Bishorn is 4135 m high mountain in the area of Zinal village, in Wallis province in Switzerland. It is a bit remote and if you want to climb it from Zinal side, you will need two days.
[Handel: Suite no. 4, Sarabande]
There are two main possibilities from Zinal valley, roughly marked on the map below (source – Federal Topographical Office):
In both cases, your destination is the Tracuit hut (Cabane Tracuit, 3256 m). The first route starts south of the village, at the end of the valley. The road ends up there and people leave their cars although this is not an official parking. From this point, you may continue along the valley in the south direction for a while, following the river for about 15 minutes, and then you will see signs sharp left up through the forest. In this part, the path first zigzags through pleasant woods, and when you gain altitude you will have views over the Zinal valley.
Somewhere around 2000 m you will be at a plateau and you will see Lac d’Arpitetta in the distance; this is the place where you should turn left, toward Roc de la Vache (2581 m). The route goes up and leads you to the col from where you will see the long remaining part of the route toward Cab. Tracuit. The hut itself should be visible. From the col the path descends a few tens of meters, and after some time your route will join the another alternative route from Zinal, which you will see on the left.
The remaining part after that is partly over some meadows but very soon it becomes harder because of the altitude and the rocky terrain. In total, it will take you about 5 hours from Zinal to the hut.
The second route looks more direct, see the map above. It starts close to the camp at the end of the village. This was my descending route. I found it rather unpleasant, it was a hot day and no shade whatsoever. But perhaps I was just tired. As mentioned above, it joins the first route below the col, at around 2470 m.
About necessary equipment
Note, the type of boots depends on the type of crampons, read more in my separate text.
My climb to Bishorn
I climbed Bishorn in July 2007 following the first route described above. I did not make a reservation at the hut. At the upper part of the route, I saw a few big groups moving up and became worried about my prospects to find a place for the night.
At the hut, the guardian told me it was fully booked. I asked to sleep on the bank in the dining room (for the same price as in the mattress room); he agreed but said he would not have any blanket to give me. With blanket or not, I decided to stay. So those were several long hours of waiting. The place was full of cheerful people, many different groups enjoying the moments with beer and food. I felt rather miserable, had to wait for all of them to go to sleep, and then somehow to spend the night on the bench.
It was freezing outside. There was one tent or two raised near the hut on the rock, obviously with permission of the guardian. In spite of my bad prospects for the night, I still felt it was better inside on the bank even without any blanket.
Eventually, the groups started going to sleep. At one moment the guardian approached me saying that apparently somebody who made a reservation did not appear, and that I had a place in the mattress room. So you can imagine how much my situation suddenly improved. There were about 30 people in the room, did not smell good in there, many were snoring, but it was warm and bearable.
In the morning the guardian came early and mercilessly turned the lights on, we were supposed to get up. Did not have much of a sleep, but that did not matter. When I came the day before, some water was running outside in front of the toilet, so I went out to wash my face only to realize that it was completely frozen.
Without breakfast, I set off for the summit at 5 am, and I was at the summit at 8. There was one party of three in front of me. There were no visible crevasses, and the snow on the glacier was rock-hard. The climb was smooth, except for the fact that I dropped my camera, this episode I described elsewhere at this site. So I do not have any photo from the summit itself.
The final slope is pleasant. I used crampons all the way to the summit. The walk over the glacier was smooth and without any problem. A few meters just below the summit are a bit steep, but it was all in ice and with crampons it was fine. A few parties arrived soon, and there was already a crowd on the summit, and much more were coming. The night before, about 120 people were sleeping in the hut and most of them were heading up. The atmosphere was great, some of the people immediately started sunbathing at such an altitude, it was such a pleasant morning.
I did not stay long on the top, I was thinking about my camera which I dropped earlier and saw it sliding down the glacier. Eventually, later I found it and continued back toward the hut. At one point my leg sunk into an opening in the ice. I realized the snow was softening already, and this was a clear warning to take care where to step. But it was all right in the end, as you see I am writing these lines after all.
Tu summarize my report, climbing Bishorn is a great experience. There are no gondolas and lifts around to spoil the views. You will have to walk almost 2500 meters up to such a high altitude. But this is what a mountain should be, you will be in nature and you will enjoy it. From the text above you have already realized what kind of equipment you will need. This is a glacier tour so do not go without crampons at least. As for the rest of equipment, perhaps you might want to have a look a separate page within this site.
A few practical hints at the end. If you look for renting a holiday flat in the area, you may see a post within the present site about some reliable agencies which I have been using many times in the past. Regarding the Tracuit hut, the toilet was outside, there was no running water for guests in the hut.
But I know that meanwhile the hut has been changed drastically, perhaps somebody might add a few lines about its present conditions in the comments below. This would be appreciated and useful for many.
A couple of YouTube videos about Bishorn:
And here is the same route when things go wrong. One person fell into crevasse: