Reaching for the Sky: Switzerland’s Highest Peaks
Switzerland is an alpinist’s dream. Not only does the country have endless mountaineering opportunities that include hiking, trekking, climbing, and skiing, but also offers captivating views of the mountains.
The world-famous Eiger is located in the Bernese Alps, and attracts thousands of tourists and mountaineers every year. In German, the name Eiger means “high peak”, and is a mecca for rock climbers. This sharp knife-like peak is known as the third mountain of the Jungfrau Trilogy, but is not the tallest of the group.
The Eiger rises to a height of 3,970 meters, below the Jungfrau (4,158 meters) and the Mönch (4,107 meters). Even though the Eiger is shorter than its two sister peaks, this peak is known for its fearsome and deadly 1,800 meter north face named Eigerwand (Nordwand), the biggest north face in the Alps.
The first successful ascent of the Eigerwand was made by an Austrian-German expedition in 1938. The Eigerwand is also considered the most challenging and dangerous ascent because many individuals have died undertaking such an ascent. This dangerously beautiful landmark of the Swiss Alps is situated near the mountain resort of Kleine Scheidegg, and to get there, you have to either drive, take a train, or a bus from Geneva to Kleine Scheidegg.
The Lyskamm (Liskamm in German) is an impressive peak of the southern Monte Rosa group, rising over 4,527 meters above sea level. Located along the border between Switzerland and Italy in the Pennine Alps, the Lyskamm consists of two gigantic summits – the lower Western Liskamm (4,479 meters) and the higher Eastern Liskamm (4,527 meters). Both peaks are separated by a long, sharp ridge. The east summit is the highest point of the ridge, which is over 2,000 meters long, and crowns the ice-covered north-east face, which is over a 1,000 meters high.
The name “Lyskamm” comes from the 40 kilometer-long river, the Lys, which starts at one of Lyskamm glaciers. The name of the mountains was suggested by Franz Ludwig Baron von Welden. Up until the 1940’s this mountain did not have its own name, but has been called Monte Rosa, Monte Rosa Summit, Small Monte Rosa, and Rosenhorn.
The Lyskamm is famous for its big snow cornices, and many climbers have fallen from these dangerous cornices along the ridge. Because of these cornices, this particular mountain obtained a bad reputation and the nickname “Menschenfresser” (people eater). The first ascent up the Lyskamm was completed in 1861. There are several routes up to the summit, and if you plan on climbing the Lyskamm, start your ascent in Zermatt.
The Weisshorn is a massive 3-ridged mountain located north of the Matterhorn in the Pennine Alps, and northwest of Zermatt in the Canton of Valais. While not as popular as the Matterhorn or Jungfrau, the Weisshorn is actually higher than both mountains, towering at 4,506 meters. The Weisshorn is always covered in snow, which is why when translated from German, the name “Weisshorn” means “white peak/mountain”.
The Weisshorn is considered by many mountaineers to be the most beautiful mountain of the Swiss Alps because of its pyramidal shape and its pure white slopes. This particular peak is surrounded by three valleys – the Mattertal, the Turtmanntal, and the Val d’Anniviers. The first ascent up this peak was in 1861, and there are few individuals who have undertaken such an endeavor. The approach to the Weisshorn takes place from the village of Randa near Zermatt, and all routes up this summit are considered long and difficult.
The Dom is the highest mountain of the Pennine Alps. This majestic peak is part of the Mischabel group, which is located between the Täschhorn and the Lenzspitze, and between the villages of Saas-Fee and Randa in the Canton of Valais.
After Mont Blanc and Dufour Peak, the Dom has an elevation of 4,545 meters, and is the third highest mountain of the Alps. The name possibly comes from the German dialect for “dome” or “cathedral”, but someone says that the mountain is named in honor of Canon Berchtold of Sitten cathedral, the first person to survey the Mischabel group in 1833.
This particular peak is one of the most popular mountains for mountaineers, and can be climbed with skis. The first ascent up the Dom was made in 1858, and is considered as one of the easiest peaks of the Alps to climb because of its straightforward routes. Cable cars and other facilities are located only in the Saas-Fee area, which are on the east side of the mountain. However, the easiest way to climb the Dom would be to start in Randa.