Weisshorn: foggy side

June is the perfect time to plant your zucchinis. It's also the season when the snow sticks best to the majestic faces of our Alps.

So we're tempting an old dream: the east face of the Weisshorn.
Nicolas Gendre at the summit of the Weisshorn, in the Swiss Alps
We call it an attempt, because there's no guarantee that you'll reach the top. It's never 100% guaranteed, and we tend to forget that. In 2023 in the Alps, we have the bad impression that if you don't make it to the top on the first try, it's either because you didn't set off with the right people, or you don't know how to read the weather report, or you didn't digest your ovosport properly. 30 years ago, between equipment, weather information, means of communication and knowledge of the terrain, the degree of uncertainty was much greater, as was the adventurous side. That, in a nutshell, is the theory that Nicolas Gendre and I are formulating as we embark on our ascent once again, after a bitter failure in 2021 due to a storm.
Nicolas Gendre with his bike in the Turtmanntal on his way to the Weisshorn
Our electric bikes, which didn't exist 30 years ago either, allow us to gain 500 meters of elevation without burning out our own batteries.
Arnaud Cottet in the Turtmanntal, on his way to the Weisshorn. Glacier Optics
The road becomes impassable for our bikes, so we strap our skis on our backs to reach the Tourtemagne Glacier.
gaetan gaudissard on his way back from the Weisshorn with his Moiry brown sunglasses

shared habitat

On the way up, we bump into Gaëtan Gaudissard with his Moiry brown sunglasses. This experienced mountaineer and steep skier is on his way down from the Weisshorn with his rope-mate Lucas Boissy. They've come to shoot footage for their new film. We won't be the first to ski it in 2023, and we don't really care. He gives us two good news: the conditions are good and we don't need to take the tent with us: they've built an igloo as a bivouac.

bed & breakfast

After a long and magnificent crossing, we finally find our 5-star bed & breakfast nestled in the Bisjoch pass. The good news is that the igloo is comfortable, and our hosts have even left us some lauzes as pillows. Bad news: it's snowing. We pretend to be asleep for a while, then leave at 1am.

building an igloo at the bisjoch pass before going to the weisshorn summit

We reach the bottom of the face, the snow is wet and not yet frozen. We quickly gain altitude, and the temperature drops. The challenge is to find the right passage in the rimée which then gives access to the face. Nico's flair is useful, and we don't waste much time. We're now ready for a long 1100-meter climb at 50 degrees with our skis on our backs. The face alternates between bad snow, ice, gobelets and fog, and we cross our mittens to make sure it clears up once we're at the top.

way up to weisshorn in the swiss alps

light and shade

Finally at the summit, it's indeed clear, but only on the west side. Unluckily, we're skiing the east face, which is full of pea purée. We stay at the top for half an hour, and the panorama on the west side is breathtaking, as is the atmosphere, albeit a little stressful. The other side of the mountain is still wrapped up in a thick blanket of fog, so we decide to descend again, cautiously. It's a good thing we sharpened our edges.

arnaud cottet with his moiry glacier optics sunglasses on the top of the weisshorn, 4506 meters above sea


Photo below: descent of the east face of the Weisshorn 

Nicolas Gendre on his way down the Weisshorn, skiing some spring snow

500 metres down, the sky finally opens up and we enjoy the soft snow at the bottom of the face. We cross the glacier again and rediscover the plant world. Tiredness sets in on the return journey. 24 hours later, we find ourselves back at the starting point. Despite the difficult conditions, it was a magnificent outing, ending with a cold beer and crispy chips. And at this point, that's all that matters.

Have a lovely summer,


Video below: a look back at 24 timeless hours.

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