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New Route on Riffelhorn

The Riffelhorn is quite simply a climber’s paradise with good rocks and fantastic views all with easy access. Now a new route named the “Bartgeirer” has opened in summer of 2012.
Climbing Riffelhorn is the dream of all recreational climbers. Standing at the height of 2989 meters, it is widely regarded as a preparatory or training climb for bigger exploits such as the Matterhorn. But even on its own terms, it is one of the best climbing mountains for far and wide, offering everything one could wish for with just 15 minute walk from Rotenboden station on Gornergrat Bahn, a view of over 20 four thousand meter peaks such as the Gorner Glacier and the Breithorn, good rocks and varied routes. Basically it is a climber’s dream.

In Zermatt there is a new attraction for all climbing fans. Two local mountain guides, Richard Lehner and Reinhard Zeiter, have set up a new climbing route. It is called the “Bartgeier” and has a variant named the “Querdenker” or “Lateral Thinker”. It is a four pitch climb graded UIAA (Central European) 4+ throughout. The rock is gneiss, offering good grip and making for pleasantly varied climbing on the South East Ridge of the Riffelhorn. The climb is exposed in parts, with a fantastic view of the Monte Rosa Massif and Gorner Glacier. The base is easy to reach from Rotenboden station. Simply follow the tracks leading to the South Face routes. Thirty meters after crossing through the distinctive couloir across the South East Ridge, a bolt and hanger mark the start of the climb. In the third pitch, traverse to the left after about 5 meters. The way of the route is via a transverse gully which is UIAA2 that heads north off the Riffelhorn. To go up this route, the necessary equipments are a 45 meter rope, because sections of the route requires self securing by the climbers, nuts and friends. Those who choose the “Querdenker” will need to cross the Bartgeier from the right and proceed to the foot of the climb. This route is UIAA +5 and is more exposed to the east than the Bartgeier. Please be careful because the wind will whistle around your ears. Just hang loose or as the local climbers say Berg Heil.


Bartgeier, or balded vulture in English, incidentally is not a simply a named plucked out of thin air. From time to time these large and majestic birds can be seen circling above the Riffelhorn. During the route preparation work, the Bartgeier or balded vultures flew past just a few meters from the rock and has therefore been adopted as the patron bird for this new route. These balded vultures have a wingspan of up to 2.6 meters and are the largest bird of the Alps. In flight they are easy to distinguish from eagles as their wings droop down slightly, unlike those of the golden eagles, which from a V shape with the tips pointed slightly upwards. But the balded vulture’s smaller brother, or the much more common golden eagle, can also be seen in the vicinity of the Riffelhorn. This bird has a wingspan of up to 2.2 meters and can often be spotted circling above the Riffelhorn. Young golden eagles up to about five or seven years of age can frequently be seen here. They are recognizable from their inner primary and other secondary feathers, which are white in the fingering.