The Igloo 4500 Adventure was initiated by Syril. The aim was to climb to 4500m and build an Igloo on Switzerlands highest mountain, Dufourspitze in the Zermatt region. With the entire adventure occurring over a nine-day period plus extra days for bad weather. The trip length took into account the increase in altitude that would be gained.
A call was put out on a WhatsApp link for those who were interested in the challenge. 12 people initially showed interest with a final number of a team of 6 confirming. The dates for completing the venture were agreed on, 2 October to the 13 October 2019 allowing for the possibility of bad weather.
Food required for the adventure and meals to be cooked was planned by Syril. An equipment list was sent out and team members confirmed what equipment they already had with arrangements made to borrow or rent any equipment that team members were missing.
Syril had already made a trip up to the Monta Rosa Hut with his mountain bike, hauling 51kgs of food the previous Sunday to save the extra effort to carry it from Zermatt.
THE ROUTE OF THE IGLOO 4500 ADVENTURE
THE IGLOO 4500 TEAM
The team for the Igloo 4500 adventure consisted of Syril (Team leader, Swiss), Sofia (Canadian), Ayla (German), Martin (Swiss), Carolyn (Swiss) and myself (New Zealand). We all have various levels of experience in the Swiss Alps and some with glacier traversing. A wide-ranging age group.
Day 1: Hiking to the Gornergletscher
We met up at the Spiez train station where we exchanged equipment, and met with the other team members.
On arrival in Zermatt, we brought some additional food then began our hike up the valley to the base of the Gornergletscher. Our first camp was established here.
Here is some information on the Gornerglacier.ch/en , Wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorner_Glacier
Day 2: Hiking on the Ice.
Time for crampons, ropes and ice axes. In two groups of three people we roped up then began our hike up the glacier on the ice, weaving our way around large ice holes.
We arrived at the base of the rock wall below the Monte-Rosa-hut-Swiss-Alpine-Club. Found the rope and steel stepped access up the rock. It was in disrepair with parts missing but not too hard to climb. Finally made it to the hut for the night and a well earned rest.
The hut was closed for the season but the Winter room was still open. It is basically the basement of the hut. Consists of 3 rooms; a toilet, bunk/kitchen room, entrance wet weather gear room and a boot room. No running water, or cooking facilities. We took it in turns to hike to the nearest unfrozen water source for our needs and did all our cooking on fuel stoves outside.
Day 3: Monta Rosa Hut
Today a decision was made to carry most of the food supplies and tents up to 3200m and leave them under the shelter of a large rock. This was due to the possibility of high winds overnight making camping non feasible. The rest of the day was spent practicing recovering people from crevasses. The team then returned to the Monta Rosa Hut for the night.
Day 4: Hiking to 3700m on the Grenzgletscher
Up early to start the hike to 3200m, pickup the food and tents and carry on hiking up the Grenzgletscher.
There are multiple crevasses to navigate through, with very narrow ice bridges and very limited routes to follow. Carefully navigated by Syril. This took quite a bit of time to hike through.
We arrived at 3700 meters where it was decided to set up camp for the night. The team built snow walls to provide shelter for the tents from the wind.
Day 5: Building an Igloo at 4000 meters
Another early start to hike further up the Grenzgletscher, the goal for the day was to reach the Cabana Margarita at 4500m.
We arrived at 4000m took a rest and assessed the situation. Two of our team members were suffering and with the previous night’s snowfall the decision was made to stop where we were and build the igloo.
With four of us actively working on the igloo,
cutting blocks of snow and constructing the igloo, it took approximately 6.5 hours to complete, with at least 3 hours working during snow fall.
We melted snow each day to provide water for the team as there was no other source. This was time and fuel consuming.
With the Igloo finally finished, 3 team members slept in the igloo with the remainder in a tent.
Day 6: Snow and the hike backdown
Woke up to deep snow, with the tents and igloo partially buried.
Ate a late breakfast and packed up all the equipment.
Started hiking back down to 3700m at about 13:00. Hiked through deep snow. Arrived at the old campsite and a decision was made to stay the night there as it was getting too late to attempt hiking down through the multiple crevasses field.
Cleaned out the old tent site of snow. Increased the height of the walls to keep out the wind and dug a new toilet.
Day 7: Cold and the Crevasses
Up early. Very cold. Had to keep walking around to stop the feet from freezing. We hiked back down, working our way through the crevasses field which was alot more difficult this time due to the extra snow. I fell in a number of small crevasses due to being last in line and the sides of the crevasses weakened by the rest of the team. Nothing serious. Easy to extract myself from them. Syril did a fantastic job of probing and finding
the safest route through.
Arrived at the 3200m cache site. We picked up the equipment that had been left then continued hiking down towards the Monta Rosa Hut. Finally, able to remove the crampons and some clothes as the temperature increased.
Arrived at the Monta Rosa Hut, ready for a well-earned
rest in a bit more comfort in the Winter room.
Day 8: Keeping dry
Today’s weather predicted rain, and it did. It rained, hailed and snowed throughout the day so we decided to stay in the Monta Rosa Hut until the weather improved. A good decision.
Did an early morning water run to one of the few running water sources that had not frozen up overnight.
The team spent the day eating, playing games and even a Yoga session lead by Carolyn.
Day 9: Back to the start. Zermatt
Packed up and started the hike back to Zermatt. At this stage we had not seen any other people for 5 days. Hiked down and crossed over the Gornergletscher to follow the trail to Rotenboden. We decided to hike all the way to Zermatt and not use the existing transport systems. This is also where we started to see a lot more people.
I do not recommend doing what we did without an experienced guide and team members. There are dangers in most aspects of the adventure, in particular the crevasses.
There are a number of guided trips available that will lead you to the Monta Rosa Hut via the Gornergletscher which will give you a little taste of the experience we had. Glacier-trek-to-the-Monte-Rosa-hut
I would like to thank all the team for providing photos and feedback in the drafting of this post. Good luck to you all and hope we can get together again to do another one. Shaun.
If you liked this blog, perhapes you would be interested in my blog on thebackpackinghiker.com/hiking-and-wild-camping-in-switzerland