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Breithorn, Switzerland

The Breithorn (4,164 m.) is a mountain in the Pennine Alps just south of Zermatt near the top of the Klein Matterhorn cable car (3,820 m).

The standard route (SSW flank) starts at the cable car station and initially descends a little as it starts across a large glacial plateau before climbing slightly to the base of the southern side of the mountain. From there the route turns north and climbs to the summit on a 30 degree snow slope. The route involves about 50 meters of decent followed by 400 meters of ascent. The photo above was taken from along this route on the glacial plateau.

The half traverse route starts along the same path but continues across the glacial plateau and descends a further 150 meters into a huge glacial bowl below the east ridge of the mountain. The route then turns north and climbs up over a small bergschrund and up a 35 degree snow slope to the low point of the ridge between the Roccia Nera and the Eastern Breithorn. From here the route changes from glacier travel to mixed alpine rock climbing (YDS 5.5) and follows the ridge, which is very narrow in places, over the Eastern Breithorn, the central Breithorn and across to the true Breithorn summit at the west end of the ridge.

The first ascent of the Breithorn was made in 1813 by Henry Maynard, Joseph-Marie Couttet, Jean Gras, Jean-Baptiste Erin and Jean-Jacques Erin.

Friday July 13th, 2012

I headed out from Zermatt with Mountain Madness guide Ben Mitchell to catch the gondola at about 7:30 am. It took about 45 minutes to reach the Klein Matterhorn station on the gondola and after a brief stop to put on our crampons and get our ice axes out we headed onto the glacier.

It's a fairly short walk across the glacier to the base of the normal route up the south slopes of Breithorn. Our route today would be the half traverse which requires walking a little further to get to a point below the ridge about a kilometer east of the summit.

The route follows a very narrow ridge west back to the summit. The north side of the ridge drops about 600 meters to the Breithorn glacier. The south side drops about 300 meters to the Breithorn pass.

We arrived on the summit at about 11pm. The wind was blowing hard so we only stayed long enough to have a quick look at the views of Italy to the south and Switzerland to the north. The following video shows us on the summit. The video is a little wobbly as I was trying to spin the camera around at arms length to get us both in the picture.