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The day started at 6 am in Rosenlaui, which according to the town sign, is Switzerland’s smallest village. There, at 1350 meters, we started skinning through the steep forest. Rosenlaui sits in what is unarguably one of the most dramatic landscapes in all of the Alps. Rising more than 2000 meters, straight above with their hanging glaciers and imposing walls are the giant north faces of the Wellhorn and Wetterhorn. Also, the Engelhörner, a series of sharp limestone towers nearly 1500 meters above. This backdrop also serves as a wall to the massive glacier system to the south. But, one passage does go through, the Rosenlaui glacier.

 

In summer, above the Rosenlaui glacier, there is a trail to the Dossen Hut, but even this requires chains, cables and ladders to reach. The place is steep. Come in winter, when there's enough snow to fill the crevasses and smooth out the seracs, there is a passage that goes through the glacier to access the south side of the Wetterhorn. We planned this doorway for our tour. Once we climbed to the level of the glacier's rollover, the lane west and across the glacier became obvious. Through this, we traversed until we hit a large, flattish plateau below the Wellhornsattel, which marked the entry to the glacier accessing the Wetterhorn's south side.

Once at the Wettersattel it was skis off and stashed, then a quick 30-minute snow climb to the summit of the Wetterhorn. The view from this mountain is one of the best in the Bernese Oberland. Towering above Grindelwald, views stretch from the flatlands of Switzerland to the surrounding Jungfrau region and all its glaciers and 4000 meter peaks. A breathtaking view from up there. But it was windy... very windy! Down we went.

 

Back at the Wettersattel we immediately started up the south slopes of the neighboring Mittelhorn. After climbing a steep headwall on crampons, we gained the 3703 meter summit and just kept moving. The skis on our back were serving as rudders who's steering we didn't want swerving us off the narrow ridge we had to climb down. Again, we had to take the descent on foot. At this point, we'd climbed almost 3000 meters, descended 600 meters, and yet had to make our turn on skis.

It takes a certain type to want to do a tour like this because it is really about the entire experience, and much less about skiing. So, I asked myself if this is one for people's bucket lists, or even a tour worth posting about. The answer is a resounding, "yes." This is an absolute classic for the ski mountaineer masochist seeking a big day full of vertical and mixed terrain. The guide’s figured it out, this is really an ideal endurance test piece.

 

Once back at the car, after a whole of 8 hours, ascending and descending, my partner, Christoph Moser, summed it up, "That was one of the best ski tours I have ever done". And Chris knows what's up when it comes to Alp's ski touring. His site CHMOSER is a key resource of mountain sports offering decades spent in the Alps and beyond. My vote, after 16 years of ski touring in the Alps, to his summary was full of agreement.

The beginning of the Horny Tour

Speed | 20.09.2017 | by Dan Patitucci

Horny Tour – a package deal

Starting from Rosenlaui in Switzerland, there is a ski mountaineering tour that combines ascents of the Wetterhorn (3692 meters), Mittelhorn (3703 meters) and Rosenhorn (3688 meters). A friend of mine referred to it as the "Horny Tour" and in the world of ski mountaineering it would be more a mountaineering than skiing tour. In fact, word has it, that it's an endurance exam for Swiss mountain guides and has a sub 12 hour time requirement.

My body was beginning to hurt, but one peak remained and Christoph was clearly unfazed by the effort. I'd spent the last three weeks shooting easy ski touring in Crete and Bulgaria followed by a lifestyle shoot at sea level in Spain. Moving quickly at well over 3000 meters, with so much vertical, was kicking my butt. But that’s what I signed up for. Rosenhorn time!

Rosenhorn time!

Ascend, descend surrounded by wind

Exhaust of the climb and on shaky legs

The last climb was again on foot in a narrow couloir. We gained the south ridge of the Rosenhorn where Christoph took off towards the long rocky ridge climb to the summit. Behind, I was blown to the ground at one point and actually slid on my edges out of control, and due to the fast wind, I did not slide down, but sideways, in the direction of the wind. I'd never fallen sideways before!


Finally, I reached Christoph on the summit of our last peak, the Rosenhorn. It was time to actually ski, not up, but down, although for me on shaky legs.

After almost three kilometers of mostly flattish glacier skiing on wind board, we arrived at the base of the west side of the Dossen. There we discovered a long, and quite steep, glacier ramp with perfect wind buff for almost 700 meters. The joy of finally moving down quickly, in perfect snow, overrode all pain sensation in my legs. After navigating the glacier's exit we followed other ski tracks to the base of the east face of the Wellhorn and all the way back to Rosenlaui. From the bottom up to three peaks and back down it took us 8 hours.


For me it was tough, I had to hang in to get it done. But looking back on the day, one moment doesn't stand out over any other, it's a package deal, and I've always found these make for the best experiences.

 

To see the track, visit my Suunto Movescount Page.

The horny tour

The horny tour