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Friday, May 21, 2010

Finsteraarhorn Mountain

The Finsteraarhorn is the highest mountain in Bernese Alps and highest mountain in canton of Berne. The height of Finsteraarhorn is 4,274 m or 14,022 ft. It is also the highest summit in Alps lying outside main chain. The Finsteraarhorn is third most prominent peak in Alps. Since 2001 whole massif and surrounding glaciers are part of the Jungfrau Aletsch World Heritage Site. The details of Finsteraarhorn are explained in world tour guides below. The summit of the Finsteraarhorn is less frequented than those of the nearby Jungfrau and Eiger. This is due to its location in one of the most remote areas in Alps, completely surrounded by uninhabited glacial valleys.

Finsteraarhorn MountainIn west lies the Fiescher Glacier, the third largest in the Alps and to the east lie the Great Aar Glaciers. The smaller Lower Grindelwald Glacier lies north of the massif. The Finsteraarhorn is surrounded by summits of Schreckhorn and Lauteraarhorn to north, Gross Fiescherhorn, Grunhorn and Gross Wannenhorn to west and Oberaarhorn to east. The summit lies on the border between canton of Valais and Berne, which is watershed between Rhone on Mediterranean Sea and Rhine on North Sea rivers. The Finsteraarhorn is culminating point of Rhine drainage basin.

The Finsteraarhorn is culminating point of Aarmassif, a geologic crystalline massif which crops out in eastern Bernese Alps and Urner Alps. The massif belongs to Helvetic zone and consists of rocks from European continent, mainly granites and gneisses. The summit itself is composed of amphibolites. The tectonic uplift of the massif occurred 6 million years ago. The inelastic deformation of rocks led to many fractures and formation of hydrothermal crystals by the deposition of saturated water flowing inside.

The identity of first ascentionists was long a controversial matter. Although Johann Rudolf Meyer claimed to have reached the summit on an attempt in 1812 with guides Arnold Abbuhl, Joseph Bortes and Aloys Volker, it is now accepted after the research of John Percy Farrar in the Alpine Journal that Jakob Leuthold and Johann Wahren were first to reach the summit via the north-west ridge on 10 August 1829. Hugi, with A. Abbuhl, A Dandler, C. Lauener and J. Wahrenhad reached the saddle below the summit on 19 August 1828 but had to retreat because of bad weather. As mentioned in Hugi's notes, Hugi and Dandler risked their lives on that day.

The first attempt made on 16 August 1812 by Rudolph Meyer and his guides took place on south-east ridge, which is a more difficult and longer route than normal route. One of the guides, Arnold Abbuhl, was questioned by Franz Joseph Hugi later in 1828 about the ascent, but he didn't convince Hugi about success of the ascent. Hugi also noted in 1829 that no traces of a previous ascent were found. One year later, on 10 August 1829, Hugi again attempted to climb the mountain with Leuthold and Wahren. Unfortunately if the ascent was this time successful, Hugi had to wait on saddle while other reached the summit. He was in fact lightly injured and could not go any higher.

Schreckhorn FinsteraarhornFinsteraarhorn SummitThe fifth ascent took place on August 13, 1857. It was the first British ascent, made by John Frederick Hardy, William Mathews, Benjamin St John Attwood-Mathews, J.C.W. Ellis and Edward Shirley Kennedy, accompanied by guides Auguste Simond and Jean Baptiste Croz from Chamonix, Johann Jaun Elder from Meiringen, Aloys Bortis from Fiesch and porter Alexander Guntern from Biel in Goms. Before ascending the mountain, Mathews already mentioned his idea of a club for alpinists. On the summit of Finsteraarhorn the climbers decided to found such an association, which would be named Alpine Club.

The most difficult route to summit is the north-east face was opened on 16 July 1904 by G. Hasler and his guide F. Amatter. The ascent marked the beginning of epopee of the great north faces in Bernese Alps. In fact the north-east face of Finsteraarhorn was climbed only 11 times between 1904 and 1977. A third ascent was made on 3 September 1930 by Miriam O'Brien Underhill with guides A. and F. Rubi. She relates this dangerous ascent in her book Give me the Hills. The normal route starts at the Finsteraarhorn Hut is 3,046 m and goes over the south-west flank of the mountain up to the Hugisattel, then follows the north-west rocky ridge to the summit.

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