Day 3: Konkordia Hut to the Finsteraarhorn Hut
Day 4: GTFO out before the storm hits
We awoke the third day in the Konkordiahutte and packed up our things in preparation for a move. Our ascent of the Trugberg the day before had gone well and being that it wasn’t the most massive objective we weren’t wiped out. From here out we had a few different options and began weighing the different plans. Typically people on this tour would have already moved camp to the Finsteraarhorn Hut, another mountain hut of the Swiss Alpine Club at the southern foot of the Finsteraarhorn (14,022ft), the highest peak of the Bernese Alps. The biggest/gnarliest of our potential objectives, being able to start from the base of the mountain and having a full day would be preferable, but because it was Easter we hadn’t been able to get the days we’d like at the hut and would be forced to combine the climb with either a morning of travel to the hut or travel after, neither of which would be fun and both would make for a potentially really long, miserable day.
For safety, we decided today to move camp to the Finsteraarhorn hut and not attempt a climb afterwards on. Better to attempt an ascent the next morning where we’d be able to start early and have a full day in case something went wrong, in an emergency we could always crash at the hut an extra night if we needed to. This meant we had another relatively easy day ahead of us, skiing up a valley and over a shoulder to the hut, with some nice potential additional options for skiing some local peaks.
We set off up the valley, angling up relatively easy slopes for the saddle. Still in the shade, conditions we fairly icy and we broke out the ski crampons for the first time of the trip (a really useful tool to have). Sean and our friend Frank had previously attempted one of the peaks we were passing, and it was fun to connect the stories I’d heard to what I could actually see now.
Atop the shoulder we paused in the sun for snacks and switching our skis into downhill mode, joined by a few other parties both coming the same direction as well as some heading the opposite way. From here we had our first great view of the hut and the Finsteraarhorn, which I have to say looked a lot gnarlier than it did in photos. We could see a few parties heading up it, and while it was supposed to pretty straightforward, it looked a little terrifying.
Given we still had a ton of time left in the day, we went for the option ski of a nice peak across from the hut (the Wyssnollen). This turned out to the be one of the best decisions of the trip, as we found excellent snow both on the way to the base (see the powder video above) and all along it’s descent.
Baking in the sun, we began rushing up the face with a few other parties in anticipation of last night’s freeze turning to corn. Along the way we scouted numerous potential ski lines and began to get giddy with excitement: this was going to be some of the best skiing of the entire trip.
We were in race against the solar rays, and stopping just short of the summit we decided it was time to turn back and harvest some sweet, sweet corn. What followed was a few thousand feet of the most perfect ‘al-dente’ snow I’ve had the pleasure of skiing, combined with just the right steepness of pitch and majestic views all around. Our hoots and hollers echoed about, and we both returned to the glacier grinning from ear to ear, stoke levels running fully high.
With a long afternoon to still kill, we enjoyed the typical hut fare of rösti, beer, snacks, and a nice afternoon nap. Luckily this hut wasn’t as full, and we’d enjoy a much better night of sleep.
Unluckily, the gathering rumors of a major incoming storm began to materialize, and by dinner time it was the only topic of conversation in the hut. We paid special attention to the english-speaking guides, trying to decipher just how worried we should be. The fact that every group decided to cut their trips short and GTFO out of the mountains gave us our answer.
We went to bed that night with at least the knowledge that there was no reason to wake up super early; the storm would roll in that night and there was no way we’d try to climb any major objectives. The “only” thing we had to do was combine two days worth of travel into one massive slog and escape back to civilization before it got too bad. While it was a bit of a bummer to cut the trip short, we were really happy with the skiing we had done and getting out safely would be reward enough.
Day 4: GTFO out before the storm hits
As predicted the storm rolled in while we slept, and we awoke to a fresh layer of snow across everything and reduced visibility. The full brunt of it wasn’t expected util later, so we geared up, fueled up, and headed out into whatever we were about to find.
Luckily the route was pretty obvious, just a really long skin back up the saddle and valley, then on forever and ever just slightly angled up the Konkordiaplatz. Normally the views are a great distraction from the effort, as you pass by the mighty North Face of the Aletschhorn (a 3 mile long, 800 metre high wall of rock and ice that dominates this part of the Oberland), but we were fairly limited in what we could see with the storm.
There aren’t many pictures from this day, visibility was poor, the precipitation was constant, winds high, and we were just ready to get the hell out of there. On the way out we did stop at the Hollandia hut, where we were supposed to spend some of the later nights, to cancel reservations and fuel up on, you guessed it, rösti and beer (becoming kind of a rösti connoisseur at this point). Descending the valley from to the Hollandia gave us access to the classic alpine ski run into the Lotschental, where we’d catch a train and return to Zurich. It certainly would have been classic, basically skiing directly from these huge alpine landscapes into a parking lot in town, if it hadn’t been so warm that all we found was unconsolidated slush. This made the going really slow, slopping our way across a mushy wet landscape, and it didn’t help that by now the snow had turned to rain with the drop in elevation.
In the end, we were quite glad to make it town, and were back in Zurich in a matter of hours. Overall the trip had been a success: we toured some amazing mountains, stayed in fun huts, tagged a summit, and had a challenging but safe Alps experience (bonus: no on fell in a crevasse and died). In big mountains like these that’s just about all you can ask for. Can’t wait to get back.
(Huge shout out to Sean who did most of the logistical planning and organizing of this trip, without which it wouldn’t have been possible!)