Wallis 2000
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Wallis August 2000

Part 2: Nadelgrat

Lenzspitze (4294 m) ENE face, Nadelhorn (4327 m), Stecknadelhorn (4241 m)
Dürrenhorn (4034 m)

Claudia Bäumler, Helmut Hackl, Petra Kluger, Heinz Wohlwend, Hartmut Bielefeldt
Author of this text: Hartmut Bielefeldt

Trip report
August 10-12, 2000

Thursday, August 10, 2000: Ascent to Mischabelhütte
After a night at the campground between Randa and Täsch, we move to the other side of the Mischabel range. From Saas Fee it takes 4 1/4 hours to Mischabelhütte; since recently, the trail follows the crest from Upper Distelhorn to the hut.
new trail to Mischabelhütte
The new trail to Mischabelhütte is a little exposed but well secured.

At late afternoon, Petra und Heinz arrive. We finally could convince them of the good weather in Wallis. In the north, it had been rather unstable the last days.
Friday, August 11, 2000: Lenzspitze - Nadelhorn - Stecknadelhorn - Ulrichshorn - Bordierhütte
Early depart, like so often this week. At quarter to four the candidates for Lenzspitze (Claudia, Helmut, Petra, Heinz) set off. Lazy as I am, I sleep an hour longer. I had already done the face of Lenzspitze in 1985, at that time (beginning of September) at much worse conditions, however.
So I walk alone to Windjoch. This is not a problem since it is rather cold and the snow is firm. While I am waiting there for the sunrise in the icy wind (guess where the name of the pass might come from..), the others do the 450 height meters of the ice wall in 1h05, and 15 minutes later they reach the summit of Lenzspitze. The way on to Nadelhorn with all its Gendarmes keeps them busy for two more hours, so we meet with a perfect timing at ten to nine on the summit of Nadelhorn.
a perfect sunrise
A perfect sunrise
perfect conditions
Perfect conditions in the wall
Nadelhorn seen from Lenzspitze
It's quite far from Lenzspitze to Nadelhorn.
on the crest
On the crest
On our way down we also take the summit of Stecknadelhorn. Unlike in other years, there is a good trace, and this half hour pays off well for 4000 m peak baggers.
After climbing Ulrichshorn from Windjoch, we descend to Bordierhütte. A short steep passage on the glacier, at first glance appearing somewhat critical, turns out to be no serious problem - the abseil actions of the group in front of us just made us unsure for a while. At a quarter to two we are at Bordierhütte.
Nadelhorn and Lenzspitze seen from Ulrichshorn
From Ulrichshorn there's a beautiful view to Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn.
Saturday, August 12, 2000: Dürrenhorn, descent to Gasenried
Today Petra, Helmut, and Heinz will go to Nadelgrat via Hohberghorn NE wall, and then to Mischabelhütte and down to Saas-Fee. We turn towards "our" last remaining 4000 m peak here, the Dürrenhorn.
on Riedgletscher
Bernese Alps show up nicely from Riedgletscher

The first part of the way is the same for both routes until the beginning ot the Couloir to Dürrenjoch. At half past six we reach this point, after a three hours walk. The following couloir, about 45-50° steep, is done quickly in good snow conditions, and after another hour we reach Dürrenjoch (3916 m).
From here on, a rock ridge leads to Dürrenhorn. This is mostly easy scree terrain, but further up the ridge leans down, the crest becomes more pronounced and the ways around it are more exposed. It takes an hour to the summit which is located at the very end of almost horizontal crest portion.

During descent, the couloir is already a bit softened, but the snow still remains stable. Falling stones are rare, too. But hard to say how the conditions will be for the group that is still ascending here at half past nine.
The couloir can easily be seen at the left side of Dürrenhorn.

The way back over the flat glacier is a pleasure compared to yesterday. There are no problems of softened snow like after noon. What a difference two hours can make.
After a short break we continue the descent and arrive in Gasenried at half past two.
in the green again
In the green again.

