The Valais in French or Wallis in Swiss German is the heart of the high Alps. The Valais is the deep valley of the Rhone river, fed by many big glaciers, including the biggest in Europe, the Aletsch Glacier. The Valais, meaning “valley” is actually made up of many valleys that feed into the main Rhone valley which in turn, feeds into Lac Leman next to Geneva before continuing its course through France.
Mountaineering in the Valais is varied in it’s difficulty and type of experience. The lower Valais is French speaking and has many hidden valleys with remote, beautiful Alpine climbs. The Valais shares the eastern parts of the Mont Blanc range with the Cabane d’Orny and Trient being the starting points for many good alpine rock and mixed climbs in a quieter setting than the French side of the range. The golden granite peaks above the Orny hut are some of the best alpine rock climbs for intermediate difficulty technical climbs of high quality. Relatively non-technical alpine routes like the Aiguille du Tour and Petit Fourche are perfect for learning skills and acclimatising. The Aiguilles Dorées, the Purtscheller or Pitit Clocher du Portalet are great challenging objectives on very good quality rock.
The valleys of the Entremont, Val de Bagnes, Val d’Hérens and Anniviers hold some of the the most beautiful, remote routes for classic mountaineering. Mountains like Mont Velan, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Dent Blanche, Aiguille de la Tsa, Dents des Rosses, Petit Dents de Veisivi or Pigne d’Arolla to name just a few, provide great alpine mountaineering adventures from PD to D in difficulty in quiet, spectacular locations.
The upper Valais is German speaking and home to the very famous Matterhorn which is the Toblerone mountain that everyone has heard of and many are keen to climb. Zermatt also is the starting point for many other AD climbs such as Zinalrothorn, Obergabelhorn, Weisshorn or the highest peak in Switzerland at 3634m. There are also easier climbs very accessible from the Kleine Matterhorn lift which takes you up to 3900m. The Breithorn is the easiest and most accessible 4000m peak. Pollux and Castor are nice PD climbs. The Riffelhorn has really good alpine multi-pitch rock climbing with some very accessible grades.
Saas Fee and Saas Grund is the valley just over from Zermatt and has as many Alpine climbing options with great PD summits like the Weissmies, Strahlhorn, Allalinhorn, nadelhorn and Lagginhorn. There are many AD routes or harder mountaineering routes for the experienced alpinist like Taschhorn, Portschengrat traverse, Lenszspitze – Nadelhorn traverse.
The Northern side of the Valais is actually the southern slopes of the Berneses Oberland. The huge glacier of the Aletch can be accesses from the upper Valais to access peaks like the Aletschhorn or the Finsteraarhorn.
Also on the Northern side of the Valais are some smaller valleys with mountaineering gems like the Stockhorn, Bietschhorn, Wiwannihorn or Grand Muveran to name a few.