67 Last meters
Julia

Julia

Getting high on my first 4000m peak – 100% Womens Peak Challenge

Brmmm. Brmmm. Sleepily I open my eyes – 2.45 am. Where am I and what is it that is vibrating? As I come to, I remember – I’m at the Britannia Hut. And then I’m suddenly wide awake – because I’m about to climb my first 4000m peak for the 100% Women’s Peak Challenge!

25 In the dark Viv
Ascent in the dark

A busy start into the dark night

I quietly roll out of bed, grab my backpack and hike down one floor to appease my upset stomach with at least a little breakfast. Unsuccessfully, I soon go down another floor – the shoe room is already buzzing with people, tourers are crowded close to climbers. While I put on my gear and tie my shoes, I go through everything again in my mind: Water, sunscreen, headlamp: OK. At the same time, I try not to let the respect for the impressive summit waiting for me outside become too great. Then I step out into the still pitch-black night. It is 3.45 a.m.

A huge ascent in small world of light

A warm breeze blows around me and white lights flash, the first rope teams are already crossing the glacier below us. The air vibrates with the soft murmur of voices and the sound of many footsteps hurrying across the stone floor. Then our tour starts: a descent into the dark over stick and stone – and suddenly there it is, the snow, the glacier, under my feet. Time to rope up, time for crampons. Time to climb further and further towards the sky – over 1100 metres of altitude via Hohlaubgrat now lie ahead of us. I quickly put this thought away, deep in my bag, and pull the zipper extra tight again. I am grateful that I only see the cone of light in front of me, My world melts away to the pink rope I’mm tied to and the footprints that Justine leaves.

78 Way down Justine
Roped up on the glacier

A photographer's dream between shadow plays and weather sweeps

Little by little, the first blue light creeps over the horizon and illuminates the faces around me. Layer by layer, the mountain peaks in the distance peel out of their night robe and powder themselves with the first, hazy dawn. Our summit seems almost within reach, but still a few hours separate us from the cross.

90 Mobile pic by Caroline (edit by Julia)
Picture by Caroline Ware Georg, edited by me

Dark clouds briefly cover our tour and blow little snowflakes in our faces as we climb along the ridge – only moments later a hesitant ray of sunlight breaks through and transforms the world into a play of shadows, contours and contrasts. Click – another moment captured on camera. How grateful I am that this is my profession. I could not wish for anything more beautiful.

Can I have a little more?

Step. Step. The air becomes noticeably thinner, my breathing louder. Until we finally stand in front of the wall, just below the summit. And my heart jumps a little more – this is where the only short climb starts. If I could have chosen, the whole route would have been like this: Because seeking my way up over the rock makes my heart dance. The crampons are unfamiliar for me, but the prongs dig deep into the scree, while my fingertips feel above me for the next hold and I pull myself to the next anchor. Far too quickly I am at the top, far too quickly we turn the last corner, and then it is in front of me: the summit cross at 4027 metres.

Pure euphoria at over 4000 metres

Joy, euphoria and amazement join hands and shake me. I take a deep breath of the panorama around me. Up here, on my highest, self-conquered peak in Switzerland. My legs still don’t believe their own performance, and I’m also having a hard time. It will take me a while to take it all in – the pictures I take help. All too soon, we descend via the normal route, down crevasses and ice sculptures, our irons digging into the snow. Like a highway, mountain walkers stream towards us, their faces wind-blown and their heads warm as they face the last ascent. As I finally take off my crampons and harness and walk the last few metres to the station, I realise that I have just pushed my limits once again. A tingling sensation spreads – I think it’s addictive!

95 Mobile pic by Caroline (edit by Julia)
Shortly before the summit - picture by Caroline Ware Georg, edited by me

About the 100% Women's Peak Challenge

When Switzerland Tourism asked me a few months ago if I would like to climb a 4000m peak as part of the 100% Womens Peak Challenge and accompany the project with my camera, the answer was immediately clear – yes, I would love to! Because women are still underrepresented on the mountain – be it on the huts or among female mountain guides. With the Challenge, Switzerland Tourism wants to give female mountaineers in Switzerland a face and create role models. Already 41 of the 48 summits have been climbed as part of the Challenge, which runs from 8 March to 8 October. All-female rope teams from all countries can take part – all it takes is a summit selfie. More information on the Peakchallenge website.

Huge crevasses on the way down

Facts about the tour

The tour took us over approx. 1100 metres in altitude from the Britannia Hut 3027m in the area of Saas Fee via the Hohlaub glacier and Hohlaub ridge to the Allalinhorn at 4027m and then down to the Mittelallalin station. We were accompanied by Caroline Ware Georg as mountain guide and Lou Reynolds as aspirant.

Disclaimer: This article is part of a collaboration with Switzerland Tourism. However, it fully describes my own impressions and feelings.

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