After two years of waiting it was finally time to start this project. We thought Stralhorn would be the perfect start: A pretty easy, not to steep mountain we could do on skis. So we drove to Saas-Fee and did the approach to Britanniahutte where we stayed the night before our summit attempt. Breakfast was served at 06:00 in the morning (also very nice breakfast for a mountain hut) and the weather looked amazing: Not too cold, sun and no wind. But the conditions were not the best. No snow for the last weeks made the glaciers dangerous with big open crevasses and rock hard ice in many places.
In our research we knew the first part down from the hut were pretty steep and standing with our skis on at the top I remember thinking “how the hell will I get down here?”. It was my 4th season on skis and I had never skied snow this hard before. It was like ice. Warm snow from the afternoon sun that froze over night and was now rock hard, uneven and scary. I took a big breath and made my first turn and lost both of my skis!
I didn´t even fall, I just made a turn but one second later I had no skis on my feet and I saw one of the skis slide down the mountain with great speed only to stop just 2 meters before a big cliff. What a nightmare start of this project. It could have been over in the first turn. Luckily I could go down and get the ski and we could continue.
After navigating down from the horrible steep part below the hut we made it onto the mellow glacier. It´s basically a long slog. If you keep a little bit to the right you avoid the worst crevasses. After about 4 km we took a little break on some nice rocks. Around her the route split to the right if you are going for Rimpfischorn. A peak we had in mind to do the next day but have to come back for since it was in no condition at the moment (too much hard ice).
We continued up and it got a little bit steeper. On Adlerpass we left our skis and continued in crampons due to the conditions. Snow got even harder and not even the Polish mountain guide aspirants on their day off choose to ski this part. After a climb up a steeper slope we made to the summit plateau. We crossed a few smaller crevasses and made it to below the summit ridge where there was 10 meters of blank ice to navigate before climbing the ridge. On the summit by the cross our Polish friend Kacper Tekieli (that I climbed Gerlasch in Slovakia with once) was waiting for us.
It was a long climb for our team that came straight from Sweden and was not yet acclimatized. We were slow. The guided group the day before told us it took them 8 hours up and 5 hours down. We made it up in 7,5 hours and every step above 3800 m was a burden. But the good part about bringing your skis is that you can just glide down after, right?
For someone like me, who barley can ski it was really hard. With the terrible snow conditions and being out of energy and already tired in my legs before even putting the skis back on it was more survival mode going down. After passing the worst part of the glacier, a labyrinth with ice I could finally relax a little and found some better snow that got warm by the sun. I got to do a few nice turns before we were back to the hardest part of the day: Climbing up the last steep part to the hut.
By now the sun had warmed the snow all day and then disappeared behind the mountains so the top layer was frozen but the rest soft. We tried walking on it but constantly fell down into the snow. We put our skis back on but I was scared: The snow was so hard and slippery and it was steep and I knew I would probably struggle a lot to get up there. I put my ski crampons on and thank god for that. Lifesaver!
We were back in the hut an half hour before dinner. It was a long day and the tricky part below the hut was the biggest time consumer of the day and trickiest part for sure. But we had done the first peak of the project!
/ Emma Svensson
Strahlhorn 4190 m
Route & grade
Normal Route, Allalin Glacier PD-
Pennine Alps, Switzerland
Start of climb
Saas-Fee to Britanniahutte
+ 1400 m
About the route
The steep part below Britanniahutte can be tricky. Watch out for crevasses on the glacier. Pretty straight forward route with no major hard parts. A good beginner mountain for someone with good fitness.
When to climb
March-June would be the best conditions but can probably be climbed later in summer too depending on conditions. Doing this mountain on skis would be the best option because of the long distance.
Gear to bring
30-40 m rope, harness, glacier rescue gear, crampons, ice axe, poles and skis. Ski crampons can be useful.
Approach to Britanniahutte (about 45 min from Felskin)
Approach to Britanniahutte. It´s possible to traverse direct from Felskin but the conditions on the traverse were not great so we decided to follow the ski track instead.
Passed the steep part below the hut and time to start moving up the glacier.
Nice rocks halfway for a break.
Moving up towards Adlerpass (we left our skis on the col, to the right in the photo below the rock).
Moving up the steeper slope.
On the summit ridge. A small but easy climb on loose rocks. Some exposure on your left side.
On the summit with our friend climber Kacper Tekieli who we met up there.
Just before the last hard part up to the hut.