Monte Moro Madness

Date walked: 07/09/2019

This was my first trip to the Alps after my disastrous exploits in Saltzburg in March. After failing to even get out of the woods on that occasion, I was especially anxious to reach an alpine summit or two. I spent a long time deciding on a peak to climb on my first day. I wanted something that would offer reasonable acclimatisation while not being too difficult. I just couldn't face another day of woe, another day of failing to climb anything. I decided to go for the Spechhorn (3189 m), a reasonably prominent peak near Mattmark, easily accessible by bus and without any [apparent] difficulty. I planned to climb the Spechhorn and then traverse along the Swiss/Italian border all the way round to Monte Moropass, going over another 3000er, Joderhorn, in the process.

I paid to take the bus from Saas Grund up to Mattmark. This was a mistake. Guests at Saas hotels get a 'Citizen's Pass' which gives unlimited free use of local buses and ski lifts (except for the Mitellallalin underground train) during their stay. When I had breakfast at my hotel, I noticed a card with my name on it on my table, but assumed this was just a table reservation and didn't pay it any more attention :roll:. When I got back to my hotel later, the same card had been stuck to the outside of my room door, demanding attention :wave:. Only then did I have a proper look at it and realise it was the Citizen's pass!

Spechhorn from Mattmark.JPG
Spechhorn (3189 m), unnanmed point 3146 m and Galmenhorn (2846 m) from Mattmark (2203 m) later in the day

I started off on the track along the East side of Stausee Mattmark, then took the path leading up towards the Ofental valley. My 'Wanderkarte' map showed another path splitting off to the right, leading due South, though I was unable to find it. I appeared to be going too far up the Ofental Valley, so went 'off piste' to reach the lower slopes of Galmenhorn (2846 m). Predictably, I found myself blocked by the large stream running down through Ofental in a deep gorge. I need to descend a considerable distance before reaching a dodgy looking bridge. A pointless waste of time and energy :(


Once I was on the right side of the stream, it was easy going up a series of rock slabs up towards the summit of Galmenhorn:

Galmenhorn slabs.JPG

Stausee Mattmark from Galmenhorn.JPG

As I approached the summit of Galmenhorn, I was aware that the ridge was getting narrower and narrower and started to wonder if there was a safe descent route to allow continuation along to Spechhorn. Unfortunately, there wasn't. I could see a ledge down below but couldn't see what lay below it and didn't want to risk lowering myself down and being unable to go any further. So I decided to play it safe and retreat back down, almost all the way back to the bridge, before turning back and regaining the main Spechorn ridge.

Galmenhorn summit 1.JPG

Galmenhorn summit 2.JPG

From here, the Galmenhorn looks decidedly nasty, appearing as a big rock perched on a pile of rubble:

Galmenhorn from other side.JPG

Egginer from Galmenhorn.JPG
The brutal looking Egginer (3367 m). The standard route up involves a via ferrata

The character of the Spechhorn was completely different to the Galmenhorn. Instead of nice stable slabs, the going was entirely over loose rocks and boulders. The section of the ridge with the dark shadow in the photo below (which is much bigger than it appears in the photo) was especially tricky, forcing a long detour to the right.

Spechhorn ascent 1.JPG

The ridge continued over more loose rocks, steep and exposed on the North side, somehwhat less so on the South.

Spechhorn ascent 2.JPG

Spechhorn ascent 3.JPG

Spechhorn ascent 4.JPG

After descending again to bypass another tricky section I finally reached the summit of the Spechhorn, marked only by a single wooden stick. Clearly, very few people venture up here :(

Spechhorn ascent 5.JPG

Spechhorn summit 1.JPG

Spechhorn summit 2.JPG

The views towards Monte Rosa were spectacular:

Monte Rosa from Spechhorn.JPG
Monte Rosa

Parrotspitze, Signalkuppe, Zumsteinspitze

Rimpfischhorn (4199 m)

Cima di Jazzi from Spechhorn.JPG
Cima di Jazzi

Allalinhorn and Alphubel from Spechhorn.JPG
Allalinhorn (4027 m) and Alphubel (4206 m)

Mischabel from Spechhorn.JPG
Tashhorn (4491 m), Dom (4545 m), Lenzspitze (4294 m)

My original plan to do a traverse all the way to Monte Moro was out the window. It had taken far too long to reach the summit of the first major peak and I was fed up with the loose, unstable rocks. The descent started off OK, but become increasingly loose as I got further down. On a couple of hair-raising occasions I managed to dislodge a large rock, almost crushing my ankle in the process.

Spechhorn descent 1.JPG

Spechhorn descent 2.JPG

An Ibex on the lower slopes of the Spechhorn:


Spechhorn descent 3.JPG

I eventually joined up with one of the marked trails leading back to Ofental and then Mattmark, retracing my steps at the point where I left the path to climb Galmenhorn.

The actual route taken:

ImageSpechhorn route by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Two days later, I was back at Mattmark. I had originally intended to climb the Lagginhorn on my final day in Saas Fee, but in truth I was absolutely wrecked after climbing one of the other Saas monsters, Alphubel, the previous day. This time, after getting the bus to Mattmark (for free :roll:), I took the track along the West side of the lake, before going up through the Talli valley up to Monte Moropass (2853 m). The route is marked with hundreds of orange flags with little reflective patches. Presumably the route is frequently taken in the dark.

Monte Moro Madonna by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

After reaching the golden madonna above the pass, I set off to climb Monte Moro itself. If you want an easy scramble with a bit of exposure, Monte Moro (2985 m) comes highly recommended.

Monte Moro from the pass 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Monte Moro from the pass by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Monte Moro ascent 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The ridge gets narrower and narrower towards the top, almost closing in to a knife-edge:

Monte Moro ascent 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The prominent cairn clearly seen from down below is not on the actual summit. Beyond the cairn, Monte Moro widens to a surprisingly large summit with multiple cairns:

Monte Moro summit 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Monte Moro summit 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Monte Moro summit 3 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

By the time I'd descended down to the Monte Moropass, it was barely 12 o'clock; plenty of time for another summit :D. Joderhorn is a little higher than Monte Moro, at 3036 m. Unlike the nearby Spechhorn, the rocks and boulders covering Joderhorn are very stable, making for an enjoyable easy scramble.

Joderhorn from Monte Moropass by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Joderhorn summit 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

As I reached the summit, it started to hail, though visibility had improved a little.

Joderhorn summit 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Ibex 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Monte Moropass from Joderhorn by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I was back at Mattmark by about 3 pm. By then, the weather had deteriorated further and it was raining lightly. The next day, the day I left Saas Fee to return home, it snowed.

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Pointless Parasite

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Location: Sunderland
Occupation: Medical physicist working in cancer epidemiology
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