Pischahorn – success on our second attempt

The previous time Barbara and I came to climb Pischahorn we were thwarted by thick unstable snow. On our second attempt to climb Pischahorn we followed the same route as the ski-touring parties do, and after a couple of hours of working steadily upwards we stood on top of the summit of this somewhat unassuming little peak with its magnificent views.

Just short of 3000m, Pischahorn looks like a pile of rock-rubble in summer. The last few hundred meters covered on scree. In winter, under snow, it’s a different story. Like last Saturday morning when we went back for our second attempt. Wedding-cake white. Covered in icing sugar from top to bottom. Only a few ski and snowshoe marks disturbing the almost pristine snow-covering.

The route we took started at the top Pischa cable station. It follows a long ridge running in a north-easterly direction to the summit. When we tried a few weeks ago, we had intended following this ridge to the summit. We got to about 2700m before the snow became too thick and unstable to continue.

Our tracks to the high point on our previous attempt. The south-westerly ridge leading to the summit of Pischahorn
Our tracks to the high point on our previous attempt. The south-westerly ridge leading to the summit of Pischahorn

This time we broke off from the ridge at about a 100m below our previous high point, and dropped into the hidden Pischa (‘Verborge Pischa’). From here we worked our way around the basin at the foot of the ridge, before ascending via a ridge that connects to the summit from a west-north-westerly direction.

Download file: snowshow-tour-to-pischahorn.gpx

I wasn’t feeling too hot when we set off. Runny nose and thick head, and a tender ankle from a hard fall on ice the week before. The cold weather soon cleared the head and the runny nose was replaced by a cold one. But the energy levels didn’t lift.

The tender ankle was okay going up, but when crossing at right-angles to the slope, the joint was constantly at an angle and under pressure, and I slowed down. Partly to reduce the strain, but also because I felt less confident on a steep slope with an ankle that wasn’t working a hundred-percent. So, I sauntered along, while Barbara headed off ahead.

On the final ridge, we had to battle a wind that was trying its best to blow us back where we had come from. Snow and wind is a great combination for extreme cold. A comfortable walk in a long-sleeved t-shirt quickly changed to adding layers, including gloves, and putting my hat and a neck-warmer on. It has to be really cold before I resort to wearing a hat…

Needless to say we skipped signing the summit register. Took a quick selfie to prove we had been on the summit of Pischahorn, and then made our way back down. Out of the wind. We stopped about a 100m below the summit, and made ourselves a sandwich with avocado filling and cheese on the side. It’s too cold this time of the year to get the stove going properly, so we drank tea from our flasks. (Increased altitude and severe cold are not friends of the gas stove – Boyle’s law, observed in a real-world situation…)

About five hours after we set off we were back at the top Pischa cable car station. As of the week before it was no longer ‘legal’ to sit on the terraces of the restaurant. Everywhere there were chairs in little half-circles with groups of friends chatting, having a drink and food, and enjoying the sunshine and perfect views.

Barbara went to get us some cold drinks, while I occupied one of the box-seats. With the sun beaming down on us while Pischa below was in shade, we decided to wait here until it was time to get the bus back to Davos, before getting a cable car down to Pischa…

How to get to Pischahorn

Pischa is described as an alternative venue. It doesn’t have ski-lifts like the major skiing destinations. The people that come here tend to go off-piste. Ski-touring and snowshoeing. We met several other parties making their way to the summit, either on snowshoes or skis. The skiers mostly skied down the other side, while we returned to the restaurant at the cable car station. If we had more time, we might have descended along the north-westerly ridge we followed to the top, to an adjoining peak. Next time.

For more information see the Pischa tourist website.

And ps! Pischa comes from the Romansh language, meaning ‘water fall’ – you can work the rest of it out for yourself…

2 Comments on “Pischahorn – success on our second attempt”

  1. Beaut again. Lovely pics, lovely story. And once again the wisdom of – ahem – ay gee ee: Slow down, pace y’self, no need to be macho. Rather take it easy and nurse the injury – and make it.

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