Climb Mount Mönch, more forgiving of the famous trio

2 June, 2021 | Reccy Guide

Nestled between two of the most imposing mountains in the Swiss Alps, climbing the Mönch is sometimes overlooked by adventurers heading to the Jungfrau region. But in their haste, they miss a mountain with varied topography, stunning views, and an accessible but challenging ascent to the summit. 

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The Monch is one of the world-famous trio of peaks found in the Jungfrau region. Rising to a notable 4,107 meters above sea level, the Monch offers a more forgiving climb than either the Jungfrau or Eiger, making it an excellent choice for budding mountaineers looking to push themselves. It is also a good starting point for climbers looking to acclimatize before taking on the remaining big three. 

Legend has it that the first ascent was made by a Russian princess named Helene Koltsov-Maqsalsky in 1855, when her party abandoned an attempt to scale neighboring Jungfrau. However, official accounts credit Dr. Siegmund Porges from Vienna with being first to summit Monch, three years after the princess’s claim. 

slopes of MonchClimbing the slopes of Mount Mönch

The most popular route up the Alpine beauty is via the South East ridge. The path leads climbers up the southeast spur, or arm of the East Ridge, before joining the narrow cornice of the ridge as the summit approaches. The ascent is rated PD (slightly difficult), with snow and ice sections to 45 degrees. 

Adventures to the top of the Monch start in the charming mountain village of Grindelwald. This stunning village has been at the centre of Swiss tourism since the 1900s, when travelers fell in love with its unique position in the Bernese Alps. The views on offer are unrivalled in terms of raw, natural beauty, and have featured in several Hollywood blockbusters, including Star Wars and James Bond.

For many visitors, staying in Grindelwald is a trip highlight. The surrounding area offers a huge amount of scenic diversity, with glacial lakes lacing their way through lush green valleys and staggering rock faces. 

Climbers will find numerous tour operators in the village, which include big international operators like Explore-Share, and smaller, local options like the Grindelwaldsports Mountaineering School. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay anything from $600 – $1,000 per person.

From Grindelwald, your Monch adventure is just a short train journey away. Catch the first train from Grindelwald Grund Bahnhof to Jungfraujoch station, via the Jungfraubahn line. When you arrive, the start of the ridge is a leisurely walk from the station. 

a section of the climbA section of the climb.

The climb begins with some scrambling over loose rocks, but soon transitions into a climb up sturdier faces. Around halfway to the summit, climbers will reach the first snow ridge, which offers spectacular views of distant peaks, including the French Mont Blanc in Chamonix. This is also a prime spot to admire the neighboring peaks of Jungfrau and Eiger. 

From here climbers will alternate between rock and snow sections, before hitting an airy class 4 rock ascent shortly before the summit. This short climb is one of the tougher sections of the route, but intermediate climbers should find their way up in around 15 minutes.

The traverse to the main summit offers the biggest challenge of the climb. Although not technically severe, climbers are often caught off guard by the level of exposure. The popularity of the Monch also means you are likely to encounter other climbers, and care must be taken to pass safely along the knife-edge ridge. Luckily local guides regularly cut a clean path into the ice, so with a little perseverance, climbers should make it to the top with few issues. 

The view from the summit is world-class. Climbers will be treated to a clear glimpse of the Great Aletsch Glacier, and dramatic Lauterbrunnen Valley. Stop for some snacks and make the most of your panoramic outlook – you earned it!  

Climbing time varies from climber to climber. Those in peak physical condition and acclimatized to the altitude will be able to scale the summit in 2 – 3 hours, followed by a 2-hour descent. However, many opt for a more leisurely experience, spreading the climb across a couple of days. This is a good option for people still adapting to altitude. A two-day excursion has the added bonus of an overnight stay at the Mönchsjoch Hut, which offers awe inspiring views over the Alps and some of the best hot chocolate in Switzerland. 

Prime climbing season is between April and November, and the route will be at its busiest from mid-June through September. Good weather is likely in this period, with temperatures at the peak sitting around -5c.

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