The Nadelhorn and Stecknadelhorn are two 4000 meter peaks above Saas Fee, in the Valais Alps, and these two are part of that long chain of 4000 meter peaks that starts from the South with the Alphubel and ends with the Durrenhorn to the North. The 4000 meter peak collector knows very well this corner of the Valais Alps, because in just one day you can bag 4 peaks over 4000 meters, or even 5: the Durrenhorn, the Hoberghorn, Stecknadelhorn and Nadelhorn, and the Lenzspitze if you haven’t had enough. This long journey is very tough, because the Mischabel Hut (the starting point of the climb) is high above Saas Fee, 1550 meter is the height you have to hike, and there are no lifts that make the approach easier. Sure you can get the gondola up to Hannig, but it’s not really worth it. It normally takes 4 hours to hike up to the Mischabel Hut, a little shorter with a very good pace, and you’ll be welocomed by Maria and her nice female staff with a good rösti, a tasty dish with local cold cuts or a soup. You’ll find yourself at home here at 3340 meters, the hut is nice and simple, in full Swiss style.
Those who climb up there and are keen to climb the 4 4000 meter peaks, they must be sure that the Selle Couloir is in good condition. That’s is typical route to reach the first peak, the Durrenhorn, and go get further on the Nadelgrat. The Selle couloir is steep at the top, around 50 degrees, faces East and potentially under the “enemy fire” of the chossy rock walls around, which can dump stones already from the early hours of the day if the temperatures are high.
The full traverse of the 4 peaks was the plan with Enrico, whom I met the same day I came down the Matterhorn in late July. Unfortunately, the conditions of the Selle couloir got worse quickly because of the high pressure and the hight temperatures, and it would have been too risky to climb the couloir even in the dark. The endless isotherm over 4000 meters made this narrow snowy couloir much more similar to a brown battle field (and a mouse trap for alpinists), and the latest news we got reported lots of rock falls on it. The little snowfall expected for the night (which did come) it wouldn’t have improved the conditions, and it actually slowed us the following day on the normal route of the Nadelhorn. The track got covered by 20+ cm of wind blown snow, this made our climb pretty tricky, expcecially because we were the first breaking trail, then we let the others pass with pleasure so to share the tough work. There was already a good light once we got to the top of the Nadelhorn, the day was cool, and we decided to continue towards the Stecknadelhorn to bag at least 2 peaks.
The climb in between the peaks was slower than expected, the rocks were covered with snow and we had to move carefully. The snow ridge in between the Nadelhorn and the Stecknadelhorn is very photogenic and not difficult, we reached the summit, we looked further to the Hoberghorn and we said goodbye!, being aware that the way back to the Nadelhorn, then further down to the Mischabelhutte AND the slog all the way down to Saas Fee (2500+ meter downhill!) would have been tiring.
A nice cold big beer is always my favorite natural painkiller, maybe we drank another half each, but they were not enough to give us the right rythm and energy necessary for the descent, and the hot temperatures made the way down even more miserable. We were wasted! And super thirsty down in the village.
Anyhow, it was a beautiful two day trip at high altitude, and we will probably return climb the last 2 peaks … who knows!