Practical hints

The campground Attermenzen between Randa and Täsch might be worth mentioning. There you also find quite a lot of other crazy people with ropes, ice axes and such stuff.
Mischabelhütte (3329 m)
Tel. +41-27-9571317
From Saas Fee about 4 1/4 hours.
The new trail to the hut leaves the old trail near P.2688 and then follows the crest between Ober Distelhorn and the hut. Well secured (maybe too well), long portions of continuous fixed ropes, but completely without it might sometimes be quite exposed. In the afternoon, this is rather exhausting because there is no shadow.
Bordierhütte (2886 m)
Tel. +41-27-9561909
From Gasenried about 4 hours.
Before the glacier traverse and in the scree of the side moraine, the trail has a lot of ups and downs. The traverse is marked in summer, one crosses approximately in the middle of the plateau, marked by wands.
If the hut is not guarded, correspondingly these wands are not corrected and wander downwards with the glacier. Up to May of the following year, that can accumulate to hundred heters or more, and then the markers are standing directly in the crevasse zone. The crevasses there are abundant and well snow-covered in spring; I already had inspected one of them from inside for several hours (that was very wet and cold). So be careful if ascending there in spring.
Lenzspitze ENE face (D+)
The height of the wall from the bergschrund to the ridge is 450-490 meters depending on the leaving point, the slope is up to 57°, at the bergschrund possibly steeper. Due to the snowfall the weeks before, the conditions were ideal like seldom before; good stable snow over all of the wall. But that is very unusual for mid-August.
Lenzspitze - Nadelhorn (AD)
The crest connecting the two summits is mostly snowy between Lenzspitze and Nadeljoch (PD), afterwards mostly rocky (AD) with many small gendarmes that can be by-passed or passed. The maximum grade is III+. The guidebook time is 2 hours which seems to be correct for good conditions.
Windjoch (PD)
In the basin of Hohbalmgletscher, the trace leads parallel to the crevasses for quite a while. Except for mornings after cold nights, this area is correspondingy dangerous and should be made only with a rope.
Nadelhorn normal route (from Windjoch) (WS)
Also here we encountered perfect conditions, a good and comfortable trace, seldom some ice. This time, the trace led towards upper right into the saddle between gendarme and main summit in order to then gain the summit flank from there. In case of less snow one has to stay closer to the ridge. There is no crevasse danger, one can do this part unroped (but then has the problem of the softened snow to either Mischabelhütte and Bordierhütte).
Stecknadelhorn (PD)
The slope beneath Nadelhorns is quite steep, mostly the Stecknadelhorn is reached over the crest which makes it necessary to pass the big gendarme (III). In case of very good conditions like in our case there might be a trace traversing the slope from the Nadelhorn normal route at about 4230 m. At the summit of Stecknadelhorn a short portion of rock I-II.
Ulrichshorn - Bordierhütte (F/PD)
Normally the way via the summit of Ulrichshorn is better than the direct descent from Windjoch towards Bordierhütte - mostly the latter is impossible due to the bergschrund and the icy steep slope. This August, however, both was about the same difficulty.
At about 3300 m a steep section of the glacier might cause some problems, but it is not advisable to try to avoid it to the right or left.
To Bordierhütte it is better to follow the moraine trail down to its end; the turn-off at half height leads through very rough scree or - better said - a chaotic assembly of small rocks.
At 3400 m one turns off to the right from the route from Bordierhütte to Ulrichshorn, has to descend a couple to meters and reaches the base of the couloir to Dürrenjoch (3916 m). The first third one has to ascend in the couloir; further up there are anchors on the (orographically) left side. With good snow one can also follow the complete couloir. The couloir is 200 m high, becoming steeper towards the upper end (AD).
The further way to Dürrenhorn is rather obvious, PD (II), about an hour from the saddle. For our times, see below.
For the descent from the saddle one can use the anchors at the left rim for abseil, or one can descend (like we did, with good snow) back down the coloir.
Our times
10.08. 09:45 Saas Fee 1800 km 0.00
11:30 11:35 Schönegg 2500 m km 4.10
14:05 15:35 Mischabelhütte AACZ 3329 m km 6.20
16:05 before Hohbalmgletscher 3570 m km 6.70
16:20 Mischabelhütte AACZ 3329 m km 7.20

11.08. 03:40 Mischabelhütte AACZ 3329 km 0.00
05:15 05:30 Crevasse, Lenzspitze ENE face 3800 m km 2.00
06:35 Exit from wall 4250 m km 2.50
06:50 07:00 Lenzspitze ^ 4294 m km 2.60
08:50 09:40 Nadelhorn ^ 4327 m km 3.80
10:00 junction 4230 m km 4.00
10:15 10:20 Stecknadelhorn ^ 4241 m km 4.40
10:35 junction 4230 m km 4.80
11:00 upper Windjoch 3860 m km 5.80
11:05 11:35 Windjoch 3850 m km 6.00
11:50 11:55 Ulrichshorn ^ 3925 m km 6.30
13:00 end of glacier 3200 m km 9.50
13:40 Bordierhütte 2886 m km 11.20

12.08. 03:35 Bordierhütte 2886 km 0.00
04:35 04:40 at the glacier 3200 m km 1.70
06:30 06:35 Depot/base of Couloir 3660 m km 5.00
07:25 07:35 Dürrenjoch 3916 m km 5.20
08:25 08:30 Dürrenhorn ^ 4035 m km 5.60
09:05 Dürrenjoch 3916 m km 6.00
09:55 10:15 Depot/base of Couloir 3660 m km 6.20
11:10 11:20 end of glacier 3200 m km 9.50
11:50 12:15 Bordierhütte 2886 m km 11.20
14:20 Gasenried 1630 m km 20.20
Maps and guides
Guidebooks (in German):
  • SAC, "Hochtouren im Wallis" (CD-ROM, 1998), Routes 544 (Lenzspitze), 545 (Nadelhorn), 543 (Lenzspitze-Nadelhorn), 547 (Nadelgrat), 549 (Hohberghorn), 547 (Dürrenhorn)
  • SAC, "Walliser Alpen 5" (1993), Routes 400 und 401 (Windjoch), 343 (Lenzspitze), 353 (Nadelhorn), 342 und 355 (Lenzspitze-Nadelhorn), 359/364 (Stecknadelhorn), 372 (Hohberghorn), 367 und 361 (Hohberghorn-Stecknadelhorn), 375 und 378 (Dürrenhorn)
The route description of the ascent to Mischabelhütte is outdated in these guidebooks.

  • 1:50000 LKS 284S "Mischabel", 274 "Visp" (Bordierhütte)
  • 1:25000 LKS 1328 "Randa", 1308 "St. Niklaus" (Bordierhütte)

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© 2000 Hartmut Bielefeldt

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Last updated August 09, 2002 by Hartmut Bielefeldt