Situated on the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Breithorn sits in the heart of the Pennine Alps, about equidistant from Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn.
Translated from German, the mountain's name is literally ‘broad horn’ and the peak is composed of multiple summits. Breithorn Occidentale (what is referred to as the Breithorn unless specified otherwise) is the main summit of the mountain and the most commonly climbed.
Rising to 4,164 metres (13,661 feet) in elevation, the Breithorn is widely considered to be the easiest 4,000 metre peak to climb in all of Switzerland. This ease of access has also made it one of the most popular mountaineering destinations in the country.
Quick Facts about Breithorn
- The Breithorn range is composed of five separate summits, all of which are more than 4,000 metres high and are connected by a narrow ridgeline.
- Part of what makes the Breithorn one of the easiest climbing destinations in Switzerland is the cable car that brings climbers above 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) to the Breithorn Plateau.
- Breithorn Occidentale can be climbed in a single day, while trips to the three most prominent summits (central, oriental and occidentale) take two days.
History of Breithorn
The Breithorn was first climbed in 1813 by a team of English and French alpinists led by Henry Maynard. The team made it to the summit of Breithorn Occidentale on August 13.
Central Breithorn and Breithorn Oriental (the two other major summits on the range) were first climbed in 1900 and 1884, respectively.
Experience Required for Climbing Breithorn
The Breithorn is widely considered to be among the easiest 4,000 metre peaks in Switzerland to climb and requires only very basic glacier and snow climbing techniques.
For climbers with no experience, both of these skills can be taught by a guide during the course of the trip.
However, a high level of physical fitness is required to climb the Breithorn. The ascent makes for a long day of consistently climbing through snow and some ice.
For those looking for a challenge, there are other routes that start from lower elevations than the main ones and require a bit more rock climbing and scrambling.
Main Routes up Breithorn
There are three main routes that lead up to the summit of the Breithorn Occidentale, two of which are perfectly suited for beginners and the third of which is best for advanced mountaineers.
The SSW route – or normal route – is the easiest of the three. Climbers can begin the ascent of this route either from the Swiss side or Italian side. After taking a cable car up to the Breithorn plateau, climbers will head up onto the glacier and cross it using crampons. The only tough bit comes at the end, when several cornices need to be climbed before arriving at the summit.
The Half Traverse route is another popular option. This one can be undertaken from either of the two sides of the peak as well, and is only a bit tougher than the SSW route. Climbers will need to cross the glacier and traverse a steep ridgeline before arriving at the summit, making good balance and a head for heights a must.
The Triftjigrat is the toughest of the three main routes and requires two days to complete, as opposed to one. The climb begins from farther down on the massif and requires a multi-pitch ice climbing ascent of a steep section of the glacier before arriving on top of it and continuing to the summit.