Dust off those crampons – it’s time to tackle some peaks.
As travel takes its tentative first steps towards reopening across Europe, many are looking to the continent’s spectacular mountains for their first taste of adventure in a long time.
And who could blame them? Amazing crags, stunning panoramas and snow-capped peaks which’ll have you channelling your inner Tenzing Norgay in no time – Europe has some of the best mountaineering experiences on the planet.
But if you’re overwhelmed by the choices available, fear not; battleface consulted the founder of mountain-based travel specialists Monkey Mountaineering to get the inside scoop on where to go – whatever your skill level.
Sam Marshall has been involved in expeditions to some of the most extensive, remote and hostile mountain regions on the planet, spanning all seven continents.
He consulted his vast mountaineering experience to tell battleface his six favourite European climbs, ranging from (relatively) gentle adventures to serious challenges requiring expert planning.
So, if you’re looking to take advantage of Europe’s best peaks this summer, read on.
Gran Paradiso, Graian Alps, Italy
Sam said: “At 4,061m Gran Paradiso is the highest independent mountain in Italy offering fantastic views over the Mont Blanc range from its summit.
“The easiest and shortest route to the summit starts at the Rifugio Vittorio Emmanuel. Graded F+/PD- the majority of the route is a straightforward glacial walk with a short section of ridge (UK Grade 3 Scrambling) towards the summit.
“The ridge can be a bit of a bottleneck on busy days so make sure you take a warm jacket – the photos from the top will be worth the wait.”
Weissmies, Pennine Alps, Switzerland
Sam said: “The highest mountain in the north-eastern Pennine Alps is the 4,017m Weissmies which stands above the picturesque Saas valley. A south-to-north traverse of this mountain is an absolute must.
“Starting at the Almageller Hut this route scrambles up the rocky south-east ridge to the summit before descending to the Hohsass Hut by the snowy west ridge and glaciated north-west face for a celebratory beer.”
Breithorn, Pennine Alps, Switzerland/Italy
Sam said: “Steep snow, excellent rock and three main towers to climb make the half traverse of the Breithorn (4,164m) a perfect choice for an intermediate team.
“This route, which is graded AD-, can be done in a day from Zermatt catching an early cable up the Klien Matterhorn or over two days by staying overnight in the Guide d’Ayas hut on the Italian side. Descent is via the normal route back to the Klien Matterhorn lift.”
Lenspitze, Pennine Alps, Switzerland
Sam said: “There are no simple or ordinary routes to the summit of the Lenspitze (4,294m) but one of the best ways to get there, in my view, is by climbing the steep snowy north-north-east face, a route known as the Dreieselswand. Graded at D+ and at an average angle of around 50 degrees this is 500m of superb climbing directly to the summit.
“To return to the Mischabel hut most teams traverse the ridge (PD/AD) to the Nadelhorn (4,327m) and then descend its north-east ridge (PD).”
Piz Badile, Bregaglia, Switzerland/Italy
Sam said: “The north-east face of the Piz Badile (3,308m) is one of the classic six great north faces of the Alps. Starting from a bivouac, the Cassin Route (TD) climbs directly up this face and deserves to be on your bucket list.
“With 800m of excellent rock and around 28 pitches of climbing up to HVS/E1 the route follows a line of cracks and corners all the way to the summit ridge making for a truly memorable day out.”
The Walker Spur, Grandes Jorasses, France/Italy
Sam said: “The Walker Spur (ED1) on the Grandes Jorasses (4,208m) is generally accepted to be one of the best routes in the Alps. This sought-after objective offers excellent climbing in cracks and on open faces.
“You’ll need an early start as the route is about 1200m long and 30 pitches of sustained climbing to reach the summit followed by a long descent. This route is still on my ‘to do list’!”
Monkey Mountaineering specialises in providing adventure-travel experiences to the world’s mountainous regions, incorporating trekking, climbing and mountaineering, fully supported by their team of experts. Find out more here.