

  • #Mountaineering

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