Climbing the Breithorn, Zermatt
A Swiss alpine experience: climbing a 4,000 metre peak.
If you are visiting Zermatt in the summer and would like to experience your first high alpine adventure, then you might consider climbing the Breithorn. The Breithorn (4,164 metres) is a beautiful glaciered mountain crest that is considered to be one of the easiest 4000m peaks to climb in the Swiss Alps. It is technically an easy hike, but you do need a good level of fitness and should be an experienced hiker to take on this challenge, accompanied by an official guide. Zermatt Alpine Center in the village is the place to go to hire guides and sign up for this half-day adventure. You will need to rent crampons, special hiking boots, a hiking pole and a harness to climb Breithorn. These can be rented in any sports shop in Zermatt.
I chose to climb Breithorn last July when I was spending a few days hiking in Zermatt. On the morning of our climb, I met our guide Tom and the rest of our group at 8AM at the station of the Kleine Matterhorn cable car on a beautiful summer’s day. One guide will accompany no more than 5 climbers at a time. Tom spoke English well and was an incredibly experienced guide, born and bred in Zermatt. He very modestly admitted to our group, after many questions that I put to him on his mountaineering experience, that he had climbed Matterhorn over 200 times… Needless to say, I felt in excellent hands!
We rode the gondola up to Matterhorn Paradies at 3,883m, where Tom gave us a short safety briefing and proceeded to rope us together. The first part of the hike is pretty flat and an easy walk across the glacier. After about 40 minutes we put our crampons on and started climbing. The overall ascent is just under 300 metres. Whilst the climb is not difficult, you do feel the altitude and need to pace yourself carefully so as not to get too out of breath. This is a very popular route so don’t be surprised to cross numerous other climbers.
Exhausted, out-of-breath, and having peeled off almost every layer of clothing, we finally reached the top after two hours. The reward is stunning: a 360-degree view of over thirty 4,000 metre peaks, including Mont Blanc, Jungfrau, and Monte Rosa. The top is a somewhat narrow ridge, with very steep drops on either side and a fabulous view on the Gornerglacier below. You’ll be very glad you are roped in at this stage of the hike, it's not for the faint-hearted! We spent a good 15 minutes at the summit taking in the amazing view and stopping for a small snack. The descent took about an hour and was much easier.
As an experienced hiker, I thoroughly enjoyed this climb and would recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of a challenge. It is totally accessible to the non-experienced mountaineer, although I would strongly advise being physically fit to take this on. We were extremely fortunate to be blessed with the most beautiful bright sunshine and crisp blue skies on our hike, which made it all the more special.
What you will need
All this equipment is available to rent for the day at reasonable prices from any of the main sports stores in Zermatt.
- - hiking boots suitable for use with crampons
- - crampons
- - harness
- - 1 ski pole
- - gators
- - warm water and wind-proof jacket and pants
- - fleece sweater
- - hiking socks
- - warm full-fingered gloves
- - hat
- - glacier sunglasses and sunscreen
- - backpack
- - flask with at least 1.5 litres of water
- - snacks
- - camera
The Breithorn can also be climbed in the winter with the option of skiing back down.
The cost of hiring a guide for this half-day group outing starts at CHF 190.- at the Zermatt Alpine Center.
A round-trip ticket to Matterhorn Paradise costs CHF 100.-
This article first appeared on Swiss Bliss Travel.
Catherine Mikton is a Swiss-American travel and luxury lifestyle blogger. She enjoys all things beautiful, be it a moonlit landscape or a five-star hotel. Her blog is intended as a gateway for the discerning traveller to Switzerland - an essential guide to help you discover this beautiful country and all it has to offer, whilst relaxing in some of the best Swiss accommodation.
Images © Catherine Mikton