A trail mountaineering route with a Himalayan look and feel
Θ Out & Back
After running and climbing the Diablon des Dames, we thought we'd have an easier day and run up to the Cabane du Grand Mountet directly beneath several of the 4000 meter peaks we'd stared at the day before. Somehow, our easy day became an even harder day, and we found ourselves on the summit of the Dôme after climbing yet another perfect ridge. Somehow, mountains lure us further and higher.
Thanks to all those towering 4000 meter peaks, the trail from Zinal to the Cabane du Grand Mountet is undoubtedly one of the most scenic in all the Alps. At the beginning, the trail climbs steeply for about 500 meters before traversing high above what's left of the Glacier de Zinal. The trail eventually enters a massive cirque with the Zinalrothorn, Obergabelhorn, Mont Durand, Dent Blanche and the Grand Corner directly above. For those that have been to the Himalaya, you'll be reminded of similar landscapes in Nepal, but it'll all become clear where you are when you see the hut with its' Swiss flag.
By the time you reach the hut you'll have 1200 meters in your legs and feel like you've already earned a treat and reached your turnaround point. But it's these sorts of landscapes that lure you deeper, and there is a summit above the hut perfect for mountain runners wanting to do some easy scrambling in wild and remote terrain. You can make a quick hut stop, but don't take too long as there is a lot of work to be done. From the hut, continue on the trail up a steep moraine until about 3150 meters, then veer off left (north) through talus towards La Forcle. From this low pass, a ridge rises to the east that appears to be your line, but it's the ridge further north that is your objective. Stay low and cross more talus to a scree field that traverses on a faint trail to a rock band. Well placed cairns marked a series of ledges that criss-crossed the rock band to easily reach the ridge at about 3350 meters. From this point, follow a faint path heading east through loose and steeper terrain (but still walking) to reach the low point on the summit ridge. Once on the ridge, the rock is solid and a direct line of easy scrambling leads all the way to the summit.
It should be noted that the lower summit, just a few steps further east from the main summit, has a perfect rock for napping. If you are tempted to cross the glacier dome to the summit of the nearby Blanc de Moming, there is a likelihood for lurking crevasses. Finally, be warned that at some point during your summit stay you will understand the saying, "The deeper you get, the deeper you get." Because of your motivation at the hut, you got yourself in deep, or in this case, high. A 13km, 2100 meter descent awaits.
While this tour is absolutely great, it is not what we would call a great trail running tour. There just isn't that much running. Instead, it is a perfect tour to do in the style of trail running, a single push instead of the classic, "Hike to hut, sleep in hut, climb mountain from hut." In descent, you'll cross more talus than you realized you came up through, and when you hit that long traverse, you'll discover finding a running rhythm is tough. It's the kind of tour that if you want to pull it off in a day, you'll need to be light, and you'll need to keep moving. We'll call it a trail run because you'll run when you can. It's also the kind of tour that when you get to the car you'll be very, very psyched for having put out the effort.
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Start: 46.127080, 7.629935
- Be sure you can get down what you got up. The summit ridge has some exposure requiring careful movement.
- Wear trail shoes you feel comfortable climbing in. Good grip is important for the scramble.
- A solid, stable weather forecast is mandatory. This is not a peak you'd want to be stuck on for a thunderstorm.
Moran Ludwig, early on the run, getting a glimpse of what's to come.
Running the moraine above the Cabane du Mountet with the Dent Blanche behind.
Moran on the final meters to the summit after climbing the perfect ridgeline.
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