Facing bad weather in the Pennine Alps: the value of going with a guide

Blanc de Moming ascent

What to do when you have a trip plan in mind but circumstances force you to change it? Two Belgian friends tell us why counting on the help of experienced local mountain guides has been so necessary in their mountaineering expedition in the Pennine Alps.


The climate instability around the Pennine Alps region is not always a problem. Especially when you are in the company of local certified guides as Yann (IFMGA Guide) and Jonathan (aspirant guide from La Vallée d’Hérens). They know the area so well that they could transform what looked like a canceled plan into a new big mountaineering adventure.

Facing bad weather in the Pennine Alps:

Last August two friends from Belgium, Romain and Charles, were looking for a new challenge. So, they contacted Yann through Explore-Share. They enjoyed a great experience at Blanc de Moming although in fact, that was not the initial plan:

“The original program was the ascent of La Dent Blanche. Unfortunately, since the guides were warned that the rock wasn’t dry, we had to change our objective and valley. So, we finally headed to the Val d’Anniviers and its Imperial Crown”.

The new goal proposed by the guides was the Zinalrothorn. So, they hiked towards the Cabane du Grand Mountet, ready for the following day’s new objective. Before bedtime, they looked above and saw a great clear starry sky, which encouraged them facing the next day.

It was 3 AM, time to get up. The waking up in the Imperial Crown is always a magical experience. The first thing they did was to go out and check the weather. But there was no more clear sky and, to their surprise, now there was only mist and drizzle. Nevertheless, after a meeting with the guides they decided to continue with the approach, hoping for the bad weather to change.

Yann (Swiss IFMGA mountain guide) and Charles studying the situation before the decision

After a 1:30 hour walk, they were on the glacier. They put the crampons on and get roped under the rain. Fortunately, the mood of the group was still good. After crossing the glacier, they began the ascent towards the Blanc Ridge (L’Arête Du Blanc). And here the worst happened: they started to get swept by the wind and it was colder and colder…

“We arrived quickly under the shoulder of the Zinalrothorn (4017m). There, the two guides took a difficult and frustrating but safe decision. To turn back after a sad but predictable conclusion: the rock is frosted and the ridge impassable”.

The expertise and knowledge of both local mountain guides were enough to convince Romain and Charles to go down the ridge. But no one wanted to finish the trip empty-handed. So, instead of going all the way back, they decided to go for a new objective. That’s why, rather than going back to the glacier, they continued on the very steep and sharp ridge until the Blanc de Moming (3.661m). Finally, they reached its summit and got a very short good weather window to enjoy the views over the Weisshorn and the rest of the Imperial Crown.

The Imperial Crown, one of the best landscapes of the Swiss Alps

On the way down, the feeling of the mountaineers was strange:

“A mix of joy and a sense of accomplishment, but still disappointment for not having been able to fully reach the n°1 goal of the day. But we felt perfectly safe being roped with Yann and Jonathan. They’re very friendly and professional and know the area very well. That allowed us to easily find alternatives following the uncertainties of the weather”.

This experience shows that mountaineering has a lot of nuances. What’s more, it will be always a good experience if you enjoy it by the company of friends and expert local guides. They can offer more flexibility when the weather and conditions are not as planned.

Moreover, once you lived such a positive experience like Romain and Charles, it is very likely to want to continue challenging your own limits and objectives. As they told us after their adventure…

“This tour made us want to return to Le Val d’Anniviers and reach the summit of the Zinalrothorn (and of La Dent Blanche) even more. We will contact Explore-Share again to book a new trip very soon”.