Klein Matterhorn (Schwarztor), Switz., Feb. 12, 2014

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Klein Matterhorn (Schwarztor), Switz., Feb. 12, 2014

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:17 pm

As on prior Euro trips I looked for guided off-piste options, and soon found this list from the Zermatt Alpine Center. http://www.alpincenter-zermatt.ch/UserF ... 285%29.pdf

The Schwarztor looked like Zermatt’s answer to Chamonix’s Vallee Blanche or the backside of the Valluga in the Arlberg. Unlike either of those there is a considerable approach involved, so alpine touring gear is recommended. So I brought mine while Liz had to rent, even boots as hers are still in New York.
Schwartztor_map.jpg (164.8 KiB) Viewed 4309 times

Skies were clear as on Tuesday but there was much more wind up high. In fact the Klein Matterhorn tram was closed to the public, but we were allowed up there with our guide Gianni Mazzone.

With maybe 10 people on the tram there was more room for some scenic pics. Here’s a view of the Gorner Glacier, overlooked by the Gandegghutte restaurant where we were going Tuesday if Italy had not opened.

Zoomed view of 15,199 foot Dufourspitze, second highest peak in the Alps.

There is blowing snow up there, as we will soon experience.

We geared up in the restaurant, given the report of -18C temperatures and sustained 30+mph winds. Gianni helping Liz put her skis on about 10AM.

As we skinned to the east, the north wind was fortunately from our left and slightly behind. Nonetheless Gianni checked Liz’ left cheek frequently for signs of frostbite. It was slightly swollen by the end of the day. I had my face tucked into my hooded jacket but nonetheless had a thin line of blisters on my left cheek by the evening. After half an hour or so we switched to ski mode for a traverse and very short ski.

This powder was dense and windblown and Liz crashed once. Our pace of skinning was slow but steady, surely understandable in view of the weather. Overall Gianni set a pace precisely at Liz’ comfort level, both skinning and skiing, and the day was certainly a memorable experience. I took just one picture skinning during a brief lull in the wind.

The skinning was no bed of roses for me either. My larger right foot was partially numb the entire day, so I will be visiting bootfitter Steve at Snowbird to see if that can be fixed. Also, even though the final ascent to the top of the Schwarze glacier is gradual, never needing even the medium AT binding setting, the whole 2 ¼ hours were over 12,000 feet. I must conclude that 4 nights sleeping at 5,300 feet in Zermatt are not nearly as helpful to acclimatization as the longer periods at much higher sleep elevations I’ve spent in Colorado before hiking Highlands Bowl or at Silverton. I had no overt altitude symptoms but at the end I was pausing 2 seconds between strides to maintain a steady pace.

At the top we continued to skin for awhile across some tricky sastrugi to get out of the wind and into the sun to change to ski mode.

The start of skiing at 12,200 feet is on smooth windpack with a thin layer of soft snow on top.

Soon the snow became deeper powder. Unfortunately it was still cold and I was not yet ready to take my hand out of a mitten to use the camera. So Liz gave Gianni her camera.





Eventually we had to traverse through an ice formation.




We carefully descended here, where occasional glacier ice was exposed.

One last shot of powder

We now emerge onto the flat Gorner Glacier about 8,000 feet.

Out in the sun we have panoramic views down

And back up

Zoom view of Monte Rosa

Silver dome at lower center is a hotel used by summer hikers.

Zoom view of the top of Schwarze Glacier with ski tracks.

At 7,000 feet we reach the toe of the Gorner Glacier.

The exit trail then winds through a narrow gorge.

The final descent is through an open field with scattered boulders left by the retreating glacier.

We soon joined the piste heading to Furi, where we stopped at 3:30 at Les Marmottes for some drinks and soup after 7,700 vertical, 4K of powder. While I would not define the day as an “Easy Tour” as the Zermatt Alpine Center brochure does, the Schwarztor is indeed a “must” for alpine touring, amazing scenery and likely some good powder if you want to get well off the beaten path in Zermatt. More details here: http://www.skiweekend.com/sidecutandroc ... orta-nera/
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
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Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

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