Diablon des Dames: Viewpoint to Valais 4000ers
Θ CW Loop
Countless road construction projects forced a late start. And a late night pizza order. It was clear we'd be getting down in the dark, and so at the very last minute, decided to order our dinner before heading up for 2000 meters of vertical above Zinal. Most people doing the Diablon des Dames wake up at the Tracuit Hut and start up first thing in the morning. We launched from Zinal at about 3 p.m. with a 10 p.m. pizza deadline. The pressure was on.
Feeling a bit rushed, I hurried up to the Tracuit Hut, bought a Coke and ran back down to Janine and Moran making their way up. But instead of heaping praise for delivering a beverage, I was in trouble. During my head down, charge-pace, I'd passed right by the southwest ridge leading to the 3538 meter Diablon des Dames. The route Janine had intended to go up. Somehow, there'd been a major communication breakdown. "But I thought we were doing the south ridge right from the hut, it's the obvious line", I stated in defense. Apparently, this isn't the case. Online research revealed the normal ascent to be the much lower angled southwest ridge.
A friend of Moran's had recently done the traverse and as she understood it, had stayed right on the ridgeline for the best route. But as we saw it, the rock quality, as viewed from the Tracuit Hut, is not inspiring. We cast out in a sea of talus, angling up and west with the idea of merging into the southwest ridge as Janine had intended to do in the first place. But as we hit the first of the steep rock, it became immediately obvious the rock on the actual ridgeline was superb. With our discovery, we headed back east and gained the proper ridge until it began easing off into an obvious line right to the summit.
My screw up worked in our favor and we recommend doing exactly what we did. From Zinal, go all the way to the Tracuit Hut, then from the Col de Tracuit, gain the south ridge and follow it to the summit. If at any time you doubt your line, trend west towards the more lower angled southwest ridge. From the summit, head down the way you came until you can veer off west and descend directly down a path along the southwest ridge.
We loved this line and all compared the rock quality to the Weissmies southwest ridge, which sets the standard for quality and fun. The Diablon des Dames was actually easier than the Weissmies, and the views are some of the best in the Alps, thanks to being surrounded by seven of the Alps 4000 meter peaks, including the Matterhorn.
Zero wind, warm temps, and crystal clear weather made for a comfortable summit stop to take in the solitude and distant views all the way to Mont Blanc.
And then we remembered our pizza order, "Gotta go!"
We retraced the ridge back the way we came until it rolled over into the steeper section. From there, instead of continuing down to the Col de Tracuit, we descended steep scree down and right towards the southwest ridge Janine had in mind for our ascent. Sure enough, we quickly found ourselves on a faint, cairn marked trail all the way to the grassy slopes below where we easily re-joined the Tracuit Hut trail. From there, we turned on the headlamps and dashed for the pizzeria where, at 9:30, we arrived and happily discovered three pizza boxes, literally, with our names on them.
- From the Col de Tracuit, look for cables on the east side of the pass that lead to the base of the Diablon des Dames south ridge.
- With sections of T5 and some exposure, the south ridge does require route finding skills. For non-climbers, an ascent and descent of the southwest ridge is much easier.
- When descending the southwest ridge, the exit to the main Tracuit Hut trail is at the end of the ridge, but off the north side, which then wraps back around the base of the ridge where it connects with the hut trail.
With the steeper section of ridge behind, the summit ridge begins to flatten out with an almost sidewalk like ramp to follow.
Moran Ludwig runs the final meters to the summit of the Diablon des Dames with the Bishorn, Weisshorn and Zinalrothorn in the background.
Moran running down the southwest ridge as the day's last light fades away.
With only minutes to spare, we managed to change our pizzas "to go" to pizzas "to stay".
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