On 5/24/21 Julia Bodiford and myself attempted to summit Pfiefferhorn via the standard route in early spring conditions.
Strava recording here.
Weather & Conditions
The day was very sunny with a decent westerly wind, with a high in the upper 40s along most of the route. 5-10 inches of fresh snow had fallen on top of late spring snow conditions, isothermal at lower elevations and firm and consolidated higher up.
The new snow cover had fallen as fresh powder, and at lower elevations was almost totally gone upon our return. When we turned around midday there was up to 10” of fresh snow still at higher elevations.
Food & Clothing
Food and water was about right. I consumed app. 1.5 L of water, 750 calories of gu, 400 calories of bars, and 400 calories of gummies. I had left over: 0.5 L of water, 1 bar, and 1 gu packet.
Glove liners were great, even though my other clothing was light. Always remember to bring liners at a minimum with an ice ax/snow travel. I also find I typically like having them anytime it’s under ~55 F.
I wore a base layer and an OR Ferrosi jacket, mostly with the jacket off. I used a puffy each time we stopped. In the early AM we were moving uphill pretty fast and I got too sweaty even in just the base layer.
Elevation, Mileage, and Timing
In summary: ~ 7 hours ~ 10 miles ~ 3k feet of gain
Starting elevation was ~7,600 feet, and we turned around at ~10,360 feet. Strava recorded our elevation gain as 3,037 feet, and our total distance as 10.14 miles. We started at 8:42 AM, turned around at 12:35 PM (3 hours and 53 minutes in), and returned to the car at 3:39 PM.
Notes and Lessons Learned
- Don’t forget sunglasses (to prevent snow blindness) with fresh snow or large snowfields!
- Sunny snow fields, bowls, and cirques get very hot in the sun, and can give very bad sunburn, don’t forget sunscreen.
- Start earlier for mountaineering objectives, especially with snow involved (and go to bed earlier)
- Micro spikes were very helpful in the sloppy melting snow when we got lower on the trail in the afternoon while descending.
- We left avy gear at home because we didn’t think there was enough base layer snow or fresh snow to avalanche. We were slightly concerned about wet slides in the afternoon.
- Overall our summit attempt failed because we started late and I had to return to make it to a doctor’s appointment.