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Weisshorn from the Barrhorn
Weisshorn is located in Alps
Elevation 4,505 metres (14,780 ft)
Location Valais, Switzerland
Range Pennine Alps
Prominence 1,239 m (4,065 ft)
Coordinates 46°06′06″N 7°42′58″E / 46.10167°N 7.71611°E / 46.10167; 7.71611Coordinates: 46°06′06″N 7°42′58″E / 46.10167°N 7.71611°E / 46.10167; 7.71611
Topo map Swisstopo 1328 Randa
First ascent 1861
Easiest route rock/snow/ice climb

The Weisshorn (German, lit. White Peak) is a mountain in the Pennine Alps, in Switzerland. With its 4,505 m (14,780 ft) summit, it is one of the major peaks in the Alps and overtops the Matterhorn by some 30 metres.

In April and May of 1991, two consecutive rockslides took place from a cliff above the town of Randa on the east side of the massif.



North-east view of the Weisshorn

The Weisshorn is situated in the Swiss canton of Valais on a north-south orientated chain separating the Val d'Anniviers to the west and the Mattertal to the east. After the Dom, the Weisshorn is the second-highest Alpine summit situated completely out the main chain and on both sides the water end up in the Rhone river. The mountain has a pyramidal shape consisting of three faces. The north-east face is glaciated while the west and south-east faces are rocky. The mountain is connected to the Bishorn (4,153 m) by its north ridge, on which lies the Grand Gendarme (4,331 m).

The Weisshorn massif is partially covered by glaciers: the Turtmann and Brunegg Glacier north of the summit of Bishorn and Moming Glacier on the west.

The Weisshorn is one of the many peaks surrounding the region of Zermatt, along with the Dent Blanche, the Dent d'Hérens, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.


The Weisshorn is the culminating point of the Dent Blanche nappe, a klippe belonging to the Austroalpine nappes. The mountain is composed of gneisses; the west face is also composed of sedimentary rocks from the cretaceous period.[1]

Climbing history

The south-east face (the Schaligrat on the left, the east ridge on the right) rising over the Schali Glacier

The mountain was first climbed on 19 August 1861 by the 29-year-old physicist John Tyndall, with guides J. J. Bennen and Ulrich Wenger. Their itinerary corresponds to the normal route for climbing the mountain today: the east ridge, starting from the Weisshorn hut.[2]

In 1877, another route was opened by W. E. Davidson, J. W. Hartley and H. S. Hoare, with guides P. Rubi, J. Juan and A. Pollinger. After climbing part of the lower south-east face above the Schali Glacier, they reached the Schaligrat (south-west ridge) and continued to the summit. The complete ridge (which was considered too difficult and dangerous in its lower part) was first climbed in 1895 by J. M. Biner, A. Imboden and E. Broome. The south-east face was completely climbed in 1906 by Geoffrey Winthrop Young, V. J. Ryan, Lochmatter and P. Knubel.[2]

The glaciated north-east face was first climbed in 1871 by J. H. Kitson with guides Christian Almer and his son. Almer wanted to reach the summit by nine o'clock in the morning while Kitson's wife watched them from the Gornergrat. In fact the difficulties were more serious than expected and they didn't reach the summit before midday. Shortly after, the ascent was repeated by W. A. B. Coolidge and Meta Brevoort. Both expeditions climbed the part of the face below the Grand Gendarme and continued near the north ridge. In 1909 G. W. Young and J. Knubel climbed the face by the central spur.[2]

The west face

The west face was first climbed in 1879 by G. A. Passingham with guides F. Imseng and L. Zurbrücken. Other routes on the face were opened in 1883 and 1889. The easiest passage on the east face was found in 1890 by G. W. Young, who climbed the spur under the Grand Gendarme with L. and B. Theytaz by a route known as the Younggrat.

The summit of the Grand Gendarme on the unexplored north ridge was first reached in 1898. One month later, on 21 September 1898, H. Biehly and H. Burgener made the first complete traverse on the north ridge to the summit from the Bishorn.

In 1888 George Winkler was killed in a fall on the west face. He left Zinal alone on 17 August, without telling others his precise route. The rescue team only found a photo and a hat near an avalanche cone. His body was not found until the summer of 1956, on the Weisshorn Glacier. John Garforth Cockin was also killed making a solo attempt on the south-east face twelve years later.[2]

In 1925 Eleonore Noll-Hasenclever, H. Pfann and H. Trier were caught in an avalanche on the north-east face when they tried to reach the east ridge after interrupting their ascent on the north ridge on account of adverse weather conditions. Pfann and Trier survived, but Hasenclever died from asphyxiation.[2]

1983 helicopter crash

An Alouette III helicopter from Air Zermatt crashed on a night flight on the Schali Glacier (south of the peak) on 31 July 1983. The helicopter was carrying the pilot, his assistant and a mountain guide who was searching for two missing alpinists. A false alarm made the pilot try to land the helicopter on the glacier at 3,160 m. All the crew were severely injured but the guide and pilot survived. The two missing alpinists were later found dead.[3]

Climbing routes

The north ridge seen from the Bishorn, the Grand Gendarme well visible in the middle

All the routes are difficult. The normal route starts from the Weisshorn hut on the east side and goes along the sharp east ridge.

The Weisshorn can be climbed from the Bishorn via the north ridge, departing from the Cabane de Tracuit, above Zinal. The first three hours consist of relatively easy walking across the glacier and lead to the summit of the Bishorn (4153 m). The second part of the ascent is very exposed and takes another five hours, during which the Grand Gendarme must be climbed.[2]


  1. ^ Geologic map of Switzerland 1:500 000, Bundesamt für Wasser und Geologie, CH-3003 Bern-Ittigen, ISBN 3-906723-39-9
  2. ^ a b c d e f Helmut Dumler,Willi P. Burkhardt, Les 4000 des Alpes, ISBN 2-7003-1305-4
  3. ^ Schlußbericht der Eidgenössischen Flugunfall-Untersuchungskommission

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