Our plan was to take the lift up from Zermatt, climb Pollux, the next day Castor and then on day 3 do the Breithorn Traverse, spending the nights in the Guide d’Ayas hut.
We caught the first lift up, set foot on the glacier and realized how warm it was – we plunged through the snow at every step, and all the snow bridges over the many crevasses were collapsing. It was a stressful walk across the glacier, staying super focused all the time to choose the right route, keep the rope tight and not fall into any hidden crevasses.
We made it across the glacier without any incidents, took a short break at the base of the mountain, and then started to head up the ridge which in the first part basically consists of lots of loose rock. Further up the rock quality improves, and the crux section is equipped with chains to help you move up safely along the vertical rock walls.
After the crux section we took a little break near the Madonna statue up there, before putting our crampons back on to head up the snow ridge to the summit. About 15 minutes later we stood on the summit of Pollux – peak number 7 of 82!
Heading down was rather quick – we did two rappels from the bolted anchors on the crux section to avoid down-climbing and then carefully made our way back down the sections with loose rock. Back on the glacier we put on the crampons once again and headed towards the Ayas hut. At this point the glacier was in a very sorry state, super wet (my boots were soaking by the time we reached the hut!) with waterfalls pouring down from the seracs above the hut. We speeded past a big overhanging serac that looked like it could come down at any minute, and plunged through wet snow on the last part towards the hut.
As soon as we got there we both agreed on not wanting to traverse this glacier too many more times, and decided to postpone the climb of Castor for another day – making the next day a rest day in order to get up super early and reach the Breithorn traverse while the glacier would still be frozen on the morning of day 3.
Therefore we spent the evening and all of the next day relaxing in the Ayas hut, which is a very pleasant place to be – super nice staff and great food.
On Monday, June 20th, we woke up at 2.30 am to do the Breithorn traverse. We left the hut shortly after, and immediately felt warm air on our faces. How was this possible? We thought that at least at night the temperatures would drop below zero. But the sound of pouring water from the seracs and the occasional roar of big chunks of ice crashing down on the glacier told us otherwise. We still decided we would at least go and get a feel of the glacier to see if the track was frozen – but the snow was super soft and wet, and after no more than four steps we heard another big serac fall.
We both agreed that this did not feel right at all, so it was an easy decision to turn right back around and head towards the valley instead. The only problem was that the valley we were now headed towards was in Italy… and the van was parked in Täsch, on the other side of these 4000 meter high mountains. This was turning into a completely different kind of adventure!
After a long hike down (9 km and -1700 meters) we reached Saint Jacques, where we managed to hitch a ride down to Champoluc (HUGE thanks to the guy who dared pick these two smelly, sweaty Swedish climbers up in his nice car). From there we found a taxi that took us down to Verrès, where we took a local bus to Aosta, then an international bus to Chamonix (with a slightly stressful moment on the border with France since Emmas passport was in the van, in Switzerland – but the border police was kind enough to let us through anyway!).
From Chamonix we finally could catch the nice, reliable Swiss trains to get back to Täsch, and four train rides later we were finally back on the right side of the mountains and could enjoy a nice warm shower at the camping where the van was parked.
So, all in all – this did definitely not go as planned, but we’re still happy with our decision to not head out on the glacier. And we are incredibly worried about the state of the glaciers. The heatwave that’s currently sweeping through Europe is making enormous damage to the already suffering glaciers and snow fields in the Alps, and it’s all but normal. It’s been so evident to us during these past few days that the climate crisis is not something that will happen in the future – it is here, now, and we need to do all we can to mitigate it.
We will need to rethink the project a bit, due to the conditions, but I think we will also be more mindful about our own impact on the climate and environment, and try to be more vocal about what needs to be done, how important it is to take care of this planet that we call home.
That’s it for now – we’re currently waiting for a good weather window to perhaps climb a few more peaks!
Pollux 4092 m
Route & grade
Normal route, PD+
Pennine Alps, Switzerland
Start of climb
Klein Matterhorn cable car station
Approximately 5 km one way from the cable car station
+ 500 m (and another +200 if you head back to the cable car instead of going down to the hut).
3-5 hours from the lift to the summit – it depends a lot on the state of the glacier and how crowded the ridge is. We took it slow on the glacier, but did not have anyone ahead of us on the ridge so we didn’t need to wait on the crux, and it took us about 4 hours from the lift to the summit.
About the route
This is a climb that you can do in a day if you catch the first lift up and move at a good speed – but I’d recommend starting from the Ayas hut instead of doing it from the lift, in order to start early and pass on the glacier before it gets too warm.
When to climb
Early summer is probably the best bet if you want to find the ridge quite snow free and the glacier is still in decent conditions.
Gear to bring
Rope (30 meters works fine, we did two 15 meter rappels), a few quickdraws, equipment to do rappels, glacier rescue gear, helmet, ice axe, crampons.
On the crux section with the chains.
The last snowy slope to the summit!
One of the many crevasses.
Big waterfalls coming down from the seracs.
The nice terrace at the Ayas hut!
Rest day activity 🙂
Heading down towards Italy.