Besso (3667m)

Besso (3667m)

Nathalie on top

Encouraged by a promising weather forecast, we started on Saturday from Zinal in refreshing weather, to quote Obelix, towards the Cabane des Grands Mountets. Fortunately, Maurice had brought a home-baked cake, which didn’t last very long.

The advantage of the weather conditions was that many other groups cancelled their trips, and some groups didn’t reach the hut because ... they ended up in another one, the Cabane des Petits Mountets ! As a result, the hut was far from crowded and the food was abundant.

On Sunday, it was foggy and there were quite a few clouds, but it was dry as promised as we walked back on the path of yesterday for about one km. The fog didn’t help to find the start of the route through the boulder fields towards the point where one climbs towards the WSW ridge, even though the route is well marked and easily visible in daylight and good weather - but after a short search we managed to find it.

We roped up in 3 parties with Barbara, just recovered from fractured ribs sustained while sailing in Norway, leading the ladies team. Once on the ridge, the fog disappeared and there were just some cumulus clouds left. Climbing on the ridge was definitely enjoyable - the rock is excellent and the climbing fairly easy (II and here and there a bit of III) - to the extent that we didn’t cheat and followed the ridge strictly until the gendarme.

Barbara and Salvatore at the summit

At the gendarme, we took the standard route which traverses the S face under the ridge, uses a gully to reach a notch in the SE ridge, and then traverses the E face until one finds oneself under the S summit. The latter traverse involves rather less solid rock ... but the remaining bit to the 2 summits is again solid and short.

Entering the south face (Anja Werthenbach)

After lunch in the sunshine, with again a fine collection of goodies, we descended using a countless series of fixed ropes. This was somewhat unusual, but with a large group turned out to be efficient. Once back on the S face, we opted for the so-called "Route des Dames" which follows the gully further down, rather than climbing back up to the ridge. Here we discovered that Maurice is not only good at baking cakes, but he is also expert in finding cairns, which proved helpful in locating the correct descent.

Some of us stayed on for a further day in the area, and visited the glaciers below the Dent Blanche. The rate at which these glaciers are disappearing is truly alarming - routes which were commonly done on snow and ice only 10 years ago are now transformed into slopes of scree and brittle rock. On returning to Zinal, the celebrations of the 1st of August, birthday of one of us, and also of the Swiss confederation, were in full swing. Besides raclette, there were also various kinds of soup to be sampled and there was even an alambic in action producing abricotine and other eaux de vie !

Anja Werthenbach, Barbara Gallinelli, François Cuvelier, Maurice Perret, Nathalie Atger, Nick Grant, Patrice Jacquet, Rob Veenhof and Salvatore Mele.

Rob (by Anja Werthenbach)

Photos by Anja Werthenbach.

Other photos by Salvatore Mele.

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