The North Faces of the Alps

High and steep challenge

I have two different mountaineering goals: high and steep. Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, and the north faces of the Alps is the classic climbing challenge. The main challenge on the Everest is oxygen and endurance fitness, and the challenge of north faces of the Alps is rock and ice climbing skills. I started the mountaineering projects in 2019 and 2021. The probability to success is 30 % or less.

The Classic Rock and Ice Climbing Challenge

The North Faces of the Alps is the classic rock and ice climbing challenge. Grandes Jorasses in France, Eiger and Matterhorn in Switzerland. About 800 meter rock climbing and 400 meter ice climbing (together 35 pitches) at 4000 m altitude, and down climbing from the other side of the mountain back to mountain village. It takes 24 – 36 hours to climb one of them.

Timing the climbing is difficult: in summer ice is too soft and dangerous. In winter there is too cold to rock climb and too dark to find the vertical route. The September – October and April are the best months for climbing. Every year ice conditions are different. If the summer is rainy, the North Faces takes more ice, and it’s more ice climbing and easier. You can choose one of two climbing tactics: Fast and Light / Bivaqing over night. Fast and Light tactic means you climb the North Face up and South face down without hauling in one day. If you are slow, you get big problems. Climbing by hauling tactic is slower and heavier, it takes more energy and time. The starting time to the North Face route is important, because you don’t want rock falls or risky ice climbing on the big Alpine wall. Down climbing the steep snow slopes in afternoon includes avalanche risk.

Climbing Exercises and Mountaineering Experience

I have the endurance sport background, so I have to exercise a lot of rock and ice climbing with my friends. Rock, ice, mix, trad and sport climbing, dry tooling and bouldering exercises prepare me for the climb. The second 50 % is mountaineering skills, rope strategy and summit tactic, and scrambling down. If I can climb one of them with my friends, I am happy.

Eiger North Face

Eiger North Face in moonlight shadow. Did you know mountain climbing was an Olympic sport in 1936. You can watch the North Face film (2008) and see what happened.

Grandes Jorasses North Face

Grandes Jorasses North Face. Only Very Hard (Très difficile, TD+) and Extreme Hard (Extremement difficile, ED1-2) routes. The South Face is only dangerous.

Matterhorn North Face

Matterhorn East and North Face, the Hörnli Ridge. Matterhorn is the most interesting mountain in Europe. Hörnli ridge (in the middle of the picture) is a very long route, and the descent often takes longer than the climb. Good fitness, foot work and excellent scrambling skills are essential. The North Face, on the right side of the Hörnli Ridge, is more difficult – The route is around 1200m long and summits at 4477m.