Balfrin

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Balfrin

Photo of the Balfrin
Balfrin seen from Nadelhorn

General
Elevation 3,796 m12,454.068 ft
2.359 miles
Location Valais, Switzerland
Range Pennine Alps
Massif Mischabel
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Coordinates
DMS Coor. 46°8´6"N, 7°52´49"E
Swiss Coor. 634130 / 109384
Links Topographic Detail

Coordinates Information

Nearby Features
Bordier Hut, Chli Dirruhorn, Gross Bigerhorn, Hobärghorn, Klein Bigerhorn, Mischabel Hut, Nadelhorn, Stecknadelhorn, Ulrichshorn
Alpinist's Info
Base(s) Grächen, Saas Fee, Sankt Niklaus
Hut(s) Bordier Hut, Mischabel Hut
Topo. Map SLK 1328: Randa
Easiest Route Rating PD PD
Map
Balfrin (Switzerland )
Balfrin
Balfrin
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Contents

[edit] General information

The Balfrin (3,796 m12,454.068 ft
2.359 miles
) is a mountain in Switzerland in the canton of Valais on the east branch of the northern part of the Mischabel group. The mountain was first climbed in 1863 by R. Watson, F. Andenmatten, J.-M. Claret & J. Imseng.

At the Nadelhorn the long ridge of the Mischabel chain bifurcates with one ridge running NE and the other NW and enclosing between them the Ried Glacier. The first summit along the NW branch is the Ulrichshorn. Beyond this summit the ridge swings N to the Riedpass from which rises the Balfrin by a rocky ridge. At the summit of the Balfrin there is another bifurcation. One ridge runs NE and is of little interest whilst the main ridge leads NW towards the Färichhorn. On this ridge there is a summit that appears to be higher, but is in fact lower. This summit is the Balfrin N summit (3,783 m) and is a snow peak.

Balfrin is one of these mountains that are more often admired than climbed. Thousands of tourists each year visit the famous destinations of Zermatt or Saas Fee. All of them enter the Vispertal valley at Visp and the mountain dominating the valley in the background is the Balfrin, the northernmost glacier mountain of the Mischabelgroup.

Because of it's prominent position it is of course a great viewpoint. With an easy normal route one should think it's popular to climb. But it isn't: almost all climbers sleeping at the Mischabel Hut or Bordier Hut have only the big 4000m mountains in mind.

[edit] Routes

[edit] South Ridge from Mischabel Hut - Ulrichshorn Traverse (PD)

Balfrin: South Ridge from Mischabel Hut - Ulrichshorn Traverse (edit infobox)
Summit Approach
Summit Balfrin (3,796 m2.359 miles
12,454.068 ft
)
Valley base(s) Saas Fee (1,800 m1.118 miles
5,905.512 ft
)
Route Type Mostly Snow (4 - 5 h) Hut Mischabel Hut (3,340 m2.075 miles
10,958.005 ft
)
Difficulty Rating PD PD Difficulty W2
Height Gains Hut - Summit: 456 m0.283 miles
1,496.063 ft
    -    Valley - Hut: 1540 m0.957 miles
5,052.493 ft
    -    Valley - Summit: 1996 m1.24 miles
6,548.556 ft
Useful Maps SLK 1328: Randa (Maps)
#1: Traverse of the Ulrichshorn to the Riedpass coming from the Mischabel Hut

From the Mischabel Hut climb the path up rocks behind the hut to the point where a descent can be made on to the Hohbalm Glacier from a height of 3,600m. Cross the glacier, curving round the glacier bowl with little height gain, to below the Windjoch. Climb the steep snow slope, at first towards the summit of the Ulrichshorn and then back left to the col (see photo #1). It takes almost 2h to reach the pass from the hut.

From the Windjoch, follow the ridge to the summit of the Ulrichshorn. From the summit, follow the ridge and descend to the Riedpass. From the pass, climb the ridge on snow at first and then on rock, crossing or turning on the left any obstacles, past Pt.3,644m and so reach the foot of the true S Ridge. Climb the crest to the summit (see photo #2 and #3). The ascent and descent of the Ulrichshorn are relatively easy and don't take much time. From the Riedpass it takes 1h to reach the summit of the Balfrin.

[edit] South Ridge from Bordier Hut (PD)

Balfrin: South Ridge from Bordier Hut (edit infobox)
Summit Approach
Summit Balfrin (3,796 m2.359 miles
12,454.068 ft
)
Valley base(s) Grächen, Sankt Niklaus
Route Type Snow and Rock (4 h) Hut Bordier Hut (2,886 m1.793 miles
9,468.504 ft
)
Difficulty Rating PD PD Difficulty Rating F F
Height Gains Hut - Summit: 910 m0.565 miles
2,985.564 ft
Useful Maps SLK 1328: Randa, SLK 1308: St. Niklaus (Maps)
#2: Overview of the different Balfrin routes

From the Bordier Hut walk along the hut approach path for a short while before taking a track leading off left towards the moraine on the right bank of the Ried Glacier. Scramble down some large boulders just before reaching the moraine. Follow the crest of the moraine (ignoring a descent path to the glacier a few meters beyond a prominent boulder) to its upper end and so reach the glacier without any loss of height. Climb the glacier, curving to the right to pass below Pt.3,376m (on new maps this point is not present, Pt.3,376m is very close to Pt.3,528m which is on a rib descending from the main ridge) at the foot of the Balfrin N Summit Ridge. Now head towards the Riedpass and slant L to reach this pass (very clear on photo #3).

From the pass, climb the ridge on snow at first and then on rock, crossing or turning on the left any obstacles, past Pt.3,644m and so reach the foot of the true S Ridge. Climb the crest to the summit (see photo #2 and #3).

