The Riffelhorn climbing dream, from beginners to advanced

9 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide

Whether you take it on as training for a more technical expedition, or as a climb of its own, climbing the Riffelhorn will surpass your expectations. Because it is easily reachable from Zermatt and a one-day climb only, the peak is a favorite for climbers of all experience levels. What really sets it apart, however, are the views one can admire from the top. Looking up at the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and at over 20 more four-thousanders, the Riffelhorn deserves its place on the list of best peaks of the region. Will you be crossing it off your bucket list on your next trip to Zermatt?

Explore trip Itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

View of Matterhorn en-route En-route to Riffelhorn with towering Matterhorn in the backdrop

Who is the Riffelhorn climb for?

The Riffelhorn has been used for decades as a training ground for intermediate and experienced climbers in preparation for more challenging climbs later on. If you are planning on climbing one of the higher peaks in the region, climbing the Riffelhorn is a great way to perfect your technique and get ready for the big expedition. Over the last years, however, new routes to the Riffelhorn’s summit have been opened which make the peak an interesting climb for beginner climbers wanting to improve their skills and to enjoy a summit day for the pleasure of it. Overall, the variety of routes make this peak ideal for all levels as long as you already have some technical knowledge and good physical condition.

How to get there

One of the reasons why the Riffelhorn is a favorite amongst climbers in the region is its accessibility. You simply will have to take the Gornergrat railway to the Rotenboden station, and from there, walk 15 minutes to the base of the East Ridge. If you are taking a route on the South Side, your guide will get you roped up and you will traverse to the south face to the starting point of your climb. The unbeatable location of the climb makes it easy to complete as a day trip from Zermatt.

View of RiffelhornThe Riffelhorn 

The routes

The Riffelhorn offers an incredible variety of routes to reach its summit, and all levels will find something that will challenge them enough. The South peak is said to have the best route options, offering sun-exposed climbing and the best views over the Breithorn and the Gorner Glacier down below. The East Side is reputed for being the easiest side to climb and is a great option for beginners; and the West Ridge is mostly used for training to climb the Matterhorn due to the similarities in challenges. The best way to figure out which route is best for you is to discuss it with your guide, but below is a quick overview of some of the main ways to the top.

Route Options

  Route Name Difficulty Highlights
East Ridge Ordinary Route F – easy Climbing the East Ridge while avoiding the steeper sections, this is an ideal route for beginners.
  Skyline AD+ – fairly difficult Like the Ordinary route, the Skyline route follows the East Ridge. The main difference is that you will climb each steep section directly, making this route a bit more challenging.
South Side Gletscher Couloir AD – fairly difficult  The Gletscher Couloir is one of the two steep couloirs of the South Side. 
  Biner Couloir ED1 – extremely difficult The Biner Couloir is the second of the two steep couloirs. It is the most challenging route to the top of the Riffelhorn because of the unprotected crux overhang on the final section.
  Kante D – difficult The Kante route ascends through the Gletscher and the Biner couloirs.
  The Bartgeier D – difficult Set up in 2012, this route is fairly new and offers an amazing variety of climbing – perfect notably for polishing your skills in gneiss climbing.
North Side Central Dihedral AD+ – fairly difficult The main route of the North Side, the Central Dihedral climbs – as the name suggests – the dihedral of this side of the Riffelhorn. 

There are three things you should remember about the Riffelhorn climb: the views, the variety of climbs, and the excellent conditions offered by its location in the Valley. These are three reasons making it an absolute favorite amongst local climbers and foreign adventurers alike; and if you are not convinced yet, we dare you to go and find out for yourself.

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