A weekend with perfect weather. Thomas, Andrey, Ivan, Ralf and I endure a 4.5 hour public transportation ride to Zinal to climb the Bishorn (4153m). We choose the white-blue-white trail up to the cabane de Tracuit where we want to spend the night. This turns out more challenging than expected since a bridge that used to cross the Navisence river is no longer there. We ford the creek only to discover that the trailhead prominently features "fermer" signs. Ignoring these we go on to climb the steep trail. It is secured with chains and some metal rungs as steps, but is in perfectly good condition with no indication as to the reason for the closure. I can only assume that it is in expectation of the winter's snows, which would make it quite tricky and dangerous indeed.
The guidebook describes the normal route to the hut as exhausting for it climbs 1600m. We still decide to take a detour and visit the cabane d'Arpitetta on our way up, adding another 200m to the trip. It is well worth it, offering spectacular views over the Besso (3668m), Zinalrothorn (4221m) and Weisshorn (4506m) mountain range and a nice scramble across the Col de Milon (2976m).
The final meters to the Tracuit hut are a bit adventurous on lose rock and slushy snow or ice depending on which side of the ridge we are on. The hut is brand new, featuring all the latest eco tech with solar panels, composting toilets, reflecting insulation and gigantic panorama windows catching the sun and fantastic vistas to the south west. Unfortunately it is also crowded and expensive, being the first hut I visit that doesn't offer free drinking water but charges 10CHF for a liter of "Marschtee".
It's a short and fitful night. The dormitory is much too warm with people repeatedly closing the window after I got up to open it. Someone is always snoring. And people apparently never learn how to properly use their headlamps or quietly open their backpacks in rooms full of sleeping hikers. Then again, the Bishorn being one of the easier 4000m peaks, attracts a lot of noobs. The breakfast table at 5:30 in the morning is crowded with "mountaineers" sitting in their harnesses, complete with ice-screws dangling on the benches.
We start in the light of a full moon hanging from a clear sky. Head torches not required. After only a few minutes of hiking it's time to rope up and continue on the glacier. It is not very steep and the snow in good condition, allowing for quick progress. The only tricky bit is the last 5m step to the summit proper, where an ice ax helps for balance.
The views from the summit are grandiose. I'm particularly fascinated by the forbidding ridge to the Weisshorn (4506m) and am already scheming...
It's -6°C with an icy wind blowing, so we don't linger long. Going back down to the hut is easy and quick. Where we had to travel in switchbacks on the way up we now just jog down with a giant's steps. The way back to the valley drags on. By 3 o'clock we're sitting in the picturesque tourist village of Zinal enjoying our first round of beer.
By pure chance I meet Rafał on the crowded train back home. He is returning from a solo up the Eiger where he spent the night in a bivy above 3000m and had the summit to himself. Seems like a very successful weekend all around!
2767m up and down, 31km