[edit] South-West Ridge of North Summit (PD)

Balfrin: South-West Ridge of North Summit (edit infobox)
Summit Approach
Summit Balfrin (3,796 m2.359 miles
12,454.068 ft
)
Valley base(s) Grächen, Sankt Niklaus
Route Type Mostly Rock, I (3 - 4 h) Hut Bordier Hut (2,886 m1.793 miles
9,468.504 ft
)
Difficulty Rating PD PD Difficulty Rating F F
Height Gains Hut - Summit: 910 m0.565 miles
2,985.564 ft
Useful Maps SLK 1328: Randa, SLK 1308: St. Niklaus (Maps)
#3: Topographic map of the different Balfrin routes

From the Bordier Hut walk along the hut approach path for a short while before taking a track leading off left towards the moraine on the right bank of the Ried Glacier. Scramble down some large boulders just before reaching the moraine. Follow the crest of the moraine (ignoring a descent path to the glacier a few meters beyond a prominent boulder) to its upper end and so reach the glacier without any loss of height. Climb the glacier, curving to the right to pass below Pt.3,376m (on new maps this point is not present, Pt.3,376m is very close to Pt.3,528m which is on a rib descending from the main ridge).

Climb up to the crest of this descending rib via a scree slope and then follow the ridge itself to the summit. Towards the top the ridge narrows and can be climbed on the S side (see photo #2 and #3).

[edit] North-West Ridge - Gross Bigerhorn Traverse (PD)

Balfrin: North-West Ridge - Gross Bigerhorn Traverse (edit infobox)
Summit Approach
Summit Balfrin (3,796 m2.359 miles
12,454.068 ft
)
Valley base(s) Grächen, Sankt Niklaus
Route Type Mostly Snow, I (3 - 4 h) Hut Bordier Hut (2,886 m1.793 miles
9,468.504 ft
)
Difficulty Rating PD PD Difficulty Rating F F
Height Gains Hut - Summit: 910 m0.565 miles
2,985.564 ft
Useful Maps SLK 1328: Randa, SLK 1308: St. Niklaus (Maps)
#4: Summit of the Gross Biggerhorn seen from the Bordier Hut approach

From the Bordier Hut walk along the hut approach path for a short while before taking a track leading off left towards the moraine on the right bank of the Ried Glacier. Follow the moraine to the upper end and then move left to reach the slope of jumbled boulders. Climb the slope direct to reach the flat part of the ridge or follow a slanting line left towards to the col separating the Klein and Gross Bigerhorn. From the col follow a cairned route back right to the flatter part of the ridge. Reach the summit of Gross Bigerhorn by scrambling up broken rocks (see photo #4). It takes 2h to reach the summit.

Descend the mainly snowy SW Ridge to the saddle at Pt.3,549m (Balfrinjoch) and then climb easily up snow slopes to the Balfrin N Summit. Another descend on snow and stony ground leads to a further col from where the main summit can be easily reached (see photo #3).

[edit] Overview

Route Name Hei. Dif. Dur. (h) Type Rock ° Valley Hut S. Gain Maps
Balfrin: South Ridge from Mischabel Hut - Ulrichshorn Traverse 3,796 m2.359 miles
12,454.068 ft
DPD 4-5 Mostly Snow Saas Fee Mischabel Hut 456 m0.283 miles
1,496.063 ft
1328
Balfrin: South Ridge from Bordier Hut DPD 4 Snow and Rock Grächen, Sankt Niklaus Bordier Hut -2,886 m-1.793 miles
-9,468.504 ft
1328, 1308
Balfrin: South-West Ridge of North Summit DPD 3-4 Mostly Rock I Grächen, Sankt Niklaus Bordier Hut -2,886 m-1.793 miles
-9,468.504 ft
1328, 1308
Balfrin: North-West Ridge - Gross Bigerhorn Traverse DPD 3-4 Mostly Snow I Grächen, Sankt Niklaus Bordier Hut -2,886 m-1.793 miles
-9,468.504 ft
1328, 1308

Hei.:Height, Dif.: Difficulty, Dur.: Duration, S. Gain: Meters from hut to summit
Summit map is always listed first. If a map is used for 2 km and another map for 1 km, the 2 km map will be listed before the 1 km map. Overview of the Swiss maps & Italian maps.

[edit] Multiday Suggestions

Both the Mischabel Hut and the Bordier Hut are frequently used as a starting point for traverses of the Nadelgrat or any other traverse variations of the long Mischabel Ridge. The classic Nadelgrat Traverse is an exhausting route for a lot of mountaineers and it is advised to acclimatize before trying the the full classic traverse. The Balfrin-Gross Bigerhorn traverse can be a good training route in both directions (Bordier-Mischabel or Mischabel-Bordier).

This training traverse can also be combined with an ascent of a single mountain on a next day as all the grat-mountains can also be climbed on their own from both huts. There are so many possible combinations that listing them all here would make the list very long.

Some suggestions of possible routes (very creative routes can be added):

[edit] Additional Photos

[edit] Recommended Books

      The Alpine 4000m Peaks by the Classic Routes by Richard Goedeke

      Valais Alps East: Selected Climbs (Alpine Club Guides) by Les Swindin

      Valais Alps West: Selected Climbs (Alpine Club Guides) by Lindsay Griffin

      Valais East: Zermatt - Saas - Fiesch (Rother Walking Guide) by Michael Waeber

      Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher (Mountaineers Outdoor Expert) by Cathy Cosley

  • You can click the images to get a bigger image of the front cover!
  • We offer you a direct deeplink to Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de to buy the book. Amazon is the biggest online store in the world and offers a safe environment to buy anything you want.

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